Message from the Chairman of the Board and the President

Dear Rice Community,

Earlier this summer, the University’s Task Force on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice released an update report on William Marsh Rice and a separate update specifically addressing the Founder’s Memorial. These reports provided important new perspectives and historical information on our university, William Marsh Rice, and the Founder’s Memorial in the Academic Quadrangle. We are grateful for the work done by the Task Force and will forthrightly acknowledge all aspects of our history. The Task Force will continue its work to both better inform our understanding of the history of the University and the changes that have occurred over time, and encourage and facilitate discussions about how we can fully achieve our highest ambitions.

The conversation with respect to William Marsh Rice is complex, as it includes among other things both our founder’s entanglement with slavery and segregation, and his generosity in making the university we know today possible. The Task Force has recently published a selection of the comments and responses it has received from our community over the course of its work. These samples demonstrate the evolving range of views that are present within the Rice community on this topic.

The issues raised in the Task Force’s report on the Founder’s Memorial are part of a larger set of issues regarding our campus, our community and our programs. That context encompasses many developments over the history of the university, including more recent efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion. Today, Rice benefits from a more diverse student body, staff, and faculty, than ever before, both in representation and absolute numbers. It has established new programs of research, knowledge, and teaching and done so in a way that allows for a broader range of perspectives and voices. To reinforce its commitment to welcoming a diverse community, the university created the position of Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and established a multicultural center which will have a magnificent home in the new Student Center, on which construction will begin before the end of the academic year. The university’s strategic plan, the V2C2, sets out our aspirations for the future and is explicit in its goals for access, diversity, and inclusiveness. The Rice Investment, implemented three years ago, helps assure that all students can truly afford a Rice education. These are actions that must be continued and supplemented as we recognize our history, as well as our progress and aspirations, as we plan for Rice’s future.

Thus the Board of Trustees will be taking a broad perspective in order to determine the best course of action to be taken with regard to the Founder’s Memorial, the Academic Quadrangle, and how our aspirations of today are best reflected on our physical campus. As part of this effort, the Board of Trustees invites the thoughts and comments from the Rice community via a confidential portal established for this purpose. It is the hope of the Trustees that our university community, now better informed by historical research and with the thoughtful discernment that characterizes the preeminent research and academic excellence of Rice, will take the opportunity to share opinions on how to best respond to the work of the Task Force. We invite you to take the opportunity in light of the Task Force’s reports to access the Portal and give the Board of Trustees your considered and confidential opinion before September 30, 2021. Your opinions are an important part of our deliberation process and will help inform our decisions.

In advance, thank you for participating in the process.

Warm regards,

Rob Ladd
Chair, Rice University Board of Trustees

David Leebron
President, Rice University