Above: A video description of ranked-choice voting, from Minnesota Public Radio.
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Above: A video description of ranked-choice voting, from Minnesota Public Radio.
After last year’s contentious campaign for Student Association president, it is refreshing to see four candidates vying for the position with, for the most part, passion and grace. As the university transitions to a new dean of undergraduates, student leadership will be essential in the next year.
The internal vice president serves as a proxy for what we want the Student Association to be. They should champion others’ ideas and advocate fiercely to ensure that students can use the SA as a vehicle for the betterment of Rice.
Student Association treasurer can be a relatively thankless job, in which performance only becomes publicly visible in the case of a complete mismanagement of the role or a major error.
This past Monday, the Student Association passed a resolution calling on almost every department to create more academic minors. According to the resolution, each academic department, excluding the Schools of Architecture and Music, should determine whether they could create minor versions of their majors. The resolution argued that doing so would provide Rice students with more choices in their academic pursuits, as well as better equip them with marketable degrees for the future.
Like most of Rice’s traditions, the debate has undergone changes through the years. In the last two years, we’ve tried to make the event a more substantial and better attended part of the election cycle with in-depth questions and a more formal setting (previously, the debate was a dry, sparsely attended hour on Fondy 4th). Our goal is to make the debate a maximally informative discussion that helps undergraduates make an educated choice in voting for their student body president.
Three changes to Rice University students’ revered annual Beer Bike are under consideration: reducing the number of bike team members to six bikers from 10 bikers, moving the races’ start time to 8 a.m. from 11:30 a.m. and allowing A-team members to participate in alumni races.
This past Monday, the Student Association discussed a resolution proposed by Martel College senior Danna Ghafir and SA President Justin Onwenu that would aim to fulfill Rice University’s goal of diversifying the international student population. The resolution focuses on socio-economically disadvantaged international populations in particular, and urges Rice to join the International Education’s Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis. The goal is to provide more aid to international prospective students and also conduct outreach to some areas that may not know about Rice.
Though the administration clearly does not oppose the idea of having gender neutral bathrooms on campus, we believe that the administration should have placed a higher priority on this project. Instead, the process has been riddled with inefficiency. Every day of delay is a problem for someone that is frustrating at best and physically harmful at worst. Every month is another that trans members of the Rice community have to choose between bathrooms where they may feel uncomfortable or in danger or hike across campus to one of the few gender-neutral bathrooms.
Rice Housing and Dining’s failure to clearly communicate this year’s change in the move-out date for nongraduating students is disappointing. Yes, students must read every contract in full before signing, however, the reality is that a major change was included in an eight page legal document without any explanation from H&D. (That a college coordinator did not pick up on this change initially either is also telling.) As Jake Nyquist, who co-sponsored SA legislation with H&D, correctly said, the administration makes an active effort to notify students of major changes in policy. H&D would do well to follow suit in future with simple steps: For example, the Thresher is an accessible platform by which the administration can convey changes to students.
The Thresher is deeply concerned by the administration’s failure to cancel class in the middle of a tornado warning last week (see p. 3). There needs to be a serious restructuring of the decision-making process by which classes are cancelled, because it is absolutely egregious that at a time when Rice’s Crisis Management Team urges students to take shelters in basements and hallways, others are walking to class or driving themselves to campus for fear of missing exams and lectures or lowered attendance grades.
At this point we are beating a dead horse. While we understand that Justin Onwenu’s administration is only just gaining its foothold and that mistakes can happen, the Thresher is frustrated by the regularity with which constitutional violations seem to occur at the Student Association (see p. 2). The previous SA administration told us the constitution’s length precluded SA members from following it. And yet here we are, with a much shorter constitution, but facing the same set of procedural problems. If the SA cares so deeply about the constitution that they’re willing to go through the pains to revise it, then why do they continue to completely disregard it? Further, that Onwenu and interim parliamentarian Annabelle McIntire-Gavlick faced such a breakdown in communication to the point where Onwenu did not realize that McIntire-Gavlick no longer considered herself the parliamentarian is alarming. (The Thresher informed Onwenu that McIntire-Gavlick was not the parliamentarian after the Senate meeting on Monday.) Thus, not only is there no advising occurring on constitutional procedure, there is no opportunity for such advising given that the position is apparently vacant. Frankly, the Thresher would much, much prefer not to have a weekly constitutional violation beat in its paper. These violations are ultimately a waste of time, and prevent both the SA and the Thresher from addressing much more pressing and pertinent issues around campus.
The Thresher believes the initiative to support low-income students through the residential college system is an important addition to the resources already in existence for low-income students (see p. 1). However, these resources cannot be effective unless students know they exist, especially since such resources are currently scattered across various departments and campus organizations.
Throughout this year’s tumultuous Student Association election cycle, the Thresher has been concerned by a lack of disregard for the SA constitution by our governing institutions.
From its inception, the Moody Center has touted itself as an exciting arts addition to the Rice community and a means through which to enhance students’ education. In light of this valuable mission, the Moody Center’s shortcomings in supporting student art, despite a general lack of adequate spaces on campus for students to display or perform art, is disappointing.
Though uncontested elections are nothing new to the Student Association, it seems this year no one will be featured on the first round of ballots for the positions of internal vice president and treasurer (see p. 1). Though current Deputy Treasurer Ameesh Shah indicated he will be running for the latter position in the second round, the IVP position still remains vacant, and it is currently unclear if anyone will be submitting a petition for the second round of votes.
Several ongoing research projects at Rice University might not exist without federal grants through the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. As President Donald Trump threatens to cut funding to the NEA and the NEH as part of his plans to trim the deficit, these projects are now at risk (see p. 1).
For many of us, it can be easy to pretend our lives are removed from daily political battles. However, Trump administration’s most recent actions have struck closer to home, visibly impacting the Rice community (see p. 1). To that end, the Thresher supports President Leebron’s promise to not reveal students’ immigration status or origins and to provide legal assistance to those barred from returning to Rice.
For many Rice students, the Women’s Marches were the first time they were involved in such broad-scale, politically minded activism that took place outside of the voting booth (see p. 1). While some critics may argue that the march does not represent meaningful change, the Thresher believes the demonstrations that occurred across the country were a crucial first step in showing solidarity and emboldening those who are angry, upset or disillusioned to effect long-term change.