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Early voting ends this Friday, Feb. 28 and Election Day is next Tuesday, March 3. If you have the privilege of being registered to vote, get out the vote on behalf of yourself, your communities and everyone who is institutionally excluded from our election processes. Political apathy is rampant in this country and on our campus with only 42 percent voter turnout last year. But we urge you to care. Our future will be shaped by the people we elect to office and the decisions they make regarding the issues we talk about, protest for and care about.
“At this point we are beating a dead horse,” the Thresher Editorial Board wrote in 2017. “If the [Student Association] cares so deeply about the constitution … then why do they continue to completely disregard it?”
Last Sunday, Ashley Fitzpatrick began a write-in campaign against the previously uncontested internal vice president candidate Kendall Vining. While the Thresher’s editorial board normally endorses candidates in contested races, we were unable to reach a consensus on endorsement for the IVP role of either Vining, a Martel College sophomore and former new student representative, or Fitzpatrick, a Martel sophomore and current senator.
Saturday night, hundreds of Rice students paid $2 to stand in line for one of the most popular publics of the year, Y2K, with some waiting over two hours only to not get in. Despite claiming that they based the number of wristband sales on statistical “models” that would allow entry to everyone, McMurtry College refused to release this data publicly, leaving the logic and intent behind this new system unclear. Additionally, the conflicting explanations given by various McMurtry student leaders have muddled the situation rather than clarified it.
With the start of a new election season, there are only a few weeks remaining for the current Student Association Executive Council to meet goals set at the beginning of their terms. Given the Thresher Editorial Board’s previous endorsement of Grace Wickerson for SA president on the basis of promises they made at the time, we were particularly interested in progress made on those promises. Basing our research on publicly available SA records and our own coverage, we found that while strides in two areas — financial accessibility and support for underrepresented groups — were significant and laudable, many campaign promises fell to the wayside or were not raised at all after elections.
As undergraduates, we are far more likely to be familiar with the everyday work and initiatives that come from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates than those from the Offices of the Provost or even the President. Often, the Thresher’s coverage reflects this uneven familiarity. However, when Rice announced that current Dean of Engineering Reginald DesRoches was named the incoming provost, we were excited for the new era of university leadership to come.
In the spirit of the new year, we as the Thresher’s editorial board have set a few resolutions and invite y’all as the readers to hold us accountable. Going forward, we want to be more transparent about our operations as well as maintaining the standards and policies we’ve created this year in the spirit of transparency.
Ask any Rice student why they chose this university, and they might say they were excited about the residential college system, the small class sizes or even Beer Bike. But every student is ultimately here to get an education, and most of us are privileged enough to take that for granted.
Last Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Rice. While students protested outside, only a select few students, such as Baker Institute for Public Policy interns, were invited to attend the event — and that was only after specific petitioning by Rice Young Democrats. The aura of exclusivity around Baker Institute events perpetuates inequalities in accessibility that are commonly seen in the political sphere but should not take place on Rice’s campus.
Conversations around wealth inequality on campus have picked up in the past few years, with initiatives ranging from food pantries to stipends for student leaders created with the intent to bridge the gap. However, all the free Beer Bike T-shirts in the world don’t make up for that fact that Pell Grant recipients at Rice face a lower graduation rate than students who do not receive financial aid. Research from the Office of Institutional Research (see News, p. 2) points to a greater issue of weak social mobility at Rice, evidenced by our ranking as No. 204 in Top Performers on Social Mobility by U.S. News and World Report. Even with subsidized tickets and T-shirts, students can’t enjoy Esperanza or Beer Bike if they’re worrying about making it to graduation.
Rice has upheld vastly unequal maternity leave standards for its staff members and tenure-track professors for over 20 years. While tenure-track professors are able to take a semester off at full pay, staff members are offered only up to five or seven weeks — depending on delivery circumstances — at only 80 percent of their salary. While Rice is more generous than required by the federal Family Medical Leave Act, which mandates that employers offer at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the discrepancy between how Rice treats its different employees undermines the importance of staff.
With the Astros having been on the national stage for the World Series, hopefully you’re feeling some Houston pride. When Beyoncé or Travis Scott top the charts, it’s fun to take their shoutouts to H-Town a little personally. Spending four years in a city like Houston is the perfect opportunity to explore a city that we may never have the chance to live in again — it’s time to use the METRO system and actually get out of the hedges to understand what Houston has to offer.
This weekend, students have the options of going to Wiess College’s Night of Decadence and Chi Alpha’s Evening of Elegance.
A petition demanding that the computer science department cut ties with Palantir Technologies raised concerns about Palantir’s connections to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As we are students in a border state where ICE has a large presence, the petition raises a valid concern about Palantir specifically. More broadly, it points to the necessity of a critical examination of potential employers. As recruiting season continues, students should consider more than their prospective paycheck when weighing employment options.
Content warning: This opinion piece contains references to sexual assault.
The last time the Marching Owls Band performed a halftime show at a football game against Baylor University, they formed a IX on the field to call out Baylor’s cover-up of a sexual assault scandal — and the Rice administration gave an official apology on behalf of the university. At Saturday’s show during the Rice-Baylor football game, the MOB again used their platform to support student interests. Over 50 Rice and Baylor students and alumni ran onto the football field, waving pride flags to stand with LGBTQ+ students at Baylor. And the Rice administration has so far been silent.
At Saturday’s football game against the University of Texas, Austin, students resorted to the same, tired means of “supporting” Rice athletics — making fun of the opposing team’s academics.
With the recent precipitous drops in acceptance rates at Rice, students, including ourselves, began to wonder — how will this affect our rankings? As much as we claim to not care about how we’re ranked, it doesn’t stop us from sharing the latest Niche or Princeton Review ranking (especially if it makes us look good).
For years, students on campus and the Thresher editorial board have been petitioning for more visual and dramatic arts support — in space, funding and recognition. With Tuesday’s announcement of a new, dedicated VADA building in the near future, there is finally hope that all three of these requests will be fulfilled.The Thresher editorial board applauds the efforts of Dean of the School of Humanities Kathleen Canning, VADA chair John Sparagana and the Humanities Advisory Board as well as the countless student voices that have been petitioning for increased VADA attention for years. The editorial board also applauds the administration for its openness to the idea and commitment to fundraise for the project.
Following faculty concerns that students are misusing the pass/fail option, the faculty senate formed a working group last semester to reevaluate the existing policy. The working group’s charge is to determine if the policy sufficiently fulfills the option’s purpose and to “examine how these policies affect the learning environment.” Currently, the working group has one undergraduate representative out of nine members and the group has so far only surveyed instructors. While we recognize the ways in which pass/fail affects the instructor’s classroom environment, we urge the working group to consider the ways in which that is true for students as well.