Traditionally, the end of August signifies an end to a summer of trips, getaways and parties. But the COVID-19 pandemic has put a hard stop to the romanticization of summer break this year, with most (responsible) human beings in the United States restraining their urges to throw a pool party and opting for a solitary swim instead. So it’s probably no surprise that college students who have returned on campus, jaded and sun-deprived, would feel an even stronger desire than before to escape their endless Zoom sessions on the weekends and have a little fun.
Mask-designing in tents by Rice Program Council, online dance workshops by Rice African Students Association, outdoor movie nights at Jones College and a Bachelor or Bachelorette-style online dating event at McMurtry College are just a handful of the events students are planning for this fall, which will be unlike any other Rice has seen before. With restrictions on social gatherings on campus, student organizers have been brainstorming ways to not just replicate traditional events online, but also introduce entirely new events.
The Thresher reached out to seven freshmen to understand what their experience was like. While these blurbs are not representative of all voices on campus, they provide a perspective from new students –– whether they’re on campus at their assigned residential college, staying at another college for the semester, or remote.
Every time Anna Margaret Clyburn gets a Slack notification, her computer plays the monotone sound of a British woman saying “hummus.” It’s fitting — Clyburn, a senior at Martel College, is a vegan, and gets very excited about hummus, as well as sweet potatoes and peanut butter. She enjoys eating the latter two together after coating the sweet potatoes in ginger, cayenne pepper, curry powder, cinnamon and salt, then baking them for 30 to 40 minutes at 400 degrees F.
“[Rice] was a very active community leader, a wealthy community leader who preserved and grew slavery in Houston. There’s no mincing words, it’s very clear that he did that,“ said Andrew Maust (Brown College ‘19), who wrote a research paper on William Marsh Rice’s involvement with slavery.
“He was a supremely honest person trying to tell difficult stories. It’s not Mr. Moore who was difficult, it’s the history he insisted on uncovering that many people have difficulty with.”
Early last month, three Rice students launched Rice for Biden, a group supporting Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s campaign for president. Harry Golen, one of the creators of Rice for Biden, said that one of the organization’s posts on Facebook reached over 4,300 people within the first week, including Rice students, alumni and staff members. Not all responses were supportive, however. A few hours after Rice for Biden launched its social media pages, another page appeared on Instagram: Rice Against Biden (@riceagainstbiden).
Last month, a group of Black students published a list of demands for the administration to “address the systemic oppression and inequity that is embedded within Rice’s history by acknowledging and amplifying voices, experiences and communities that have historically been unheard.” One of the six demands is to remove Founder’s Memorial, the statue of William Marsh Rice found in the Academic Quad, on the basis of Rice’s enslavement of 15 people and involvement in the cotton trade. This demand received particular attention with “Down With Willy,” a student-led social media campaign to demand the administration remove the statue.
We asked Black students if they wanted to respond to the countless instances of racist violence against Black Americans, and the protests taking place across the country as a result. Here’s what they said.
In the 2019 documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” Morrison encouraged those looking to make change to ask themselves, “What can I do where I am?” That sentiment sparked Summar McGee (Hanszen College ’20) to found Rice For Black Life, she said. Rice For Black Life is a Black-led coalition of 45 Rice students, Rice affiliates and community members seeking to “support Black liberation, the affirmation of Black life and the abolition of white power structures,” according to a recent email from the group.
Jaylen Carr grew up playing Nintendo video games — “If it had the Nintendo seal, I probably played it at some point,” he said — and loving everything about the multinational Japanese electronics and video game company. So when he received an internship offer from the Nintendo human resources department in the spring of his sophomore year, Carr said it felt like his stars had aligned.
On a cool Saturday in March, Lesa Tran held her daughter Ophelia for the very first time. Throughout Ophelia’s life, her March 21 birthday will coincide with the vernal equinox — the beginning of spring — and signal the start of the season of renewal, hope and promise. This year, though, things were different: Spring came on March 20, and Ophelia was delivered amid a global pandemic.
Being on the screen isn’t new to Gabe Baker, a Rice alumnus (Brown College ’14) and cast member of The Bachelor franchise’s new music dating show: “The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart” on ABC, where contestants sing to and with each other. Baker has been on athletic competition reality shows before –– “American Ninja Warrior” and Netflix’s “Ultimate Beastmaster.” While the constant eye of the cameras did put him under pressure to perform on those shows, Baker said that being on “The Bachelor” brought a new kind of pressure.
When Rice announced that Schedule Planner, an online scheduling platform for students, would be shut down and replaced with Banner, a platform that combines schedule planning with registration, students were devastated. One went so far as to write a eulogy for the site, criticizing the university’s choice to spend millions of dollars on what was, in his opinion, a worse platform.
Intricate plankton, jellyfish and corals fill the drawings of Ernst Haeckel, a 19th-century German biologist, philosopher and naturalist. The prints caught the eye of Rice’s latest Guggenheim Fellow Lacy Johnson, who took a deeper look into Haeckel’s life. In her research, she unearthed the biologist’s prominent work in scientific racism, work which has led some historians to conclude that Haeckel informed the eventual rise of Nazi ideology in Germany and fascism in Italy.
As more and more social distancing guidelines were put in place over the past months, high school seniors across the country watched as prom slowly slipped out of their grasp. Instead of donning prom dresses and tuxes, they realized they would be donning face masks. Rather than spending the night dancing with their classmates, they would be staying home, only stepping out for groceries and medication.
As we all exist in isolation from one another, it can be grounding to take a moment to reflect on where we are and how we're doing, and hear the same from others. With that in mind, the Thresher asked for brief stories from the Rice community about what living in social isolation has been like. Here’s what people told us.