From the Dean of Undergraduates: Welcome to Rice
Welcome to the start of another year at Rice! This is my favorite time of year. The academic calendar follows a cyclical rhythm — each spring is a bittersweet goodbye as our seniors move on to the next stage of their lives, and then before you know it, the excitement of greeting our New Students is upon us.
Despite the constancy of a large changeover in our student population each year, we remain a strong community. Part of this is due to the distinctive way we welcome our new Owls to campus. I had the pleasure of visiting with many new and returning students over the last two weeks. The class of 2023 showed great energy and excitement throughout Orientation Week, and their advisors and coordinators, as well as many faculty and staff, kindly gave their time and attention to ensure another successful transition to campus for our new students.
If you think about it, O-Week illustrates why our community remains strong, year after year. We value community, and the benefits to all that a supportive and inclusive community provides. None of us got to Rice through individual effort alone. Along the way, we were supported in critical ways by our families, friends, teachers and mentors, and while the players in our day-to-day lives shifted when we came to campus, ties to others are a central feature of life at Rice. By embracing our newest class of Owls and guiding them through an orientation week that ranges from the nitty-gritty details of academic rules and course registration to scavenger hunts and late-night food runs, we signal our commitment to each other and our common responsibility in taking ownership of the Rice experience.
Indeed, I would challenge each of you in the year ahead to ask yourself how you can pay it forward. In the long scope of your life, the time spent as a Rice student is brief. What can you do to help the Rice experience be equally excellent and transformative? I find that I often ask myself how I can leave a situation better than I found it. In a life full of continual change, it is arguably the most meaningful mark any of us can hope to leave behind.
During my first year as dean of undergraduates, I engaged many members of the Rice community in conversation about the student experience. In response, Student Judicial Programs was reorganized and we are implementing recommendations from the SJP Advisory Group. We also focused heavily on access and inclusion and we made substantial progress in identifying and implementing new programs and supports for students who are from lower income backgrounds and the first generation in college. This work will continue in the year ahead, and I look forward to engaging in conversation with students and student leaders on these and other topics.
I also want to acknowledge that these are challenging times. The despicable cruelty and racism displayed in the El Paso shooting, and the hateful posters that appeared on our campus just before the start of O-Week, are recent reminders to us all of the importance of continually reaffirming our commitment to one another. We are more similar than we are different, and the diversity of our community is a strength to be celebrated and promoted. I welcome the opportunity to engage in dialogue with students on how we can best support members of our community and more generally how we can continue to foster an environment that is welcoming and supportive.
In closing, let me again welcome you all to campus. Go Owls!
More from The Rice Thresher
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.
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.
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.