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Colleges to close Dec. 16

By Josh Rutenberg     12/2/10 6:00pm

For the second consecutive year, undergraduates living in the residential colleges will have to find another place to stay as the colleges shut down for winter break.The colleges will close from 4 p.m. Dec. 16 until 2 p.m. Jan. 8. During this time, students will not be allowed in the colleges without an escort from Housing and Dining or Rice University Police Department. Resident associates

and masters will be permitted to remain, Housing Operations Manager Mark Chaszar said, although he expects many RAs and masters will be leaving during the break period.

Chaszar said the decision to close down the colleges over the break serves two main purposes: safety and cost reduction.

In previous years, keeping the colleges

open has resulted in problems with security, which provides a major impetus for closing during the break.

"We've had everything from assault to parties that have caused tremendous damage, $40,000 to $60,000 in damages,"

Chaszar said. "If something were to happen, there's nobody around to make sure everyone's OK."

Chaszar said the lack of students on campus will make it easier for RUPD to identify thieves or other people trespassing

on campus.

"Without students here, if there's someone on campus who's not supposed

to be here, they can be more easily

identified," Chaszar said.

Chaszar cited sustainability as another

reason for closing the colleges.

"It takes a tremendous amount of energy to run a building for just one person and it costs us money we can use for other things," Chaszar said.

Since RAs and masters typically live in parts of the colleges that can be independently

powered and heated, allowing

them to stay has a minimal impact, Chaszar said.

By closing down the colleges last year, Chaszar said the university saved around $40,000.

Chaszer said H&D will not completely

shut down electricity and water in the colleges, but will instead significantly

scale back electricity, water and heating at the colleges. Although no pipes burst last year despite a freeze, keeping water moving reduces the risk of burst pipes in the event of a freeze, Chaszar said.

Closing the colleges during winter break is a return to the norm, according

to Chaszar, who said that Rice has been closed more often than not over the past winter breaks. Chaszar said that closing the colleges also means more construction work can be accomplished,

such as work on East Servery.

Before leaving for the break, Chaszar suggested students set their thermostats

to the lowest possible heat setting, unplug their electronics, defrost their refrigerators, dispose of trash and take care of anything that might be affected by power outages.

Those wishing to stay in the area had until Nov. 19 to request winter housing at the Holiday Inn at Main Street and Holcombe Boulevard.

H&D Project Manager Carol Claverie said the hotel gave students a discount on room reservations. Students had the option of paying a flat fee of $1,251 for single, double or triple occupancy rooms, and could divide the cost among roommates for an even lower cost. For students who needed board for only a fraction of the break, a single occupancy

room cost $49 plus tax per night.

Activities for any students remaining

in the area, regardless of whether or not they are staying at the hotel, will be planned by the Office of International Studies, Chaszar said.

"It gives a sense of community for the students who are still here," Claverie


The activities, which included trips to museums and athletic events last year, will be affordable or free, Chaszar said.

Chaszar said 12 non-athlete undergraduates,

mostly international students,

along with about 60 athletes, opted to stay in the hotel last year. He expects those numbers to remain similar

for the upcoming break.

Claverie said the Student Association

helped H&D prepare for the college


SA Student Life Committee Chair Benjamin Chou decided to make winter

housing a priority for his committee

after talking with international friends who voiced their concerns about winter housing plans to him. Chou, a Martel College sophomore, set up a meeting with Chaszar and Claverie

in October and found out there were no plans for winter housing at the time, so he encouraged his committee

to take on the project.

Chou said his committee discussed possible options for winter housing with H&D. Last year, H&D subsidized costs down to $275 for three weeks.

"It was a ridiculously good price, but subsidizing the price of the hotel cost H&D $40,000," Chou said. "We had to keep in mind that while what we were doing affected a small amount of people, it was still important."

After discussing potential alternatives,

the SA Student Life committee came up with the idea to negotiate the lowest possible price, rather than subsidize

students. Chou said the Holiday Inn reduced its price to $49 from $129 per night.

Chou said the money saved by removing

the subsidies will be put toward

capital improvements in the colleges

and offsetting future room and board fee increases. Additional savings will go to matching funds, green funds and ambiance funds to support student projects and events.

"I'm really happy to have had H&D working with us on this," Chou said. "They put a lot of time and effort into working this out and did a lot behind the scenes.

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