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Sunday, February 05, 2023 — Houston, TX

Alumni: If the statue news upset you, think about why

By Thresher Editorial Board     2/1/22 10:43pm

It has finally happened. After 18 months of protests, Facebook arguments and countless feedback forms, the Rice University Board of Trustees announced last Tuesday that the statue of William Marsh Rice would be relocated to a less central location within the Academic Quadrangle. The decision, viewed as a compromise by nearly everyone, understandably received mixed reviews, including from Rice community members who have long since graduated: President David Leebron said that while some alumni responses were “very angry,” others called the decision “thoughtful.” 

Those “very angry” responses are surprising to no one, as many alumni have made their position on the statue’s removal very clear since the idea was proposed by students in mid-2020. But now that the move is official, we feel it is time to address these criticisms. To those that are outraged by this decision, we have two simple questions. Does your love of Rice University really boil down to the placement of a statue? And if so, how deep could that love have been in the first place?

It is hard to succinctly cover the array of opinions expressed over the statue’s removal, but the overall theme boils down to the following. One alumni wrote that the statue’s move will “end all my support to Rice,” while another added that “this will only stop when people stop donating.”

In truth, there is nothing hypocritical about deciding that the relocation of the Founder’s Memorial is a bridge too far and choosing to withdraw one’s emotional support from Rice. Perhaps you loved this school while you were a student, but you disagree with this decision and no longer feel that affection.

Yet implicit in the act of donating to your alma mater is the notion that you feel a strong enough connection to the university that you want to see it prosper even after you’ve walked out of the Sallyport. Indeed, that feeling is so strong that you have placed a monetary value on it. The decision to relocate and contextualize the statue was made in an effort to better the university for current and future students; the Board wouldn’t have made it for any other reason. To withdraw your financial support from an institution that chooses to prioritize those concerns says more about you than it does about the institution. It says that you value your resistance to change over the well-being of Rice and its student body.

To the person that said “The spirit of Rice University sure has changed! Let’s focus more on higher learning,” we couldn’t agree more. This decision was made for the same reason almost every decision is made on this campus: to help students feel more at home at Rice and to facilitate a stronger learning environment. To the alumni upset by this announcement, it is time you take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself if you truly care about the future of this university.

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, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage, Daniel Schrager and Brandon Chen.

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