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The twelfth residential college is a clean slate

By Thresher Editorial Board     3/30/21 9:49pm

Earlier this week, Rice’s Board of Trustees announced that they had approved a measure that, by 2025, will expand the undergraduate student body by 20 percent and add another residential college to Rice’s campus, giving us an even dozen. It is the latter announcement that struck us as particularly noteworthy, as the addition of a residential college is not all that common. Rice has added residential colleges twice in the last 20 years: Martel College in 2002 and McMurtry and Duncan Colleges in 2009. If you’re thinking that’s not all that long ago, keep in mind that 2009 was the first year Silly Bandz were sold in stores. With the addition of a twelfth college, we thought it pertinent to point out that a lot can change in 12 years, be it culturally or socially, and that Rice has the opportunity to capitalize on the blank slate that is this soon-to-be-named college.

One of Rice’s most notable characteristics, both to those that call this campus home and to the rest of the world, is the residential college system. Because of this, the names of these institutions matter. They matter not only to how the rest of the world sees us, but how we view ourselves and the values our campus holds. These are things to keep in mind when the powers-that-be decide upon a name for number 12.

We understand that Rice does not have full control over the naming process. Individuals give this school a lot of money, they would like to be honored for their contributions, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But we would be remiss if we didn’t bring up that currently, nine of the 11 colleges are named after white men. The ones named after only women, Brown and Jones, were originally all-women’s colleges. To not take this fact into account when naming the next residential college would project that this school has not grown nearly as much as we’d like to think it has over the last 12 years.

To the donors looking to sponsor the next residential college — you don’t have to name it after yourself. George R. Brown and his wife Alice Pratt Brown — names you’ll find on other Rice buildings — donated $1 million to establish Brown College and named it after their sister-in-law; Jesse H. Jones did the same in naming Jones College after his wife. These donors may have only considered their relatives, but they made great strides in honoring women with residential college names. You too have large influence over the naming process of this new residential college, and you should consider honoring a woman or person of color who is particularly influential and deserving of such recognition, such as one of the first Black students or professors at Rice.

Beyond the name, establishing the traditions of the new college sets a precedent for the direction we want Rice to go in. This is an opportunity to break free from some of the William Marsh Rice and Willy’s Statue-affiliated college traditions, and distance the university from his image in light of his involvement in slavery.

Other important considerations include the physical structure of the building. The modernity of the structure allows for critical innovations not afforded in Rice’s oldest buildings. It is crucial that appropriate disability accommodations are included, such as ramps. Additionally, the building should follow McMurtry and Duncan’s lead on reducing its environmental impact, both having received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certifications.

The founding of a new college presents an opportunity to mark a positive change in the course of Rice’s future. Acknowledging that mistakes have been made in the past isn’t enough, nor is retroactively amending these mistakes when harm has already been done. We have an opportunity to create something with the twelfth college that can represent the present-day values of our community and be equitable for all students. We ask that Rice administration and donors see this opportunity, and take it.

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, Nayeli Shad, Ella Feldman, Katelyn Landry, Rynd Morgan, Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Simona Matovic and Dalia Gulca.

[4/1/2021 12:54 a.m.] This article has been updated to more clearly reflect the fact that Martel, McMurtry and Duncan are named after pairs of spouses.

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