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Monday, June 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

The Student Association is DEAD, long live the Student Association!

Photo courtesy Solomon Ni

By Solomon Ni     3/7/23 10:05pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

The Student Association in this past year has been disappointing to say the least; the discourse and lack of engagement I have seen reflects that disappointment. The Student Association’s reckoning has been a long time coming. The organization is in need of urgent reform in order to be more receptive to all the students it represents.

The Student Association has taken up this savior complex speaking on behalf of marginalized groups on campus. Instead of elevating their voices, the Student Association has minimized what they are able to contribute. The Student Association is not the end-all be-all of advocacy at Rice University and beyond, let us be real about that. In the most ideal form of the organization, we give the most relevant voices the platform that the Student Association can provide, as well as the resources that come with the organization including funding and having access to representatives like those on University Standing Committees.

A resolution is meaningless if those in charge are not willing to put in the work towards tangible solutions and I want to apologize, on behalf of the Student Association, to every person who has come to the Student Association seeking action on issues personal to them, to just receive the response “You can write a resolution!” with no action following it. You deserve better. As president, this is a priority to make sure we are following through on the resolutions that we pass and the priorities we set as a Student Association.

I am agitated alongside everyone dissatisfied with how the organization runs and the expectations that it currently sets. Every meeting I have had, whether that is with the Executive Team or Senate, has made me increasingly uncomfortable. I have had members of the Executive Team talk openly with members of the Senate about my private life behind my back, making the environment I work in increasingly hostile. It has made it difficult to work in a space like that and undermines my effectiveness as an advocate. How the hell am I supposed to feel comfortable speaking up when in the back of my head I am paranoid about what members of the Senate know and don’t know about my personal life? This kind of behavior is unacceptable from any student organization, let alone the Student Association, and something I will not tolerate in the next Student Association.

I have had consistent pushback on the transparency initiatives I have championed during this Student Association. Not having the adequate time and scope in the Senate to effectively lay out how Blanket Tax Organizations have utilized their funding has been a consistent frustration, because my prerogative, as treasurer of the Student Association, is to keep the student body informed of how their money is being spent. Pursuant to transparency to the student body, we are going to open up more of our internal processes to make it easier for the general public to understand how their student government runs and operates.

Despite all the aspects the Student Association has fallen down on, I know the organization can bring about real change and be representative of the students it represents.

I am proud of all the things I and the Blanket Tax Committee were able to accomplish. We were able to fulfill our goal of financial transparency this past year with publishing all of the Blanket Tax Committee’s minutes and decisions regarding Initiative Fund and mid-year audits. The Committee was able to effectively hold Blanket Tax Organizations accountable about their spending and passed reforms to that effect.

We were able to work with the Rice Women’s Resource Center to secure funding for a supply of emergency contraceptives, going from office to office to have our questions answered about what distribution looks like and to make students feel as comfortable as possible. The RWRC was finally able to upgrade its office computer from 2007 with funding from the Blanket Tax Committee and the Student Association Initiative Fund.

The Faculty Senate heard and passed the resolution I co-authored with Olivia Roark, the Jones Senator, designating Election Day 2024  as a non-instructional day. That work could not have been done without Vivian Zheng, the election judge for Rice’s election precinct, and the support of Dr. Caroline Quenemoen, RICEngaged, and the Center for Civic Leadership.

As I come into my term as president of an organization that needs a significant overhaul, I am optimistic for what the next Student Association can do with the right goals in mind, with people that reflect the belly of experiences and backgrounds we find on our campus, and a lifting of the burden that our organization’s bureaucracy can be.

My last ask to you, is you grant me and the next Executive Committee the opportunity to build up this organization to what it can and is supposed to be. Direct your energy, passion and resources to the causes and organizations personal to you and those around you. The next Student Association and I will do our best to be there to assist you and do all we can to support your voice and cause. The Student Association is dead, long live the Student Association!

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