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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX


OPINION 4/9/14 12:40pm

RUPD email language harmful to students

Trigger warning : This article discusses issues surrounding sexual assault.Before I begin, I would like to emphasize that I know nothing about the specifics of the event which occurred recently, nor is it my business to investigate said incident outside of the information that the student body received from RUPD. I am focusing exclusively on the language of the emails, which many students and alumni other than myself have found to be problematic. In addition, I would like to also articulate that I am writing this with the explicit permission and guidance from a representative of the Lovett College community as well as other survivors to ensure that I am entering this discussion as sensitively as I possibly can.With regard to the emails the student body received two weeks ago, I have managed to obtain clarification on the RUPD communications from both administrators and fellow students more familiar with these issues. Although this has already been publicly explained a couple of times, I would like to reiterate my findings for those of us who did not have prior knowledge with regard to the discrepancy between Rice policy and the Texas Penal Code, so that members of the community who are still unfamiliar with this distinction — particularly out-of-state and foreign students — can be better informed.My initial assumption was that the confusion resulted from a simple miscommunication; this was not the case. The confusion stemmed from the fact that I, as well as other students, wrongly assumed the Rice sexual-misconduct policy is consistent with Texas state law. The Student Code of Conduct includes non-consensual sexual contact in its definition of sexual assault, which is the case in many state laws — including New York, Pennsylvania, California, Utah, Kansas and Louisiana, just to name a few. However, this definition is not, in fact, shared by the Texas Penal Code (Sec. 22.011). Instead, the Texas Penal Code describes acts of non-consensual sexual contact as simple assault (Sec. 22.01). However, I was told intent of sexual assault — despite the implication of the name — is actually considered a more severe offense than simple assault. I was also told the reason the emails were worded in this way is because RUPD typically launches investigations by using the definitions provided by Texas law.Despite all of this, the issue I am trying to bring up is not one that has to do with the nuances of Texas law. Instead, I would like to focus on the fact that the student body received communication from RUPD that directly contradicted Rice policy. Hopefully, I will be able to explain why I think this is a concern.Every student at Rice University is bound by a set of core values outlined in the Code of Conduct, which includes the university’s policy on sexual assault. The wording of the emails, although expressed using language regarded acceptable by the Penal Code, came across as insensitive to these values. Although the incident involved an outside party, the notifications were ultimately sent from and received by members of the Rice community. That being said, I believe the RUPD communications had the unfortunate side effect of confusing a university policy which is already misunderstood by so many of us — including myself. Such confusion is a threat to student safety, because most perpetrators typically do not realize they are committing a crime (some victims may not immediately realize it either). I know that many students other than myself would feel much safer knowing there is no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what constitutes acceptable behavior at this university, which is one reason why we found the emails disconcerting.Protecting students is not just about fighting misconceptions. More importantly, it’s about implementing a much-needed sensitivity toward a victimized community, whose aftermath is often colored by fear and distress. To integrate a broad definition of sexual assault is to communicate sensitively on such issues without opening discussion to the details of the event itself. The more unnecessary information the community is provided with, the higher the chances are that subsequent conversation will only promote further distress. In this respect, I believe the notifications included unnecessary details about the incident which failed to give the victims and the case space. The communication was thus unsuccessful in reinforcing one of Rice’s core values, which is to put the physical, emotional and mental welfare of the community above all else, including, on some occasions, our collective desire for information.In light of this unhappy incident, I would like to make some productive suggestions. Since the university’s definition of sexual assault is often something students already find confusing, and since seeking clarification can have the undesired side effect of inciting additional trauma, I believe communications of this nature should seek to limit the narrative in such a way that it does not contradict Rice policy. In accordance with the Clery Act, the RUPD crime logs use the term “sex offense” in reference to such crimes. I believe this classification is broad enough to encompass both Texas law and Rice policy, and therefore sensitive enough for our community in that it does not necessitate any specific accounts of the event. This kind of language goes a long way in reassuring students who, like me, feel extremely protected by policies which embrace a broader definition of sexual assault.There has been discontent amongst students with the fact that the notifications were sent so late in the timeline — a logistical issue which I certainly hope will be addressed in the near future through further productive dialogue. Despite all of this, I would like to mention that I personally am extraordinarily grateful to both the administration and to RUPD for working hard to keep us safe and for being surprisingly open to discussion. I hope they will continue to do so in the future. Finally, I would like to bring attention to the fact that April 7-10 is Sexual Assault Awareness Week at Rice; this is a good opportunity for all of us to further educate ourselves, revisit Rice’s policy and continue to support one another as we continue to navigate these issues.Adelina Koleva is a Martel College senior

OPINION 4/8/14 5:42pm

Murray's lecture diminishes Rice's prestige

I’m still in shock. Rice University, home of one of the most prestigious think tanks in the nation, just hosted the man who wrote The Bell Curve and Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, two works that were published without peer review and, as it turns out, for good reason. In his hour long discussion, Dr. Murray made enough offensive, uneducated, unsupported comments to fuel a separate hour-long discussion by itself. This was especially disappointing given that I find his newer thesis about class segregation quite interesting.Murray was certainly aware that the majority of the people attending his talk were there to protest and did not view him favorably as he opened up with “according to your [the audience’s] standards I am racist, I am sexist, I am ageist, I am ablest...”It was really painful listening to him since he’d make claims like marriage civilizes men, women choose to be single mothers, and minorities should appreciate oppression since it has made them stronger without giving any evidence past personal anecdotes, his opinion or his liberal interpretation of data. Perhaps he did have credible evidence. If so, he irresponsibly did not focus on it during his talk.Murray’s “research methods” include designing surveys based on his stereotypes of white people from high versus low socioeconomic backgrounds (see his survey for yourself at PBS.org) and going to bars to collect opinions which anyone with even a basic understand of statistics would find to be an extremely skewed sample.Additionally, Murray failed to successfully measure or even quantify "empathy" or lack thereof between social classes. I am sympathetic to his argument that we have a dearth of empathy in America, but not persuaded by any of his efforts.Murray attempted to steer clear of his opinions on race, intelligence and poverty in favor of his opinions on the differences between upper middle class and working class white Americans perhaps in part because his audience was mainly protesters (240 students RSVPd to the protest versus only 40 students for the actual event). Nevertheless, he still made some interesting assumptions about the audience. He assumed most of us in the room were upper class, which clearly tells me he is not familiar with Rice’s financial aid practices. He assumed none of us belonged to or could empathize with white, working class Americans. He assumed none of us have had a job where working has caused a part of our body to hurt (an example from his survey). He assumed the most contact we have had with people of a different socioeconomic status from us was from working at soup kitchens just because we needed service hours, our parents made us, or we wanted a nice looking resume. Ouch! This also tells me he assumes that Rice is a homogenous community rather than a diverse community with people representing different socioeconomic backgrounds along with different races, different life experiences and in turn different political opinions.I haven’t even touched on Bell Curve. I have two questions: Since when has performance on Intelligence Quotient tests, a misnomer anyway, equated to intelligence, and since when has only intelligence equated to success? Even if one were able to find differences in IQ scores between races, race is not entirely a biological construct, but rather a social one. Furthermore, Murray has not been able to establish a causal effect between race and IQ score. I invite you to read Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth by Claude S. Fischer and five other co-authors. You would think that if Murray were not biased, he’d want to consider social inequality factors as well like unequal educational opportunities, varying access to stable housing and nutrition and exposure to violence that may be more prevalent among minorities due to historical exclusion, discrimination and disenfranchisement. If Murray had ever rationalized racism, you can be sure it was not by truly rigorous academic means.I will say I am extremely proud of the organization and execution of the protest. Students representing several Rice groups, including BSA, HACER, RASA, CSS and APASA, as well as Queers and Allies and the Women’s Resource Center, came together to speak out and create dialogue. It definitely challenged the common saying that Rice students are apathetic regarding social and political issues. I hope this sets a positive precedent concerning the power of unified voices taking a stand at Rice. Thank you to all of the bold students and supportive faculty who practiced free speech without diminishing anyone else’s.

OPINION 4/8/14 9:53am

Murray invitation serves legitimate purpose

As I’m sure many of you are aware, this past week the Baker Institute Student Forum and the Federalist Society teamed up to host an event featuring controversial scholar Charles Murray. As many students have correctly pointed out, Murray is well known for contentious statements he made in his 1994 book The Bell Curve, in which he forwards some blatantly racist and sexist notions. Let me be clear –– I find these viewpoints outrageous and despicable. However, this does not mean BISF or the Federalist Society were out of line for bringing him to campus.First off, Murray is hardly a fringe figure; his views are arguably as central to modern political dialogue as many of the other speakers who have been invited to campus. He is part of the American Enterprise Institute, a major think tank the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin recently described as the “dominant conservative think tank.” His viewpoints have recently been cited by former VP candidate Paul Ryan and Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. A majority of the Rice population, including myself, may not agree with his ideas, but he is an entirely reasonable guest for BISF to invite considering the club’s mission is to encourage policy discourse.Furthermore, Murray is not discussing the views put forth in The Bell Curve. His talk is centered around his current book, Coming Apart, which is included on the New York Times’ list of 100 Notable Books of 2012. His current work has pulled away from his focus of 20 years ago; Coming Apart is about his perception of the decline in traditional values among lower and middle class Americans, not I.Q. differences between genders and races. It has been hailed by highly-respected authors, such as David Brooks (who spoke at Rice in 2011), as an extremely important book about the state of American society. Again, like it or not, Murray is an extremely significant figure in the political world, and it is entirely reasonable for clubs intended to promote policy discourse to invite him to address his views.Next, I would like to address Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson’s commentary about the event. In his public statement, Hutchinson condemns, in principle, the idea that someone with views he finds “ignorant or repellant” should ever be invited to speak at Rice University. Universities have an important role to play as free spaces for the exchange and critique of ideas. They are not incubators for one particular perspective, but rather places where students can be exposed to a wide range of viewpoints and consider them and react accordingly. Columbia University demonstrated this when it invited the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak in 2011. Those who invited Ahmadinejad probably did not agree with his abhorrent viewpoints, but they understood the importance of allowing students to gain access to a viewpoint that is present in the world and which they are often sheltered from in a liberal, academic setting. Mr. Murray’s views may be repugnant to students educated at an academic institution like Rice, but they are widely accepted by many other sectors of the population. For a university to deprive its students of any viewpoints just because they are controversial is to not prepare them for the real world, in which such views are widespread. Hutchinson’s statement is incredibly disappointing because it implies that Rice is a place that penalizes those who wish to expose students to any perspective outside of the norm.As an officer in BISF, I find Hutchinson’s accusation that “there is a very strong implication that the invitation and advertisement implies endorsement” to be highly offensive. It suggests that our decision to provide a forum for views outside of the liberal norm makes us racist and sexist, and that is very hurtful. Does Hutchinson also suggest that we ban other forms of expression that give a forum to unpopular views? Should we ban publications like the New York Times, which publicizes controversial op-eds by figures like Vladimir Putin? Should we withhold invitations to other speakers who decades ago may have opposed marriage equality, decriminalization of abortion or other elements common to the liberal policy agenda?Hutchinson’s remarks endanger free speech on campus by implying that students must ensure a speaker has views conforming to Dean Hutchinson’s or else risk personally-directed, public backlash by the administration. It implies that we must avoid inviting any speaker to campus who has previously made statements deviating from the liberal norm.Again, I do not agree with Murray’s point of view, and I fully support students’ decisions to protest after they have given him a chance to speak. However, I am disappointed in the administration’s condemnation of the Federalist Society and BISF for inviting him to campus. The real world is not a liberal haven in which unpopular views are repressed, and students need to be equipped to respond to these perspectives. The invitation was not an “endorsement,” but rather a brave endeavor to allow students to hear a prevalent, while controversial, perspective and defend their values against it. It is, in fact, a university’s responsibility to provide this opportunity to students in a safe environment. If every invitation was an endorsement, BISF members like myself would be juggling a messy handful of contradictory political ideologies.Students and administration –– be confident in your beliefs and values, and welcome the opportunity to defend them in the face of criticism. As philosopher John Stuart Mill famously pointed out, it is to everyone’s benefit to hear all dissenting views; even if your mind is made up, listening to counter-perspectives will reinforce your beliefs and equip you to defend them. A well-rounded university like Rice should provide a diverse mix of perspectives that students will encounter outside the hedges, not isolate itself as an incubator for single-perspective popular thought.

OPINION 3/26/14 6:05am

A letter to the Rice community about Beer Bike

Every year, Beer Bike has served as an opportunity to celebrate the unique strengths of Rice University.  Willy Week events at each college emphasize their time-honored traditions and strengthen our bonds with the residential college system, and thousands of alumni from around the globe return to Rice to reconnect with their college and classmates. This plethora of activities and spirit-building builds with each college’s much anticipated Beer Bike morning festivities, but we believe the fun of Willy Week and Beer Bike should not end prematurely. The RPC Beer Bike Committee, with assistance from college Beer Bike coordinator teams, has worked hard this year to implement changes which ensure the experience at campus-wide events builds off the excitement at each college.  We hope that y’all will continue through the balloon-fight with the Parade to the track to cheer on your college’s bike teams, eat a variety of great food, and enjoy time with students from all colleges. 

OPINION 3/25/14 8:04pm

ASB site-leader training program unfair, ineffective

I need to say it: The worst large-scale decision I’ve made in the last year was becoming an Alternative Spring Break site leader. I’m writing this piece to express both how much I care about the ASB site-leader program’s potential and the extent to which the Community Involvement Center has disappointed me personally.

OPINION 3/25/14 8:03pm

Rondelet proves successful

The Thresher would like to congratulate the Rice Program Council for throwing a successful Rondelet. Tickets sold out quickly, and students who attended were pleased with the good music and conversation space.

OPINION 3/25/14 8:02pm

Opera House good development for Shepherd School

The Thresher is excited for the construction of an opera house on campus (see story, pg. 1), despite the fact that we think the student body, as a whole, would benefit more from other projects. However, we recognize that this money was donated specifically for the construction of an opera house. For that reason, we urge people to understand that another project that students would like to see prioritized, like a new student center, could not have replaced this project financially. Going forward, we hope that students across campus can see the benefits of this new project. We do not currently have an opera house, but we do have one of the top music schools in the country, and this can only add to the prestige associated with the program. While many of us often forget about Shepherd students and are unaware of their many accomplishments, it is important that we recognize their program and support their experience at Rice. We also hope people will consider the potential benefits of the opera house (not only for music students — free performances anyone?) before coming to snap decisions about whether or not they support the new project. Additionally, we think the choices for the design and construction firms are promising, and it is definitely nice to see that Charles Renfro (Will Rice ‘89) is a partner at the chosen architecture firm. The decision to use a construction company that has previously managed projects at Rice is also encouraging, as the firm has presumably worked well with the campus and administration before. As this project develops, we would also like to recommend that the administration heavily consider the potential parking problems that could arise with the construction of a new opera house. Adding new buildings on campus, especially those that could draw large performance crowds, could easily cause students to have more difficulty finding parking. For this reason, we support the already-being-considered underground parking near the new opera facility, in order to avoid increased patrons without increased parking options. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

OPINION 3/18/14 4:54pm

Life's a Mitch: Useless to Useful

Unitaskers! One of the most repulsive ideas I have encountered. Those familiar with Alton Brown’s Good Eats know unitaskers all too well. Unitaskers are kitchen tools that perform only one function. Culinary abominations. Brown endeavored to exterminate the pests from his kitchen and succeeded (his coup de gras was using the fire extinguisher to make a fruit smoothie, albeit after his show’s conclusion). So I have one question: Why stop at the kitchen?

OPINION 3/18/14 4:53pm

Ravi Writes In

In this first edition of the SA leadership’s regular Thresher column, I would like to briefly share with you four major changes and announcements in our organization. The Thresher is an important component of campus conversation and opinion, and I encourage other students and organizations to utilize this resource alongside the SA. Complete details of these changes have been included in an email that was sent to all undergraduates via email earlier this week and is posted on the SA website at sa.rice.edu. Streamlined SA Meetings SA meetings will be held once every two weeks on Wednesdays from 8 to 9 p.m., starting Wednesday, March 26 in the Kyle Morrow Room in Fondren Library. The following two meetings will be April 9 and April 23. Executive Leadership AppointmentTrent Navran has agreed to serve as an appointed “Executive Vice President”; through this role, Trent will spearhead special initiatives, starting with entrepreneurship and social innovation. Call for Creative iPad ProposalsThe SA is soliciting creative proposals for returning the SA iPad (which was purchased two years ago) to the student body. Proposals will be accepted to sapres@rice.edu until Friday, March 28 at 11:59 p.m.; further details can be found on the SA website.  Alcohol Event Registration Task ForceFinally, the SA will be convening a special task force to investigate and recommend changes regarding the event registration process related to the Alcohol Policy. The group will meet over the remainder of this year and will recommend changes to be implemented over the summer; we welcome short statements of interest to join this group to sapres@rice.edu by Friday, March 21 at 11:59 p.m. These are only the first of many changes that we will be rolling out this term. We are excited to make the SA work for students and to preserve and enhance Rice’s unconventional culture – but we need your help in this mission. Tell your college presidents and senators what matters to you, and shoot me an email at sapres@rice.edu. Come out to our meetings. Get involved and make your voice heard. Let’s fix this. Ravi ShethSA President

OPINION 3/18/14 4:52pm

Economics Initiative holds great potential

The Rice Thresher would like to commend the administration’s decision to make changes in the Economics department. Our staff feels like the department as it currently stands is understaffed and does not offer enough courses, both at the introductory level and at more advanced levels.

OPINION 3/11/14 5:38pm

Administration should value Art Barn

The Thresher would have liked to see the Rice administration put more effort into the preservation of the Art Barn on our campus (see story, pg. 1). The building is considered by many to be a historically and artistically significant structure, and we would like Rice to recognize the potential value it could continue to bring to our campus. 

OPINION 2/26/14 9:47am

State of the Yoonjin

I did not get involved with the Student Association to play the role of a politician. I have no interest in becoming a politician outside of Rice. To be perfectly frank, I have very little interest in politics altogether.

OPINION 2/26/14 9:45am

If you want a president, don’t vote for me

Although I vehemently protest the easily belittling label of “joke candidate,” I openly accept its connotations. I pride myself in my ability to make fun of most things, including myself. However, I expect the student body to be intelligent enough to actually understand what I’m doing and saying.