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​Campus-wide discussions necessary for effective self-governance

(03/23/16 3:55pm)

Sid Richardson College recently established a self-imposed ban on private parties in response to the Lads in Plaid incident and corresponding violations of the alcohol policy (see p.1). The Thresher believes the restriction fair, given the necessity of preventing similar violations in the near future as the college works to foster a culture of self-governance and responsibility.

Promoting athletics is just the beginning

(02/02/16 9:28pm)

A flourishing athletic environment fosters campus culture and unites the community. Unfortunately, Rice’s lack of appreciation for university-wide athletics is evidenced by the low attendance at games, which strains relations with student athletes. Although promotions from Rice Athletics have certainly made strides towards improving attendance at games, marketing campaigns can only go so far, and they may not be sustainable (see p. 9). Improvements to Rice’s athletic environment should be driven by the student body as well as the faculty to encourage support for our athletic programs and build a stronger relationship between athletes and the rest of the undergraduate community.

Atmosphere still dismissive of survivors

(01/26/16 8:55pm)

Sid Richardson College is embroiled in controversy after a female undergraduate reported that she was sexually assaulted by a male undergraduate at a private party on the college’s seventh floor. The Rice University Police Department sent an email Saturday announcing an investigation into the assault that allegedly occurred at 12:30 a.m. the same day before announcing later that night that they had identified the suspect.

Campus discourse requires your voice

(11/10/15 3:31pm)

For a student body that is often self-described as uninformed and apathetic, Rice has proven in recent weeks just how powerful and outspoken our voices can be. In light of the conversations taking place all over campus on Senate Bill #4, which would create a task force to develop a course for new students on critical thinking in sexuality, we call upon more students to join the conversation on these pages. If you feel your voice is not being heard, reach out to us and use the Thresher as a platform to challenge the status quo. Recently, at Wesleyan University, students voted to cut the newspaper’s budget due in part to the publishing of an op-ed critiquing the Black Lives Matter movement, while at Yale University, hundreds of students protested following a master’s email questioning sensitivity in regards to Halloween costumes. Both events reflect the precarious balance on college campuses between promoting free speech, challenging traditional thought and maintaining empathy towards peers. The incidents at Wesleyan especially exemplify the importance of an undergraduate paper that stimulates ongoing conversation on sensitive topics and of students being able to critically differentiate between news and opinion. The Thresher believes it is your responsibility to challenge your peers’ ideas, and it is our responsibility to provide you a platform to do so. In line with this belief, although we reserve the right to withhold submissions, we choose to publish any opinion piece that is sent to us. It is not our place to determine the validity of an individual’s opinion. Rather, students must understand the corresponding news behind an opinion piece, and formulate their own opinion after fully examining the nuances and perspectives of the story. Students who remain largely uninformed by choosing to use opinion pieces as their sole source of information do a disservice not only to themselves but to their entire community, especially if they go on to propagate these opinions as fact.That being said, while we do try our best to report unbiased, comprehensive news, we are not infallible. It is easy to miss the quieter voices of a news story and even easier to entirely neglect those that are silent. We work hard to prevent our personal opinions from influencing the news we report, but the topics and perspectives we cover are undoubtedly shaped by the networks and connections we hold. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of you reaching out to us if you feel we are neglecting to include your voice or provide coverage of news that matters to you. This campus is more than capable of being informed, critically examining issues and engaging in debate, but we cannot allow the conversation to begin and end with SB#4. Together, the Thresher and the student body can ensure that pertinent issues garner the coverage and conversation they deserve.Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

Rankings are a chance to prioritize and refocus

(09/16/15 5:48am)

Like clockwork, the U.S. News and World Report have released their annual college rankings. Rice improved one spot: It is now tied with the University of Notre Dame at 18th after ranking 19th last year. We do not care about this. Or, rather, we should not care about this.Gallup and Purdue University have been conducting a multi-year study of college students and the satisfaction they derive from their education and employment outcomes — in other words, what we should care about. The product is the Gallup-Purdue Index, a measure of recent college graduates’ beliefs that they have “great jobs” and “great lives.”New York Times columnist Frank Bruni received advance access to the findings and detailed them in his Sept. 12 column. Of the five dimensions of life the survey attempted to measure — relationships, physical health, community, economic situations and senses of purpose — 10 percent of all college graduates described themselves as “thriving” in all five dimensions. 11 percent of graduates of U.S. News’ top 50 universities and 13 percent of graduates of U.S. News’ top 50 liberal arts colleges said the same.What, then, is the purpose of the U.S. News rankings if they seem to be a bad predictor of long-term satisfaction? Why do both academia and non-academia continually perpetuate this system of value? It’s probably driven by a combination of factors, including the impressionability of prospective students. Universities are incentivized to capitalize on this impressionability — assuming they want the best students, which they do — by rising in the rankings. Rice is not immune to this phenomenon; it’s subject to the same system. The U.S. Department of Education has semi-concurrently released their own college “scorecard” that subverts the U.S. News method. Instead of ranking colleges, the government guide provides data about average cost of attendance for federal financial aid recipients, four-year graduation rates and salary 10 years after matriculation for federal financial aid recipients. Rice falls around the average annual cost, way above average on four-year graduation rate and significantly above average for salary. The scorecard does not generate rankings; instead, it encourages comparison. It presents data that allow users to make value judgements.Rice should take a cue from the Department of Education scorecard and the Gallup-Purdue Index. Instead of participating in self-perpetuating systems that reinforce problematic notions of hierarchy and prestige, it should prioritize and refocus on what matters most to students: the university experience and Rice’s uniqueness. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

Body cameras raise questions and offer opportunities

(09/01/15 2:30pm)

Rice University Police Department recently adopted the policy of equipping all officers with body cameras. Many support the implementation, including faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and Rice’s attorneys. The Thresher, too, is happy that RUPD has embraced body camera technology. Dashboard cameras can capture only so much, and recent events nationwide have shown that what can and cannot be verified through video footage is critically important not only in court, but also to public opinion. Considering the recent Texas Supreme Court decision (see p. 2) ruling RUPD officers as “officers of the state,” it is commendable for Rice to be a part of the movement toward increasing police oversight and operational transparency.However, both students and university administration have a responsibility to consider how the availability of body camera recordings may impact future judicial proceedings at Rice. Although it is true that the majority of RUPD arrests occur with individuals off campus who are not affiliated with Rice, there certainly are occasional altercations with students, especially related to parties. Students who are undergoing Student Judicial Programs or University Court proceedings may now have a potential source of evidence for their cases.RUPD statements should be taken at word, but if video evidence exists, it should be considered alongside or even given greater value than the original statement. Ideally, video evidence would be considered in every case, but this may not be feasible in order to deliver timely rulings. Some students will inevitably choose to defend themselves through this avenue. RUPD, SJP and UCourt should collaborate with the Student Association to set up a framework for handling video requests from students, whether that is within the original trial or through an appeals process. To ensure cases are adjudicated as fairly as possible and to minimize future complications, it is necessary to define criteria to determine which requests for evidence will be honored before such requests arise. There is an opportunity to pre-empt confusion and frustration, and Rice should work together to take it.As students with the privilege of a police force with body cameras, we have a responsibility to be aware of our rights when it comes to policing as a whole. We must educate ourselves on which situations require officers to turn on the video recordings and understand that RUPD is not obligated to honor requests to refuse recording, which may be especially important in sensitive situations. Claiming ignorance of either police or citizen rights is inexcusable.

Overcrowding inevitable, but not unmanagable

(08/27/15 11:48am)

Some returning students have been asked to move off campus to make room for an over-enrolled class of new students. In a few cases, new students were switched between residential colleges after already receiving their assignments or had to live in a college different from the one into which they matriculated.The Thresher believes overcrowding is an inevitable and severe issue that demands discussion and preparation among the student body and administration during the year. The Thresher appreciates the administration’s efforts to fill every bed and understands the difficulty of predicting yield. It is not only reasonable but expected that the issue of overcrowding will arise and some shuffling of new students will occur. However, Rice lacks a cohesive plan to address overcrowding in a way that is suited to each of the residential colleges’ unique needs. For example, offering returning students the incentive to overcrowd rooms may work at Sid Richardson College, but is largely ineffective in the single suites at Martel College. Moreover, incentives that provide monetary compensation to returning students to move off campus are unfair to students who voluntarily chose to move off campus for the following year. While monetary incentives are a viable way of ensuring all new students are accommodated on campus, they must be offered and distributed fairly. This is a tough situation to address but the Thresher believes it can and must be improved to ensure financial fairness.Overcrowding diminishes from new students’ first year experience. The residential college system is designed such that students become almost immediately attached to their home college, and to learn last minute that one has been shuffled between colleges can be disjointing. O-Week coordinators are often forced to bear the brunt of parental anger even though they lack control over the situation. It is understandably difficult to strike a balance so new students do not learn of their residential college assignment too late or too early. However, when new students are informed that their assigned residential college lacks the physical space to accommodate them, Rice and its student leaders, who are the face of O-Week, appear incompetent. One of Rice’s most commendable features is its emphasis on student leadership; however, if these leaders are not immersed in decision-making processes, they must face the consequences of decisions they had no hand in, in a situation they cannot improve. The student body, administration and college masters and coordinators should collaborate throughout the year to change overcrowding from an emergency situation to an anticipated issue with an established solution. As part of this plan, new students must be informed by the administration that residential college and rooming assignments are tentative. In order to make the new student transition to college as smooth as possible, it is necessary to accept the reality of overcrowding and address it as best as possible for all parties involved.

Grade collaring policies have no place at Rice

(04/22/15 5:09pm)

The Student Association plans to begin a discussion in the coming fall about departmental grade inflation policies. These discussions come on the heels of legislation passed by the Faculty Senate in April 2014, which called for faculty-wide discussions about grading standards every five years, among other stipulations (see p. 1).The Thresher supports this renewal of discussion on a subject matter that continues to affect many students at Rice, especially now that the department of statistics has implemented a blanket policy of no more than 40 percent A’s in many of its introductory classes.While it is understandable that a large proportion of high grades in a certain class may be cause for concern, The Thresher maintains the opinion presented in our April 23, 2014 editorial that collaring grades as a response to grade inflation is not an appropriate response.By instating a policy where only a certain percentage of students can achieve high grades regardless of how many points they accrue throughout the semester, instructors engender a system that directly contradicts the spirit of positive collaboration so frequently touted by Rice.If individual professors, departments or the administration wish to see a more even grade distribution, then perhaps looking at course rigor or taking a more nuanced approach is in order. Considerations for major requirements, distribution credits and class content should be made to help determine a change in grading scale, not the performance of the current grading scale. Collaring grades is an arbitrary punishment to students that not only negatively impacts Rice’s academic environment of positive collaboration, but also does not address the root of any alleged problems with inflation.If too high a percentage of students receives A’s, the grading scale should not be the first place the faculty looks for a solution. The Thresher recommends investigating the content of the courses to see if it is appropriately rigorous for Rice students. The Thresher believes the statistics department’s turn to grade collaring is a precedent other departments should not follow. Princeton University recently repealed their grade deflation policy after 10 years, citing how it adversely affected students’ willingness to take risks in course selection, damaged the academic atmosphere and discouraged students from applying to the university. There is no reason a similar policy should be implemented among Rice courses.The Thresher encourages each academic department to consider student feedback in the implementation of grading policies, and to give significant thought to the potential negative consequences of such policies.Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

SA Initiatives Program deserves more publicity

(04/15/15 10:20am)

The Student Association will continue to accept proposals for the Student Initiatives Program. The program is tied to an initiatives fund populated by $18,000 Honor Council was forced to return following a Blanket Tax Standing Committee investigation into their finances. In the future, the fund will receive money from an increase in the blanket tax from $79 to $85 (see p.1). Currently, according to SA Internal Vice President Peter Yun, the SA is primarily pursuing one viable proposal to the program — an “Inreach Day” during which students will perform tasks normally completed by the Housing and Dining staff. However, currently, the Student Initiatives Program has been underpublicized and underutilized.The Thresher believes the program has great potential if the SA expends more directed effort reaching out to the student body.The success of SA40K should serve as a model for the administration of the Student Initiatives Program. The SA40K gave funding to a new Queer Resource Center, Rice Emergency Medical Services, Rice Bikes and environmental initiatives, such as subsidized reusable containers and water bottle fillers. Though the pot may be smaller, an equal, if not more, effort should go towards soliciting proposals. Nor should the amount of available funds discourage students from applying for funding.Still, publicity for the Student Initiatives Program has been lacking. While publicizing the SA40K, the Senate Executive Committee visited college government meetings, posted extensively on Facebook and constantly made students aware of the money’s potential uses. If anonymous social media is any indication of student awareness, the buzz surrounding the SA40k on Yik Yak has been markedly absent for the current Student Initiative. For the Blanket Tax Committee to effectively distribute the $18,000, students must be made more aware of its existence and purpose.The initiatives fund has the potential to be immensely beneficial for the student body moving forward. The fund allows clubs and students to apply for funding for initiatives that the yearly allocation of the blanket tax does not make provisions for. However, if the fund is not better publicized, the money will not serve its intended purpose in a timely manner; ideally, it should be spent on ideas stemming from those from whom the blanket tax funds originated. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.