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
How should we discuss food, then? I don’t want to be misunderstood as advising against all food-related conversations. I feel quite the opposite: eating is one of humanity’s oldest social rituals. It’s meant to bring us together. We’re at our best when we engage in conversations that center the enjoyment of food rather than its nutritional content.
The first wave of COVID-19 erupted in the U.S. in early 2020. Rice responded quickly: During March 9-15, classes for the week preceding Spring Break were canceled, students were instructed not to return to campus after Spring Break, and instruction after Spring Break was made fully remote. This quick reaction to the pandemic was typical of many organizations and localities all around the country, as it became clear that social distancing was then the only effective way to slow down the spread of the disease. This seems to have worked and, by early May, the first wave was somewhat subsiding. The Rice administration then tasked the Academic Restart Committee with the mission of “Return to Rice.”
To be sure, a poetic analogy between music and our differences will not resolve any issues directly. It can, however, remind us of our shared humanity. It can get us back in touch with our nature as social animals. It is a nature that is often oppressed by the individualism in our capitalistic society that encourages competition, putting too much focus on the dissonances for our own good.