Letter to the Editor: Transgressions go beyond the founder
After reading the Thresher Editorial Board’s “Alumni: If the statue news upset you, think about why” from Feb. 1, 2022, I came to the realization that the discussion of Rice’s history and the history of its benefactors should by no means end there. While the focus has primarily been on the university’s origins, we also need to recognize and confront our past with more recent events instead of brush through them. For example, the university benefited from the largest corporate scandals in a generation with Enron and Arthur Andersen. Yet, alumni ignore or willfully forget its role in helping build the university despite its name still being seen in prominent buildings such as the Baker Institute while students remain painfully left in the dark of Enron-related crimes. Meanwhile, the name gracing as well as the funding for the newly completed opera house may also prove problematic. The legal process remains pending for Robert Brockman in the largest tax evasion case in American history. These issues, of course, pale in comparison due to the darkness of slavery associated with the university’s namesake, but no matter how many individuals have benefitted from the rewards of illicit activity, it does not justify the pain endured by those affected. The impact of these cases are still felt, especially in Houston. This conversation can be even more uncomfortable as a good number of active alumni regretfully spent parts of their careers with corrupt organizations. History can be inconvenient, and ignoring it as we have been represents tacit approval.
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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.
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.
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.