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SA hosts discussion on Survey on Unwanted Sexual Experiences results

(10/15/15 6:03am)

Over 300 students attended the Student Association “It’s Up to Us” meeting to discuss the results of the Survey on Unwanted Sexual Experiences. Students discussed the possibilities of creating a mandatory sexual education course, improving Orientation Week programming and encouraging casual, everyday discussions on sexual violence. The SA offered a free television to the college with the most members attending the meeting; the winner will be announced at Senate on Oct. 14.SA President Jazz Silva said this meeting was not intended to inform the student body, but to allow for a discussion to occur.“This is our time to listen to you all, and your time to listen to each other,” Silva, a Sid Richardson College senior, said. “This is 95 percent going to be a discussion. If you leave here and you had something to say and you held it in, that's not going to feel so good.”Before Silva opened the floor to student comments, representatives of the SA Wellbeing Committee, the Students Transforming Rice Into a Violence-Free Environment Coalition and Rice Women’s Resource Center presented briefly on the resources and services they offer, as well as their plans to address sexual assault. The RWRC also reviewed the results of the survey itself.Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said he felt the conversation surrounding the SUSE results indicated students feel the culture of care is only in reference to alcohol, and said he affirmed its application to all aspects of wellbeing."Despite the efforts we have made, there is serious violence taking place on this campus and people are being hurt,” Hutchinson said. “It is incumbent on everyone in the community to stop the violence and make sure no one gets hurt."Hutchinson said he encouraged all resources at Rice and the entire student body to partner with the administration and take a national leadership role in addressing sexual assault.Silva began the discussion by asking whether students were surprised by the SUSE results.Several students said they did not feel O-Week emphasized the prevention of sexual assault enough."We see this 1 in 4 women, 1 in 14 guys [experiencing sexual misconduct] —that's a cultural problem,” one freshman said. “That's the culture at Rice. We need to hammer in during O-Week that culture of care not only applies to alcohol but sexual misconduct as well.”However, Jones O-Week coordinator Akeem Ogunkeye warned against viewing O-Week as a fix-all for culturally rooted issues and said students may barely remember what they learned.“O-Week is just a week and there's only so much time we have,” Ogunkeye, a junior, said. ”At the residential college level, we can have discussions continually that happen more than just during O-Week.”Several students, including Silva, said they agreed it was important to address the fact that entering students have varying degrees of sexual education and experience. Claire Randolph, a representative of the Queer Resource Center, said she thought it was necessary to bring all students to a basic level of sexual education, including definitions of consent and sexual violence, through an avenue other than O-Week presentations.“Around 40 percent of our students are from Texas, and Texas does not have mandatory sexual education in schools,” Randolph, a Jones College junior, said. “It's abstinence-only. If there's a baseline lack of understanding, it can't be fixed in one session."Martel College senior Abigail Rodgers said she wanted Rice administration to make the qualitative information from the survey available so students could understand when and where sexual violence is occurring on campus. Associate Dean of Undergraduates Matthew Taylor said the third-party data analysis group had not yet provided the qualitative information but that there are plans to acquire the data.One student said she felt the Rice community lacked casual discussion of sexual assault.“"We as a community need to just talk about it — you can go to dinner and you can take the time to talk about [sexual assault],” she said. “That's something that anybody can do."Students also spoke negatively of the prevalence of relationship violence, the closeness of the college system and the isolation felt by unhappy students because of Rice’s title as having the happiest students.Hutchinson said he agreed that putting meaning to the numbers of sexual assault through personal stories is important, but survivors cannot be expected to share their experiences.“You can't put any pressure on anybody to share their story,” Hutchinson said. “You just have to be willing to listen when people are ready to talk.”Hutchinson said any further information-gathering will be done after consulting with undergraduate and graduate students."We are cognizant of the fact that people can get survey fatigue, particularly when it is a survey about an extremely challenging subject that might be personally difficult for some individuals,” Hutchinson said. “We don't want to just randomly keep going back with more and more questions. It has to be done very thoughtfully.”Silva said the student body would use this information to move forward and come up with solutions together."This is not the SA who's going to solve this problem,” Silva said. It's not the administration that's going to solve this problem. It's all of us."

Survey on Unwanted Sexual Experiences results prompt discussion

(09/30/15 4:50am)

The Rice Women’s Resource Center hosted a discussion on the results of the Survey on Unwanted Sexual Experiences, drawing undergraduate and graduate students as well as members of the administration. RWRC Co-Directors Cristell Perez and Sam Love organized and moderated the event on Wednesday, two days after the results were released.

Alem: O-Week student-run, not student-led

(09/16/15 5:19am)

If you had asked me seven months ago what my favorite aspect of Rice was, I would have undoubtedly responded “anything that can be student-led, will be student-led.” As an Orientation Week coordinator who has experienced what is one of the most stressful weeks for 32 students, I have to reconsider my response. I do not take issue with the value of student leadership, but the reality of the ideal of “student-led,” especially when it comes to O-Week.

Rice climbs back to 18 in USNWR rank

(09/11/15 5:34pm)

Rice climbed one rank in the U.S. News and World Report Best Universities ranking, placing it at number 18, as it was ranked in 2014. Rice had previously been at rank number 17 from 2005-2013, then fell to 18 in 2014, and again to 19 in 2015.The ranking places Rice just behind Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, and Washington University in St. Louis, all tied for the 15th place. The University of Notre Dame is similarly ranked at number 18.According to the USNWR website, the rankings are calculated based on a number of quantitative factors, including academic reputation, retention, student selectivity and faculty resources, which are weighed most heavily. Alumni giving rate is the least heavily weighted, factoring into five percent of the overall calculation.This year, according to the USNWR website, there were two changes in the calculations. The rankings included survey results from two years, spring 2014 and spring 2015, instead of one and the high school counselor scoring average used three years of data instead of two.  The USNWR states this is to reduce year-to-year volatility in the results. The data used for the calculations is almost entirely provided by the universities themselves.The listing does not include liberal arts colleges, but does include both public and private universities.

Code of Conduct limits college Backpages

(09/09/15 3:15pm)

Student Judicial Programs released an updated version of the Code of Student Conduct to its website on Aug. 20. The majority of the changes to the Code, which was last updated in late January, removed redundancies and clarified language. According to Lovett College President Griffin Thomas, one major update to the definition of public disclosure of private information has led to some confusion over the legality of the Lovett Backpage, a publication with college government minutes and anonymous gossip regarding members of the college.The added section on public disclosure of private information explicitly prohibits official and quasi-official publications from publishing private information without a legitimate university interest. However, the Code does not specify what constitutes private information.“Examples of forums in which this type of violation can occur are: college government’s minutes, college social media sites, and publications of colleges, university-affiliated organizations, teams and clubs,” the Code reads. “Responsibility for any alleged violation may apply to the individual, the college, the organization, team or club, and/or the officers.”Thomas, a junior, said SJP Director Lisa Zollner and Associate Dean of Undergraduates Don Ostdiek contacted Lovett College in March to collect all copies of the Backpage that were on file for an investigation led by the general counsel’s office. “Past Lovett secretaries four or five years ago chose to highlight hookups on the Backpage, whereas the current secretaries choose to use the Backpage to share funny and often drunken shenanigans from the prior weekend,” Thomas said. “After Sid [Richardson College] was sued for the grotesque nature of their Backpage in the early 2000s, Lovett has chosen to keep a tighter rein on its Backpage.”According to Thomas, Lovett has had a few complaints about its Backpage in the past, but to his knowledge recent complaints have been resolved in a timely and ultimately satisfactory manner internal to the college. Thomas said the new Code won’t affect the Backpage because the current secretaries will not repeat mistakes from years prior. However, he said the secretaries and colleges in general are afraid to publish anything that may be seen as offensive because of the vague nature of the wording in the Code.“When pushed for clarification on the rules, SJP and Dean [of Undergraduates John] Hutchinson responded that they are purposefully vague in order to allow students to develop ‘good judgment,’” Thomas said. “However, when the resulting punishment is also undefined and could be anywhere from a warning to the rustication of college officers, then this uncertainty causes panic … In a process that is becoming increasingly more common, the administration decided to proceed in a unilateral manner without seeking student input and then was surprised when students responded negatively.”Lovett College Secretary Rahul Kothari, who works with junior Darcy Curtis, said the Backpage has changed since its inception years ago.“[Curtis] and I made it our goal this year to make the Backpage into something that brings the Lovett community together over comedy and satire, instead of tearing it apart by publishing people’s personal and private information,” Kothari, a junior, said. “I don’t think we’ll run into any problems with SJP’s new Student Code of Conduct.”The new version of the Code also clarifies college masters’ authority to rusticate their students, both socially and from the college. The masters may also ban members of another college from the location and activities of the master’s college. SJP may add further prohibitions or prescriptions to the student’s rustication parameters.“A Master’s Rustication does not prohibit investigation, charges or sanctions by SJP even if the investigation arises from the same behavior that gave rise to the Master’s Rustication,” the Code states. “In that case, if SJP finds the student ‘in violation’ of the Code, SJP may take the rustication or ban into consideration when determining appropriate sanctions.” Language in the document clarifies that SJP sanctions similar to those of rustication are not, semantically, rustications, as only masters may rusticate students. SJP sanctions similar to rustication are described as a disciplinary loss of privileges.Other changes include a new section regarding student rights within SJP proceedings intending to increase transparency, although all the rights listed were already valid and provided to students in the discipline process. The language under the Records section has been corrected to state that violations are not noted on transcripts, but are held on record for 10 years after graduation, not 10 years after the resolution of the incident. 

Rice Indo-American Business Club to connect alumni, business owners, students across Houston

(09/09/15 3:12pm)

The Rice Indo-American Business Club launched at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business on Sept. 2. According to RIABC Vice President Nishanth Babu, the club serves as a platform for Houston Indo-Americans and Rice alumni to meet, learn from each other and network. “This organization really does the two things we’ve been trying to put a lot of emphasis on,” President David Leebron, the opening speaker, said. “One is connect to the local Indo-American business community, and ... create opportunities internationally to connect to India. Ultimately, that will provide more opportunities for students.”According to Babu, about 140 Indo-Americans from across Houston met for the inaugural event. Babu said the board of the RIABC did not envision the event to be as large as it ended up being, and they had initially planned for a small inaugural event with around 25 people. “When we started reaching out to alumni, they were very passionate about it,” Babu said. “It was that passion and we were impressed that if everyone else was thinking that [the event is] worth something, then let’s do it.”The program featured speeches from Prashant Kale, associate professor of strategic management at the Jones School, and Parvathaneni Harish, consul general of India in Houston. Kale said he encouraged a view of India as a disruptive innovator, driven by the needs of its people to create products that are improvements on those in American markets.Martel College senior Komal Agarwal is currently the only undergraduate involved with the club. All other members are Rice MBA students.“This club has a lot to offer for undergraduates involved with the club at the moment,” Agarwal said. “Ultimately, this club is about promoting ideas across a diverse community. The Rice community and the Greater Houston population are such a diverse population that learning how to communicate with people of various backgrounds is essential to everyone.”Ashok Rao, an entrepreneur who will serve as a long-term associate of the club, is on the Council of Overseers of the Jones School. Rao was the first Indo-American to take a company public on NASDAQ and has founded, grown and traded several companies since founding Midcom Communications in 1990. Rao spoke about the Indian diaspora and how American immigration policies resulted in Indo-Americans consisting of mainly highly skilled workers. Rao said he believed students would get as much out of the club as they were willing to put in.“It’s a terrific idea ... long overdue,” Rao said. “[RIABC] will connect students to the Indian community here, and into the business community, so it will help them with potential employment and assimilation into the milieu.”Hanszen College junior Sai Chilakapati said  his interest in combined M.D./MBA programs drove him to attend though he is pursuing medicine.“As an undergraduate, I think it’s a great opportunity to come to these networking events and get to know businesspeople in the community as well as more of the graduate population,” Chilakapati said.Babu said he hopes to have more input from undergraduates as the club grows and even hopes to see them on the board of the organization. RIABC President Himanshu Upadhyaya voiced similar opinions, and both said they see the future of the club as largely flexible in nature.“We encourage all undergraduates to join this club,” Upadhyaya said. “There’s plenty of opportunities for mentorship [and] networking. We plan on keeping our regular meetings so anyone can come participate and volunteer.”For more information or to get involved in RIABC, contact Nivriti Chowdhry at

RUPD implements body cameras

(09/01/15 2:25pm)

All Rice University Police Department officers must carry body-worn cameras as of April 2015, according to Chief of Police Johnny Whitehead, to align with the best practices of the U.S. Department of Justice. The use of these cameras was first piloted in summer 2014 and spring 2015, after which officers were trained for their usage.Whitehead said RUPD has used dashboard cameras and audio/video equipment in patrol cars since 2009, to aid evidence collection for crimes such as driving while intoxicated.“It has provided information to improve evaluation and training of officers and has helped resolve disputes between officers and citizens,” Whitehead said. “We believe body-worn cameras can serve the same purposes.”Officers must activate the camera in cases of public contact, during car stops, arrest situations and encounters with people on the street. Police officers may choose whether or not to honor individual requests to not be recorded. Routine service calls such as key services and security escorts do not mandate recording.In recent years, highly-publicized cases of police brutality have led to a national debate on police-citizen relations and police oversight. Body cameras have often been suggested as a method of monitoring police actions to limit misconduct and even exonerate innocent officers. According to Whitehead, there was no particular incident that caused RUPD to deploy body cameras, but this national conversation led them to research and pilot the cameras. Whitehead said RUPD has received positive feedback from several organizations, including the college masters and presidents, the Graduate Student Association, the Black Student Association, the Faculty Senate, General Counsel and Public Affairs.“We have spoken with members of the Rice community and found strong support for the deployment of body cameras for our officers,” Whitehead said. “RUPD officers support the initiative.”Whitehead said only RUPD has access to the videos but they may release a video to the District Attorney’s Office or under the Open Records Act, which gives the public access to government records. However, student-related requests may depend on the situation.“We do not plan to routinely provide body camera video to [Student Judicial Programs] or [University Court],” Whitehead said. “Most of the cases we refer to SJP are for minor infractions and most students take responsibility for their actions. Any request from SJP or UCourt will be considered on a case-by-case basis.”Will Rice College sophomore Josiah Yarbrough said he thinks the body camera may increase trust in RUPD.“I think it’s an appropriate measure,” Yarbrough said. “I’m from St. Louis and I’ve grown up around police brutality and offenses committed by police officers and even on Rice’s campus, it may bring a lot of people assurance to see that police officers are being watched and being held accountable. I know the chief pretty well and I know he’s a good guy. I think RUPD is doing a fantastic job, but even so, body cameras can do no harm.” 

Taiwan flag removed for Chinese leadership visit

(08/27/15 11:44am)

Rice recently removed the Taiwan banner from its campus when hosting a visit from Chinese officials, according to Senior Director of News & Media Relations BJ Almond. The visit included university presidents and chancellors from China and the United States, as well as China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren and Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping. “Rice’s two Taiwan light pole banners are not flags, but they include an image of the Taiwanese flag,” Almond said. “Our banners could have been viewed as an affront by Vice Premier Liu, the third-ranking official in the Chinese government. The university’s decision to temporarily remove the ... banners was consistent with U.S. policy, and it was also a matter of diplomatic protocol for a visit by the highest-ranking government official from China to come to Rice.”Rice’s light poles are often adorned with themed banners that are rearranged, replaced and removed for a variety of reasons. The current banners feature the flags of countries represented by Rice students and faculty, including Taiwan.“The banners were replaced right after the visit,” Almond said. “Rice welcomes and values our students and faculty members from Taiwan. That is why we included the Taiwan banners as part of the international display in the first place.”Tim Chang (McMurtry ’15), the former president of the Rice Taiwanese Association, said he believes Rice should state its reasons for the removal and be prepared to respond to questions.“I cannot say whether  the Rice University officials were proper in the removal of the ROC flag,” Chang said. “From a stance to improve tolerance and a chance to possibly establish meaningful conversations, I think the Rice University officials should not have removed the flag.”This article was originally published July 14, 2015 and has since received new quotes.

Princeton Review names Rice top school for race/class interaction, quality of life

(08/07/15 10:37am)

Rice University students continue to rate highly in quality of life compared to universities across America, ranking No. 1 for both race/class interaction and quality of life in Princeton Review’s “The Best 380 Colleges” 2016 edition.Rice also ranked within the top 20 across four other categories: happiest students, best health services, great financial aid and best-run colleges.The rankings are a result of 136,000 surveys conducted across 380 of the top colleges in the nation. The Princeton Review evaluated race/class interaction based on surveyed students’ responses when asked whether people from different racial and economic backgrounds interacted often at their college. Several different questions contributed to the quality of life ranking, according to the Princeton Review site.“[Quality of life questions assess] the beauty, safety and location of their campus, their campus dorms and food, their ease in getting around the campus and in dealing with the administration, the friendliness of fellow students and interactions among different student types on campus and their overall happiness,” the site said.Rice’s profile on the Princeton Review site compiles quotes collected from students who participated in the questionnaire discussing academics, administration and the student body.“Students at Rice are generous with their praise for professors, who ‘are very accessible and happy to talk about the material and give help outside of class,’ and make ‘their course material relevant, being sure to include modern-day and industry applications,’” the site said.President David Leebron said he was pleased that Rice was recognized for its strong quality of life and said the ranking supports students’ experience and achievement.“But we are even more gratified with our No. 1 ranking for interaction among students of different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds,” Leebron said. “Diversity at Rice isn’t just a matter of statistics, but how our students actually experience their education.”Since 2007, Rice has previously been in the top 10 rankings for race/class interaction seven times, the top ten rankings for happiest students six times and within the top five for best of life eight times.

Rice removes Taiwan flag when hosting Chinese officials

(07/14/15 7:57am)

Rice recently removed the Taiwan banner from its campus when hosting a visit from Chinese officials, according to Senior Director of News & Media Relations BJ Almond. The visit from June 21-22 included university presidents and chancellors from China and the United States, as well as China’s Vice Premier Liu, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren, and Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping."Rice was honored to host a visit from a very high-ranking Chinese official and removed two Taiwan banners for a short time for protocol purposes," Senior Director of News & Media Relations BJ Almond said. "The banners were restored the day after the visit, as originally planned."According to Almond, Rice's light poles are often adorned with themed banners that are rearranged, replaced and removed for a variety of reasons. The current banners feature the flags of countries represented by Rice students and faculty, including Taiwan."We are proud of our students from Taiwan, proud of our relationships with universities and other institutions there, and we have welcomed many people from Taiwan to our campus," Almond said.Rice alumnus Tim Chang (McMurtry ‘15) is the former president of the Rice Taiwanese Association and said he believes Rice officials should state their reasons for the removal and be prepared to respond to questions."I really have little idea on how conservative or how easily angered Chinese officials would be by the Taiwanese flag, and I did not know what Rice University was trying to achieve from the round-table event, so from a diplomatic and political stance, I cannot say whether or not the Rice University officials were proper in the removal of the ROC flag,” Chang said. “However, from a stance to improve tolerance and a chance to possibly establish meaningful conversations, among students if not among government and university officials, I think the Rice University officials should not have removed the flag."“International protocol decisions are made on a case-by-case basis,” Almond said. Vietnamese Student Association President Thu Nguyen said there had been a previous case in which a banner featuring Vietnam was taken down and replaced with another country's due to students’ requests.“Two individuals, who happen to be a part of [VSA], had requested the removal of the red flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” Nguyen, a Wiess College junior, said. “The reason behind the request is that the Vietnamese community in Houston and the U.S. is officially represented by the yellow flag of the former Republic of South Vietnam. There are documents from the City of Houston, Texas and other states which declare this while asking all institutions here to respectfully remove the current red flag. Therefore, Rice simply honored a legal mandate, and responded to the request within one day.”Errata: It was previously stated the Vietnamese banner was exchanged for a banner featuring the former flag of the Republic of South Vietnam. This is incorrect. It was replaced by a banner featuring Nicaragua.

Rice and BCM form partnership on research and teaching

(06/20/15 1:03pm)

Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine further cemented their relationship in an agreement to partner on research and teaching, 50 years after the institutions partnered in creating the first artificial heart. The agreement, signed by Rice President David Leebron and BCM President and CEO Paul Klotman in May, aligned with the Texas Medical Center outreach goals of Leebron’s Vision for the Second Century.The new agreement seeks to minimize the red tape and paperwork surrounding interinstitutional cooperation for both students and faculty, according to Rice Vice Provost for Strategic Partnerships Dan Carson. The partnership allows students at either institution to enroll in graduate courses at the other for credit, encourages researchers to share certain laboratory facilities and pushes faculty to jointly develop education and research programs.“Beyond lab experiences, Rice undergraduate students have been able to work with BCM faculty on projects through the Health, Humanism and Society Scholars program,” Carson said. “We expect all of these opportunities to expand as a result of the agreement.”Rice and BCM previously attempted a merger in late 2009. According to Caron, the institutions analyzed the challenges and opportunities of a merger and mutually decided not to pursue the endeavor..“I’m not sure I would refer to this effort as ‘failed’,” Carson said. “Nonetheless, it became clear through these discussions that we both saw many areas of collaboration that could be developed or expanded.  The agreement provides for the establishment of a joint Implementation Office to develop these areas.”Carson said he is unaware of any further discussion on a merger, but he said Rice is also expanding interactions with UTHealth in developing the Rice Neuroscience Program for undergraduates.More than 40 researchers already partner in adjunct programs and research between the two institutions, and Baylor previously helped create Rice’s neuroscience program. Additionally, Rice shares in Baylor’s M.D./Ph.D. program with the opportunity for a doctoral degree in bioengineering.An oversight council with members appointed by both Leebron and Klotman will ensure that the agreement is implemented over the next year.

$50 Million Donation to Establish Leadership Institution at Rice

(06/20/15 1:01pm)

Rice University alumni Ann (Jones ‘75) and John (Lovett ‘73) Doerr donated the largest donation Rice has ever received to establish the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. The $50 million donation will help develop both graduate and undergraduate Rice students into leaders through innovative practices and hands-on, personalized coaching. Retired Brigadier General Tom Kolditz has been appointed to direct the institute after a yearlong international search.John Doerr, a venture capitalist who previously helped foster success in Silicon Valley companies, said the institute will focus on cultural and global inclusion and directly address issues that concern millennials.“Millennials want to see the big picture and their role in it, get frequent feedback and be empowered — not micromanaged,” John Doerr said. “Ideas are easy; executing those ideas with a well-led team is paramount. New leaders must be inclusive, self-aware and great listeners who are attuned to the needs of their teams.”Ann Doerr, who has held several management positions and is currently the chair of Khan Academy, said she and her husband had previously donated $15 million to establish the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership in 2009. RCEL has since resulted in groups like Engineers Without Borders, which sends student leaders to Nicaragua and Honduras. However, the Doerrs said they would like to see all students, regardless of major, develop leadership skills.Kolditz, who has more than 25 years of experience in leadership roles, said he believes four years at the Doerr Institute would allow students to continue fostering their abilities even after graduation.“Most of a person’s capacity to lead is learned,” Kolditz said. “Seventy percent of that is gained through experience, not classrooms, so the opportunities to lead teams at Rice are essential to the success of the Doerr Institute.”Kolditz previously held positions as the director of the Leadership Development Program at the Yale School of Management and leading the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.Rice President David Leebron said he is hopeful about the impact the institute would have on Rice’s transformative undergraduate experience.“By donating the largest single gift in the university’s history and dedicating it to leadership education, the Doerrs will enable Rice to be the front-runner in empowering students with the skills, training and confidence to make a true difference in the world,” Leebron said.

Silva says Senate approval not needed for second-round election ballot

(04/15/15 10:12am)

The Student Association did not vote to approve the ballot for the second-round elections conducted from March 23 to March 28. Former SA Parliamentarian Zach Birenbaum declined to comment; the position is currently unfilled. Director of Elections Austin Cao initially said the ballot was presented at the SA meeting on March 18, with March 23 set as the deadline for finalizing the ballot. The ballot consisted of the unopposed candidate for SA Secretary Brianna Singh. Cao said the SA made announcements at multiple SA meetings encouraging candidates and announced on its Facebook page when the ballot was released. According to Cao, the elections were also publicized on the SA website.SA President Jazz Silva said the SA presented the ballot on March 18 but did not conduct a vote.“We did not vote to approve the ballot because we interpreted that the constitution said we were not required to approve [it],” Silva said. “This election received less public attention than usual because it was an uncontested race in which quorum was not required.”According to Silva, a Sid Richardson College junior, Section XII.B.4 of the constitution requires only that the Director of Elections present the ballot at Senate. This section of the constitution states: “The Director of Elections shall present the ballot for each election, including a list of all candidates for each position and the text of all initiatives and referenda approved in accordance with Article XI (Initiatives and Referenda), to the Student Senate at its last meeting before the election. After addressing any inaccuracies, the Senate may approve the ballot by a majority vote.”Former Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Revisions Brian Baran said he does not recall any discussion of the ballot on March 18. The SA minutes for the meeting also do not include any discussion of the ballot.“I therefore believe that [the discussion] did not occur,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said.Baran said a common-sense reading consistent with the spirit of the constitution indicates Senate approval on the ballot is necessary for a legitimate election. “If you look throughout the constitution, it’s clear that the language ‘may approve by’ along with a voting threshold... is used to specify the threshold needed to approve something, not to remove the need for approval,” Baran said. “The Senate can choose to approve it if it has enough votes to meet that requirement, or its other option — hence the ‘may’ — is to not approve it. And if Senate doesn’t approve the ballot, it’s by definition not approved and can’t be used in the election.”Baran said the SA interpretation that Senate approval is not required is unreasonable considering the wording of the article and the title of the section of the constitution, “Approval of Ballot.”“To get to the SA’s interpretation, you have to accept that the drafters of the constitution would have written this and intended that it mean that there’s two options: The Senate approves it and the election goes forward with that ballot, and the Senate does not approve it and the election goes forward nonetheless with that ballot,” Baran said.Baran said he finds this to be indicative of a larger issue of a lack of transparency from the SA. “I don’t think that burying something on a website constitutes public announcement and I think it’s important, especially with elections, and on SA matters in general, for students to be informed,” Baran said. “Part of the way for students to be informed is for the SA to tell the student what it’s doing.”

SA seeks proposal for student initiatives program

(04/15/15 10:10am)

Yun said he cannot guarantee whether they will be executed following approval due to complications from involved parties, although those are easier to solve than issues with funding.“Following through with an initiative is 80 percent planning and working with campus departments and 20 percent actual implementation,” Yun said. “However, students should not be discouraged. Rice staff and faculty are all very supportive, and in the past initiatives were halted due to cost.”Yun said feasibility and timeline were the main criteria for evaluating proposal ideas. Yun said he has received ideas on a wide variety of topics, including mental health resources and physical changes to the Rice Memorial Center. “If initiatives fall in line with the mission statements of already existing standing committees, then I move them forward to work with those committee chairs,” Yun said. “If it does not and requires significant manpower, like the potential ‘Campus Appreciation Day,’ which is still in the design phase, the student will get its own committee with its own [New StudentRepresentatives].”However, Yun said he agreed publicity for the Student Initiatives Program was not as successful or far-reaching as possible. He said the SA will push for publicity again in the fall semester. Campus Appreciation DayFalade said she has centered her proposal around giving back to the Housing and Dining staff and appreciating community members who support campus beauty and sustainability. To this effect, a new Campus Appreciation Committee would plan a staff appreciation week that culminates in an “Inreach Day.”“For Inreach Day, I see a group of willing and hardworking Rice students gather as a team and tend to our campus and take on some of the responsibilities that we are otherwise never faced with here — things like taking out the trash or tidying some of the areas around campus,” Falade said. “According to Falade, the planning process is still tentative and in early steps. She said she has had full support and approval of the proposal, but understands that not everything can be executed as imagined. Falade said she first thought of the idea for Inreach Day while at the Impact Rice retreat, although she had considered the privileged nature of Rice students ever since arriving on campus.“Volunteering and community outreach might not be such a priority to a lot of students because its importance [is] lost on some of us,” Falade said. “[I thought,] ‘Charity begins at home.’ How could we foster a desire of community serve if we didn’t create that feel for the Rice campus? I believe that once we learn to give back to our immediate community, doing the same for the Houston community will come more naturally.”

Conscious college campaign teaches enviornmental sustainability

(04/03/15 8:34am)

The Rice Environmental Society and Turning Green partnered for the third time to bring the Conscious College campaign to Rice University on Thursday, according to event coordinator Emi LaFountain and RES president Ashley Ugarte. According to LaFountain, more than 400 people were in attendance and the event was a huge success.There were a lot of people who I think had those "oh wow" realization moments and became conscious of the scale at which their actions could impact the environment,” LaFountain said. “Seeing those gears turn in so many people's heads made the event super worthwhile for me.”LaFountain said Turning Green reported the stop at Rice had one of the highest turnouts of all the universities they have stopped at.“Turning Green has made Rice a priority during their annual campaign,” LaFountain, a McMurtry College senior, said. “Given their history with Rice, coming [here] was probably a no-brainer.”The event at Rice included a Conscious Information Station where students can learn about sustainability themes, including food, style, zero waste, clean, hemp and space and sample items from environmentally responsible brands. Additionally, a town hall meeting allowed students the opportunity to discuss developing campus-wide programs for sustainability.According to its website, Turning Green is a student-led global movement encouraging sustainable living among the youth through various programs, including the Conscious College Road Tour. The tour visits 16 universities in the United States to educate and mobilize college students. LaFountain said RES has been gathering volunteers for the event and gauging student interest. Turning Green donated travel fees and food to make the event essentially free for RES to host.Following Ugarte’s internship with the organization, Turning Green began visiting Rice as a part of the tour in 2013. Ugarte, a Martel College junior, also served as the Student Advisory Board president in the past year.“In partnership with Turning Green, we hope to provide our fellow peers with tangible ways for students to live more consciously and to be the change that supports specific, relevant, actionable sustainability projects here at Rice,” Ugarte said. “Ultimately, we hope this event unites all students, whether they’re passionate advocates for the environment or not … to realize that their everyday choices do indeed have an impact.”Ugarte said living consciously includes obtaining education about safer and healthier practices and products, while instigating change can include introducing advocacy programs.LaFountain said the event gave students a look at internship opportunities associated with Turning Green, including the Project Green Challenge. PCG is an annual event where young adults learn about sustainability issues during the month of October.“Each day students [complete] different challenges, kind of like the Green Dorm Initiative,” LaFountain said. “I was one of the 12 students [with the highest scores and was] flown to San Francisco for a weekend of sustainability awareness. It was a life-changing experience.”