Letter to the Editor: Strive to do better
Amid the Thresher opinion, protests and town halls, we have been in conversation with many of you about your concerns regarding sexual misconduct policies and the ways in which Rice handles previous and current cases. Many of you feel like your trust in the administration and Student Judicial Programs has been shaken.
We understand this is a precarious time, but first and foremost, we want to express that the primary duty of both the Students Transforming Rice into a Violence-Free Environment Liaisons and the SAFE Office: Interpersonal Misconduct Prevention and Support is to ensure that student concerns are heard and validated. We would like to clarify that the SAFE Office and the SJP office operate independently of each other to carry out two distinct functions. The SAFE Office offers financial, emotional and academic support according to each student’s needs. This support also includes helping students navigate Rice’s or Houston’s judicial systems. The SAFE Office is not responsible for enforcing the Code of Student Conduct, nor is it required to report any incidents to SJP. SJP, on the other hand, investigates students in violation of sexual misconduct policies, in addition to deciding and enforcing sanctions, only if a survivor chooses to make a report.
On this note, we cannot overstate the importance of putting the survivors first above all else. Therefore, we request that as allies of survivors, we put our best foot forward to seek out accurate information about the SJP process and administrative policies before we disseminate this information to other members of the Rice community. The healing process for survivors is emotionally taxing as is, and misinformation could exacerbate the obstacles that survivors face in coming forward and asking for help.
Because protests can be triggering for survivors, we request that if you want to advocate for survivors of sexual violence, first and foremost, please take their safety and health into account when you create protest material. Even if you are a survivor yourself and want to make your voice heard, please be considerate of the ways in which other fellow survivors are reacting to and coping with their trauma.
While the administration has issued two apologies related to the handling of this case, our work holding the administration accountable is not done. The administration must consistently enforce sanctions against perpetrators, increase transparency around how disciplinary action is matched to infractions and include sanctions beyond just expulsion on the transcripts of perpetrators. We hope students continue to envision ideas for the future that the administration and the student body can implement. The conversation does not simply end at “Believe Survivors.” We must challenge ourselves to question our existing beliefs and actions and be aware of how far we have to go in order to secure justice for survivors.
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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.