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Registration prioritizes students needing LPAP

(04/12/14 3:44pm)

Initiating in fall 2014, the Esther Course Registration planner will give students who have not taken a Lifetime Physical Activity Program course additional priority within their registration group when registering for one, according to Vice President for Administration of the Office of the Registrar David Tenney (Sid ‘87).“The Academics Committee of the Student Association forwarded to us a report on fall registration, based on student survey input,” Tenney said. “It included several recommendations, such as more emphasis being placed on getting instructors to post their course syllabus online, et cetera. One area of requested enhancement was to prioritize LPAP registration so that seniors who have not completed an LPAP are ensured enrollment in an LPAP.”Tenney said he shared the report with Administrative Systems, which manages registration on Esther, and the group implemented the changes.“A desired impact of this change, as noted in the SA report, will be that rising seniors should have a better chance of getting a needed or desired LPAP over a student that already has one or more LPAPs in their academic history,” Tenney said.Those in a lower registration group than seniors will still have lower priority than seniors who have taken more than one LPAP.According to Tenney, the overall registration process for continuing students will be identical to that of the last couple of years, with the initial prioritized registration, and the secondary, staggered opening of the add/drop period.

Survey set to evaluate academic experience

(02/04/14 6:00pm)

The University Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and the Student Association collaborated during the fall semester and over winter break to create a survey that evaluates current academic policies and will lead to recommending specific updates to these policies, according to Student Association External Vice President Ravi Sheth. John Cornwell, the associate vice president of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, said feedback from undergraduate students will be sought in the decision-making process. "There's an interest in each of these groups and the constituency they represent [regarding] students dropping courses after add/drop deadline and international study-abroad credit transfers," Cornwell said. "Similarly, we'd like to know more about student experiences with transferring credit from summer school. We'd like to find out the facts and the opinions of the entire undergraduate population here."According to Sheth, the CUC has discussed these issues internally with several undergraduate representatives, including college senators and SA Academics committee chairs. Some of the changes currently under consideration include the difficulty that students have with registering for their required courses due to students who drop classes after the add/drop period. Sheth also identified transfer credit issues that undergraduate students face."With regards to transfer credit, the university needs to understand barriers to receiving transfer credit and how this process can be streamlined," Sheth said. "All of these changes need to be informed by students, and that is why the survey and student response is such an important part of this process."John Haug, a Martel College freshman, said he experienced trouble with registration this semester."The most difficulty I faced was with registering for FWIS courses, because when there are a lot of people who are not getting their first or second choice, the process becomes inefficient and frustrating," Haug said. "I also only had two classes by the time registration ended, so I ended up having to struggle with add/drop, and luckily, one of my courses added spots."According to Registrar David Tenney (Sid '87), the survey is uniquely designed to be highly specific and relevant to individual students."Instead of just sending a survey that's extremely general, [these groups are] working together and providing data so that the survey will be targeted to each student individually," Tenney said. "Each student will be able to answer questions about their specific academic history, why they could or could not get a course to transfer in, and why they have dropped courses after the add deadline. It will give students the opportunity to speak specifically, and it'll give us the opportunity to understand this at a much more relevant level."Due to the specificity of the survey and the improvements that students could see, Sheth, Tenney and Cornwell encouraged student participation."I would ask students to definitely complete the survey," said Tenney. "It's a wonderful opportunity to be heard. We're all working on this to make the survey as streamlined, [user-friendly]and as relevant as possible."According to Cornwell, the survey will be sent out at the end of this week and will be conducted for approximately two weeks. After this period, the CUC will analyze the data to identify any relevant issues and consider potential solutions. Some changes may take longer than others to implement and may lead into the fall 2014 semester.

RechargeU store charged with five health violations

(01/27/14 6:00pm)

The convenience store RechargeU violated five city ordinances during a routine health inspection on Jan. 15, with one employee caught opening a coffee bag with his or her teeth, according to the City of Houston website. These violations are: employees failed to wash their hands, soap was unavailable at washing stations, food was unprotected from contamination, single-use containers were used more than once and food contact surfaces had a greasy or dusty crust.RechargeU is located in the Rice Memorial Center and is operated by Barnes & Noble Inc., according to the Rice dining website. Beath Leaver, the contract administrator for Rice and Barnes & Noble operations in the students center, released a statement on behalf of the company."The behavior of the Barnes & Noble employee violated the city of Houston health code as well as Rice University standards as expressed in our contract," Leaver said. "Barnes & Noble understands this and has taken responsibility and appropriate action. We appreciate and value the contributions Barnes & Noble offers to the campus community in the student center."According to the City of Houston website, the dusty or greasy food service violation was corrected on-site. The comment under food contamination stated that an employee had opened a coffee bag using his or her teeth, and the comment for the food contact surface with a greasy or dusty crust indicated that a food thermometer was not properly sanitized. The strongest violations were that of an employee failing to wash his or her hands and the employee opening the bag with his or her teeth. The Houston Health Department weighted both violations weighted a four out of five, with five being the highest violation.According to Bureau Chief of Consumer Health Services Patrick Key, restaurants that are found to be in violation of health codes are then directed to correct the violations, and given a time period within which to comply. "[The time period] depends on the violation," Key said. "An imminent health hazard must be corrected immediately, and it often depends on the officer as to how long the restaurant owner is given. Violations [such as those of RechargeU] should be fixed right away."Duncan College freshman Cylaina Bird was unaware of the health code violations at RechargeU and said she found these violations disconcerting."I would never expect for any place on campus that sells hot food to display such a blatant disregard for the health of the student body," Bird said. "Though I cannot say whether or not I will completely stop shopping there, it will definitely make me pause before I make any food purchase at RechargeU again."Martel College freshman Jaskeerat Gulati said he frequently shops at RechargeU and has previously purchased hot food items from the store."I didn't know that this happened," Gulati said. "Now I don't think I'm going to purchase anything from there, even if it's not hot food. "[RechargeU] should publicize this, but emphasize how they are changing and making things safer for consumers. Everyone deserves to know the truth."

Faculty Senate working group to discuss Honor Council

(01/20/14 6:00pm)

The Faculty Senate has assembled a Working Group on the Honor Council and Graduate Students, according to an email from Speaker of the Faculty Senate Carl Caldwell and working group chair Graham Bader.According to Bader, who is an associate professor of art history, the growth of Rice's graduate student population and its diversification prompted the formation of the working group.He said the group is seeking the opinions and comments of the Rice community on the functioning of the Honor Code with regard to graduate students to guide its evaluation."The [working group] hopes to solicit feedback related to its charge and make appropriate recommendations, if any, to the Faculty Senate," Bader said. "I have no specific expectations, [but] I do hope we'll receive thoughtful and productive comments."The working group includes students and faculty from several different groups, including the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, the Office of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Student Association, Student Judicial Programs and the Graduate Student Council, according to the Faculty Senate website.According to Honor Council Chair Adriana Bracho, both undergraduate and graduate students must sign the Honor Code when they begin their Rice career. Bracho, a McMurtry College senior, serves as an undergraduate representative to the working group."We've had one meeting [so far] to introduce everyone on the working group and [decide on] asking the students and faculty about their opinion on the Honor Code," Bracho said. "I hope to bring the undergraduates' perspective, and I'm also there to clarify a lot of points about the Honor Council and the Honor Code."Graduate Student Association President Michael "Goat" Domeracki said he thinks the formation of the working group is beneficial."The Honor Code is a complex and very important element of student life here at Rice and any opportunity to evaluate it further is worth pursuing," Domeracki said. "I know our graduate student representatives to the council have done an amazing job and have raised issues in the past that need to be investigated more thoroughly."Domeracki said the difference between graduate and undergraduate students should be considered when looking at the Honor Code."The graduate experience is different than the undergraduate, and the same Honor Code rules may not apply equitably to both, and I am glad, though not surprised, to see the university working with both faculty and students to evaluate the policy closely," Domeracki said. "This is just a further example of the great relationship the students have with the university administration."Bader said the working group plans to present its findings to the Faculty Senate by mid-March.

Leebron announces commencement changes

(01/13/14 6:00pm)

Future Saturday morning commencement ceremonies have been shortened and will no longer include the individual naming of degree recipients. Instead, each degree-level will have a smaller ceremony the day before, at which degree recipients will be named, according to an email from President David Leebron on Jan. 10.The invited commencement speaker, full academic procession, conferral of degrees and walk through the Sallyport will remain on Saturday. The bachelor's degree ceremony will take place Friday evening in the Academic Quad and will recognize award winners and include speeches by members of the graduating class and by a faculty member, according to the email."What's been true of the Rice commencement is that it has been a wonderful tradition, but as we've grown and the length of the ceremony with it, we've lost some of the enthusiasm and joy, and that's what we need to focus on, in my view," Leebron said. "We want people to enjoy the moment a little more."Traditionally, there had been one ceremony for doctoral hooding Friday afternoon and a separate ceremony Saturday morning at which speakers present, and both undergraduates and graduates were called by name to walk across the stage. Leebron said that over the past few years, the undergraduate and graduate bodies have grown steadily, and as a result, the ceremony has lengthened as well. The weather has also been a challenge, as the heat can get intense and the rain plans involve fitting thousands of people inside Tudor Fieldhouse."I would never describe [commencement] as a disaster the way it is, but I actually think it could be a more memorable, exciting experience for students and their families," Leebron said. "Nobody really likes sitting uncomfortably for three hours. [The new ceremonies] will [also provide] opportunities for student speakers, which we didn't have before."According to Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Paula Sanders, three committees were formed to address different aspects of the changes to the commencement ceremony. A committee co-chaired by Sanders and Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson created the schedule and new ceremonies for commencement with the help of Chief Marshal Keith Cooper, who was in charge of logistics. "This committee included the presidents of the undergraduate and graduate student associations, one of the masters and a couple of additional students in leadership positions," Sanders said. A second committee headed by Hutchinson and consisting of undergraduate students is planning a new undergraduate ceremony. The third committee, chaired by Sanders and consisting of students from several different master's degree programs, is planning the new master's degree ceremony.Sid Richardson College senior Michael Lam was not a part of any committees, but will be experiencing this new commencement ceremony."It's great that they are personalizing the event for undergraduates, but the issue would be the date and time," Lam said. "Having it at night, no matter the proposed lighting conditions, can be an issue for post-graduation events like photos. Also, some family relatives may not be able to make it on time since [it's] technically on a workday with potential flight complications on Friday.""Undoubtedly, there are some risks, but we'll have to see how it works." Leebron said. "My guess is [commencement] will continue to evolve over time."Brown College Senior Shaurya Agarwal said he thinks the changes are a definite move in the right direction. "I think  the resasoning behind it is a good compromise," Agarwal said. "Obviously they have to work out a few things, but everyon'es biggest complaint [about the old ceremony] was that it was too long and too hot, and [the changes] will help solve that. It's nice that the university considered student input and what everyone didn't like about the previous ceremonies."  

H&D aims to eliminate paper waste

(11/18/13 6:00pm)

Housing and Dining is currently working to create a sustainable takeout container system for use in the serveries, according to H&D Senior Business Director David McDonald."One of the things we've been grappling with for years is a defined takeout program," McDonald said. "We don't have a [policy] more defined than just a paper plate and a paper cup and some plastic utensils. We've been really struggling with this over the years to find a middle ground that works for everybody, and we haven't figured it out yet. Hopefully, we can create some dialogue among the students, which is hard to do on this campus because of the 11 distinct college governments [that come with the residential college system]."McDonald said he has been communicating with the EcoReps at each college and with the Student Association about the best way to serve the student body. He said H&D is considering letting students pay $5 in tetra points by swiping their ID card for a plastic container. Students could then return the container for a refund of their points, after which H&D would wash the containers for reuse. These containers would potentially have one large compartment and two small ones and would function as snapware.McDonald said students often consider taking their own plastic containers into the serveries for takeout meals but that this is a health code violation in Houston because the container is not washed and regulated by the servery. McDonald also said students who bring the food into their college commons on a ceramic plate and then transfer it to their own plastic container are practicing bad servery behavior that could be considered looting.McDonald said health code violations also occur if students use the same plate they previously ate off of to get second helpings. He also said eating at the station or in line is discouraged for the same reasons."If you use a dirty plate, we will ask you to drop it off and take a clean plate," McDonald said. "But we can't defend against all of these [violations]. If we see people eating at the station, we'll warn you that it's not good hygiene and that you should think of your fellow students."However, McDonald said he encourages students to use reusable water bottles to minimize waste from paper cups. He said this would not violate the health code because bottles should not touch any of the nozzles on the water dispensaries. Lovett College senior Brian Strasters said he conducted a survey to gauge the student body's interest in implementing plastic takeout containers. He said his findings concluded that most students would use these containers in order to take food back into their dorm rooms or studying areas for academic reasons and that the majority of students would be interested in to-go boxes, but would prefer that the paper plates remained in the servery.According to McDonald, if H&D implemented plastic containers, the servery would discontinue the use of paper plates altogether to minimize cost and waste. He said H&D spends approximately $100,000 each year on to-go paper products and that purchasing a reusable container for every student would cost about $15,000 and save money that the department could use to improving the food in the serveries."We're spending $35 per person on paper, which doesn't even count all the Chinaware and tumblers," McDonald said. "The idea is we want to spend money on the food, not the plates - that's kind of our motto right now. I want all of us to help each other; I can help students with the rates if they help us out, too. We're trying to figure out a more economical takeout program, and if I could get [H&D's] stuff back, that would be great."However, Section 2(c) of the Rice University Campus Housing Agreement for the 2013-14 academic year states, "Disposables are available for take out, but is not All You Care To Eat [sic]." McDonald said that although H&D recognizes that plastic containers are not the perfect fix, a more drastic change might disrupt the normal flow in the servery.According to McDonald, the issue with implementing a to-go policy arises within the residential college structure at Rice. He said it becomes difficult to control the use of plastic containers when students do not have a few centralized dining halls and one commons."We've been toying around with [the idea of plastic containers] for several years and seeing if this is something students would be interested in doing," McDonald said. "[But] we don't really have any restrictions on if you take a China plate out of the servery. At the end of the day, we realized, we have no defense against that. But we're not against the takeout either. We're just trying to find a better, more environmentally friendly way to administer [a] takeout program without paper products."Martel College freshman Ly Nguyen said she prefers using plastic containers to the paper products."I think replacing the plastic bowls and paper [plates] with these to-go containers would reduce waste tremendously and would be extremely convenient for students who wish to take their food outside of the commons," Nguyen said. "I would definitely use them."Hanszen College freshman Peter Yun said he was skeptical of the initiative."I strongly believe Rice students wouldn't really use this resource until they were presented with how and exactly why using these containers would benefit the environment," Yun said. "Also, it would have to be easily accessible to students because most students wouldn't go out of their way to get the container."McDonald said he wants H&D to work with students to find a system that is amenable to everyone."[H&D] is here to work with people, but we can't break code," McDonald said. "But at the end of the day, I'm here to talk with you. If anybody ever wants to come see me, they can come talk to me anytime. We're here to solve this [issue] together. Again, we want to spend our budget on food, not the paper."

Private gala marks Baker Institute 20th anniversary

(11/05/13 6:00pm)

The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy will celebrate its 20th anniversary Nov. 8 with a private gala featuring former President George W. Bush, according to Ambassador Edward Djerejian, the institute's founding director.According to the Baker Institute website, the gala will honor Hushang Ansary with the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership, an award given to individuals who have gained international recognition for their work in government, science or philanthropy. Ansary has been active in both the private and public sectors. A native of Iran, Ansary has served in cabinet positions there, including as the minister of economy and minister of finance and economic affairs. He has also served as the ambassador to the United States. Ansary is also a founding member of the Baker Institute. The event will also celebrate the Baker Institute's contribution to policy worldwide. According to a 2012 study by the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, the Baker Institute ranks 13th among university-affiliated think tanks worldwide."At that event, we'll be recognizing all of our fellows and our scholars, as well as our student forums and student internship exchanges," Djerejian said. "The overall goal of this event is to commemorate symbolically the 20th year of an institute that has arisen really from a very small operation."Djerejian, who served as a diplomat in the United States government for 32 years, said the Baker Institute has been highlighting its research over the course of 2013 in order to commemorate the anniversary. He said the institute focuses on several areas of research, including international economics, energy, health policy, space policy and Middle East relations.According to Djerejian, the Baker Institute first opened its doors in 1994, modeling itself after some of the best think tanks in the world. However, the founders focused on making the research relevant to Houston and Rice students; energy policy was chosen to be the first topic of research because the energy industry is integral not only to public policy, but also to Houston's economy. The founders also incorporate space and health policy into the institute's research because of the proximity of NASA and the Texas Medical Center.Djerejian said Rice students are an integral part of the institute, and said he encourages them to engage in the discussions, forums and debates at the Baker Institute. According to Djerejian, the Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program offered by the institute is one of the most rewarding internships offered by Rice, allowing students to actively participate in the federal government."It's difficult to create something new in any institutional structure in academia, and it takes a lot of reaching out, listening and forming productive collaborations with faculty, students and administration," Djerejian said. "We had a very, very [difficult] challenge: What were we going to do here at Rice in Houston to become a premier think tank? Our vision was a very high one: that we would be a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action [by] bringing together scholars, statements and students."The celebration of the anniversary will continue Nov. 9 with the event Club Berlin. According to the Baker Institute Anniversary website, this event will honor James A. Baker III's contribution to the fall of the Berlin Wall, with honorary event chairs Jenna Hager Bush and Henry Hager. The event will feature a more casual dress code of "Punk-Chic: Chaos to Cocktails," and New York City-based DJ KISS. Tickets to the gala start at $1,500, and tickets to Club Berlin cost $100. Both can be purchased online.

Rice's religious communities

(10/28/13 7:00pm)

Faith. You think you have it in full, you have lost it again, there is little in you and you utter "amen." In my first two months at Rice, I found the most startling characteristic of the Rice student body to be its strength of faith. The sheer number of religiously and spiritually affiliated clubs speaks volumes - 23 different opportunities to seek guidance and to learn. Yet when we look closely at the way religion at Rice has both unified many and alienated some, we see there is by no means a resource for everyone.As a rather sheltered Californian, I had not known many young people my age who were particularly or very openly religious. So, when I came here, I began to observe and effectively formulate the idea of a Culture of Christianity. Out of the 23 religious organizations on campus, 21 are based on and teach from the Bible. Christianity comes in many shades; Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and Catholics can all find a niche in at least one of these clubs, if not more. These clubs are not just for religious guidance, either - many are social and support groups as well. A typical Friday night Chi Alpha meeting involves an hour of spiritual learning, after which the second half of the meeting is devoted to a frozen yogurt trip or an outing to a restaurant. After weeks of sampling churches and fellowships, students can choose a place where they have found their own. In these clubs, not only is the soul satisfied, but also friendships are fostered and relationships are refined. And as such, Christianity develops from a religion into a culture, with clubs unifying their members in a way akin to that of the residential college system.My only problem: What about the rest of us?The only two other religiously affiliated clubs on campus are based on Islam and Judaism,  respectively. There is no freedom of choice, no variety in beliefs. If a student does not like the way the club is structured, so be it. Moreover, those who do not adhere to one of the Big Three religions are offered no centralized group at all; Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs are left on their own. There are also little to no avenues for spiritual fulfillment outside of a religious context, either; agnostics and atheists could use a network as well. Everyone should have the opportunity to explore their spirituality and to be a part of the unifying culture of faith, whether they identify with a particular religion or not. College is often the first time one has the independence to develop one's beliefs, and it is necessary that students have a support group to turn to in trying times. As the student body, it is up to us to continue embracing the diversity Rice emphasizes so much. By promoting religious tolerance and mitigating ignorance, we can ensure all students have a chance to be a part of their own culture of faith. Anita Alem  is a Martel College freshman.

IT warns students about dangers of downloading

(10/28/13 7:00pm)

Downloading Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation or The Legend of Korra can garner a $20,000 fine, but that has not stopped Rice students from doing it. According to Information Technology Security Officer Marc Scarborough, those shows are some of the few that have recently had a large amount of downloads.Scarborough said Rice's IT department does not monitor student activity and responds solely to notices from companies directly contacting him regarding copyright infringement from downloading on the Rice Owls network."[The IT department doesn't] detect illegal activity," Scarborough said. "It's not Rice. It's [the content provider] deciding how they want to distribute material."Scarborough said he has previously received notices for illegal downloads of music, movies, games, software, and textbooks or e-books through programs including BitTorrent, uTorrent, Ares and eMonkey."It's all over the place. It seems like there are patterns of 'today it's HBO and Game of Thrones,' next week it's e-books, some days it's movies, some days it's music," Scarborough said. "There's not a consistent thing about it ... There might be three [notices] a week, or there might be 15 a week. I'd say on average, [we receive] three or four [notices] a week."Scarborough said the notices he receives contain information on the material downloaded and the time and date it was accessed, as well as the Internet Protocol address of the computer used for downloading. He said he then connects the IP address to a specific user on the network - almost always a student - and passes the case on to Student Judicial Programs.Senior Associate General Counsel Joe Davidson said Rice receives 300 to 350 copyright infringement notifications per year for illegal downloads.Due to the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, every source that acts as an Internet service provider, which includes Rice University, must have an individual who can act as the agent of service and process. Davidson acts as the contact for Rice University and thus receives the notices from companies."For music and movies, the notices come from the rights holders, while pornography copyrights are typically enforced by umbrella organizations," Davidson said. "You're seeing a lot of increased enforcement [over the past six years] because the enforcement is [no longer] done manually; it's done by Web crawlers."Davidson said there has been a large increase in the enforcement of pornography copyright laws in the last two years.He said that unlike music, television and movie copyright holders, which typically send a warning letter, pornography enforcement companies directly send a settlement letter meant for the person who downloaded the material. In such cases, the student would then have to pay the associated fines to the company and possibly seek legal counsel. "I encourage students to be very careful with their activities on the Web," Davidson said. "Copyrights can be enforced against you, and you can be liable for statutory damages, [which are] mandatory minimum fines [that may be] $20,000 per violation. It's not worth it. Go buy the copy."Charlotte Larson, a Jones College sophomore, said she was fined $100 because she had illegally downloaded music in spring 2012. As a result, her computer was placed under quarantine, which invalidates a student's Rice Owls network connection. Once she paid the fine, the quarantine was removed, but she was fined once more a month later for illegally downloading music again. Larson said she later realized a program in the "Trash" folder in her computer had been uploading music without her knowledge. "The fine had increased [since the first violation], and I didn't think it was fair," Larson said. "[I was willing] to pay $50 [of the increased fine] for the fact that it was my mistake, but at the same time, I was not actively downloading any music. [SJP] basically said that I could go through the appeal process, which could waste a lot of my time and cause my fine to actually increase."University Court Chair Evan Austin said students who dispute sanctions recommended by SJP have the right to request that their case be referred to UCourt, but such a referral requires the agreement of both the student and SJP."I've never heard of [increased sanctions for appealing a case] being a procedure, and if that's true, I would be concerned, but I've never heard of that," Austin, a Duncan College senior, said.Larson said she paid the fine in full and chose not to appeal SJP's decision. However, even after she paid the fine, her computer was still under quarantine. According to Larson, she visited the IT department at least three times a week over a period of two to three weeks before her computer was unquarantined."IT kept saying it was my computer's fault, and in the process of trying to get my Internet [access] back, they actually caused my hard drive to crash," Larson said. "One of the higher-ups in IT had failed to communicate to the person in charge of [removing the quarantine on] the computer that I was, in fact, ready to be unquarantined."According to Larson, for most of her ordeal, she received help from students at the IT Help Desk. She said she was happy with the aid she received from the students at the IT Help Desk but said she would have preferred to speak with someone higher up in the IT department much sooner than she was able to."It was extremely challenging for me to be quarantined because all of my homework assignments and notes were online. I wish that the process had happened quicker," Larson said. "I'm not trying to attack IT - what happened was a genuine mistake - but there could be some improvements in the communication within IT."Baker College sophomore Victor Prieto said the punishment for illegal downloading should reflect the circumstances surrounding it, regardless of the material."Textbooks are still intellectual property, and if you need it for a class, you should pay for it," Prieto said. "I don't think that downloading music should be penalized more than downloading textbooks, even [in] an academic context."Student Computer Consultant Wesley Fan, who an employee of the IT Help Desk, said a distinction should be made between what the Help Desk can and cannot do."The Help Desk is part of IT, but the network administrators are in charge of [the quarantine] process," Fan, a Martel College junior said. "If you have questions about what is considered illegal or legal, the IT Help Desk can answer those questions."Scarborough said students who have questions about the legality of downloading on the Rice Owls network should approach IT."Generally, my advice to people is 'if it's something you normally have to pay for, then it's something you should be wary of,' " Scarborough said. "We have one policy from IT that directly impacts students: Don't break the law. Don't infringe on anyone's copyright."

SA renovates website to increase transparency

(10/21/13 7:00pm)

The Student Association unveiled its renovated website Oct. 7, according to SA President Yoonjin Min. "We've been thinking a lot about how to be more transparent and more accessible this year, and we feel that a website, if it's done correctly, is a great resource for people," Min, a Jones College senior, said. "We didn't feel that our previous website had those capabilities."The new website, still located at, features the SA's current projects, its members and ways of getting involved, as well as event promotions and Vines. The site also provides direct ways for students to offer their opinions and concerns via an online forum. A new Gantt Project Tracker allows students to see the progress on the SA's different ventures.External Vice President Ravi Sheth said he worked extensively on renovating the site and that his goal in creating the site was to benefit the student body as much as possible."We feel that the website is now a great way to communicate and spread information to the undergraduate body," Sheth, a Martel College junior, said. "We would certainly appreciate any input to improve in that regard."The site also provides a new online petition system. According to the site, the SA will guarantee a written response from an appropriate Rice University administrator if any petition gets at least 250 student signatures.Min said the creation of the petition system was sparked partly by the response to the parking petition started by Duncan College junior Laurel Bingman earlier this year. "[The parking petition] was a really good way students were showing what they were passionate about," Min said. "However, students were sending it to their friends via Facebook, and it didn't reach as many students as it could have. Since [the SA is] a centralized group on campus, we can use our reach to involve more students [in the petition process]."Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said petitions have not been necessary in the past because students with concerns have always been able to access administrators such as himself and President David Leebron."My reaction is that this is neither good nor bad, but unnecessary," Hutchinson said. "It's not necessary to go through the difficulty of the petition process to be heard .... There are maybe more efficient ways to communicate. I don't know what would motivate the start of a petition as opposed to a normal communication process."Hutchinson said he encourages interaction from students via email and emphasized that there are many avenues for their voices. He said it may be easier for students to approach him or the SA directly with their concerns, as opposed to filling out a petition."Even if I get a petition from 250 students, my response will be 'How do other students feel about this?' because 250 students is less than 10 percent of the student body," Hutchinson said. "The SA is a centralized view of the student body, and that's why it is a more effective communication vehicle."Brown College sophomore Eric Yin said he did not know about the new SA website or the petition system. "I've never really looked for the SA website," Yin said. "There's been no reason for me to, and I never really hear about the effects of the SA in daily life. [The petition system] sounds like something that if I knew about previously, I would use."According to Min, the goal of the petition system is not to increase the number of petitions the administration receives, but to provide students with another avenue for advocacy."If a lot of students want to [advocate through] petitions, that's awesome," Min said. "And if it doesn't really take off and we only see petitions once a semester, that's fine, too. It's really about giving students the ability to say that they care about something or they find issue with something and being able to put it down and communicate it to the student body and the administration."

Rice Wi-Fi complaints increase

(10/08/13 7:00pm)

In recent weeks, Rice University Information Technology has seen an increase in the number of complaints associated with the Rice Owls Wi-Fi network, according to Director of Networking, Telecommunications and Data Center Operations William Deigaard. Deigaard said IT tracks the number of complaints through a ticketing system, in which patrons who contact the IT Help Desk can open a ticket so that their case is properly managed."We have noticed a general trend toward a larger number of tickets coming in, with people saying that [they] can't get connected or [their] signal is weak," Deigaard said. "There are lots of causes that all sort of converge at the same time."The reasons for the Wi-Fi difficulties include power failures, interfering devices and old drivers on computers, according to Deigaard. However, Deigaard said the main issue was a large influx of wireless devices."Everybody's showed up with a laptop, an iPhone or an Android device, [or] a tablet of some sort," Deigaard said. "One of the big problems is the sheer number of devices competing for the shared space. Think of the wireless as a fixed-size freeway. With four cars, everybody gets all the lanes they want. [With] 500 cars on it, they're still moving, [but] it's just a lot slower, and your experience is not as good."Senior Network Architect Danny Eaton said there are several devices that connect to the same radio frequency as that of networking devices, resulting in interference."Microwave ovens, Xbox controllers, Bluetooth keyboards, wireless speakers - all of that can contribute to interference and very poor performance," Eaton said. "[With] an Xbox 360, communication from the controller to the bay station is all in the 2.4 gigahertz. So if you have an [access point] in your room, you could be causing anybody using the 2.4 gigahertz on that access point ... to have problems."Martel College senior Denis Leahy said he recently had a new access point installed outside his dorm room."I've been having poor connection, and [the Internet] has been randomly disconnecting pretty frequently," Leahy said. "I haven't had any problems since [they installed the access point]."Deigaard said IT has made several improvements by adding access points in particularly problematic areas where students reported having connectivity issues. He said IT will be able to make the most effective adjustments if students report their connectivity issues along with where and when they occur. However, Deigaard said there is a limit to the effectiveness of adding access points in easing the connectivity issues."We are always looking for ways to advance the wireless network," Deigaard said. "Just about every enhancement requires money. Every time you add additional access points, you use up some of the [radio frequencies], and sometimes there isn't enough [radio frequency] to make that work. So one thing to do is to add more wireless."Deigaard said students also have another option besides wireless: an Ethernet connection."[A patch cord] is more inconvenient, but if you want to have a very, very good connected experience, you've got to think about using it," Deigaard said. "It takes you off the wireless road and pretty much gives you your own personal HOV lane. We're not saying that's the fix, but it's not like wireless is your only choice."Users can report issues with connecting to the Internet by emailing or calling the IT Help Desk at 713-348-4357.

West Lot parking causes headaches

(09/16/13 7:00pm)

Rice University parkers experienced difficulties in recent weeks due to the ongoing construction of the George R. Brown Tennis Complex in parts of West Lots 2 and 3, planned to be completed in June.The loss of 641 spots in these lots, accompanied by the loss of 350 spots in West Lot 4 due to the construction of the D. Kent and Linda C. Anderson and Robert L. and Jean T. Clarke Center, the new building for the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, resulted in the congestion, according to Parking Manager Michael Morgan.Morgan said those with permits for West Lot 3 are now allowed to park in West Lot 4 due to the parking obstructions. Previously, West Lots 2, 4 and 5 were open only to student, faculty and staff parkers with commuter permits. West Lot 3 had been reserved for resident permits.Morgan said this year, the Parking Office oversold West Lots 2, 4 and 5 by 12 percent but that in former years, these lots were oversold by more, so parking issues were not anticipated because the calculations of the available parking spaces and permits sold did not conflict with each other."By the numbers that we're seeing and what's happening out there, we're not exceeding what we have for [West Lot] permits," Morgan said. "I don't personally know of an overflow to Greenbriar [Lot]. Never have I known yet for us to have exceeded West Lot 5. A lot of the frustrations that I'm hearing are that, 'I used to park in West Lot 2, and it's [full] all the time now, and now I'm seeing myself in 4 or 5.' And that's a part of the permit."Duncan College senior Evan Austin said he had to purchase a permit for Greenbriar because permits in West Lot were sold out."I think there should be some sort of parking system that privileges seniority [in obtaining permits]because I don't know of many freshmen or sophomores that have the time, desire or necessity to engage with off campus opportunities to the extent that upperclassmen do," Austin said. "I go off-campus for an internship three times a week, and the trip out to Greenbriar makes that a lot more difficult. When I was an underclassmen, I used my car for the sole purpose of going to Target. Now, I'm using it to avoid unemployment next year."In a discussion on the parking issue hosted by the Student Association at its Sept. 9 meeting, several students expressed their frustration with congestion at the entrance of West Lot 4. Members proposed increasing shuttle services to Greenbriar and strengthening security.Duncan College junior Laurel Bingman said she expressed her discontent by creating the "Petition to Resolve the Commuter Parking Issue," which requests Rice University make amends by opening parking spaces closer to West Lot than Greenbriar or by reimbursing students who paid for West Lot parking. "I've had to park right next to the stadium, getting there at 9:30 a.m," Bingman said. "Some of my friends were telling me that they had to park in Greenbriar, [which is] more dangerous, and ... not what we paid for." Bingman said she believes the administration did not provide sufficient warning to students about the decreased number of parking spots when students were purchasing their permits."This felt like a decision that we were not even informed of until it was upon us," Bingman said. "What has bothered a lot of us even [more] than just the loss of parking is the fact that we felt like we weren't being told the whole truth from the beginning." Bingman said her petition gained more than 120 signatures in less than three days and that she presented the petition to President David Leebron during his office hours Sept. 10. Leebron said he was aware of the situation and that the university was seeking potential solutions. According to Leebron, some parking issues will most likely remain until the opening of the Glasscock School. He said Rice administration hopes to construct additional parking garages in the future to prevent shortages in parking but that current parking permit costs would not cover the price of a new parking garage."There are some shorter-term issues for parking and some longer-term issues, Leebron said. "We need to address the shorter-term issues ... before the end of the semester." Morgan said the parking issues stemmed not from the Parking Office overselling spots, but from people parking outside of the lots for which they purchased permits. Morgan said the Parking Office has been more strictly enforcing permits to ensure that only people with the proper permits are parking in the West Lots. "When [cars] are in the improper location, enforcement can be called by anyone to say we have people parking here that shouldn't be," Morgan said. "That happened very early on to make sure that people were getting notified that they were not in the right place."According to Morgan, the Parking Office has also improved the situation within the past week by painting 60 new spots distributed across West Lots 2, 3 and 4. Moreover, 90 people who no longer need to park in West Lot 4 have been relocated to Hess Lot. Morgan said students can also enter West Lot 4 quickly via Entrance 44, next to the practice field north of the Rice Stadium, which does not require students to scan their proximity cards to enter.Morgan said the Parking Office is always open to input from students and encouraged them to contact the department with any questions or comments. He said he hopes to increase the department's social media usage to keep students updated in real-time about different issues that might arise.Bingman said she would appreciate student involvement in Parking's decisions."In the future, it would be a lot better if we were kept informed and, if possible, parking issues were brought to the table, not only so that we can know about them ahead of time, but so that maybe we can even put in input to resolve future problems that might arise," Bingman said.