I wanted to write a quick note of thanks to the Rice students who braved the coldest day in Houston in over 30 years to bring people waiting in line for a vaccine on Feb. 15 hot water, hot chocolate and snacks.
It is the Thresher editorial board’s opinion that only Martel College junior Kendall Vining has the qualifications, experience and platform to effectively lead the student body as Student Association president. Vining’s experience in the SA as the current internal vice president, plans to address students’ concerns (particularly prioritizing the immediate needs of Black students), commitment to transparency and speaking out on important topics makes her an appropriate fit for the current and upcoming needs of the student body.
In last year’s Student Association election, there were no external vice president candidates on the first round ballot. This year, refreshingly, we have three candidates running — three candidates who are all incredibly qualified for the position. All three have ample experience working within the SA, strong communication and leadership skills, and a clear vision for the path they want to help lead Rice down. However, throughout their campaigns and our editorial board interviews, one candidate stood out: Baker College SA Senator Lily Sethre-Brink.
I can’t remember my Orientation Week. It’s not a blur of happiness or a general lack of memory on my part. It’s a malaise of stress and not knowing my place. Coming in as a transfer, I felt simultaneously alienated from my O-Week siblings and my O-Week parents, too old to feel the freshman excitement but too inexperienced to engage with established Rice students. I had no model of what I was supposed to be or even could be — transfer students received maybe an hour of transfer-specific programming, and I only had one conversation with a transfer co-advisor who I never saw again.
In a normal spring semester, we get spring break. This year, we get five “sprinkle” days instead — random weekdays dispersed throughout the semester on which no class occurs and no assignments can be due. The idea is to give Rice students their well-deserved days off without encouraging unnecessary travel. As Christopher Johns-Krull of the Academic Restart Committee wrote to course instructors, “it is intended that, to the extent possible, these be real breaks for students and instructors.”
At sit-ins during the fall semester, fellow protestors and I would occasionally be confronted by passersby defending William Marsh Rice’s legacy and his statue’s placement on our campus. Some may attribute the stubornness of Willy’s defenders to the gaps in the record of William Marsh Rice’s ties to slavery. However, as more information about William Marsh Rice's life comes to light, this ignorance becomes a choice. Decision-makers and opponents of the sit-in alike must come to terms with the overwhelming evidence of the Rice family’s anti-Blackness and take down the statue.
February is Black History Month, which for the Rice community means it’s an especially fitting time to reflect on the history of Black students on campus. William Marsh Rice’s original charter for the school excluded non-white students, and ever since the first Black undergraduates were admitted in 1965, the Black student community at Rice has made significant contributions to campus while simultaneously facing continued discrimination and racism.
Mutual aid networks have cropped up around the world throughout the last year as a response to the pandemic. The concept, which is not a new one, is fairly simple — a community voluntarily shares and receives resources and services among one another, monetary or otherwise, with the goal of making the whole community stronger. Still, it’s radical, especially in a country that encourages individualism, capitalism, and a ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ mentality — an expression that, by the way, is nonsense.
On Jan. 19, the Rice Graduate Student Association met to discuss a new “endowment proposal.” GSA normally operates with a rollover fund from the previous year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of activities typically financed by the GSA, they’ve found themselves with too much money on hand. With over $50,000 in funds from the previous fiscal year when the pandemic began, as well as an anticipated $70,000 in the year that started in July, this endowment is projected to top six figures. Their proposal? Hand $100,000 of this money over to the Rice Management Company for investment. Not only would this be a disservice to graduate students who paid into the so-called “surplus,” it will make us complicit in politically and ethically troubling investments. The GSA should reverse the decision.
How should we discuss food, then? I don’t want to be misunderstood as advising against all food-related conversations. I feel quite the opposite: eating is one of humanity’s oldest social rituals. It’s meant to bring us together. We’re at our best when we engage in conversations that center the enjoyment of food rather than its nutritional content.
The first wave of COVID-19 erupted in the U.S. in early 2020. Rice responded quickly: During March 9-15, classes for the week preceding Spring Break were canceled, students were instructed not to return to campus after Spring Break, and instruction after Spring Break was made fully remote. This quick reaction to the pandemic was typical of many organizations and localities all around the country, as it became clear that social distancing was then the only effective way to slow down the spread of the disease. This seems to have worked and, by early May, the first wave was somewhat subsiding. The Rice administration then tasked the Academic Restart Committee with the mission of “Return to Rice.”
To be sure, a poetic analogy between music and our differences will not resolve any issues directly. It can, however, remind us of our shared humanity. It can get us back in touch with our nature as social animals. It is a nature that is often oppressed by the individualism in our capitalistic society that encourages competition, putting too much focus on the dissonances for our own good.
I stumbled into the Thresher office as a freshman who was determined to go to medical school. Three years later, I’m stumbling out of the office, just as clumsily, as a senior who is pursuing design because of Thresher.
Polls are closed, but the presidential election results and the transition period remain in contention. The projected winner of the 2020 presidential election is Joe Biden, but there’s a long road to reach his inauguration, and President Donald Trump seems to be laying down more and more asphalt each day. In an era where misinformation is as abundant as ever, it’s that much more important for citizens — especially students, in whose hands the future of America lies — to be capable of parsing between the truth and the lies.
To say “be safe” or “be responsible” over the break leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Let’s be absolutely clear: This wave of the pandemic is worse than we’ve ever seen, with cases of and hospitalizations for the coronavirus breaking records every single day. Most of the hometowns we’re returning to are not enforcing sufficient restrictions to mitigate the spread, and if you’re staying at Rice, Harris County certainly is not either. It’s time for us to rethink our new normal in the context of the worsening outbreak.
This past Friday, Rice Left offered unabashed support for a so-called “Palestinian feminist icon” named Leila Khaled. Make no mistake: Khaled, whom they refer to as a “liberation activist,” is, in every sense of the word, a terrorist. In 1969, Khaled and a group of fellow terrorists hijacked a civilian flight from Rome to Tel Aviv and planted bombs in the nose of the plane, which were detonated moments after the passengers, children and elderly among them, had hastily exited the plane. The plane having been diverted to Damascus, two Israeli civilians aboard the flight were held hostage by the Syrian government for three months after being delivered by the hijackers.
After three and a half excruciatingly long days, the race for president was called for Joe Biden on Saturday morning by the Associated Press and other major media organizations. This was a historic moment, as Kamala Harris is poised to become the first woman, the first Black person and the first South Asian person to hold the office of vice president.
Students have heightened anxieties during this time, regardless of who wins — for their safety, for their futures, for other people, for their families, for the rest of the world. With all this going on, no midterm break to properly rest, and an increasingly worsening pandemic without proper academic accommodations to account for it all, we need time to rest and check in with one another. Whatever outcome, election night will be hard; the days following may be worse. Be gentle with us — we’re trying.
Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman sent out an email on Oct. 2 with announcements and updates regarding the semester. In the email, she mentioned the petition that will come out “later this month” for students “who would need to remain living on campus over winter break.” Four days later, Gorman sent out a midsemester survey officially announcing the exploration of extending winter break by up to two weeks. That option has since been implemented.