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Rice follows federal sexual assault rules

(11/18/14 3:55pm)

The U.S. Department of Education released a new set of rules for college campuses that make provisions for changes to the Violence Against Women Act and the Clery Act. These rules include providing mandatory sexual assault trainings, disclosing “unfounded” reports of sexual assault, using the preponderance of evidence standard in sexual assault cases and allowing for students to have independent advisors during proceedings. Colleges are required to comply to these rules by July 2015 and to make a good-faith attempt in the meantime. Rice University currently has most of these new rules already in place as part of recent efforts to provide training and resources as well as the introduction of the Sexual Misconduct Policy earlier this year. Sexual Assault TrainingAccording to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, Rice provides sexual harassment training that is mandatory for faculty, staff and graduate students. As of now, the online sexual harassment training emailed out to undergraduate students is considered mandatory, but participation is not regulated. “Technically, that’s mandatory, but right now we haven’t put any consequences in place for people who haven’t participated,” Hutchinson said. “We will soon be adding consequences for not participating.”According to Student Wellbeing Director Kate Noonan, many staff and faculty members have undergone Title IX training in order to better assist students. “This semester alone, Student Wellbeing has provided training to many key faculty and staff, including masters, RAs and over 15 departments who work closely with students, and to student advisors for O-Week,” Noonan said. “This training covers Title IX responsibilities and our sexual misconduct policy at Rice as well as how to connect students with the resources available to them on and off campus.” Student Wellbeing Specialist Kate Hildebrandt said. in addition to Title IX training, Rice uses the Project SAFE initiative to promote discussion and to address issues surrounding assault on campuses. “All incoming students and advisers receive training through Project SAFE, and we offer ongoing sessions throughout the year,’ Hildebrandt said. “We’re also really excited to expand our trainings in the coming semesters to talk about topics like healthy relationships, healthy sexuality and shifting the norms of rape culture.”  “Unfounded” Reports of Sexual Assaults The new federal rules also require that colleges provide campus crime statistics that include “unfounded” reports of sexual assault. Rice currently does not follow this policy, but plans to do so in the future, according to Hutchinson. “I think ‘unfounded’ is a poor word ... because we might find [a case] ‘not in violation’ only because the evidence is insufficient to find ‘in violation,’” Hutchinson said. “That doesn’t mean it was unfounded, it just means that there wasn’t a preponderance of the evidence to find in violation.”While Hutchinson said Rice does not report unfounded claims, he also said he does not see any difficulty in following this protocol. “I was surprised when I saw it, because I recognized it as a change, but it’s a change we can easily adapt to,” Hutchinson said.  Preponderance of EvidenceAnother nationwide change on campuses outlined by the federal rules is a shift to using the “preponderance of evidence” standard in sexual assault cases instead of the more rigorous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Rice already uses the “preponderance of evidence” criteria in issues involving sexual assault, and according to Hutchinson, this measure is a more appropriate one given the sensitive nature of these cases. “Our standard at the university is to make sure we have an environment where students can study or live without fear of harassment or assault or any form of sexual discrimination,”  Hutchinson said. “Any time we have an allegation that comes forward where the preponderance of the evidence tells us in fact that we have created an environment where discrimination has occurred, and in some cases the discrimination may go all the way to the point of sexual assault, then we need to act on that. We’re trying to preserve the safe environment for all of our students.”  Independent Advisors The federal rules also require that alleged victims and perpetrators be allowed to have an independent advisor, such as a parent or lawyer, to support them throughout the process. Rice’s Sexual Misconduct Policy from earlier this year allows for the inclusion of such advisors, who, according to Hutchinson, can provide students with advice and moral support. Associate Dean of Undergraduates Matthew Taylor, who is the chair of Rice's Working Group on University Responses to Federal Initiatives on Sexual Assault, said knowing they are allowed to have advisors might encourage students to report sexual assault while also providing advice and perspective. “Those situations are difficult situations, whether it’s a hearing or an informal meeting, and. in my experience, students in those situations oftentimes don’t necessarily have clarity on what’s being said to them or even on what they’re saying,” Taylor said. “These are very intense meetings because they are addressing  very serious questions. Having someone familiar nearby as a support can help.” Affirmative ConsentThe federal rules, however, do not include affirmative consent as a legal definition.According to Hutchinson, affirmative consent, given either through words or actions, is a part of Rice’s policy and an important component of healthy, mutual sexual relationships. “Affirmative consent as a standard protects an individual from being a passive victim of someone else’s behavior,” Hutchinson said. “A sexual relationship should be a mutually consensual relationship at the outset and throughout the entire sexual relationship, and that requires affirmative consent.”


Contingency Committee deliberates outcome

(11/12/14 8:06am)

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee deliberated on whether to find Honor Council in good standing, violation or aggravated violation of the blanket tax process at the latest meeting on Monday. As of the latest meeting, Honor Council has submitted a letter to the committee in response to concerns raised in the Oct 27. meeting, as well as an amended budget for 2014-15 and a projected budget for 2015-16. Amended BudgetIn the letter to the committee, Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson wrote that the organization will now discontinue its practice of buying gifts for departing seniors, an expense that totaled around $400 a year. Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, also wrote that Honor Council’s changeover dinner will be reduced from a price of $50 per person to a maximum of $25 per person starting in spring 2015. “Changeover dinner at $50 or less per person was consistent with Honor Council’s understanding [of] Rice University policy,” Williamson wrote. “The Honor Council now understands, through the committee, that the student body wants blanket tax organizations to follow a different expectation.” In the original 2014-15 budget submitted before its meeting with the Contingency Committee, Honor Council had listed $1,700 under “Student Organization Events,” with $1,500 of that amount allocated for the changeover dinner. Now, under the amended 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets, Honor Council allocates $2,200 for student organization events. While the price of the changeover dinner has been halved to $750, a new expenditure of $1,250 listed under “misc. meals” has been added. This expense was not included in the original proposed budget. The amended budgets also include a new expenditure of $2,260 for training and conferences. The training, which Honor Council has projected as a two-night event for four people, allocateds $900 for three hotel rooms, $1000 for conference registration and $360 for meals. However, Honor Council has still failed to provide its C- and D- fund expense reports from the past four years, which were requested by the Contingency Committee over a month ago now.In a constitutional clarification regarding the contingency process, University Court stated that an organization’s noncompliance can be grounds for a violation.“An organization’s failure to comply with the contingency process, unless the available information supports a finding of Good Standing despite the noncompliance, constitutes a violation [of the SA constitution],” UCourt Secretary Makenzie Drukker wrote in the court’s abstract.Potential OutcomesThe voting members of the Contingency Committee can find Honor Council either in compliance, in violation or in aggravated violation of blanket tax review criteria. The SA constitution states blanket tax organizations must use their funds to further their “mission, purpose and goals,” solely for “organizational purposes,” and “in a manner consistent with all Rice University rules and regulations.” It further requires these organizations to be “good stewards of student money.” If a blanket tax organization does not meet one or more of these four review criteria, then the Contingency Committee will find it in violation.An aggravated violation can occur if an organization has a surplus greater than 50 percent, cannot justify such a surplus and does not address the issue reasonably in its proposed budget for the current year. A single violation is similar to a strike, while an aggravated counts as two strikes. If an organization accrues three strikes in a four-year period, the Contingency Committee can recommend a decrease in blanket tax funding.


Honor Council Defends Spending

(10/28/14 4:01pm)

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee met with Honor Council on Oct. 27 to discuss the organization’s projected budget for the coming year. Honor Council’s projected 2014-15 budget, which was submitted two days after the Contingency Committee’s Oct. 20 deadline, allocated $6,107.33 for annual expenditures out of the $12,190 revenue from its current $2.00 blanket tax. This leaves an annual surplus of 50 percent the current proposed budget does not account for.  Missing DocumentsHonor Council has not yet submitted its expense reports from the past four years, which were requested by the Contingency Committee two weeks ago. The deadline for these submissions was Oct. 20. According to University Court Chair Brian Baran, if Honor Council does not comply with the Contingency Committee’s requests, it can be referred to UCourt and held in violation of the SA Constitution. “An organization that fails to comply with the oversight procedures for student money is not a good steward of student money,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said. BifurcationAn issue Honor Council raised in the meeting was the Faculty Senate’s proposal to bifurcate Honor Council into two separate undergraduate and graduate branches. In a letter to the Contingency Committee, Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson said bifurcation will lower the total blanket tax amount the organization receives and will make any blanket tax amount lower than $2.00 insufficient for the needs of Honor Council if it goes into effect.“If graduate students no longer contribute to the Honor Council’s blanket tax income, any blanket tax less than the current $2.00 puts the Honor Council at risk of being unable to fulfill its mission,” Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, wrote. The possibility of Honor Council’s bifurcation assumes that, with 4,000 undergraduates, the $2.00 blanket tax will result in $8,000 revenue for the organization. This still leaves approximately $2,000 of surplus unaccounted for in the proposed budget.  Replacement CostsThe proposed budget allocates $2,000 for furniture replacement every five years and $6,898 for technology replacement every three years. The three-year replacements include a $1,099 computer, a $549 printer and $5,250 for tablets priced at $350 each. During the meeting, the committee questioned whether it was necessary for computers and tablets to be replaced every three years. However, Honor Council advisor Lisa Zollner said the organization has consulted with sources, and concluded that this replacement schedule is appropriate.“We’ve chatted with people who have been through many, many cycles of replacement and their notion was that replacing a computer any longer than every three years, you’re putting the data at risk of being lost,” Zollner said. According to the United States Internal Revenue Service property depreciation values, computers are scheduled as five-year property while furniture is seven-year property.Baran said his organization does not feel the need to replace UCourt computers on a three-year schedule. “UCourt replaces computers when they stop working,” Baran said. According to Zollner, it is important that Honor Council replaces its computers and tablets frequently to ensure that important files and transcripts aren’t lost due to old computers crashing. “I don’t want to wait until [Honor Council is] in a crisis,” Zollner said. “I want to make sure that the Council has clean, well-functioning machines, because if it crashes and inhibits their ability to hear cases, it is a disaster.” Contingency Committee voting member and Blanket Tax Officer Anastasia Bolshakov said there are more reasonable ways to ensure the safety of files than to purchase new hardware every three years. “There are more economical ways to ensure that your files are backed up, such as a backup drive, which is what [blanket tax organizations] Thresher and Campanile use, or a Rice-provided server,” Bolshakov, a Duncan College senior, said. Bolshakov, who is also editor in chief of the Campanile, said her organization does not frequently replace computers, despite the fact that they store hundreds of gigabytes in files and are used for extensive design and editing.“We wait until [the computers] are on their dying legs,” Bolshakov said.  Changeover DinnerThe committee also raised concerns regarding the projected expense of $1,500 for Honor Council’s changeover dinner, which takes place at a private venue off campus. According to Williamson, the Honor Council changeover dinner requires privacy due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed and the officer elections that take place at the time. “We want to make sure that we are not opening up any cases [or] student’s names, even though we never use student’s names, heaven forbid, slip of the tongue,” Williamson said. “We want to make sure nobody from Rice is potentially around to hear that. It’s an argument for moving it off of campus [and] getting a private room.”The Committee asked Honor Council to look into other options of private places on campus and lowering the overall cost of the dinner from its current price of $50 per person to $25 per person, which is comparable to the amount other blanket tax organizations spend on their end-of-year dinners. Last year, Campanile and Thresher spent $779 on a joint dinner catered at Farnsworth Pavilion, which cost $19.48 per person. UCourt spent $18.50 per person for a 17-person dinner that totalled $315.  SurplusIn the meeting, Zollner said while the surplus in the projected annual budget has not been allocated for any specific spending, it might be used in the future to fund educational conferences for members of Honor Council.“I do know that at some point the Honor Council leadership attended conferences and received training,” Zollner said. “That’s something that we’d like to leave a little space for [in the budget].”While Williamson’s letter said Honor Council members have attended conferences in previous years, there is no record in previously submitted budgets and expenses of the organization’s surplus being used to fund the expenses for these conferences in the past. Williamson also wrote in his letter that Honor Council would be willing to return $16,000 of its current rollover budget to the SA if its blanket tax funding remained at $2.00. Bolshakov said this proposal does not address the issue of how student blanket tax money is being handled. “It’s a valiant proposition, but what is the SA going to do with that money?” Bolshakov said. “It’s the blanket tax of students that no longer go here.”


Honor Council deadline passes without response

(10/21/14 4:07pm)

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee requested that the University Court clarify how its investigations into Honor Council’s finances should continue after the organization failed to respond to the committee’s questions by the Oct. 20 deadline. In the last Contingency Committee meeting, the committee sent Honor Council a list of questions regarding its budget and expenditures and a request for a written statement. However, since Honor Council missed the initial deadline to submit these documents, it is unclear how the Contingency Committee should proceed with the investigations. At the latest meeting, the committee asked SA Parliamentarian Zach Birenbaum to submit a formal request to UCourt requesting a clarification on the proceedings. “I would like [for] the University Court to look into whether the SA Constitution requires the Blanket Tax Contingency Committee (BTCC) to wait for the Honor Council to submit requested written statements and evidence before moving forward with the BTCC investigation,” Birenbaum, a Hanszen College sophomore, wrote in a letter to UCourt Chair Brian Baran. Birenbaum also asked UCourt to examine whether delays in Honor Council’s response will affect how the committee is required to adhere to constitutional deadlines, and if the organization’s lack of response could negatively affect the committee’s decision. “I would like [for] the University Court to look into whether negative inferences be drawn from Honor Council’s failure to abide by these explicit constitutional guidelines which could influence the ultimate decision of the Blanket Tax Contingency Committee,” Birenbaum wrote. In a letter to Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson, SA President and Contingency Committee Chair Ravi Sheth asked for a reply to the committee’s questions and asked Honor Council to meet with the committee on Oct. 27 for its next meeting. “We certainly respect the importance and vital services that Honor Council provides to students, however, all organizations receiving student blanket tax money are subject to these same review processes,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, wrote. Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson said the organization plans to submit documentation after requesting a two-day extension. “[Honor] Council is compiling the requested items for the Contingency Committee and has already request a short two-day extension from the SA so that all documents can be properly prepared and gathered to answer the Contingency Committee’s questions,” Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, said. Contingency Committee Member Anastasia Bolshakov expressed frustration with the process. “There’s a possibility that student funds have been misused, but the investigation is not being taken seriously,” Bolshakov, a Duncan College senior, said. “If you have time to write an opinion piece for the Thresher, I think you should also have the time to reply to an email that the committee investigating you sends.” UCourt Chair Brian Baran said he expects a quick response regarding the constitutional questions raised by the Contingency Committee. “UCourt will thoroughly examine the relevant sections of the SA Constitution and provide its binding interpretation as soon as reasonably possible,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said.All information regarding the Contingency Committee, including future meeting times and locations as well as public documents, can be accessed at sa.rice.edu/btcc. 


SA begins review of Honor Council taxes

(10/07/14 5:00pm)

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee sent Honor Council a request for documents and a written statement regarding the organization’s blanket tax on Oct. 5. The Contingency Committee compiled a list of questions for Honor Council, which the organization must answer in a statement by Oct. 20. According to the official statement released by the Contingency Committee, Honor Council must submit a budget for the coming year and documentation of the organization’s C-Fund and D-Fund. All registered clubs managed by students and overseen by a department have a C-Fund through which their funds are handled, and the D-Fund is used for specific activities within a department. Honor Council must also explain the amount of money spent at its annual changeover dinner, the reoccurrence of a rollover more than 50 percent, the importance of such a rollover to the organization and how a decrease in their blanket tax allocation would affect spending. According to SA President and Contingency Committee Chair Ravi Sheth, the Contingency Committee can recommend a decrease in funding to the Student Senate if Honor Council is found in violation three years out of a four year period. The new proposed blanket tax amount would then be placed on the ballot. However, Sheth said the current system is not feasible and does not encourage responsibility within blanket tax organizations. “Our current blanket tax processes are broken,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, said. “Lengthened, multi-year processes limit the agility and ability of student groups to respond to initiatives and new ideas; this year we are struggling to fund exciting and impactful initiatives such as Future Alumni Committee, Rally Club, Senior Committee or even Homecoming. Furthermore, these processes, in my opinion, do not encourage responsible usage of student money.”Honor Council External Vice-Chair Shayak Sengupta said the organization plans to work with the Contingency Committee to reach a viable solution. “The Honor Council looks forward to working closely with this new committee to resolve the blanket tax issue as quickly as possible,” Sengupta, a Will Rice College senior, said. “We hope to develop a feasible, transparent solution to the challenges that have arisen. Furthermore, we hope that this solution is fair and equitable, first and foremost to the student body and to all blanket tax organizations.” The Contingency Committee, which met on Oct. 3, had met earlier this year to address the concerns raised by Honor Council’s blanket tax review. However, the previous meeting was invalidated because it was not publicly announced, violating the SA Constitution.  All information regarding the Contingency Committee, including future meeting times and locations as well as public documents, can be accessed at sa.rice.edu/btcc. The Contingency Committee will meet with Honor Council the week of Oct. 27 and is currently accepting public comments.


Show me the money: Honor Council blanket tax investigation stalls

(10/01/14 3:48am)

After the Student Association Blanket Tax Standing Committee referred the Rice Honor Council to a Contingency Committee last spring for investigation into its finances, no further official follow-up has been pursued this year. As a blanket tax organization, Honor Council receives a blanket tax of $2.00 per student. All blanket tax organizations must submit a budget in the fall to the SA’s Blanket Tax Standing Committee for review. However, last fall, Honor Council declined to submit a budget for the 2013-14 year in a letter from former Internal Vice Chair Isabelle Lelogeais that outlined the organization’s expense report. “It is not possible for us to create a proposed budget, as our expenses are entirely dependent on factors beyond our control, such as the volume of cases we receive,” Lelogeais, a Jones College senior, said in the letter. The only fixed annual expense that Honor Council incurs, Lelogeais writes, is a changeover dinner that is a tradition for the organization. Despite admitting that the changeover dinner is an annual tradition, Honor Council did not include this expense in any of their reports since 2008 save one. The receipt for the 2013 changeover dinner indicates that Honor Council spent $1,400 on a meal for 30 people, which amounts to around $50 a person. In Lelogeais’ letter, however, she said the dinner is an important function for Honor Council. “While the price on this meal might seem very high ... it is a large number of people and it is essential for the organization,” Lelogeais writes. In the Blanket Tax Standing Committee meeting held last February, Honor Council maintained that its $29,000 in accumulated surplus and unspent revenue was necessary to cover unexpected costs, but it did not believe that a decrease in the blanket tax amount was needed, according to the Annual Review Report on the committee’s proceedings. Currently, based on the $2.00 per person blanket tax, Honor Council’s self-reported projected revenue for 2013-14 was $7,900.  “In its meeting with the committee, the Honor Council tended toward acknowledging that a blanket tax amount of $1.25 per student per year would be sufficient for the Honor Council to function from year to year while making adequate savings,” the report states. “However, the Honor Council declined to voluntarily request a decrease in funding.”In the Annual Review Form submitted by Honor Council, the organization stated that it received a blanket tax of $1.00 per student, which is half of the actual value. According to the Annual Review Report, Honor Council leadership did not know their organization’s actual blanket tax amount. “The Council acknowledged that past leadership has been unaware of its level of blanket tax funding,” the report states. “There has apparently been confusion as to whether the amount was $1.00 or $2.00 per student per year.”Honor Council released a projected budget for 2013-14 after its meeting with the Standing Committee. Of the $12,448.35 projected expenses, $9,291 was allocated for one-time expenses such as computers, tablets, a printer and a scanner. As per previous years, $1,500 was allocated for the changeover dinner (at $50 per person), as well as $250 worth of gifts from the Rice Bookstore for members. The budget also allocated $815.35 for sales tax on purchases, despite the fact that Rice is a tax-exempt organization. In a letter to the Standing Committee, Associate Dean of Undergraduates Donald Ostdiek said he supports Honor Council’s blanket tax level. ““I consider [Honor Council’s] use of its blanket tax funding to be appropriate, relevant to its purposes and consistent with its mission statement,” Ostdiek said in the letter.  According to Sid Richardson College President Nick Cornell, the Honor Council’s budget presented concerns over the amount of blanket tax funding the organization received. “Their operation expenditures are not really that high. In any given year, they do not have substantial fixed costs... most of it’s just variable costs, [such as] pens and [paper],” Cornell, a Sid Richardson College senior, said. “There was a concern that they were getting a fairly large blanket tax that can not possibly be spent on that much paper.”The Standing Committee referred Honor Council to a Blanket Tax Contingency Committee to further look into the organization’s funding. The purpose of the Contingency Committee, whose members were chosen last April, is to “conduct an in-depth review of Honor Council’s use of its blanket-tax funding,” according to an Executive Memorandum sent by SA President Ravi Sheth. “The end goal of the Contingency Committee is to determine Honor Council’s standing with regard to the blanket tax review criteria and...suggest a more appropriate level of funding,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, wrote in the memorandum. The Contingency Committee did not meet last year. The first meeting took place this September, but this meeting was invalidated because it wasn’t publicly announced and therefore violated the SA Constitution. Contingency Committee member Anastasia Bolshakov said she feels that a decision should have already been reached by now. “I think we should probably have already had a decision by this point, since the blanket tax process has started all over again,” Bolshakov said. “I think there are still a lot of questions about the [SA] Constitution. How we’re supposed to proceed is unclear.” A contingency committee has never been formed under the current blanket tax review process.“It’s a really hard process to go through, because there’s never been a contingency committee before,” Bolshakov said. According to the SA Constitution, a blanket tax organization needs to be found in violation by the Contingency Committee three years in a row before a change in the blanket tax level can be implemented. Cornell, who currently serves on the SA’s blanket tax pod, said this system is not feasible. “In practice this doesn’t work, because we are students and we only have a four year lifespan at Rice,” Cornell said. “Finding a group in violation three years across administration when we’re only here for like four years overall is just incredibly challenging to do.”Cornell said one the issues that the pod is looking into is potential reforms to the process so that is easier for students to implement changes to the blanket tax levels that they voted on. “The blanket tax  is a draconian process for all parties involved,” Cornell said.  “It involves a ridiculous amount of paper work and a ridiculous amount of work reviewing the paperwork and numbers year after and year only to arrive at results that don’t mean anything.”According to University Court Chair Brian Baran, the blanket tax review process as a form of student oversight is essential.“The SA leadership has been very good at advocating for its role in oversight of the blanket tax, but that needs to be accompanied by better following through on that oversight,” Baran said. “What’s the point of having an annual review if we don’t follow up on problems that it identifies?”Honor Council could not be reached for comment. 



Focus of sexual assault education, culture deserves reconsideration

(09/03/14 2:34pm)

After what seemed like a successful Orientation Week, which included discussions on the alcohol policy and a Project SAFE session addressing sexual violence, one of my freshmen approached me and said, “What I’ve learned from all of these talks is that it’s worse for me to have Everclear in my room than it is for me to rape someone.” As an advisor who also sat through the talks in question, I realized that my new student had a point.






UCourt partially invalidates elections

(02/25/14 2:41pm)

The Student Association Election Committee will rerun the General Elections and merge them with the previously scheduled SA Internal Vice President Elections running through Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. after the University Court found the 2014 SA General Elections partially invalid in a public hearing, according to a letter sent by University Court Chair Evan Austin on Feb. 23. 



Rice drops out of top ten best value school ranking

(02/11/14 6:00pm)

Rice University was not included in Princeton Review's Top 10 Best Value Colleges for 2014.In 2010 and 2013, Princeton Review placed Rice at No. 7. In 2005, Rice ranked No. 5, and in 2009, Rice was No. 4 on the list. The list was released Jan. 28 and includes 75 public and 75 private universities. The top ten schools are ranked in both the public and private categories, while the remaining schools remain unranked. Rice was, however, included in the the 75 private schools that were listed, despite not having made it into the Top 10. No Texas universities, either public or private, made it into the Top 10 list. The ranking is based on a survey of 2000 undergraduate universities that factors cost of attendance, academics and financial aid into its evaluation. Average student debt after graduation and percentage of graduating seniors taking out loans were also factored into consideration. According to the Princeton Review's press release, schools who made it on the list provided excellent academics at an affordable price, either by a low cost or through financial aid programs. "Students who attend these schools don't have to mortgage their futures to pay for their degrees," the Princeton Review website said.Baker College freshman Olivia Aguilar believes Rice's exclusion from the Top 10 Best Value Colleges of 2014 is indicative of the rise in tuition costs in recent years. "While I do think that Rice should definitely be on that list because of the extensive opportunities and resources that this school offers its students, maybe this list shows that it is time Rice analyzed its cost of attendance," Aguilar said. "Every year, cost of attendance increase well above the rate of national inflation. Rice is awesome, but maybe we aren't competing against other schools like those [on the Top 10 list] because we keep driving our costs up."


Beer Bike parade set to return

(02/10/14 6:00pm)

This year's Beer Bike will change in format by including a parade of floats and eliminating the second water balloon fight, according to Campus-Wide Beer Bike Coordinators Christian Neal and Eric Baeuerle. According to Neal, a Lovett College senior, the idea for floats came from a discussion with Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson. "We talked with [Hutchinson] and discussed the parade, and how it was a popular thing people used to do where colleges used to make a float," Neal said. "Now, with the float leading, bikers then college [students] would all proceed down to the Beer Bike track." Baeuerle, a Baker College senior, said the inclusion of floats will serve as a more permanent outlet for student creativity during Beer Bike. "In the past, creativity was expressed through jacks during Willy Week, [which is] all fun and good, but not something permanent," Baeuerle said. "With floats, we want this to be a sort of marker, a monument to college themes. Ideally, we want to see this thing continue."Sid Richardson College sophomore Meera Namireddy also sees floats as a way to promote college spirit. "I feel like [float building] will increase college spirit, especially at [Sid Rich]  where we have a bunch of freshmen who are in to building interesting contraptions, but it really depends on the college," Namireddy said.According to Neal, the float parade will lead the students  to the bike races in lieu of the second balloon fight because the use of the intramural fields was not approved by the IM fields office and other locations were not available."To incentivize people to go to the track, we're having the parade where everyone will move together towards the track," Neal said. "There, we'll have more food vendors; we're spending more money on food for Beer Bike: Papa Johns, Pluckers and several other food options .... We're even looking at breakfast food options."Hanszen College fifth-year architecture student Josh Hersztein expressed ambivalence regarding the elimination of the second water balloon fight and the addition of the float. "I thought it was stupid that they had two fights because most colleges didn't have any water balloons left for the second fight," Hersztein said. "However, [the floats] are probably just more money the colleges would rather be spending on other things."Namireddy, however, points out that from a practical perspective, eliminating the second water balloon fight will mean less work for the clean up crew. "I guess it will result in less cleanup afterwards," Namireddy said. "I volunteered to clean up last year for freshman service hours and that was a real pain, especially in the really muddy area."According to Neal, each college will have a set of bleachers with a tent set up behind it, with water being distributed to each tent individually."My freshman year, we had benches, but no shade, so there was a ton of sunburn," Neal said. "We'll also be distributing a pallet of water to each tent instead of having a central location to reduce people clustering and there being one big line."Neal credits Concession Coordinator Drew Petty, Parade Coordinator Massey Branscomb and Security Coordinator Rahul Kothari for putting in the work so that these changes to be made. "We could not throw Beer Bike or make all these changes without all of their hard work and ideas," Neal said.Baeuerle said that as a coordinator, he is looking forward to this year's Beer Bike. "[Neal] and I are both very excited to be part of Beer Bike," Neal said. "We both love and respect the traditions that Rice has. We're honored to be a part of Rice's biggest undergrad and alumni event."


McMurtry College adds food sponsorships to public party

(01/27/14 6:00pm)

McMurtry College's Y2K: Puberty 2.0 public party held Jan. 25 broke new ground with its food sponsorships, according to McMurtry External Vice President John Breen."I don't think it's something that other colleges have pursued before," Breen, a junior, said.Breen said he used his previous work experience to fundraise and organize sponsorship deals. "I reached out to a bunch of companies," Breen said. "I offered them advertising sponsorships on event posters and any distribution material. They were pretty receptive. They donated either gift cards to buy food or plates of food."Breen said 13 of the 40 local businesses he contacted ultimately agreed to sponsor the event."One of the things that was prohibitive was the timeline," Breen said. "I [reached out] around Thanksgiving, but Christmas is busy for restaurants, " Breen said. External Socials Kyle Giubbini said the sponsorships will hopefully continue into the spring with the start of Beer Bike."Some of the brands [on the posters] didn't necessarily sponsor for this party, but they will for Beer Bike," Giubbini said.Breen said McMurtry pursued the sponsorships as part of an effort to improve the visibility of McMurtry's public parties."One of the goals ... was to set a standard for future McMurtry publics," Breen said.Giubbini said the popularity of the sponsored food helped with attendance at the party."Approximately 900 [people] attended," Giubbini said. "Based on approximations, this year's party was significantly larger than last year's."Attendee Paul Wu said that although he enjoyed the food, he wished there was more."The food was great, but it ran out way too quickly," Wu, a Jones College freshman, said. "I hope future parties also get sponsorships but make sure to stagger it through the night."



Freshmen reprise Wiess thespian tradition with modest success

(09/30/13 7:00pm)

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26-28, a group of newly inducted freshmen took part in a time-honored Wiess College tradition, braving the stage and subjecting themselves to the mercy of an audience in Wiess Tabletop's Freshman One-Acts. This year's freshmen created a series marked by ups and downs, but the funny scenes far outnumbered the less successful ones. One-Acts began a little awkwardly, and the ending was not particularly engaging, but it was interspersed with brilliant chunks of directing and acting.The first one-act, "Check Please" (directed by Wiess senior Ife Owoyemi, Wiess junior Ingrid Mong and Wiess senior Ian Bott), started out quietly in its sketches of awkward dating and meet-cute situations but slowly gained momentum. The minimalist setup of two separate tables at a coffee shop, each showcasing a dating fiasco, was effective. Wiess freshmen Rui Zhang and Ariana Morgan each delivered standout performances; Zhang portrayed various insane people, and Morgan performed as a girl still not over her ex, a psycho who needs her meds and an always-on-the-phone diva.In the final one-act, "May the Best Fan Win" (directed by Wiess senior Jim Sheng and Wiess juniors Olivia Hu and Chloe Nguyen), the concept of sportscasters commentating on sports enthusiasts watching sports was amusing in theory, but the slow pace detracted from its entertainment value. However, the ending, in which the sportscasters (Wiess freshmen Yash Tarkunde and Marlene Rizo) replay a slow-motion victory dance featuring the sports fans (Wiess freshmen Kathy Wei and Jessica Dawson), was entertaining.There were a couple of acts that fell slightly short. Directors Max Payton and Christian Hauser, both Wiess juniors, made their one-act, "There Shall Be No Bottom," extremely bizarre. Though the play was amusing at times, its ending was abrupt and perplexing."The Break-Up," directed by Wiess sophomores Ryan Deal, Isabel Scher and Gavin Cross, was another unusual one-act that compared a girl's (Wiess freshman Priyanka Chandraker) relationship with her mom (Wiess freshman Morgen Smith) to her relationship with her boyfriend (Wiess freshman Malik Wilson). The twist in which the mom and the ex-boyfriend end up dating was even odder."No More Mister Nice Guy," on the other hand, is an example of wonky done right. Directed by Wiess seniors Naomi Fa-Kaji and Karen Li, the one-act portrays a nice teacher (Wiess freshman Yasmin Khalfe) who is arrested for being, well, too nice. Once the audience gets on board with the idea that kindness is frowned upon and that awful people, such as Ricky the resident jerk (Wiess freshman Ryan Newell), are venerated as heroes, things get entertaining. The good cop/bad cop routine (Wiess freshman Brian Wahlig as good cop and Wiess freshman Greg Harper as bad cop) displayed some excellent chemistry, especially with Newell's collar-popping extravaganza of a performance.One of the best things about Wiess Tabletop's production is that it never took itself too seriously. Directors Wiess senior Meredith Jackson and Wiess senior Thomas Ladd's exemplified this feel-good mood with their play "Murder Most Foul: the Search for William Marsh Rice's Gold." The tree (Wiess freshman Cary Okerlund) broke the fourth wall from the get-go by acknowledging that, as a member of a low-budget production, he was really just a guy with a few leaves taped on; this was a running gag that the treasure-hunting students (Wiess freshmen Josh Kaye and Monique Groen) playfully went along with. This fun atmosphere helped make "Murder Most Foul" one of the strongest one-acts in the series, with its excellent performances, an entertaining plot line involving Albert Patrick's scheming ancestor (Wiess freshman Stephen Xia) and its cheeky references to Rice University culture.The best play of the night was "Sportscenter, Uncut" (directed by Wiess juniors Marie Chatfield, Matt Keene and Andie Eikenberg), which brilliantly portrayed an oddly feminine sportscasting trio (Wiess freshmen Sam Gavenman, Allen Hu and Raymond Cano) who constantly frustrated their much-manlier-in-comparison stage manager (Wiess freshman Lucy Matveeva). There was even a funny moment when Matveeva's character tried to drown her sorrow in a can of Frio Light, which led to a few snickers from an audience clearly amused by college students' poor taste in beer. The gender-reversal humor throughout the play was strikingly similar to the Harvard Sailing Team's "Boys Will be Girls" series. However, "Sportscenter" infused this premise with a life of its own thanks in large part to the chemistry that Gavenman, Hu and Cano brought to the table. From Hu's brilliantly effeminate character to Gavenman's fantastically sassy persona to Cano's mentally unstable character as the desperate ex-boyfriend, this trio stole the spotlight with the best performances of the night.As a low-budget production, the play was by not a masterpiece in set design, sound, costumes or lighting, but at the end of the day, none of that really mattered. There were no glaring technical issues, and the minimalist approach was appropriate given the overall playful nature. That the acts sometimes cheerily made fun of their production's inherent shortcomings did not hurt, either.All in all, Wiess' Freshman One-Acts were an enjoyable experience. While some acts were a little rough around the edges, there were a fair amount of standout performances and a light-hearted atmosphere that any spectator could appreciate.