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Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

Cristell Perez

OPINION 11/10/15 3:33pm

Don’t let misinformation and uncertainty sway SB#4 vote

As noted with the rejection of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance last week, fear, uncertainty and misinformation swayed the uninformed, resulting in a majority rejection of Proposition 1. The same can be said about the current climate surrounding the “Critical Thinking in Sexuality” course here at Rice. From conversations I’ve had with various individuals, many are not well-informed on CTIS, Senate Bill #4, or the legislative process of our SA Senate. With a few days left until the vote, let’s not let misinformation, fear and uncertainty drive the opposition for Senate Bill #4.Addressing misinformation about the vote for SB#4Voting on Senate Bill #4, “Recommendation to Support First-Year Critical Thinking in Sexuality and Charter Related Task Force,” is not a vote on the curriculum for “Critical Thinking in Sexuality.” I can’t emphasize this enough. The SA is not voting on curriculum. All SA voting members will decide whether or not to support the recommendation of this potential course to the Faculty Senate. The legislation proposes the creation of a task force representative of the student body that will present a detailed outline of the course to the SA before Faculty Senate’s vote and final recommendations of the course to all other appropriate stakeholders. It does not lay out the syllabus for such a course. It does not specifically mandate certain aspects of what will be discussed in this programming.This legislation is not simply recommending a course about sex nor one that encourages all students to start having sex. The recommended course discusses much more than consent and takes Texas state law into consideration. SB#4 is not recommending a course that disrespects your beliefs, religious or otherwise.SB#4 recommends programming that would tackle six problems with six proposed tactics (shown to the right).Tackling fear about student body representationThe passing of SB#4 creates a task force made up of student representatives to work with the Faculty Senate, the University Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum and the Office of the Provost to develop and implement such programming. The current unofficial task force is made up of individuals who reached out to the SA president prior to SB#4’s public presentation on Oct. 28. They would ensure all opinions are heard and ask critical questions relating to underage students, religious values and beliefs, survivors of sexual assault, the LGBT community and the international student population, among other important topics.At this stage, details such as who will teach this course, what the curriculum will entail and whether or not an opt-out will be available have not been finalized. That is why the task force would represent the student body by asking for feedback and opinions and working with different campus resources in addition to the necessary stakeholders.Uncertainty surrounding programming should not be a deterrentNo one has brought up a solution or idea that can tackle these problems until now. SB#4 gives us the opportunity to recommend a solution to the Faculty Senate and create a task force that represents the student body. SB#4 is legislation that supports the idea of a first-year seminar that focuses on fostering community values and sexual assault prevention.Discussing community values means addressing what comprises healthy and unhealthy relationships with one’s self, friends, family and intimate partners, learning about bystander intervention and being a part of a culture of care. This includes many aspects of well-being and critical thinking about diversity — where all voices, regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, abilities and disabilities are valued and respected.  Focusing on sexual assault prevention necessarily addresses community values. In effective prevention programs, students address skills like conflict resolution, assertiveness and relationship equality. Such a program would reduce stigma and address myths surrounding dating and sexual violence. It would address norms that perpetrate domestic and sexual violence such as power over others (privilege and oppression), masculinity (gender norms surrounding the classic “boys will be boys,” violence, anger, “man up,” etc.), and femininity (objectification, women as passive and gatekeepers of sex, etc.). Addressing violence as common and pervasive (in the media, for example) and types of sexual and domestic violence that are not talked about (myths around blame) are included in the programming.A portion of the opposition believes that a semester is too long for such a course or that we should simply strengthen our current O-Week session on Project SAFE. The fact of the matter is that a single session is not enough. The Center for Disease Control’s Injury Center recommends the length of such programming to be nine to 12 sessions and facilitation should use interactive conversation and activities, hence the recommendation for the programming to be spread over a semester. Speak up about SB#4We don’t simply study at Rice University. We live here. We party here. We work here. We form lifelong bonds and communities. I want to be a part of a community that not only cares about issues like preventing sexual assault and misconduct, but also takes action. That is why I am asking you to reach out to your friends to vote “YES, I support this recommendation” in your college’s poll. Reach out to your college president and senator to vote YES, reach out to your friends to join you in supporting this legislation. It’s on YOU. It’s on ME. It’s on US. Be informed, express your opinions and uncertainties and get your answers questioned before the vote for SB#4 on Nov. 11.Cristell Perez is a Baker College senior and a director of the Women's Resource Center.