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The academic quad redesign shows student activism works

By Thresher Editorial Board     11/14/23 10:37pm

After years of student protest and the final report from the Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice, construction crews have removed the Founder’s Memorial statue from its pedestal. Willy’s statue will no longer be the centerpiece of the campus’ main quad.

We certainly have our gripes with the redesign process. We worry that the construction and landscaping will go over schedule, impacting graduation — after all, Rice doesn’t have the best recent record of finishing large construction projects on time. Even if the redesign does finish by April, photographers will almost certainly face a huge crunch of graduation photoshoot requests. Good luck finding a shot without people in the background, if you get one at all.

We also understand that the solution will not please everyone. The Thresher previously reported that Rice will move Willy’s statue into a grassy area between Sewall Hall and Lovett Hall and will create a space to provide information about William Marsh Rice, his ownership of enslaved people and his broader role in the institution of slavery. Some will disagree with the statue’s new location in the quad, especially its proximity to the Welcome Center and prospective students. Others will say the statue should never have been moved in the first place.

Still, changes were made. In 2021, the Student Association passed a resolution to remove the statue from its prominent place. Students led years of protest and constructive conversations. Rice formed a task force that conducted groundbreaking research and produced a series of recommendations. And at the end of it all, student advocacy worked and Rice listened.

Student activism should not end here. The Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice has recommended another suite of actions for Rice to take to untangle itself from its legacy of institutional racism. Many underserved student groups are advocating for change, too, and Rice should listen to their voices.

Rice prides itself on student governance. It’s refreshing to see student advocacy make a difference. We hope it continues.

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. Managing editor Nayeli Shad recused herself from this editorial due to reporting on the corresponding story in our news section.

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