Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 — Houston, TX

It is on each of us to be anti-racist and hold others accountable, not just student leaders

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/14/21 10:06pm

The use of racial slurs by college students toward their peers is a problem that permeates across college campuses all over the country. The Rice community is no exception. When students say or do racist things, specifically toward other students, there is usually outrage, and rightfully so. However, in most of these instances, the immediate response is to look to student leaders, namely diversity facilitators, for a reaction. While DFs are well-trained in productive mediation and conflict resolution, it cannot fall on just them and other student leaders to provide accountability. If we, as a community, are serious about being anti-racist, then it is on all of us to hold our peers accountable.

This is not to say that there is no place for student leaders to provide accountability when racial slurs are used on campus. Wiess College is currently attempting to amend their constitution to include a clause banning hate speech. But there is only so much that leadership, be it student or administration, can do to prevent hateful speech.

Rice University Policy 830 on Discrimination and Harassment defines hate speech as any act of harassment that incites “imminent criminal activity” or contains “specfic threats of violence” toward a person based on their membership to a protected class. Additionally, the policy specifically states that it does not cover speech that is “ordinarily” considered constitutionally protected in an educational or public setting. 

Rice’s hate speech policy can only go so far. If the administration cannot implement certain restrictions for legal reasons, it goes to students to hold one another accountable; but the onus cannot just be on DFs and other student leaders. Facilitators can host events to help educate students, but it takes students, including those not directly impacted, to actively engage with these opportunities.

Instead, as students, we have the responsibility to create a culture in which the use of racial slurs is considered unacceptable. There are simple steps students can take, such as calling out their peers if they ever hear racist speech being used, and encouraging others to do the same. But that alone won’t solve the problem. We need to be proactive in letting our peers know that hateful speech won’t be tolerated, and create an environment where this is understood by everyone. All of us need to do better in responding in the moment, not relying on DFs or student leaders to take action after-the-fact. 

We as individuals need to create a culture on campus where being racist in public spaces is met with swift consequences, not just from student leaders, but from peers. 

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Ivanka Perez, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage, and Daniel Schrager.

More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 5/12/22 4:05pm
The Wellbeing Center should be transparent about its true confidentiality policies

Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:11pm
We’re in student media to learn

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.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:02pm
Philanthropy doesn’t excuse slavery

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.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.