Rice: Your show wasn’t funny

Cartoon by Joshua Kim

Rape is an ugly word; it has been defined by society as one of the most heinous crimes possible. When a person is sexually assaulted, their humanity, their perspective of themselves along with the world around them and their trust in the good of others is irreparably shattered. Rebuilding all of their reasons to live can take years, and to love or trust another person again may, for some, be impossible.

On Friday, the Baylor football team came home with a 38-10 win against the Rice Owls. However, this victory was completely overshadowed by the Rice Marching Owl Band (MOB) and its disrespectful halftime performance. In this performance, the MOB formed a Roman numeral IX while playing their songs, alluding to the Baylor Title IX scandal and later formed a star and played the song “Hit the road, Jack,” poking fun at Baylor’s recent troubles and Ken Starr’s dismissal.

According to an apology released by Rice University on Sept. 17 regarding the mockery, the Rice MOB is known for having “a tradition of satirizing the Rice Owls’ football opponents,” much like Stanford is known for goading their opponents during their performances. As entertaining as this concept is, it becomes less so when the topic is sensitive and hits people deep at their core.

Hundreds of thousands of people were watching the game, whether they were in their homes or in the stands, and many of those were Baylor students, staff and alumni. Proud Baylor Bears have been hit hard by the Title IX situation, and we are all in a state of mourning for the victims of the atrocities committed by students who wear our colors. When the Rice MOB made fun of the Title IX situation with their formation, they also dug the dagger a bit deeper into the hearts of our community. They claim they did not intend to make fun of the victims, only the school’s situation. When you broadcast a message like that to thousands of people, not everyone is going to interpret it the same way. They crossed the very thin line between acceptable and not acceptable, and no amount of clarification can change people’s minds.

Bringing up topics that shame others is not funny, especially when that topic can be emotionally damaging to an entire community. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, 21 percent of women will be sexually assaulted in college. That number is staggeringly high and, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be going down. If we ever want to attempt to change the problem of rape on college campuses, we, as students, need to be respectful of those who have been victims and stop mocking the subject itself.

Whether the MOB intentionally meant to make light of sexual assault or not, Rice’s response to the situation was nothing more than a few apologetic sentences. Once again, this is unacceptable.

The editor-in-chief of the Rice Thresher student newspaper, Yasna Haghdoost, wrote a column in support of the bands’s actions. While we do not agree with most of her message, one thing she mentioned did resonate with our staff: we need to be bolder when speaking about sexual assault. No more cover-ups and no more slaps on the wrist; no more tiptoeing around the issue and excusing actions for some while condemning others. Rape is not a problem at a few select schools; it is a perpetual problem in our country’s education system, and we need to take a stand against it.

The era of letting things slide needs to come to an end. We have spent most of our formative years learning how to be accountable for our actions, but it seems that when we step onto a college campus, we enter a void where our accountability slips. Baylor has been subject to this, and as we can see, the results were catastrophic. Rape jokes and rape culture need to end, and perpetuating it through making light of another’s misfortune is not going to help colleges crawl out of the hole that we have created.

Brock Turner, the Duke lacrosse team and Baylor’s football team are prime examples of situations being mishandled and resolution being dragged out for months and even years. Baylor is not the only college struggling to fight sexual assault, with schools such as Stanford University, Vanderbilt University and Florida State University among the other major universities. Please stop with the mockery and focus on making your own campus better because no one is exempt from the plague of sexual assault.