Texas (!) university blows it at commencement ceremony
Five years ago, my son was deciding on a college, and in the end, it came down to U.C. Berkeley or Rice University. He picked Rice because it was smaller and provided more opportunities, and it made his parents happy, because we knew that Berkeley would be a hostile place for a conservative student. However, our college experience proved that as far as ideology is concerned, there is no right choice today, no matter which college you pick. Considering that almost half of Rice students come from Texas, we were surprised to discover how liberal the student population was.
"Culture of care," introduced by the university during COVID, turned Rice into a Soviet-style camp. Students were banned from participating in any activities, and they were encouraged to snitch on each other's whereabouts. If found in violation of the agreement, a student was required to provide a lengthy letter of explanation, and many students were severely disciplined. When the 2021 winter storm hit, "culture of care" turned into the culture of torture. Students were banned from hosting or helping their friends whose apartments lost power or running water. "The scientists" in charge of the university did not care that being left alone in the storm carried a lot bigger risk to the healthy young students than COVID.
After COVID, Rice was hit with a new controversy. The board of trustees caved to the woke student movement, agreeing to "relocate" the statue of the university founder to an obscure location to create "a more welcoming environment." The move was hailed by the parents on social media as a welcome change, and any discussion or criticism was immediately removed.
Disappointed by the university policies, we still felt excited about the commencement ceremony. Sadly, it proved to be another disappointment. The elected student speaker held a degree in "feminist, gender, and sexuality studies," or a subject Governor DeSantis affectionately refers to as "zombie studies." As an "equity" activist, she duly referenced the university's "racist legacies" and "policy shortcomings," failing to acknowledge the diversity of the graduating class.
Then the outgoing Rice president, David Leebron, took the stage. His speech dwelled mostly on pandemic, praising the graduating class on getting vaccinated in record time as their main accomplishment. He lamented the hardships students had to put up with during COVID, fully ignoring his own complicity in implementing cruel and unnecessary restrictions that he was now shedding tears over. He chose to "follow the herd" of other big-name colleges instead of exercising courage to allow his students to have a normal college experience. And now, while he was upset about the years they had lost, his sorrow rung hollow.
The guest commencement speaker was even more preposterous. Sonia Nazario, a left-wing journalist and a self-described activist, dedicated her speech to her own self-aggrandizement and her social cause of promoting illegal immigration. Her speech contained no advice to the graduating class and no recognition of their achievements. It was centered on the speaker's own personal hardships and the plight of people fleeing South and Central America. The speech would make for a great fundraiser, and it was intended to be that. The only hope she expressed for the graduates is that they donate a lot of money to hire lawyers to represent the migrants who come here illegally. It was terribly unfair to the students who did not get the recognition they deserved.
It was clear by the choice of the speakers that the university did not put its graduating class first. The main goal of the trustees was showing the parents and anybody who was paying attention that they are "socially conscious" and will not be outdone by other big-name universities in the "wokeness" race.
Here, here, here, and here are just a few examples how most prominent American institutions of higher learning have become an embarrassment. Traditional families are giving up on higher education for fear of their kids abandoning traditional values, and many prominent political figures are steering young people away from college altogether. However, for parents whose children's talents lie in intellectual pursuits rather than a practical skill, depriving their children of higher education is not a viable option. For young people who possess the intellectual capacity and passion for learning, a college degree still provides more options and better financial opportunities.
There are still many honest, hardworking, inspiring professors working in the academia, but they are getting overshadowed by the woke mob and the cowardly bureaucrats running the universities. Instead of giving up on higher education, conservative families must reclaim it. There are many ways to do this; withholding your donations from a school that does not represent your values is a good start. When a donation request from Rice comes in the mail, I will tell them to expect a check as soon as the William Marsh Rice statue is restored to its rightful place at the academic quadrangle.
Image via Public Domain Pictures.