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Tuesday, May 30, 2023 — Houston, TX

Letter from the editors’ desk: Mourning the slow deaths of campus traditions

Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Ben Baker-Katz and Morgan Gage     3/21/23 9:19pm

Several changes were introduced to Beer Bike this year, largely at the urging of administrators, in hopes of a smoother, safer race. While we don’t strongly disagree with any of the changes that were implemented, the process illustrates a broader push to strip away the traditions that make Rice Rice

A few weeks ago, members of pit crews across campus were asked to sign a contract stating they acknowledge Rice Program Council’s right to remove them from the track should they blow an 0.02 BAC on a race-day breathalyzer test, never mind the fact that it is legal to operate a 4000 pound motor vehicle with a BAC four times higher. Though the final BAC limit for pit crew has yet to be finalized, administrators also considered, but did not implement, requiring chuggers to be breathalyzed alongside bikers and pit crew. 

Necessary safety precautions are just that, but overzealous precautions endanger campus traditions. Continuing to discourage students with any level of alcohol in their system from participating in events will simply lead to those events’ decay. Forcing all students, not just bikers, to choose between the Beer Bike races and the Beer Bike experience is a waste of time and energy that comes at the expense of campus traditions.

While we embrace students shedding the traditions that no longer suit the campus community and forging new ones in their place, that is different than admin-imposed restrictions which lead to the slow dulling of traditions’ shine and their eventual deaths. Will we even hear Beer Bike croak in 20 years? 

Not to lecture about it again, but the very idea of public parties being public has withered. Since public parties returned after a COVID-19 hiatus, students compete for a spot in the line of a Google form — instead of having truly public parties with natural capacity limits — since ticketing and wristband requirements have been imposed. With no remaining COVID restrictions on campus, the impetus for selling wristbands has disappeared. Now all we have is 18-year-olds reselling free wristbands for a profit. 

These traditions were all reduced from their former glory in service of an administrative desire for “safety.” We don’t mean to minimize safety concerns. We’ve called for increased responsibility when drinking from our editors’ desk before. But decades of Rice students have made it through drinking, biking and college parties relatively fine, and when something goes wrong? We’re adults. That’s on us. But Beer Bike, with or without alcohol, is an inherently unsafe event. Bikers whipping around the track at high speeds is a recipe for disaster every year. The waivers all students on the track are required to sign is acknowledgment of that. Though less severe, the same holds true for public parties and a host of other college  traditions, at Rice and beyond.

As long as there will never be a perfectly safe Beer Bike, which there never will be, campus is forced to make trade-offs between safety and tradition. Recently, we think campus has leaned too hard toward performative precautions at the expense of preserving those traditions.

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