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Say something: Administration should respond to Willy’s statue sit-ins

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/22/20 9:56pm

Rice administration has yet to publicly respond to the demonstrations to remove Willy’s statue that began in the academic quad three weeks ago. Shifa Rahman, the first student to begin protesting regularly and primary organizer of the sit-ins, says administration has not reached out to address the situation in a private fashion either. As more students join the “Down with Willy” cause, pressure is mounting for the administration to respond. Why have they stayed silent for so long? 

When the movement to take down Willy’s statue started this summer, administration pointed to the incomplete work of the task force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice and delayed any concrete commitments to take down the statue. Although academic studies of Rice’s history with slavery are valuable, conversations surrounding Willy’s statue cannot and should not be visited solely through an academic lens. While conducting investigative research on Rice’s legacy of racial injustice is incredibly important for an informed reckoning with our history, the voices of our present community should receive equal attention to those of the past. 

Students are protesting now and thus deserve acknowledgement now, not in a year when the research is released. We understand the purpose of the task force’s research is to produce comprehensive recommendations, but by waiting for the end result, the administration fails to address the situation in real time. It would only make sense for the task force to comment on one of the most pressing issues of racial justice and reckoning on campus today, even without an official document.  



Having these conversations now could also potentially foster much needed transparency regarding the task force’s recommendations. While they did provide a general timeline for their research, task force members have not explicitly mentioned whether they will address demands for the statue’s removal, nor any of the specific demands made by a group of Black students in June. The task force states on its website that it is charged with developing opportunities for community members to envision paths for Rice moving forward and identifying suggestions for Rice’s future that will more fully realize our aspirations for a diverse and inclusive university. Student organizers have offered clear suggestions, and with calls to remove the statue, protestors are envisioning a path for Rice to move forward in a new direction. In other words, students are laying out ideas for progress on a silver platter, and the task force should answer its charge by stating clearly whether they will legitimately consider these ideas as they conduct their work. 

With so much weight being given to research and guidance from the task force, administration needs to be more transparent on how it intends to utilize these recommendations in decision making. We hope all the time and effort going into the task force will translate into concrete actions that not only address an academically oriented preservation of history, but also a community minded, compassionate response to what’s being played out before our eyes.

 Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Rishab Ramapriyan, Ivanka Perez, Amy Qin, Elizabeth Hergert, Ella Feldman, Katelyn Landry, Rynd Morgan, Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Simona Matovic and Tina Liu.  



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