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DesRoches: The Supreme Court Won't Derail Diversity at Rice

By Rice University President Reginald DesRoches:

Like many of our peers, Rice University is disappointed that American colleges and universities will no longer be allowed to consider an applicant’s race as one of countless important factors in an admissions application. As one Supreme Court justice observed, “Deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” We are more resolute than ever that every day at Rice, we will pursue and celebrate the excellence that a richly diverse student body, filled with its manifold experiences, brings to our community of scholars.

As we chart our path to tomorrow, we will adapt our strategies with great respect for the legal boundaries while taking inspiration in our mission and time-tested “RICE” values: responsibility, integrity, community and excellence, as well as courage, curiosity and a culture of care.

Creating a culture of care and making a high-quality college education accessible to all is deeply personal to me and is rooted in my heritage and upbringing. When I was a kid in 1970s New York City, my father, a Haitian immigrant, would tell my siblings and me that we could grow up to become one of four things: a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or a disappointment. This might sound harsh, but my parents believed that a good education, and a focus on particular occupations, was the ticket to a better life.

Neither of my parents had a college education, but they understood its value and sacrificed greatly to give us the opportunity to earn a college degree. When I was just 1 year old, my mother moved from Haiti to the United States to take a job at a hospital in Queens. My dad, my siblings and I followed. By working double shifts and on the weekends, my parents were able to send us to Catholic school and outstanding colleges, which for me was the University of California, Berkeley. 

My eldest brother is now a doctor, my sister is a lawyer and I am an engineer. My other brother became an accountant — albeit the chief financial officer of AT&T, so my dad forgave him. I am also the first immigrant and first Black president of Rice, one of the top private research universities in our country. Education dramatically changed what might have otherwise become the trajectory of my life and that of my siblings. 

And that education was far more than learning how to apply mathematics, pass an organic chemistry class or read Aristotle. It exceeded the physical campus — the lore of charming buildings, the curious campus artwork and the tradition of certain dormitories or archways. Rather, the transformative nature of higher education occurs because of the people — the sum of students, faculty and administrators who come together to create a safe and inclusive space for idea exchange.

Read the rest of the article in the Houston Chronicle.