Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Thursday, August 18, 2022 — Houston, TX

Does Rice really want honest political dialogue?

Courtesy Anthony Saliba

By Anthony Saliba     4/10/19 1:01am

I’ve heard around campus that the College Republicans don’t engage enough. There’s a reason for that. Most Rice students don’t want to engage with us.

I am a strong believer in the importance and value of respectful dialogue. When it comes to real life actions, the sort of things that actually change people’s minds, I think my record speaks for itself. In the fall, I organized the Rice University College Republicans’ first speaker of the year, Ella Grant, a transgender woman. Earlier this year, I signed on as vice president of the Rice Peace Exchange, a nonpartisan group dedicated to dialogue and productive discussion about Israel and Palestine. As a member of the Federalist Society on campus, I helped bring in speakers of varying perspectives to discuss issues ranging from marijuana legalization to voter ID. I’ve done my best to create spaces for meaningful conversation on campus.

And yet I am an outlier at Rice. I find that this campus is still remarkably hostile to dialogue between its various political elements. A few weeks ago, I participated in the semesterly debate between the College Republicans and Rice University Young Democrats hosted by the Baker Institute Student Forum, and the entire event was an utterly shameful display, from its coordination to its conclusion. 

While organizing the event, the student representative from BISF threatened to find another conservative group to debate because the team from the College Republicans didn’t support the stance they wanted us to: federal coal subsidies. They claimed we were “too far off the popular front,” despite our stance being in line with the Republican national platform. During this sham of a debate, the Young Democrats refused to engage with our arguments and slandered us as abdicating our party because we wouldn’t take the stance they assumed we would. I’m not sure if the Young Democrats are aware, but not all Republicans are ideological clones of Donald Trump. The entire event was a display of bad faith action against the College Republicans.

This is but one example of the sort of behavior which makes conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals (such as myself) reluctant to even let their political affiliation be known, let alone go out and have a dialogue about it. I know students who are only willing to associate with the College Republicans online, afraid that if they are seen at our weekly meetings, they’ll be targets of social ostracization or even violence. Quite honestly, with some of the things one hears around campus, I don’t blame these people. In one instance, after a Latino students’ crawl, it was discovered that one of the attendees was a Latino Trump supporter. What followed was appalling. Messages in the “Latinx@Rice” GroupMe channel show that some students wanted to expel the student from their group, as if merely holding heterodox opinions had violated their space. The episode culminated with one student wishing on Twitter that they could throw the Trump supporter in question from the seventh floor of Sid Richardson College, revealing the Trump supporter’s offline identity in the process. It’s as if he had ceased to be a person in their eyes. Sadly, this sort of thing is common.

I could tell numerous other stories recounted by the minority members of the College Republicans who were driven away from the groups ostensibly dedicated to supporting them on campus because of their political views. But I will leave those stories for them to tell because I cannot possibly begin to express the pain they must feel at such blatant betrayal and bigotry. 

I shall finish this simply, with some questions for all of you to reflect on: does this sound like tolerance? Is this the kind of thing you’re proud of? Is this the Rice you want?

More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 5/12/22 4:05pm
The Wellbeing Center should be transparent about its true confidentiality policies

Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:11pm
We’re in student media to learn

This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:02pm
Philanthropy doesn’t excuse slavery

In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.