Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Monday, May 27, 2024 — Houston, TX

Two-faced Rice administration undermines university values

By Ibrahim Al-Akash     4/9/24 11:04pm

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 recent tabling of S.RES 02 showcases the blatant hypocrisy of the Rice administration and sets a dangerous precedent of silencing students’ intellectual discussion. The resolution called for the SA’s creation of an Ethical Advisory Board, which would monitor Blanket Tax spending on companies deemed complicit in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

The resolution was tabled at the request of an unnamed student who filed a discrimination complaint alleging antisemitism with the Office of Access, Equity and Equal Opportunity. Students and faculty claim the resolution is antisemitic, but no quotes from the resolution or cited evidence have been brought forth to support this claim. 

The reason for this lack of evidence is that the resolution is not antisemitic. The resolution does not mention or single out Jewish people anywhere in the document and extensively cites reputable sources (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Amnesty International, Desmond Tutu) to substantiate the crimes attributed to the Israeli regime. To extrapolate this criticism to mean discrimination against all Jewish people is preposterous, as many Jewish organizations (Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow) and Jewish students around the world support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement and oppose Zionism

Furthermore, 350 Holocaust scholars signed the Jerusalem Declaration On Antisemitism affirming that critiques of Israel, even those perceived as excessive or contentious, or deemed to reflect a “double standard,” as well as calls for BDS, are not antisemitic. Painting all criticism of the Israeli regime with the brush of antisemitism is an attempt to silence and delegitimize criticism of Israel by attacking the interlocutor rather than the content of the argument. 

In a recent Letter to the Editor, a student baselessly claims that the resolution falsely accuses Israel of genocide and colonization; however, the findings of the International Court of Justice and the UN Special Rapporteur concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating Israel’s commission of genocide is met.” The Israeli regime’s genocidal intent is “not hard to prove” with 500 statements providing ample evidence according to Holocaust and Genocide Studies professor Raz Segal. Moreover, any basic reading of the history of Zionism will show that Israel was created as a colonial project, as stated in the British Mandate for Palestine, the Peel Commission report, and even by Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, in his paper “The Jewish State” in which he refers to the Zionists as “our colonists.”

When responding to the tabling of the resolution, a Rice spokesperson said Rice is “not legally required to honor the First Amendment” since it’s a private university, which essentially indicates that the Rice administration believes it can suppress student discourse with impunity. The Rice administration is selectively applying rules and laws in a biased manner that neglects the intellectual development of its students and the core values of the university. While claiming to uphold principles of education, conversation and inclusiveness, General Counsel Omar Syed defended the suppression of the vote without considering the impact on Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students and their families, whose killing in the tens of thousands is being enabled by the companies that the resolution calls for boycotting.

Is it inclusive to conduct business as usual with companies who are enabling the murder of children at such a massive scale? Is it not discriminatory to aid in the Israeli regime’s apartheid and genocide? If Rice is inclined to suppress discourse solely based on accusations of discrimination without waiting for verification, Zionists will continue to cry wolf about any resolution criticizing Israel as being “antisemitic.” By seemingly turning a blind eye to the potential consequences of its actions and setting this precedent, Rice is perpetuating discrimination and suppressing legitimate discourse and intellectual debate. 

According to Amnesty International, labeling groups, such as BDS, that use peaceful means to end human rights violations against Palestinians as antisemitic “violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world.” The tabling of the resolution shows the Rice administration’s failure to uphold the integrity and values of the university, and is without a doubt discriminatory. We, as students who embody these values, need to read between the lines of Rice’s empty statements and scrutinize their actions.

Rice’s mission statement emphasizes a commitment to the betterment of the world, yet the administration’s actions in blocking the resolution raise questions about this commitment. Is the murder of over 40,000 people, starvation of innocent children and obliteration of homes, mosques, hospitals, churches, schools and every university in Gaza what Rice views as a better world?

I am not asking Rice administration to adopt a stance on the BDS issue; rather, I am demanding that they refrain from interfering with our student-led democratic process. Rice administration should reconsider the tabling of the resolution and must demonstrate a commitment to its stated values and take responsibility for its actions. This includes fostering an environment where intellectual discussion and dissent are encouraged rather than stifled, and where the university’s role in promoting social justice and human rights is upheld.

More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 4/16/24 10:18pm
Do more to make campus bird-friendly

April is the month of many things: Beer Bike, a solar eclipse, the last day of classes and, perhaps lesser known, Earth Month. As Rice launches a series of Earth Month events, I would like to address our potential as a campus community to be more environmentally conscious, particularly in an effort to make this campus more friendly to birds.

OPINION 4/10/24 2:41pm
Student activism is working – and fear-mongering cannot hold us back

S.RES 02, titled “Student Association Boycott and Divestment from Corporations Complicit in the Ongoing Genocide in Gaza,” was presented to the Student Association on March 25. This resolution proposes the creation of an Ethical Spending Advisory Board designed to ensure that Blanket Tax funds are not dedicated to corporations that are complicit in Israeli colonial violence and apartheid based on guidelines created by the BDS movement. 


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.