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S.RES 17 passes, SA president to consider academic workload

Richard Li / Thresher

By Viola Hsia     1/30/24 11:20pm

A resolution calling for Student Association presidents to meet with an academic advisor and the SA advisor to discuss workload with presidential duties was passed unanimously Jan. 29. Solomon Ni, the outgoing SA president, originally introduced the resolution Jan. 22 with a limit on the number of credit hours an SA president can enroll in, but an amendment Jan. 29 removed that clause. 

Ni said the resolution was drafted to help SA presidents balance the leadership role with being a student.

“This role is a lot,” Ni, a Jones College junior, said. “We were talking about what we can do in the future to make sure that the people that are taking on this position are pacing themselves and making sure that they take into account themselves first.”

Heather-Reneé Gooch, associate director of student engagement, said that the resolution was proposed with hopes of improving transparency for the SA presidential time commitment. 

“[Students] don’t always realize how many hours you have to spend going to meetings,” Gooch said. “There are benefits to it by bringing the academic advisor in, and they have more intimate knowledge of what that student’s academic career looks like … We also want [students] to be a student first and support [their] academics.”

Lovett  College President Mehek Jain said that this resolution is important in the discussion on mental health among student leaders. 

“I think it’s a fantastic step in the right direction,” Jain, a senior, said. “Student leadership at Rice is very difficult. There’s a lot of pressure put on us as student leaders. I think it’s a really great first step in encouraging students as well as the administration to pay more attention to mental health on this campus, in particular for students who are assuming a lot of really intensive responsibilities.”

Jones President Taya Lasota said the resolution would have helped her think about her workload when initially taking on her current leadership role.

“I can’t be sure that meeting with an advisor would have convinced me not to register for those 18 hours, but I think it would have at least let me consider it as an option before it was too late,” Lasota, a senior, said. “Resolution 17 isn’t the final solution to this issue of student leaders being overworked and undercompensated, but I hope that it marks the beginning of these discussions on a larger platform.”

According to Gooch, this resolution won’t affect current candidates running for the presidency position. Jae Kim, the Brown College president, said that while the policy is a good idea, there are still many steps that the SA needs to take.

“Lots of student leaders have burnout, mental health problems because it is such [an emotional] and burdensome position as a president,” Kim, a junior, said. “I think it’s a good idea, if anything. In the back of my mind, it also does not feel like a solution. I don’t think it’s meant to be a solution. But I still think we do need systemic change on how student leaders are compensated [and] how the university ensures that their positions aren’t too emotionally or physically toxic to them.”

Brown Senator Megan Enriquez also said that while this resolution is a good first step, it cannot be the only solution to an overall bigger problem. 

“I still think it’s important and sometimes necessary to pass [and] discuss serious resolutions, don’t get me wrong, but in general, I hope we can do more to make the leadership role less draining, so it doesn’t impact personal wellness,” Enriquez, a sophomore, wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Encouraging fewer credit hours is beneficial, removing some of the weight, but to successfully hold up a university, it needs more support. I’m not exactly sure what that support looks like; it could be less meetings, more retreats, more appointed positions to carry the load, etc. Support looks different for everyone, so that’s why it’s hard to solve with a standard approach.”

SA Parliamentarian Kam’Ren Walls said that while he agrees that mental health within the SA is an important discussion, he worries that the resolution is overstepping SA boundaries with the student body.

“Obviously, we need to provide the resources for people in student leadership positions, especially the SA president, [internal vice president] and [external vice president] because they have such hefty schedules and demanding tasks,” Walls, a Wiess College junior, said. “But I felt [the resolution itself] was inappropriate on our part, because students are able and can make decisions for themselves.”

Current SA president Alison Qiu — who previously served as IVP and took over the presidency following Ni’s resignation — also said she believed credit hours weren’t the only measurement of a student’s ability to commit to the SA. However, she said that the resolution was important in ensuring that the SA president doesn’t overburden themselves.

“I really don’t want this to stop anyone from running,” Qiu, a Hanszen College junior, said. “I hope that this will make sure that the president can actually have enough time and energy to do more and, at the same time, not get burned out.”

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