Clarifying misconceptions about Rice Program Council
In light of recent claims made about Rice Program Council, we would like to take the opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about the organization.
Misconception: RPC does not take student input.
This year, RPC has implemented many new initiatives to improve communication with the student body. This includes the event feedback form, suggestions form, and collab with RPC form, all of which are found on the RPC website and under “Our Story” on the RPC Facebook page. The event feedback form has also been posted on RPC event pages following each event to get feedback to improve our events in the future. Our forms and outreach have led to collaborations with other student organizations, such as the Rice Art Club at the S’winter Study Break and an ENST 302 student team at the Homecoming Pumpkin Patch. RPC officers have made themselves available for student feedback as well through RPC Office Hours with executive council officers and committee co-chairs in the RMC Grand Hall lobby to publicize upcoming events and connect with the student body. Three one-hour office hour sessions were held in the fall 2019 semester, and an executive council member along with a co-chair were available to chat each time.
Misconception: RPC’s structure is unclear, and decisions are largely dictated by the president.
The RPC website provides a written description of the structure as well as an organizational chart to help better visualize all the committees and members of the organization. Applications for all positions excluding RPC president and college representatives are posted on the RPC website and advertised on the RPC Facebook page, Instagram, “Class of” and residential college Facebook pages in the early fall or late spring.
The selection process and decision-making for membership is as follows: College representatives are selected by their residential colleges. Officers of the executive council are reviewed and selected by the incoming president in consultation with the prior executive council and the RPC staff advisor. Committee co-chairs are reviewed and selected by the executive council. Committee members are reviewed and selected by the committee co-chairs, with approval by the executive council.
Misconception: RPC’s expenses are wasteful and unnecessary, specifically regarding the spending on organization shirts, advertisement and the fall retreat.
As a student organization with nearly 60 members, it is realistic to allocate $500 for organization shirts, which amounts to around $7 per shirt. RPC members are required to wear RPC shirts when volunteering at events in order to distinguish RPC members working the event from attendees.
Regarding advertisement, it is RPC's responsibility to ensure that we are taking necessary measures to inform the student body about events that are planned for the Rice community. With $1,000 for advertisement spread over 18 events this year (excluding Beer Bike), the cost for advertisement per event is about $55. This is used for flyers, posters, stickers and special creative publicity specific to events. While we advertise on many avenues of social media as previously described and are making an effort to be more environmentally conscious, physical advertisements placed in college commons, and physical posters are necessary to advertise to students who are not on social media. In regards to the retreat, the fall retreat is a mandatory information session for all RPC members, with the intention of introducing members to RPC’s mission, goals, history and expectations, and to inform members of different important procedures and resources, such as using the P-card, booking rooms and planning events. While $750 is allocated for this retreat, only $326.50 was spent this year which breaks down to $5.44 per person. All money spent for fall retreat was for food.
Misconception: RPC profits off of fencing rentals and Beer Bike fines.
College socials who plan public parties are required to register and abide by Student Activities procedures under the general rules, section B of the Undergraduate Alcohol Policy. Procedures outlined by Student Activities require public parties to have a contained area for beer gardens and a line management system. They are not required to use RPC fencing specifically for these purposes. Rice administration wanted to make sure that fencing could be rented at a lower rate than local vendors in Houston, so RPC was given the responsibility of buying and renting out fencing panels to the college socials and any other on-campus organization that would like to rent out fencing, at a rate of $7 per panel. RPC does not profit from these fencing rentals. The funds received from fencing go into a separate fund account used solely for the purpose of purchasing new fencing or repairing broken fencing. These funds are not used for general RPC events.
When concerns were raised regarding the safety of Beer Bike events, RPC helped to facilitate the discussion with colleges regarding how dangerous behavior during Beer Bike could be reduced. The colleges chose to regulate themselves instead of having the university step in, and thus the fine system was introduced. As the organization that oversees campuswide Beer Bike planning, RPC then took over implementing and enforcing the fine system. Each year, the RPC campuswide Beer Bike coordinators work with university departments (such as Risk Management and Rice University Police Department) to adjust fines as concerns arise. Changes in fines are discussed with college Beer Bike coordinators on relevance and fairness. The primary concern of these fines is campus and student safety, not the financial gain of RPC. Beer Bike fines paid by colleges are deposited directly into a separate Beer Bike C-fund and are not used for other RPC events. Part of the fines go into paying a small portion of the current year’s Beer Bike costs. These costs include, but are not limited to, concessions, security (such as RUPD and Rice Emergency Medical Services), bleachers, scaffolding and sound equipment, all of which are necessary for the safe and successful execution of Beer Bike. Any rollover is used to supplement the track maintenance fund, which covers important repairs to the track that is used every year by every college (such as repairing cracks or filling in holes on the ground). While the Student Association provides $2,000 for the track maintenance fund, this can be insufficient to cover the track repair cost. The track is evaluated every year by Crisis Management, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Engineering and Planning and additional staff members. Repairs cost $12,000 to $14,000 every 3-4 years, an estimate determined by FE&P’s private contractors. Beer Bike fines are assigned by security volunteers who are chosen by residential colleges. These volunteers are educated on the fines prior to and the morning of Beer Bike.
We understand that RPC is not perfect, and we welcome constructive criticism and discussions to improve the organization. We are doing our best to incorporate student feedback to continually improve RPC and to better serve the student body.
Chu, Yiu, Teh and Li are all members of the Rice Program Council Executive Council.
More from The Rice Thresher
On Oct. 5, 2021, the Thresher published a guest opinion written by David Getter lamenting the erosion of freedom of expression at Rice. In the interest of embracing Getter’s call for reasoned discourse, I would like to offer a response to the claims made in the piece.
Within the hedges of Rice University, it is possible — and thanks to online shopping, sometimes easier — not to venture out and explore the city that Rice calls home. However, treating campus as separate from Houston fails to recognize the impact that we have on the larger community that we are a part of. To support the relationship between us and Houston, the Rice community should make a consistent and concerted effort to shop at and support local businesses.
Before Hispanic Heritage Month officially ends, I would like to take a moment to write about the labels those of us of Latin American heritage use to describe ourselves. At Rice, club names, course titles and survey questions often defer to pan-ethnic labels even though most people tend to use their national origin group as a primary identifier. These pan-ethnic labels are problematic. Although they in some ways unify Latin American communities, they often leave out others, like Afro-Latinos and indigenous Latinos. My goal here is not to dissuade people from using pan-ethnic labels; as history has shown, they can be useful, to some degree. However, my intention is for all of us, Latinos and non-Latinos alike, to use them wisely — with the understanding that the Latino community cannot be condensed into one culturally, ethnically or even linguistically homogeneous group. With that in mind, I hope that we as a Rice community continue to discuss and re-evaluate our language even after Hispanic Heritage Month ends.