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Monday, April 15, 2024 — Houston, TX

Prioritize students in the new RMC redesign

By Thresher Editorial Board     8/22/23 10:46pm

In an email to staff yesterday, Dean Gorman said that Rice has let go of Adjaye Associates, the architecture firm in charge of designing the new student center, and reset the RMC rebuild project. 

For starters, we want to applaud Rice for cutting ties with Adjaye Associates. This announcement arrives a month after the Financial Times uncovered allegations of sexual misconduct against Sir David Adjaye, the founder and principal of the firm. While the email didn’t specify why they let go of Adjaye Associates — Gorman also attributed the RMC reset to post-COVID inflation and frustration over design plans — we can’t help but point out that Rice is joining the list of many clients who dropped Adjaye Associates after the allegations surfaced. We feel strongly that Rice should not maintain a relationship with any individual accused of sexual misconduct, and appreciate that they made the right decision in parting ways.

Now, the RMC rebuild has essentially returned to square one — or square 1.5, considering Gorman also said that donor money is still wrapped up in the rebuild project. 

Rice administration should use this opportunity to re-evaluate the intentions of the RMC rebuild and emphasize student needs in the future design. Administration did solicit input from undergraduate and graduate students on the original redesign. However, we question how much that input was valued, given how many student spaces wound up compromised. The previously proposed design put student media in the basement, Pub in a U-shaped food court and gave Coffeehouse an exterior pickup window. 

These student-run organizations shape Rice’s culture. Between class periods, you’d be hard pressed to find a place more packed than Chaus. Pub largely defines our post-lab Thursday nights. ktru’s stickers decorate water bottles and laptop sleeves around campus. To sideline these organizations, cram them into tight spaces and strip them of their quirks would be, in our opinion, conventionally unwise. 

The original redesign also moved organizations previously housed elsewhere, such as the Center for Career Development and the Whoo Deli, into the RMC. These would be located on the second floor, sharing space with support services like the Queer Resource Center and the Women’s Resource Center.

Moving forward we urge the administration to rethink their priorities surrounding the RMC rebuild. We encourage Rice to hire a new architecture firm that understands Rice culture and constructs a building to suit its needs. The new student center must be bigger, too. The original redesign planned to increase the RMC’s size by 15 percent, a number that we feel is too low, given Rice’s plans to expand the student body and construct two new residential colleges. The addition of even more food offerings and work spaces can only further complicate the struggle to give students the space and resources that a student center is intended to provide.

Most importantly though, we urge administration to put students’ needs first when re-redesigning the new student center. Student-run businesses and media organizations should have a voice in what their spaces look like. We’ve been saying this for years. In 2019, our former editorial board argued that the rebuild must accommodate the needs of student media, including radio equipment for ktru and private spaces for the Thresher to conduct confidential interviews. Four years and several iterations of our board later, we still echo that sentiment. Some of our staffers spend upwards of 20 hours per week in our office — give us some natural light, please.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Prayag Gordy, Riya Misra, Nayeli Shad, Brandon Chen, Sammy Baek, Sarah Knowlton, Hadley Medlock and Pavithr Goli. Editor-in-Chief Prayag Gordy recused himself from this editorial due to reporting on the corresponding story in our news section.

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