- Rice University should name important buildings and spaces after Black individuals to acknowledge the ways Black history has shaped the Texas institution’s development, a task force on the institution’s ties to racial injustice recently suggested.
- Although Black individuals have contributed greatly to Rice, “public acknowledgement of that significance across campus is spare to the point of near invisibility,” the report says.
- The recommendation is one of 12 the group made in a 260-page report detailing Rice’s links to segregation and slavery. Rice should also publish a biennial report on life for its Black students and employees, and it should hire postdoctoral fellows to create exhibits on task force research, the report suggested.
Former Rice University President David Leebron commissioned the task force in 2019 to look into the institution’s history of slavery, segregation and racial injustice and develop programming to support honest discussion around those entanglements.
Rice is one of many colleges that have been digging deeper into their histories to assess their ties to racial injustice and to reconsider which historical figures they should honor through the naming of buildings and other important spaces.
For instance, Harvard University pledged last year it would set aside $100 million to redress its links to slavery, though the move drew a tepid response from Black scholars. And earlier this year, Wheaton College, a Christian institution in Illinois, said it would remove the name of a former college president from its campus library because of his “de facto policy” of denying admission to qualified Black applicants.
The report from Rice’s task force includes a detailed account of the university’s race relations. It marks the group’s third and final report on the subject and concludes four years of the task force’s research and public programming.
The authors argue that Rice — which opened in 1912 — excluded Black Texans from its academic community for the first five decades of its history. It also says few Houston residents owned more enslaved people than the university’s founder, William Marsh Rice.
“Following the evidence has led us to the conclusion that slavery, segregation, and racial injustice were not incidental to the histories of William Marsh Rice and the university he endowed, but part of their very foundations,” the report says.
The report’s recommendations to remedy current racial injustices are wide-ranging.
To aid students, the task force suggested Rice invest more in outreach to Black schools and in “student wellbeing services, college accessibility funds, and student success initiatives.” The group also recommended that the university consider how its early decision policies impact the diversity of its incoming classes.
Early decision policies, which lock applicants into committing to a college before seeing their financial aid package, more often benefit White and wealthy students, research shows. Scrutiny over the practice has grown after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against race-conscious admissions this summer.
For Rice’s class of 2027, 19.9% of admitted students were accepted via early decision. Their 16.5% admission rate was more than twice as high as those who were admitted through regular decision.
The task force also recommended that Rice have at least 80 tenured or tenure-track faculty within the next decade. Although Black students make up nearly 11% of the university’s student population, tenured or tenure-track Black faculty make up only around 4% of the faculty body, according to the report.
“Transformational change is needed,” the report states. “When it comes to the diversification of the faculty, doing the same things while expecting different results is to guarantee failure.”