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Open record laws can give valuable information, create safer campus

(09/09/15 3:19pm)

Due to a new Texas state law, Rice University Police Department will now be subject to open records requests (see p. 1) for information on their policing activity, which includes correspondences, activity logs and other documents. This requirement marks a continuation toward increased transparency in RUPD, following the introduction of body cameras to its officers in April (see “RUPD implements body cameras” in the Sept. 2 issue of the Thresher).The passage of this law is an important development for all Houston media, particularly Rice student media. We will now be able to more thoroughly investigate RUPD’s policing when complex situations requiring civilian oversight of police arise. For instance, open records requests would have been useful when we were reporting on the controversial RUPD bike theft incident that occurred in August 2013, in which officers hit a man over 30 times with a baton in an attempt to subdue him for arrest. According to a March 17 article in the Houston Chronicle (“Bill would make private university reports public”), requests made by the media organization KPRC for information on the incident were not honored. Following the passage of this bill, Rice must be subject to the same requirements of transparency as all other officers of the state. Considering RUPD polices areas just outside campus and often arrests individuals who are not affiliated with Rice, as in the case of the bike theft, this ruling affects not only the “Rice bubble” but also the local Houston community.This should not be seen as an occasion for fear or panic among the student body regarding the effects of disclosing police records on future educational or career endeavors. Although one’s slate may now only be hidden as opposed to wiped clean, there is little reason for future employers to seek out one’s record through the Open Records Act. Public institutions of higher education have been subject to this law for decades and this has not been a pressing issue for their students. Additionally, no information that violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act will be made public. Information on particularly sensitive topics such as sexual assault, suicide and mental health, as well as juvenile records, will continue to be kept private. From the exemptions of these topics, it is clear that this change is not intended to compromise students’ right to privacy and confidentiality but to create a more safe and equitable campus. Just as with RUPD’s implementation of body cameras, this situation presents an opportunity for Rice students to become more aware of their policing rights, and moreover, to engage within their community. We are uniquely privileged to have access to a full-fledged police force that serves only a few thousand people, providing focused and expedited policing. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves on how to proceed with placing an open records request, both in order to be engaged within our community and to be better equipped in addressing situations involving student judicial proceedings.




Baker lunch policy ignoring a larger problem

(02/18/14 5:39pm)

The Thresher staff hopes students will be respectful of Baker’s new lunch policy, which prevents non-Bakerites from entering the Baker College Kitchen at lunchtime until 12:15 p.m. (see story, p. 1). The heavy non-Bakerite traffic to Baker’s servery and commons intrudes upon the college’s social environment and culture. Compared to the commons of other colleges, Baker’s small commons exacerbates that problem, and the limited table space often prohibits multiple groups of Bakerites from eating together. Lunch is the most problematic mealtime, as many students might just want to grab a quick meal between classes. Allowing Bakerites ample time to occupy their own commons during lunch will nicely remedy this issue.However, selectively restricting the Baker servery to Bakerites does not address the fact that many students think Baker food is better than food in their own college’s serveries. Many students prefer the food of the Baker Kitchen over their own servery enough to commute to Baker, including those at north colleges. Serveries should adopt Baker Kitchen’s serving model in terms of ingredient quality and food preparation to diffuse the Baker bottleneck. The administration should determine why students so frequently prefer Baker Kitchen’s food and use that information to adjust other serveries to student preferences. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.


Students should invest more in the SA

(02/18/14 5:38pm)

The Thresher staff is disappointed in both the voter turnout and the lack of seriousness displayed by some voters during the SA elections. Though other commitments to clubs, sports and residential colleges might prevent many students from being involved in the SA, students should at least be informed of the SA’s actions, especially during the SA elections. Students should be aware of changes on campus that likely affect their life at Rice. We were worried by the number of students who put joke write-ins for their first choice in some positions like SA president. Elections for student government should be taken seriously, and the amount of humorous or offensive write-ins is reflective of the general student opinion of the SA. We hope this attitude will change, as the student government is an important and influential organization. In the future, we hope students will put as much effort into researching SA candidates as they did formulating witty write-ins for the ballot this year. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author. 


Power outage plagues campus

(11/12/13 6:00pm)

The power went out across campus around 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and according to Facilities Engineering & Planning a cat could be to blame. Michael Tomongha, FE&P Lead Plant Operator, said that CenterPoint Energy told FE&P that a cat climbed up to a transformer and caused damage, resulting in the power outage. CenterPoint Energy representative Alicia Dixon was unable to confirm that a cat had been involved. "There was an equipment malfunction at a nearby substation," Dixon said. "That caused the power outage."According to CenterPoint Energy, more than 8,000 customers in the Rice University, Montrose, Midtown and Museum District areas reported power-loss. Power was restored to campus around 7:45 p.m.


iOS 7 design underwhelms while functions improve

(09/23/13 7:00pm)

iOS 7 makes my phone look like it belongs in a candy store.Nobody has time for that.I simultaneously hate it and love it. The changes are distracting, I cannot find anything, and the morning after I updated my iPhone 4s, I overslept because my alarm clock sounded so different.I am usually skeptical about software updates, but in fairness, iOS 7 is a mixed bag of the wonderful and bizarre.It is shockingly peppy - even overwhelmingly so. The Messages, Email and Calendar apps - and their color schemes - look like they were imported from the '90s.But in this case, retro does not necessarily equal hip. The built-in Apple backgrounds include a mix of calm nature scenes and bold geometric patterns, but there are no longer the middle-of-the-road choices, like the peacock feather, for noncommittal iPhone users like me.It is beyond me that Apple still does allow users to customize things like text color. Message text is now white, which is decidedly annoying. It's hard to read unless you are in a dark place like a closet or Fondren Sixth on a Sunday, and let's face it: Most iPhone users reading this probably text while walking, biking or sitting in a lecture hall lit by fluorescents.Even more unsettling is that text bubbles are no longer 3-D, even though the background shifts when I tilt my phone - one of the more entertaining changes. And the Safari icon looks more than ever like a compass, even though it is harder to navigate the Web without the Google search bar.Design-wise, Apple took a step backward with this update. What was advertised as beautiful and innovative is reminiscent of the graphics from the bright pink flip phone I had in middle school. However, in terms of usability, this is the best phone I have ever had.The control center holds infinite pleasant surprises; this glorious addition can be used to set alarms. And to change the screen brightness, adjust the music volume, and toggle the Do Not Disturb and Airplane modes. Pretty much everything I need to do is there - which is probably the point of a control center.Just like all other first-world problems, iOS 7 will take some getting used to.


Allegations circulate about Greenspan's behavior toward former basketball players

(03/28/13 7:00pm)

An article published on SportsIllustrated.com on March 29, 2013 reported that former Rice University basketball player Arsalan Kazemi claimed Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan made inappropriate comments about Kazemi's Middle Eastern descent to Kazemi, two other Middle Eastern players and former assistant coach Marco Morcos. The Thresher is currently unable to confirm these allegations.