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SA facilitates campus values discussion

(03/17/15 4:50pm)

Following the Student Association meeting last Wednesday, the SA facilitated a student forum on creating a healthy campus climate. Over 70 students were in attendance at the event, which, according to SA President Jazz Silva, was closed to higher administration to ensure students felt safe sharing their thoughts.Silva facilitated the conversation with a series of questions, such as those concerning Rice values, avoiding bad situations and how to proceed when campus values are violated. At the start of the event, Silva said the forum was created to facilitate conversation, as opposed to a question-and-answer session or a panel. Silva said the event fostered a constructive environment and was not hosted by the SA itself. However, the event was listed on the SA meeting agenda. “I’m sure there’s a little bit of confusion about what this event is,” Silva said. “You should feel confident to say exactly how you feel — it’s just a very safe conversation.”A wide variety of sources of an unhealthy campus environment was discussed, including negativity toward the administration, the alcohol policy and academic and personal stress.Students continued to share concerns regarding the relationship between students and administration as well as campus resources, including Student Judicial Programs and the Wellbeing Center. Some believed a negative outlook toward administration’s actions fostered an unhealthy environment, but others said the administration must reach out to students constructively, as it has not done so in the past.The SA presented the question, “To what extent should administration have a say in creating a standard of values?” Martel College President Rachel Sterling said the administration should foster a more consistent, trusting relationship with students.“I don’t think everything needs to go to the students first,” Sterling said. “But there isn’t a regular form of feedback right now — [we] wait until there’s such a loud outcry that we need to deal with it. I’m sometimes worried about the way administration addresses situations, especially very recently. Sometimes, it feels that [administration doesn’t] trust us.”Students suggested the formation of a feedback system with SJP through the colleges’ chief justices. However, some students said the administration’s current feedback systems were ineffective because they elicited student opinion without responding to it.Attendees were again polarized on whether the relationship between the student body and the administration should be treated as a privilege or a right. Students disagreed on whether they had the right to protest the application of Title IX to the McMurtry College stripper incident when they had failed to provide enough feedback to the administration’s Sexual Assault-Free Working Group.In response to the question of “In what situation is it reasonable for students to seek permission?” students raised doubts on the distinction between defining a public event versus a private one, and the necessity of permission in each case. Some feared that events such as Beer Bike could be deemed offensive and result in change or punishment if students did not seek permission for themes or float ideas.“At what point does someone’s offense constitute or necessitate change?” Lovett College President Griffin Thomas said. “Is it when one person comes forward and we have a discussion about it?”As the forum came to a close, students agreed that they desired transparency and consistency from administration.Silva said the forum was successful as a platform for students to challenge each other respectfully.“Student leaders have the responsibility of being unbiased and acting in a way that is cognizant of all spectrums of the student body,” Silva said. “This forum gave student leaders an opportunity to better understand these varying student concerns.”Silva declined to comment on the SA’s plans to move forward with the concerns expressed at the forum.

‘A safer environment’: Working group releases 28 recommendations, including campus-wide climate survey

(03/17/15 4:50pm)

Major RecommendationsCampus climate survey (aligned with federal regulations)Student extension to Title IX and Clery Act programs, may be similar to RHAsRisk-reduction education beginning with O-Week 2015 along with Project SAFEThree-hour faculty training every two years for Title IX/sexual violence, sexual harassment, cultural competencyMontrose Center to provide LGBT education, off-campus resources in addition to HAWCClery act training and discussion between RUPD, Title IX, General Counsel and Dean of UndergraduatesSJP processes recorded, officers trauma-trainedImprove reputation of SJP and publicize Title IX personnel through student programmingEvaluation of SJPSJP’s processes are trauma-informed and fair to accuser and accusedStudents may view SJP as insensitive and intentionally intimidatingStudents reported knowing peers who decided against reporting due to fear of losing control over handling of caseEssential for administration and students to partner to correct misinformationAfter seven months of evaluation and discussion, the Working Group on University Response to Sexual Assault Initiatives has compiled its review into 28 recommendations. A survey created in conjunction with Stanford University and the University of Chicago will be administered to all undergraduates this semester to determine the prevalence of sexual misconduct at Rice.Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson released the working group’s 15-page report and announced the renovated website in an email to the undergraduate student body on Tuesday.“This was an incredible amount of work for this group to seek the input of every member of the community over a very extended period of time, and to do so under some pressure,” Hutchinson said. “They responded in Rice fashion to do well and above what was expected.”Working Group GoalsAssociate Vice Provost Matt Taylor, the chair of the working group, first convened a meeting in summer 2014 in light of the federal report “Not Alone” by the White House Task Force. The group outlined four areas of focus, including disciplinary policies, training of faculty, staff and students, student resources and web communication.Representatives from Student Judicial Programs, Rice University Police Department, the Student Wellbeing Office and the Counseling Center were members of the working group. Former Lovett College president Meghan Davenport served as an undergraduate representative.The recommendations of the group encompass many topics, according to Davenport.“[There’s everything] from staff training to student advocacy to climate surveys,” Davenport said. “I think that when people read our recommendations, they will be almost guaranteed to learn something new. Our recommendations are detailed, thorough, and I think they reflect a deep commitment to creating a better Rice community, when it comes to these issues.”Davenport said she believed the working group accomplished what it set out to do. She said she hopes the recommendations will help teach the Rice community about the available resources.“The goal was to examine and improve our policies and practices, not just getting them in line with Title IX guidelines but going above and beyond them,” Davenport said. “Hopefully, when the recommendations are implemented, we will have a more educated community of staff, faculty, and students, more clearly defined and helpful resources, and an ongoing, informed conversation about sexual assault that will create a safer environment for survivors.”Climate SurveyThe federal government recommended universities complete a campus climate survey studying the prevalence of sexual misconduct before the end of 2015. Taylor and the working group referred to a government template, worked with peer institutions and studied a climate survey administered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create Rice’s five-minute survey. “One of the key motivations to collaborate with our peers is, if we can, to ask questions that are the same,” Taylor said. “In addition, we’d like to draw on more academic knowledge and expertise in order to create a survey that generates useful data.”According to Taylor, he and Davenport, who gathered student input, met with Director of Sexual Violence Prevention Allison Vogt to discuss the suggestions from students.“We’re asking what kinds of things happened without your consent and what might have led to a person assaulting you and about your connection to the person assaulting you,” Hutchinson said. For continuing undergraduate students, the survey will be released in conjunction with the Survey of All Students, although the responses will be completely confidential. Graduating seniors will take the survey in conjunction with the Senior Exit Survey, with similar provisions of confidentiality. An independent body will then analyze the aggregate data, which will also be released to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. “We are doing this [principally] because the working group recommended it,” Hutchinson said. “The recommendation turns out to be consistent with that of the Department of Education. This is a response to a community issue.”Web Resources UpdatesHutchinson announced the updated website, which went live last Wednesday. Kate Hildebrandt, the Title IX navigator, and Kate Noonan, director of the Student Wellbeing Office, solicited student feedback for the content and format of the website. Student representatives from Rice Health Advisors, the Women’s Resource Center and the Student Association Wellbeing Committee all worked on programming or legislation in conjunction with the Office of Student Wellbeing. Hildebrandt, Noonan, Vogt and Hutchinson all visited residential colleges to discuss the sexual assault policy.The new site succeeds in following the “two clicks or less” roadmap to resources directly addressing student inquiry, as mandated by federal guidelines. The site features drop-down menus, including tabs for survivors and students looking to support friends who have been through a sexual assault. RecommendationsThe working group’s 28 recommendations also spanned beyond the sexual misconduct policy, survey and web resources to include training for faculty, staff and students, as well as disciplinary procedures with SJP.Several faculty members have already undergone a three-hour training, which will be renewed every two years. The Montrose Center will now be partnering with the Houston Area Women’s Center and Rice to provide training and act as an off-campus resource for students seeking help. Project SAFE training during Orientation Week will now, in addition to bystander intervention training, include risk-reduction information on sexual and domestic violence, in accordance with the Department of Education’s updates to implementing the Clery Act.There are also plans to create a new student arm for the office of Title IX support. Student input from the Student Association Wellbeing Committee led to this idea since there was no independent student-led body committed solely to sexual assault prevention on campus. “It could be helpful for the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Title IX to have students to help them connect with campus,” Taylor said. “It could be like RHAs, but it shouldn’t have to be.”RUPD will work with the Title IX Coordinator, the Dean of Undergraduates and the General Counsel to discuss the Clery Act and sexual violence.Taylor said the working group was impressed by SJP’s policies and procedures for handling cases of sexual assault. However, SJP made several changes to its policies as well, which were included in the new student Code of Conduct released in January. Students may now bring a support person into meetings with SJP in cases of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, although this individual may not act in the capacity of a lawyer. Additionally, SJP now records student meetings.“[The support person] is there for advice or comfort in what might be a stressful period,” Hutchinson said. “In general, every substantive meeting of a student for any purpose with SJP will [also] have two people from SJP in the room at the same time, whether a person is coming in for an inquiry or a complaint. [SJP is] now recording all student judicial process meetings and, in general, every conversation that takes place.”“Comprehensiveness and Sensitivity”Taylor and Hutchinson agreed that the findings of the working group reinforce the measures Rice has already implemented.“In reviewing this, all members of the working group were impressed by the comprehensiveness and the sensitivity of the processes and resources already in place,” Hutchinson said. “Although the recommendations of the working group are many, that is not a reflection that the working group thought we were broken, but rather that there was much strength that could be built upon with input from the community.”Taylor said Rice has been ahead of peer institutions in several areas.“We’ve either been following federal recommendations, or [the changes] were already in the works before the recommendations had even been published,” Taylor said.

News in Brief: BRC Express

(03/14/15 6:52am)

 A new express shuttle route service to the BioScience Research Collaborative began on March 2. The bus runs every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., approximately every 10 minutes. The shuttle that currently stops at the BRC also continues into the Texas Medical Center will continue to run every half hour. The express shuttle route aims to help researchers and students reach labs and classrooms more quickly. The shuttle travels along half of the inner loop, remaining on the side closer to the BRC.

Rice Left members protest Hillel-hosted IDF soldier talk

(02/18/15 4:06pm)

After listening to a presentation from former Israeli Defense Force soldiers, community members, students and representatives of Rice Left silently walked out of HUMA 120, where the talk was held. Elad, an IDF soldier in reserve who could not give his last name due to security reasons, was discussing the composition of the IDF when protesters walked out.“The IDF, like America, is a melting pot,” Elad said. “Like I said, there’s Jews, Christians, Muslims — guys, this is very unfortunate. I came all the way to tell my story hoping that you would stay and be respectful and let me finish.”Hillel hosted the hourlong event, which was co-sponsored by the IDF and Stand With Us, a nonprofit, pro-Israel education organization.Members of Rice Left planned the walkout, which students from the University of Houston and other community members attended. The protesters met prior to the event in an adjacent classroom. Four Rice University Police Department officers were present as protesters convened. Jeremy Reiskind, vice president of engagement with Hillel, said the event was held to promote a dialogue between groups on either side of the issue between Palestine and Israel.“The focus of [Stand With Us] is not about combat and hating of the Palestinians,” Reiskind said. “We want peace also. The biggest thing is in issues like this that are so big and have so many complex issues is dialogue.”However, Rice Left member Heather Dial said she does not believe the event provided opportunity for a dialogue.“They have only invited a very narrow group of people from one side of a discussion,” Dial, a psychology graduate student, said. “We’re walking out because there is no room for dialogue in a biased conversation.”The talk was not listed on the Rice University Events Calendar, but was advertised through a Facebook event. “The soldiers’ stories on this tour are inspirational, human, personal and demonstrate clearly how the IDF employs the strictest moral standards while fighting a terrorist foe that callously puts civilians on both sides in harm’s way,” the event description states.Rice Left member and mathematics graduate student Kenan Ince said he found the description to be one-sided.“If you look at the killings on both sides, there is an enormous … imbalance of Palestinians being killed by Israelis, and I thought that was something they were definitely keeping out of their dialogue as well,” Ince said.Stand With Us Central Region Program Coordinator Vida Velasco introduced the event and said the purpose of Stand With Us is to convey the facts about the Israeli military. Velasco said she was aware of the walkout and preferred people stayed to promote a dialogue and understanding.“You should be informed that in Texas, it is a misdemeanor to create a premeditated disturbance, verbal or physical,” Velasco said. “So if you do choose to leave, please do so quietly.”Elad and another soldier, Tamir, spoke of their experiences in combat as well as their personal lives and background.“I don’t hate,” Elad said. “Palestinians are not our enemies, nor have they ever been our enemies. I’m here today to share our stories.”Elad said he unexpectedly came across different languages, religions and cultures as a part of the military, at which point the protesters walked out of the classroom.“We came from the other side of the world to talk to you, from Israel,” Tamir said as the walkout proceeded. “We’d love to answer your questions.”According to Rice Left member Michelle Pham, the event’s lack of publicity, despite its controversial topic, was problematic. Pham also said she did not think hosting a politicized event fell under the responsibilities of a cultural organization. “People have looked at Rice Hillel as a cultural club,” Pham said. “Promoting Israel, the nation state, is a move away from that. That’s a different orientation.”Reiskind, a Duncan College sophomore, said the role of Hillel extends beyond culture.“Hillel deals with all aspects of being Jewish,” Reiskind said. “We are in charge of helping students in different ways, [including] connecting with Israel.”Hillel member Zach Birenbaum said he would be open to hosting an event with Rice Left regarding Palestine.“They showed a pro-Palestine propaganda film [Five Broken Cameras], and I didn’t feel like that was an open dialogue,” Birenbaum said. “So I guess you have both sides where we’re kind of showing both perspectives on the issue.The event continued after the walkout, when Tamir and Elad more explicitly explained the combat zone and Hamas war tactics. During the question and answer session that followed, Hanszen College junior Aruni Ranaweera said she agreed with the sentiments of the protestors but planned to stay and listen to the presentation. Attendees applauded her choice to remain at the event, but Ranaweera said she questioned the goal of the discussion.“In the case that this is supposed to be a dialogue, I felt it was very one-sided,” Ranaweera said. “There were only Israeli soldiers, and no Palestinians. I just want to know what kind of dialogue you were expecting.”Velasco responded to Ranaweera’s question and said the goal is to start a more nuanced conversation.“The full story of Israel is not being told,” Velasco said. “One of the most demonized groups when talking about Israel is the military.”The soldiers provided information on Israeli tourism at the event’s closing.In a private interview, Elad and Tamir said it is important to remember them as regular people, as opposed to representatives of the IDF itself.Tamir said these events are not easy for him, considering how many people resent the existence of Israel. “I am the IDF soldier you’ve seen on TV in the last operation,” Tamir said. “I am that guy you allegedly saw killing and murdering those innocent people on purpose. I am here, talking to you, and that’s not me and as that guy that you saw in the media, I tell you one on one: I want peace.”Elad responded to criticism of bias towards the Israeli forces.“We just tell the truth, that’s all,” Elad said. “I’m over here because I believe in the truth.”

27-day homeless challenge pushes student to self-reflection, policy efforts

(01/21/15 6:05pm)

“Homeless but not hopeless. Happy holidays!” read a sign held by Hanszen College senior Chris Chu while panhandling in Washington, D.C. Chu slept outside of metro stations, panhandled and contemplated stealing food during a 27-day period in which he lived among the homeless in Washington, D.C. as part of an effort to better understand them.

Honor Council found 'in violation'

(12/03/14 7:08am)

The Blanket Tax Contingency Committee found the Honor Council in violation of the blanket tax process. The Honor Council has pledged to return its surplus rollover of $18,882, according to Student Association President Ravi Sheth. The Contingency Committee reviewed the Honor Council with three possible outcomes: in good standing, in violation and in aggravated violation. If an organization is found in violation three times within a period of four years, the Contingency Committee may recommend that the blanket tax be reduced or removed. A count of aggravated violation is equivalent to two violations. After this decision, the Honor Council stands at one violation.The only other way by which a blanket tax organization’s funding can be reduced is by an initative petitioned directly by the students and voted on in the General Elections. The organization was judged based on four criteria outlined in the SA Constitution. These criteria included whether the organization acted as good stewards of student money and whether the funds were used in a manner consistent with the organization’s mission, for organizational purposes and consistent with Rice rules and regulations. The Honor Council was found in violation of two criteria: acting as good stewards of student money and using the blanket tax funds in a manner consistent with the organization’s mission, goals and purposes.According to the Report on Contingency Review, the Contingency Committee found three examples showing that the Honor Council did not act as good stewards of student money. The Honor Council’s budgets for 2013-14 were found to reflect irresponsible record-keeping, although the committee commended the organization for its recent budget amendment efforts. The committee noted that the Honor Council did not spend its blanket tax funds properly from 2013-14 and the years before, indicated by the $21,582 surplus at the start of the 2014-15 review year. The Committee also recommended the Honor Council halve the changeover dinner budget to $25/person.However, while the changeover dinner cost was decreased in the amended budget, other new food expenses were added, which increased the total amount spent on food by $500. In order to determine whether the Honor Council is in aggravated violation, the Contingency Committee evaluated the organization based on three criteria outlined within the SA n Constitution: if the organization’s budget reflected a surplus of at least 50% in the previous year, if the organization has not adequately justified its surplus and if the organization does not indicate a reasonable attempt to address this issue. If the Honor Council were to be found in violation of all three criteria, the committee would then require a two-thirds majority vote to find the organization in aggravated violation.According to the report, the Honor Council had made a good faith effort to make a reasonable attempt to address the issues and surpluses in the 2014-15 year. As a result, the Contingency Committee did not find the organization in aggravated violation.In Honor Council’s amended 2014-15 budget, the surplus decreased from the initial 50% to 43%. This was due to the addition of a $2,260 expense for training conferences not included in the original budget as well as the increased amount budgeted for food. The annualized replacement costs for furniture and electronics remained unchanged. According to Sheth, when and if the Honor Council returns its surplus, the SA executive committee will determine how to best allocate the approximately $18,000 in funds. Sheth said because this is the first time a Contingency Committee has ever convened, the ruling will have lasting effects on the blanket tax review process.“I believe that this is an important moment for the effectiveness of our processes, and also gives us an opportunity to reflect and think about what we can do better in our overall allocations, and processes — which our Blanket Tax Crack Team... is currently looking into,” Sheth said.

SA senators partner on legislation to create oral communications courses

(11/18/14 4:15pm)

Student Association senators have teamed up to spearhead an initiative on creating disciplinary oral communications courses for undergraduates. Martel College sophomore Neethi Nayak and McMurtry College sophomore Madhuri Venkateswar co-authored the legislation, which passed at the SA Senate meeting on Nov. 5.“In today’s world, it’s becoming increasingly important to have the communication skills in addition to the technical skills,” Venkateswar said. “You cannot get past a certain point if you cannot communicate orally and through writing. I saw that through my experience and I thought that it was extremely important that Rice students have that knowledge because it puts them above other students from other institutions.”According to Nayak and Venkateswar, peer institutions like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University offer resources to undergraduates including mandatory annual communications courses. Venkateswar said Rice is behind, but currently on the right trajectory.“There are classes that really emphasize [public speaking], like [BIOE] 252 with problem-based learning, but that was one semester — it wasn’t a consistent way for students to grow,” Venkateswar said. “Especially with oral communication, you need consistent feedback in order to fix the things that you were doing wrong.”Venkateswar said the team collaborated with Tracy Volz, director of the Program for Writing and Communication, to identify areas in which oral communications classes are necessary. The legislation proposes an introduction to communications course as well as departmental architecture, medical, technical and legal courses.Nayak said the high number of students enrolling in BUSI 296: Business Communications is evidence of the need for more specific communications courses. Venkateswar said the high demand for enrollment in HUMA 201: Public Speaking, also indicates interest.“The university has a deficiency in these areas and some courses, like BUSI 296, are oversubscribed when they shouldn’t be,” Venkateswar said. “People are taking that class to gain some oral communication skills but might be better suited in a more nuanced communications class.”Nayak said her own experience in courses involving communication led her to believe Rice had the need for more emphasis on oral communication.“Several of my classes require presenting information to an audience that may not have experience with a particular topic that you’re discussing,” Nayak said. “You have to be able to communicate things that may seem very technical to an audience that doesn’t know what you’re necessarily talking about.”The legislation also recommends greater emphasis on oral communication within FWIS courses. According to Nayak and Venkateswar, FWIS courses currently require only one oral presentation and do not guarantee consistent feedback with skills.During the presentation of the legislation at the SA Senate meeting, some raised concerns about the necessity of communications courses when they may be repeated in graduate school.“The response to that is that I’m an engineer, I’m not planning to go to law school, but I still want to learn how to deal with argumentative communication or with confrontational communication,” Venkateswar said. “Legal communication doesn’t have to be just if you’re going to law school. These skills are applicable across the board.”Venkateswar said the communications courses are not necessarily specific to individual majors.“I can be a pre-med and still want to learn technical communication,” Venkateswar said. “You can take what you want to take depending on what your professional/personal  sinterests are, but you may not be [learning more about] that in the future.According to Nayak, the timeline for the availability of these courses for undergraduates is in the hands of the Committee for Undergraduate Curriculum and the Faculty Senate.

Humans, not squirrels, compose Homecoming court

(11/12/14 8:00am)

Rice Homecoming broke tradition this year in choosing students as the newly crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Hanszen College senior Chris Chu and Sid Richardson College senior Morgan McNeel were crowned at the football game on Saturday.The student body nominated the Homecoming Court on Oct. 30, and the final list consisted of four male and four female students. Traditionally, nominees have been various random objects, animals or faculty members. According to the centennial timeline, Rice students first began nominating unconventionally candidates for the Homecoming Court in the 1940s. A few of the nominated individuals were masters’ spouses and children, a cat, an iguana, a car and a former Texas governor. In 2011, Saint Arnold Centenni-Ale was crowned Homecoming King, while in 2008, Hurrican Ike took the honors. More recently in 2013, Bucky and Bushy the squirrels were placed on the ballot following an active Facebook campaign. Bushy ultimately won the title of Homecoming Queen.Melissa Cespedes, Chair of the Homecoming Committee and a Homecoming Court nominee, said she has been working with students and faculty to establish Homecoming as a Rice tradition. Cespedes, a Wiess College junior, said she thinks students enjoy having a voice in nominating the Homecoming Court instead of treating the tradition humorously.“Putting the face of actual students, instead of objects or faculty, can make an impact in establishing Homecoming as a tradition at Rice,” Cespedes said. “Since students have friends actually participating in the Homecoming Court, I think the election will allow them to be more notified of what is happening around campus and will encourage more participation in the Homecoming events.”Sid Richardson Senior Michael Gwede was nominated for Homecoming Court but said he prefers the old tradition of choosing silly objects or animals.“I think that type of lightheartedness is what makes Rice a fun place to go to school,” Gwede said. “Luckily all of the nominees took a lighthearted approach to the competition, so it was still a fun experience. However, I could see this change resulting in more serious Homecoming King/Queen races in the future, which would be pretty lame in my opinion.”Brown College junior Ibrahim Akbar, who was nominated for Homecoming Court last year as well as this year, said he thinks the Homecoming Court has always been a fun tradition. “It’s a running joke for my friends — I didn’t campaign or anything but I had lovely friends who found embarrassing pictures of me and made memes that they would spread on Facebook,” Akbar said. “I grew up overseas — personally I think Homecoming Court is a funny tradition; nominating animals seems to make fun of something that other schools take too seriously.”Duncan College President and Homeocoming Queen nominee Mary Anderson said even with this year’s switch to actual student nominees, the competition was purely in the spirit of fun and nominees had a carefree attitude, which separates homecoming from other schools’.“At other universities, there [are] interviews, pageants, etc. and [are] overall extremely more stressful,” Anderson said. “I’d say that the process this year is still unconventional since we don’t take Homecoming King/Queen too seriously.”

Esperanza tickets sell out in record time

(10/28/14 4:14pm)

After two website crashes, a random lottery drawing and a first come, first serve sale, Esperanza tickets are currently completely sold out. This year, the homecoming formal held by Rice Program Council is being hosted off campus for the first time in three years at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences. RPC is currently looking into booking the second floor of HMNS to allow more students to attend, according to RPC President Aisha Jeeva. Esperanza tickets first went on sale through the Rice IT site at lunchtime on Oct. 15; the website crashed in ten minutes because of high traffic. According to Jeeva, RPC sold 300 tickets during this period. RPC has used this site for the past three formals without any issues.RPC contacted students whose purchases were successfully processed and released the link for purchasing tickets again on Oct. 20. Jeeva said the site crashed again after 128 more tickets were sold. “After the first crash, Rice IT said there were issues with their coding and the traffic, that they should have fixed them all, and they didn’t anticipate another crash,” Jeeva said. “Clearly, that was not the case. We will most likely not use again. The crash has caused significant stress and trouble for us, and this has been compounded by the fact that it was completely out of our control — we are not Rice IT and cannot maintain control over the website as it is hosted and maintained by Rice.”In light of the difficulties with the website, RPC decided to sell the remaining 772 tickets through a random lottery drawing.“We were not willing to risk a third crash of Rice IT’s website, and IT was unable to guarantee us that their website would not crash again,” Jeeva said. “[Additionally,] we received a lot of feedback about students who have … time commitments that would prevent them from being able to log on and purchase tickets at an assigned time.”Students were notified if they were selected to purchase tickets on Oct. 24, after which they had the opportunity to claim their ticket on Oct. 27 and 28. If a student did not pick up their ticket, it was given to the next person on the waitlist. Approximately 950 students remain on the waitlist.Will Rice College freshman Anecia Gentles said she requested two tickets through the drawing, but was not sure if she had been chosen in the lottery or not due to an email mix-up.“I got an email saying that I got [tickets] in the drawing, and then 20 minutes later I got an email saying that unfortunately I had not [won tickets] in the drawing,” Gentles said. “I ended up getting the tickets and RPC said someone just copied and pasted my name into the wrong email.”According to Jeeva, RPC negotiated with HMNS and the Houston Fire Department to increase the venue capacity from 1,200 to 1,375. Jeeva said these additional 175 tickets were sold on a first come, first serve basis as students requested.Martel College freshman Marisa Hudson waited in line for two hours for tickets but was too far back to receive any. “[My] only objection to the lottery system is that people cannot give/sell tickets to their friends who desperately want tickets but were not selected in the lottery drawings,” Hudson said. “Several of my friends have offered to give me tickets, and I have to keep reminding them that they have to do it through the RPC, and that it goes to the next person on the waitlist.”Jeeva said that since Esperanza was not being held at an accessible, on-campus location, demand was difficult to predict. She said the novelty of this year’s venue may have contributed to the high demand.“While we definitely expected to sell out, we did not expect this degree of popularity,” Jeeva said. “It took 16 days to sell out the 2013 Esperanza, and 20 days for the 2012 Centennial Esperanza.”In total, about 36 percent of Rice’s 3,800 undergraduate students have the opportunity to attend. According to Jeeva, the current size of 1,375 is more than twice that of Rondelet in spring 2014, and increasing the size of the venue would result in increased costs not only from renting the space but also from hiring EMS staff and police officers, reserving ambulances, and providing amenities and transportation.Jeeva said RPC is looking into booking the second floor of the museum and is currently getting quotes from caterers, the museum and police. Booking the additional floor would allow for 500 to 600 more attendees. According to Jeeva, RPC’s current blanket tax allocation places a restraint on the organization’s events.“If it is fiscally sustainable, we will book it,” Jeeva said. “If the increased prices cannot be sustained by our current budget, we won’t. We could absolutely seek larger venues with additional blanket tax going towards the event, in which [case] more students would get to go. RPC frequently puts out surveys asking for feedback, and we will be sure to include questions regarding this before making a decision.”Jeeva said RPC is currently evaluating possible changes to the ticket selling method for Rondelet in the spring.“Will we use a random drawing system again?” Jeeva said. “Probably not. Did we think it was the best decision at the time, a way to provide a fair shot for everyone to get tickets and a quick response to people’s frustration without having to risk a potential third crash? Absolutely. [For Rondelet], we will do our best to find an online first come, first serve way to distribute tickets.”Emily Rao and News Editor Andrew Ta contributed to this article.

Women’s Resource Center hosts Consent is Sexy Week

(10/21/14 4:05pm)

The Rice Women’s Resource Center is celebrating its sixth annual Consent is Sexy Week with a variety of events ranging from a panel of “sexperts” answering questions your parents never did, to a Project SAFE workshop. RWRC Co-Director Kendall Post said the event, which is from Oct. 21-24, starts a conversation about consent among Rice students and fosters a positive attitude towards consensual sexual encounters.“Consent isn’t talked about very much, and I think a lack of consent is normalized to a certain extent,” Post,  a Lovett College senior, said. “We just want to start conversations, especially with [Night of Decadence] coming up, which is a party at which lack of consent is especially normalized. This is a way to reframe the way we think about consent.”Post said consent can often be forgotten at parties as people move ahead with dancing or sexual activities without verbally consenting between partners. Post said she hopes Consent is Sexy Week will strengthen the community at Rice and ensure mutual respect between partners during parties or otherwise.“NOD falls in a time in the year when everyone, especially new students, have become acclimated to Rice,” Post said. “They’re still exploring [if] they want to drink or hook up. Because sex is sort of on everyone’s mind, it’s a very opportune time to say, when you’re thinking about sex, here’s some other really important stuff to keep in mind.”For the first time, the RWRC will be providing a “Breathing Room” at NOD, which is a no re-entry party, for students to escape uncomfortable situations or take a break from the party without having to leave entirely.“The real drive behind it is that any public party can be overwhelming, and NOD can be even more overwhelming,” Post said. “We want to provide confidential, light peer support that is completely student-driven and student-run, with no adults.”

SA seeks to improve CUC outreach with student representative position

(10/07/14 5:20pm)

The Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum influences student curricular issues ranging from the creation of new minors to the archiving of syllabi on Esther. Student Association members who are representatives of the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum are adopting a new practice this year and updating the SA after every CUC meeting, according to CUC Student Representative Nicole Moody.CUC Chair Susan McIntosh moderates the meetings. McIntosh said the CUC and the Faculty Senate, which is made up of only faculty members, often receive proposals simultaneously. Sometimes, problems are brought to the CUC by the Faculty Senate, but the CUC itself has also raised issues in the past, such as classroom size. “I ask the [Faculty Senate] senators or the executive committee to have a quick look [to see] if they have major issues right at the beginning, so that as we work on the proposal, we’re taking those into consideration,” McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Rice, said. “That certainly would be the time that we would anticipate, as the proposal comes before the CUC, and our student [representatives] are aware of it, that they would be looking to make any suggestions for modification of the proposal.”Vice President of the Administration and Registrar David Tenney (Sid Richardson ’87) said the CUC oversees proposals regarding the undergraduate curriculum, including creation of a new major or new minor and distribution, transfer and advanced placement credit. Tenney serves as a non-voting advisor to the CUC and said he was involved in the add-drop proposal, as well as the creation of the neuroscience minor and the new Center for Civic Leadership certificate. Student Association President Ravi Sheth said the SA appoints four representatives to the CUC each year who are responsible for gathering and representing undergraduate opinion, as well as sharing the activities of the CUC with the undergraduate body. “While student opinion is certainly of utmost importance with any decision that affects the undergraduate curriculum, students should understand that any change to the curriculum is ultimately a decision left to the faculty,” Sheth said. “This is reflected in the current structure of the CUC: Students are  well-represented in the process, but ultimately the final decision and authority lays with the faculty through Faculty Senate.”Moody said the CUC student representatives will give an update about the CUC after every meeting at Senate. “We’re trying to get thev word out a bit more, trying to be more open to the student body,” Moody said. “I think that’s been pretty effective.”University Court Chair Brian Baran was one of the student writers opposing the CUC’s add-drop proposal. Baran said the student representatives to the CUC are one piece of providing student input, but those students may not be able to represent every perspective in the student body without additional input. Baran said good communication depends on the SA executive committee as well."It's not just the CUC deciding when to provide information; it's also when the SA officers feel the need to bring something before the larger student body," Baran said. "There are choices both on the part of these faculty or university committees and on the part of the SA leadership that are involved in deciding when proposals come in from of the student body as a whole."According to McIntosh, the Faculty Senate recommends potential CUC members to the president, who appoints them, after which the Student Association is asked for nominations for student representatives. The CUC is further broken down into subcommittees, each of which has a student representative.CUC Student Representative Kristi Fu said she believes the CUC likes to have student input, but that the 90-minute meetings may not be long enough to achieve student input.“The meetings aren’t long enough to actually have sufficient input from everyone who wants to speak,” Fu, a Brown College senator and sophomore, said. “They have to get the agenda moving.“McIntosh said faculty members have difficulty scheduling times to meet as the CUC, which is why more frequent or longer meetings are not possible. She also said while some committees may not have faculty representatives from all academic departments, the committees try to contact all stakeholders. The committees also bring topics to the CUC as a whole, which has more representation. “We may end up hearing from engineering, for example, that their particular circumstances were not taken into consideration,” McIntosh said. “Then it’s back to the drawing board, and we work with the engineers at that point.”According to McIntosh, some issues that the CUC has addressed recently include a way to create international exchange programs for Rice students. Tenney said the CUC had also been working on a Rice Center for Engineering Leadership certificate.

Leebron visits Senate, addresses state of university

(10/07/14 5:16pm)

President David Leebron presented on the state of the university at the Student Association Senate meeting Wednesday, discussing topics from long-term initiatives to changes in student makeup and priority, followed by a question and answer session.Leebron began his speech with an analysis of the mission statement and Edgar Odell Lovett’s vision of Rice as a place of both learning and teaching.“One of my favorite developments at Rice was the student-taught courses or college courses,” Leebron said. “I can’t think of many things that represent the philosophy of this university much more than that.”Leebron introduced his key ideas in education, including: logical evolution/revolution, changing value proposition, access and affordability, financial sustainability/research funding, sexual assault and campus climate, athletics model and rankings. Leebron continued on to describe the efforts of the students and administration on the sexual assault policy.“I think this has been a good area in which students and administration have worked together,” Leebron said. “It’s something we all have to take seriously and we all have to bring a Rice philosophy to it, which is this culture of care.”Leebron addressed Rice’s recent drop in Princeton Review’s quality of life and happiness rankings and said the control that students feel over their environment contributes to Rice historical performance in rankings.“We pay attention to [U.S. News and World Report rankings] and think about what we can do, but no we’re not going to do those things that violate our fundamental commitment, and that includes commitment to access to our education,” Leebron said.A few of the areas being considered after this year’s ranking release include the graduation rate, class sizes, and how well known Rice is.“The way U.S. News works, it makes a big difference between whether the graduation rate is 91 percent or 93 percent,” Leebron said. “That’s a big thing, and we ought to be better at that than everybody else. And we’re pretty good. We’re around a 90 percent graduation rate in six years.”Leebron said he had numerous priorities for the new century: strategic academic priorities, school investments, campus infrastructure investments, and administrative effectiveness and efficiency. School investment includes investing in overburdened departments such as psychology and economics. “When I went to school, people would say what we were paying for is what happens in the classroom and the grading of exams, a major, transcript, and degree, and that’s 75 percent of what I’m paying for,” Leebron said. “That 75 percent has been reduced in my mind to something like 25 percent.”Leebron said he stressed research and student leadership as integral parts of the Rice experience that should be given a formal and educational framework. New certificates are being created to reflect students’ efforts in a historical record after they have graduated.Since fall 2003, the student body has gone from 55 percent caucasian to 43 percent caucasian and Asian-American students comprise 26 percent of the student body, up from 15 percent. The international student population represents 12 percent of the student body; it represented 3 percent of the student body in 2003.“The most dramatic is the change in the diversity of the undergraduate student body,” Leebron said. “This particular calculation takes out international students, [who] don’t count as part of the diversity; they’re just international students. That gives you the sense of a very changed student body.”Duncan College Senator Louis Lesser asked Leebron about his four priorities for the new century and whether any of them were more pressing than the others“Those are a little more like buckets than priorities you have to pay attention to,” Leebron said.  “Originally, the first formulation of this didn’t have [school] investments. When we saw the success that we had in economics, we realized that sometimes what the school most needs is not part of some university-wide vision: building a great economics department may be the next thing we need.”Leebron said he hopes to develop more interaction between the graduate and undergraduate departments, such as with the Jones school and the creation of the business minor. He said collaborations between the SA and the Graduate Student Association were also important in this process.

Forum on Ferguson draws large crowd

(10/01/14 3:51am)

A panel of faculty, staff and students held a town hall discussion entitled “Mobilizing Student Dialogue: What happened in Ferguson? Could it happen here?” to address the shooting of Michael Brown. The event, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Civic Leadership, had more people in attendance than could be seated at Farnsworth Pavillion. Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9. His death led to protests and continued unrest. According to Felicia Martin, Associate Director of the CCL, the purpose of the town hall was to create a safe space for diverse perspectives and inquiry.“We hope that this conversation will inspire you all to challenge your own assumptions and the assumptions that your peers might have about some of these issues,” Martin said. Donald Bowers II (Hanszen ‘91), Association of Rice Alumni Board President, served as the moderator for the conversation. The event was divided into two parts; in the first, panelists presented on police brutality against people of color and, in the second, panelists answered audience questions. Associate professor of history Alexander Byrd discussed the history of the killing of African-American youth in American history, according to Bowers. Byrd said students should educate themselves as scholar-activists.“The methods of social control and the violence meted out to so-called New Negroes in the late 19th century is of a kind of similar type of violence that is often meted out to African-Americans now,” Byrd said. “I don’t think that 2014, in this context, is a new era.”Associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese Luis Duno-Guttberg discussed criminalization of minorities and mass incarceration, as well as racial profiling.“Racial profiling rests in a visual regime, [fed] by a series of cultural discourses that fit into seeing the other as the criminal,” Duno-Guttberg said. “This is not connected to a single policeman who is racist. There is a whole history that constructs that whole visual regime.”Rice University Police Department Chief Johnny Whitehead said there are reasons other than bias to explain why events such as the Ferguson shooting occur, including poor training, lack of equipment, poor recruitment processes and lack of accountability when these events do occur. Whitehead also said he encourages students to know their rights during police encounters.“There are some things that we can do when we have an encounter with a police officer, in terms of how we react,” Whitehead said. “Make sure that you’re doing everything to keep the encounter safe as well.”The three student panelists included Rice Democrats Outreach Co-Chair James Carter, Women’s Resource Center Wellness Coordinator Michelle Pham and Will Rice College junior Abraham Younes.“I’m proud to be black, but in recent years, being black has been something that has scared me a lot,” Carter said. “With what happened to Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, it scares me that I can step outside my home and not come back because of some miscommunication, whether I made it or whether someone else [mis]understood it.”Younes said a night when he was jaywalking and was passed by police caused him to draw parallels between his life and Brown’s. Brown had been walking in the the street when he was shot. “How many more black boys and brown boys have to die before we realize that this is not about one cop?” Younes said. Several audience members contributed to the discussion, causing the event to run longer than its planned 90 minutes.Paige Polk, a Martel College senior, said she grew up surrounded by black males who were taught to regulate their behavior around authority figures and assumed that females were immune to discrimination. Polk said the discussion had been geared toward black and Latino men.“Are the conversations we’re having about black and brown men because they do face more targeted oppression, or is it implicit of sexism?” Polk said.Batter responded to Polk with a discussion on how men of color may behave a certain way in the presence of authority, and how social rules are taught to children. According to Batter, the way people of color must be aware of their behaviors from an early age indicates it has become their responsibility to respond to prejudice.“Quite frankly, although I appreciate the comments about ‘This is what I have to do when I walk into a store,’ you shouldn’t have to do those things,” Batter said. “Nobody should have to do those things. If men are being told you have to do this so you don’t get killed, know that it’s your responsibility, that’s unconscionable. ”Carter spoke after the event about engaging students who do not feel involved in issues such as Brown’s shooting.“While you might look at a situation and say this has nothing to do with me, I’m not a black, young male in Missouri, that doesn’t mean that you or the people you care about are not affected,” Carter said. “Everyone is affected when things like this happen.”

Working group looks to students

(09/17/14 5:33pm)

The Working Group on University Responses to Federal Initiatives on Sexual Assault continues to seek student opinion on the new sexual assault policy, according to Associate Vice Provost Matthew Taylor. Taylor and Lovett College President Meghan Davenport, the student representative of the working group, gauged opinions at the Student Association Senate meeting on Sept. 10.

Working group to address sexual assault at Rice

(08/28/14 7:19pm)

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, the General Council and President David Leebron assembled the Working Group on University Responses to Federal Initiatives on Sexual Assault in June, according to Associate Vice Provost Matthew Taylor. The group formed in order to address federal measures as well as to continue changes already in progress.