<![CDATA[The Rice Thresher]]> Tue, 21 May 2024 20:39:42 -0500 Tue, 21 May 2024 20:39:42 -0500 SNworks CEO 2024 The Rice Thresher <![CDATA[UCourt final case rules SA must revert to prior constitution]]> The University Court has ruled that the Student Association must revert to the March 6, 2023 constitution after the proposed constitution amendment was found to have been misrepresented on this year's ballot, University Court chair Beck Hall announced on April 24.

After a complaint was filed Feb. 22 alleging the election ballot inaccurately represented the proposed changes, UCourt launched a formal investigation, convening a preliminary review March 26 - after which it ruled the SA had to temporarily revert to their old constitution until the investigation concluded - and a formal hearing April 21.

A representative from the SA did not appear at the hearing to conduct oral testimony, nor was a written statement submitted for the April 21 formal hearing. Either testimonies would have been considered in the case as evidence, Hall said.

"I could not make the hearing as I had [COVID-19], but we respect the UCourt's decision and will abide by it," SA President Jae Kim wrote in a message to the Thresher.

In the abstract of the case, UCourt concluded that the amendment was misrepresented, saying it was "unreasonable" to expect students to read through the entire linked document containing the amendment. The UCourt recommended that representation of changes should be "impartial and exhaustive."

"Without an exhaustive and impartial description, students may not understand what voting 'yes' on constitutional amendments will change," the abstract, submitted by Hall, says. "Providing a partial list, as done in this case, could be even more damaging. Students may think they know what they are voting for but lack the true knowledge of what a 'yes' vote endorses."

The proposed constitutional amendment introduced reforms to the Blanket Tax committee, allocated $14.50 of each student's Blanket Tax funds to the Thresher and decreased a resolution's approval threshold from two-thirds to a simple majority

The complaint, submitted by a then-unnamed student, alleged that the summary of the changes written on the ballot was "not an accurate representation" of the changes. One of the changes not represented in the official summary was the removal of a 20% voter turnout requirement and a two-thirds majority to pass constitutional amendments.

"I submitted the complaint because I felt that the SA's actions were underhanded and needed to be stopped," the complainant, Simon Yellen, a junior at Duncan College, later wrote in an email to the Thresher.

Heather-Reneé Gooch, associate director for student engagement, said that she felt the ballot was accurate, but was open to student feedback.

"I don't think that it was a misrepresentation, because I don't think that there is any malice behind it. I feel it's just a matter of interpretation," Gooch said. "We're definitely open to hearing that opinion and making changes, because we do want this to be accessible to students."

The short-lived passage of the new constitution also saw the addition of the Rice Women's Resource Center and Civic Duty Rice as recipients of Blanket Tax financing - their current funding status is now unclear. Thomas Ngo, SA Treasurer, said that he was unsure of what changes, if any, will happen.

"I do not believe the court decided on the Rice Women's Center or Civic Duty Rice's Blanket Tax status one way or another," Hall wrote in an email to the Thresher. "The court has only ruled that the proposed constitutional amendments in the Feb. 21 election were not represented properly on the ballot. Therefore, the Court ordered the SA to follow the previous constitution. When looking at the amended constitution, the one the court ordered the SA to not follow, there is no mention of Rice Women's Center or Civic Duty Rice or their Blanket Tax status."

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<![CDATA[Jones School breaks ground on new expansion, final project to wrap up spring 2026]]> The Jones Graduate School of Business will expand its building, constructing an additional 95,000 square feet around McNair Hall. Rice Business announced blueprint plans for the new $54.5 million building at its groundbreaking May 9. The new building will include multiple large classrooms, lecture halls, dining facilities, event spaces and communal areas, designed to "blend seamlessly with the campus and its surroundings."

The project was slated to begin Feb. 2, 2024 and wrap up by Jan. 2, 2026, according to its details page on Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The Jones School had switched construction firms on the project after reopening the bid to additional developers, chief business officer at the Jones School Christian Rafidi told the Thresher - the switch delayed the project's timeline, impacting both construction and operating hours for Audrey's. The final building is now expected to be complete by spring 2026.

Rice Business is still in the process of fundraising $40 million for the project, Jones School dean Peter Rodriguez said at the groundbreaking. New York-based firm Architecture Research Office, which has worked on Calvin Klein's Paris headquarters and Princeton University's architecture school renovations, will spearhead the project. Houston-based Kirksey Architecture will serve as the executive architect.

The new space will integrate the building's existing architecture, wrapping "the south and west sides of the school's existing McNair Hall, introducing new public spaces between the two," according to ARO's project description on its website. Woodson Courtyard, the patio just outside of Audrey's, will be enclosed by floor-to-ceiling paneled windows and a coffered ceiling with skylights. The building will extend closer towards the Shepherd School of Music, with the newly-constructed wing sitting adjacent to the James Turrell Skyspace. The angled brick exterior will "maintain the views from within and … mitigate light pollution affecting the Skyspace at night," according to ARO.

Rice debuted its undergraduate business major in 2021 - now, over a quarter of new students are interested in the major, according to 2023 data from the Office of Academic Advising. In January 2024, the Jones School introduced its new hybrid Master of Business Administration program, shortly after the U.S News & World Report ranked its online MBA program 12th in the nation. The new building will "support the entrepreneurial spirit and unique learning culture" of the Jones School, ARO said.

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<![CDATA[Audrey's closes in advance of Jones School expansion]]> After four years of operation in McNair Hall, Audrey's closed May 10 prior to the Jones Graduate School of Business expansion. The original Audrey's space will be cleaved by a wall during construction, Niken Prabanto, co-owner of Greenway Coffee Company, which oversees Audrey's, said.

Prabanto said Rice and Audrey's discussed temporary options, such as coffee carts or pop-up shops, to house Audrey's while construction is in progress. So far, Christian Rafidi, chief business officer at the Jones School, said that no options have yet "proven viable given the space constraints … and the complexities of providing food and beverage services from a temporary location."

"We love being [at Rice]," Prabanto said. "We want to continue to service the building and the students, so we're brainstorming what would be possible."

The new building will include space for a coffee shop, as well as a "full-service food establishment," Rafidi wrote in a statement to the Thresher. Prabanto said she's unsure if Audrey's will be invited back once construction ends.

Prabanto said Rice informed Audrey's management of the expansion in January 2024. Construction was initially planned to begin in the spring, with Audrey's aiming to close its physical location by March 20, former student barista Katherine Jeng said. Jeng continued working at Audrey's through the end of the spring semester.

"We didn't think it'd be a good open environment for studying," Jeng, a Hanszen College senior, said. "We were going to transition to takeout only during that time, from March until the end of the semester. Once the semester [ended], we were going to shut down completely."

Once March rolled around, construction had been postponed - but in preparation for their inevitable closure, most of the shop's full-time employees had already sought jobs elsewhere. Several had left or put in their two weeks' notice by the time Rice informed them of the delays, just a week before spring break, former student barista Alyssa Boerst said. John Samson, former full-time Audrey's barista, said he left at the end of March, and was one of the last full-time employees to do so.

"Communication … was not really clear, as far as what the plan was after [March 20 construction] did not happen," Samson said. "When I left, there wasn't really any date set in place."

In a statement to the Thresher, Rafidi said the Jones School was originally working with a different developer on the construction plan, but - per Rice's "customary review process" - requested a re-bid with additional firms, which construction company Skanska USA ultimately won. Changing developers, Rafidi said, changed the construction timeline.

"We notified the vendor as soon as we received the change in schedule that Audrey's would be impacted no earlier than mid-June and possibly later in the summer," Rafidi wrote. "At that time, the vendor informed us that their full-time staff had found other positions, and they would need to reduce their hours and days of operation.

"Once the student workers started departing for the summer," Rafidi continued, "the vendor notified us that they intend to close on May 10. Of course, we have and continue to explore options to keep Audrey's open as long as possible, but we are currently facing staffing limitations in achieving this."

Jeng said remaining Audrey's employees have been left in limbo as they try to run Audrey's on an unclear construction schedule. Originally open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and until 5 p.m. on Saturday, both Jeng and Boerst said Audrey's has had to dial back hours. By the end of the spring semester, Audrey's was only open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, according to their Instagram.

"We were ultimately stuck still being required to maintain regular hours, but with considerably less staffing than normal," Jeng said. "Now we're short on staff and short on the hours we have, so we're kind of cutting back on hours and just trying to keep us running from day to day."

"It's just the three undergraduates, my manager and one full-timer," Boerst said. "We've already ended up cutting our hours even more than we had originally intended … We've had to close completely [for] a couple of days because people were out and we couldn't fill folks' spots."

Eric Huh, a graduate student at the Jones School, said he appreciated Audrey's proximity to his classes, and is saddened by its closing.

"[Audrey's] is very much an integral part of my experience here at Rice," Huh said.

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<![CDATA[Rice adds women's golf after alumna donation]]> Four months after the reinstatement of Rice's diving team, athletic director Tommy McClelland announced a second sport coming to South Main in the near future. Rice will have a women's golf team starting in the 2026-27 academic year.

A $5 million commitment from former Rice women's basketball player Lynn Elsenhans and her husband John made the new team a reality. Elsenhans made it clear to McClelland that she wanted her endowment to support women's golf.

"College golf is one of the sports that's both an individual sport and a team sport, and golf is a game in which you learn humility and it builds character," Lynn said in an interview with Rice Athletics. "It's the only sport in which you call penalties on yourself. John and I wanted to make this gift to have top scholars who play golf have the opportunity to choose Rice."

Elsenhans will lead the new women's golf interest group at Rice, called the Women's Golf Excellence Fund, and McClelland says he hopes it will provide others the opportunity to support the new golf team.

"Lynn is going to lead in this effort, but I know she wants others to join in this effort so that we can ensure the quality of success that we want and that we know is possible from a Rice women's golf program," McClelland said to Rice Athletics.

Moving forward, the athletics department will begin to search for Rice's first women's golf head coach, who will then recruit the inaugural class of women golfers at Rice. In a few months, Rice will announce the future home course for the team, according to Rice Athletics.

"I hope that [Rice] can see this as an investment in a game that builds character in young people and that it's fitting for Rice to have women's golf, in that top academic institutions have proven that they can be competitive in this sport. There's no reason why we can't be competitive in this sport," Elsenhans said.

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<![CDATA[Rice's COVID class graduates amid nation-wide campus protests]]> Rice held its 111th commencement ceremony Saturday, May 4 at Rice Stadium. The class of 2024 walked through the Sallyport, which is currently closed amid ongoing construction of the academic quad, but was temporarily reopened for commencement. For the second year in a row, all undergraduate commencement events were condensed into one day - prior to 2023, ceremonies were typically spread out over a two-day span.

Several students donned keffiyehs and waved small Palestinian flags as they crossed the stage. In the stands, unidentified demonstrators briefly waved a banner saying "Reggie funds genocide," leaving after a few minutes. A university representative declined to provide comment about the banner.

Across the country, protests over the war in Gaza have engulfed college campuses, just in time for graduation ceremonies. On Monday morning, Columbia University announced it will cancel its university-wide commencement ceremonies, shortly after the New York Police Department conducted sweeps of an encampment and occupied academic building, culminating in the arrest of over 100 demonstrators.

The University of Southern California canceled its valedictorian's commencement speech on April 15, citing safety concerns. Four days later, the university "released" its outside commencement speakers before canceling the main-stage ceremony altogether. On May 4, pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted, marched and walked out during commencement ceremonies at the University of Michigan and Indiana University.

At Rice, the ceremony began with a brief address from Robert Ladd, chairman of Rice's Board of Trustees. Ladd highlighted the staff, faculty, students and alumni who create the university's past and future.

"Graduates, you leave our campus well-prepared," Ladd said. "You carry with you the legacy of all of us who came before you. You are the future of Rice. Help us to continue to make Rice even better in the years to come."

Next on stage was McMurtry College graduating senior Abhi Gorjala, representing the first class of undergraduate business majors at Rice. Gorjala's speech focused on the graduating class' perseverance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Throughout the past four years, our class has encountered hurdles that have tested our resilience," Gorjala said. "If those past four years have proven anything, we've made each other better the entire way."

President Reggie DesRoches spoke after Gorjala, also discussing the difficulties of matriculating during a pandemic - and highlighting his unique relationship with the class of 2024.

"I will forever have a special connection to this class, the class of 2024," DesRoches said. "While you were starting as freshmen at Rice, I was starting as your new provost and chief academic officer. You started pursuing your Rice degree during a pandemic that shook the way we and the world operated; you undoubtedly were robbed of precious moments to engage in person with others on campus.

"You also have been at Rice during an unbelievable time of transition," DesRoches continued. "New leadership; new ways of teaching and learning born out of the pandemic; new buildings, and yes, a new quad. This class is the first to see the new space, which you did a few minutes ago. You were also in college during what many consider the most complicated time in modern history."

DesRoches concluded by emphasizing the lessons and connections that graduates made during their time at Rice.

"As you step out into the world beyond these familiar walls, I challenge you to cherish these lessons and never stop learning, never stop growing, never underestimate the power that you have to change the world," DesRoches said. "Don't forget the importance of being respectful to others and [being] grateful for the opportunities you've been given."

The commencement speaker's address was delivered by Peggy Whitson '86. Whitson received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rice, going on to become "America's most experienced astronaut." In her speech, Whitson encouraged graduates to be flexible with their plans for the future and accept new perspectives.

"You are the only one who knows what is right for you. Parents, friends, professors - and even me - are all willing to give you opinions, but you need to evaluate your choices based on what feels right for you," Whitson said. "There is no one path for the unique journey each of you will

make. Some might take the freeways, others meandering gravel roads or rocky trails, and some will go entirely off-trail, blazing a new path, maybe in an entirely unexpected direction."

Whitson also advised the class of 2024 to continue accepting change, as they have done throughout their college careers, as they begin their postgraduate lives.

"You are not the same person you were when you arrived at Rice. You have learned a lot about yourself and the world, and you can expect your journey forward in life will continue to be full of change," Whitson said. "Embrace it."

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<![CDATA[Rice SJP 'liberated zone' ends, university removes artwork in 'beautification efforts']]> The "liberated zone" on Rice campus and associated events ended Friday, April 26, after four days of programming, according to the Rice Students for Justice in Palestine Instagram page.

Unlike overnight encampments spreading at college campuses across the country, Rice SJP disassembled the "liberated zone" each night and returned the following morning. And in contrast to clashes and escalating police responses that have led to some 2,000 arrests from Los Angeles to Hanover, N.H., there were "no major incidents and no arrests" at Rice, according to President Reggie DesRoches.

At the "liberated zone," Rice SJP organized events such as teach-ins, art creation and study sessions, according to the Rice SJP Instagram page. The group also hosted guest speakers, including a Palestinian doctor who recently returned from treating patients in Gaza. A few dozen Rice students and community members attended the events each day.

"The students' activities were met with attention and debate, and not all were in agreement," DesRoches wrote in an end-of-semester email sent to campus April 28. "But I believe many would concur that the right to responsible, personal expression and protest must be maintained, particularly on a university campus."

DesRoches also wrote that Rice SJP "made several modifications to help maintain an environment that minimized disruption, departing the space each evening."

University pressure washes "liberated zone" artwork

When Rice SJP ended its physical presence at the "liberated zone," located at the Solar Studios exhibit next to the PCF tents, organizer Erica Augenstein said she believed the tents and artwork, consisting of a mural and graffitied shipping container, could remain as a "permanent reminder" of SJP's presence on campus. However, university representatives pressure washed the graffiti artwork, including phrases such as "we will reclaim Rice for Palestine" and "long live the resistance," from the shipping container April 29.

"We feel that we negotiated with administrators. We did not stay overnight. We ended the 'liberated zone,' like our physical presence here," Augenstein, a doctoral student in history, said. "We feel like this [mural] represents our continued presence, our continued struggle and we are willing to advocate for its public display in a public location, particularly through graduation, so that it's not something that's silenced for the optics of campus."

Chris Stipes, the executive director of news and media relations, confirmed the artwork, which Rice considered a temporary display, was removed.

"As should typically occur with any temporary art installation on Rice's property, Rice returned the studio space to its previous condition after the event finished," Stipes wrote in an email to the Thresher.

DesRoches also cited upcoming commencement ceremonies as a cause for "beautification efforts across campus" in his email.

Augenstein said the Houston Climate Justice Museum, which had a temporary exhibition on campus, originally allowed Rice SJP to paint on the side of a shipping container within the exhibit.

"We made an initial agreement with the museum that we would be able to paint the containers, so we painted it on that basis," Augustine said. "The university has since said that they are taking back control of this entire space, including the containers, and that [they] have beautified it for graduation."

Stipes said Rice was aware that "some teach-in organizers believed that HCJM had authorized them to use the space."

"The Houston Climate Justice Museum does not control access to Rice's property or premises," Stipes wrote. "Rice then worked with the organizers to clarify their responsibilities and review their request for approval to hold the event."

Aaron Ambroso, the co-director of the HCJM, said the museum had been working on an installation featuring the work of two Palestinian art groups. When Rice SJP approached them about hosting their "liberated zone" there, he thought their work was "greater" than what the museum had planned.

Ambroso said that while the HCJM is not ending their involvement with the university, their work with the containers is on hold..

"We were in the middle of working on an exhibit [and] the encampment happened," Ambroso said. "And after the encampment, the studios have been repainted, the mural moved … our work [is] sort of on hold."

Kathryn Jarjoura, a Rice SJP organizer, said she was bothered by how the Rice administration and RUPD "make up rules on the fly" to "crush" student activism on campus.

"For example, this space was contracted by the climate justice museum," Jarjoura, a Baker College senior, said. "They were under the impression that they had the space until the summer but then suddenly, it's cut prematurely … [Rice says] it's for beautifying the campus. However, there's graffiti everywhere … They're not fooling anyone; we know that they don't want to be called out on being silent about every university in Gaza being destroyed."

Mural wall "disassembled," Rice SJP alleges deliberate destruction

Matti Haacke, another Rice SJP organizer, said that SJP was notified that the mural wall had fallen on April 28. Based on how the mural had split cleanly in half and the redistribution of the sandbags, Haacke alleged intentional destruction of the mural.

"On the FIRST freestanding night of the student-made 'Popular University for Gaza' mural, two Zionists were seen deliberately and violently tearing down our mural - which we designed, painted and constructed a wooden frame for over the course of several days," Rice SJP wrote in an April 30 Instagram post. The Thresher could not independently confirm this account.

Rice University Police Department chief Clemente Rodriguez wrote in an email to the Thresher that RUPD received a report the mural was "disassembled." Rodriguez did not respond to the claim that the mural was "deliberately and violently" taken down in time for publication.

"The mural was not damaged, and students were able to reassemble and place it back upright," Rodriguez wrote.

The mural has since been moved to the gravel path outside the Multicultural Center.

"The students received advanced notice [the mural would be moved] and they worked with Rice officials to find a place to preserve the mural," Stipes wrote. "The tents and banner, which were not destroyed, were also moved to the MCC."

Four days in the zone

Haacke said the "liberated zone" served as a "powerful community-building space" as they saw numerous new individuals attend events over the four days.

"In collective solidarity with Gaza, we had a lot of powerful education, teaching about history, teaching about current movements, teaching about struggle and solidarity struggles, bringing art into this space," Haacke said. "It was an experience that really established hope for a future where we can have these communal spaces that aren't facilitated on campuses and be able to really critically engage with issues we're seeing."

Augenstein said she believes the events were successful, given the short period of time Rice SJP had to organize and the Rice campus' lower interest in activism.

"Given that Rice University, generally speaking, doesn't have the same density of student activism as other campuses around the country, we can't really defend a true encampment or an occupation of the main quad, for example," Augenstein said.

Haacke said one of the most impactful speakers was the orthopedic surgeon who had returned from Gaza last week and shared his experience providing medical care in a war zone.

"[His] highest priority [is getting someone on their feet] because you really never know when the next bomb is going to drop," Haacke said. "He also talked about … the power of student activism, not only in disrupting the systems in America, but giving people hope. He talked about how, even showing pictures of our liberated zone and the student activism around the country is … giving people in a war zone hope to live."

Student protests across the nation

The "liberated zone" at Rice was one of numerous encampments and protests at university campuses across the country.

Some zones have remained peaceful, such as Rice's and those at Northwestern University, which ended April 29 after university administrators and organizers brokered a deal.

But encampments at dozens of other universities have led to mass arrests. The New York Police Department first swept an encampment at Columbia University on April 18, arresting more than 100 demonstrators. In the two weeks since, universities across the country have asked law enforcement to clear encampments and, in some cases, occupied buildings, as more than 2,000 people have been arrested or detained. Many encampments are ongoing.

Two Texas campuses have seen the Texas Department of Public Safety intervene with state troopers.

At the University of Texas at Austin, upon request from university president Jay Hartzell, police officers dressed in riot gear and armed with stun grenades and pepper spray made over 100 arrests on April 29. Hartzell's response drew mixed praise from political colleagues and condemnation from 165 faculty members, who signed an open letter criticizing the "heavy police intervention."

State troopers also swept an encampment at the University of Texas at Dallas on May 1, making 21 arrests.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, "No encampments will be allowed. Instead, arrests are being made," on April 30 in response to a video of law enforcement at UT Austin.

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<![CDATA[Rice's Luke McCaffrey selected by Commanders in NFL Draft]]> The Washington Commanders selected Rice wide receiver Luke McCaffrey with the 100th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

McCaffrey was the final pick in the third round, as well as the final pick on the second day of the draft. He'll compete for a prominent role in the wide receiver room, potentially slotting in as their starting slot receiver alongside Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson.

"I'm incredibly excited to see Luke come off the board in the third round," Bloomgren said in a statement via Rice Football. "After his great contributions to Rice University on and off the field these last three years, it is awesome to see his childhood dream of being an NFL draft pick become reality. I believe he is the steal of the draft."

The selection was made by Adam Peters, who was named general manager of the Commanders in January 2024. Peters was also part of the San Francisco 49ers front office that acquired Luke's brother, Christian, from the Carolina Panthers in 2022. Prior to his time with the 49ers, Peters spent eight years with the Denver Broncos. Luke's father, Ed, had previously been a star wide receiver for the Broncos, winning three Super Bowls, being selected to one Pro Bowl, and earning a spot on the Broncos' 50th Anniversary Team.

Christian had texted Peters, encouraging him to select his younger brother.

"He told me I should pick you," Peters told Luke. "So I listened to him. We're going to make you a Commander."

"I haven't heard anything but good things about [Peters]," McCaffrey said during a media appearance after being drafted. "It's such an exciting time for him and everybody in the building because everybody's so eager and ready to learn, build something, and create a culture of competition. I'm so excited to be a part of that."

McCaffrey is the first Owl to be selected in the NFL Draft since 2015, when the Houston Texans selected defensive tackle Christian Covington with the 216th overall pick.

A transfer from the University of Nebraska, McCaffrey spent three years at Rice. He converted from quarterback to wide receiver and ultimately contributed 1,980 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns over his final two seasons on South Main.

"I'm excited to get there every day and learn and see what my ceiling is," McCaffrey said. "I'm new to this, I'm still learning the position. I've been lucky enough to get to this point, but this is by no means where I want to end my journey."

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<![CDATA[Rice Students for Justice in Palestine declares 'liberated zone' on campus]]> As student protests erupt across the country, Rice Students for Justice in Palestine launched a "liberated zone" on Rice campus, announced a two-day series of events and started construction on an "apartheid wall."

The "liberated zone" opened Tuesday afternoon at the Solar Studios exhibit, across from Kraft Hall and next to the PCF tents. The schedule posted on Rice SJP's Instagram account says the events will run through 10 p.m. Tuesday, then resume from 10 a.m. through 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.

"We're trying to liberate this space for a popular university where we can bring education that is not taught at Rice, bring education around the issues of the genocide we're seeing now, talk about the history of Palestine, the history of resistance, the history of occupation," said Matti Haacke, a Sid Richardson College junior and organizer with Rice SJP.

A few dozen students, faculty and community members were present at the "liberated zone" throughout the day.

Haacke said the "apartheid wall" will be an 8 foot by 12 foot structure with a mural. It mirrors the separation barrier Israel constructed more than 20 years ago in the occupied West Bank, Haacke explained.

"We're going to have a mural on it symbolic of Palestinian life and Palestinian resistance, that we hope to keep up for as long as possible," Haacke said. "It's also a symbolic place because it's just across the corner from the Baker Institute and the Berlin Wall. It provides an interesting dichotomy between the 'western wall' and the resistance of the Palestinians."

Haacke said Rice SJP will continue to protest until Rice meets its demands. This includes allowing a vote on a tabled Student Association resolution that would prohibit clubs from spending student activity fee disbursements at companies on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions list. Additionally, Haacke said Rice SJP is calling for transparency in Rice's investments and divestment from Israeli entities across academic and research partnerships and sponsorships.

A Rice spokesperson wrote in a statement that the university strives to balance personal expression with campus safety.

"The small, student-led teach-in of about 25 students took place at an isolated location that did not disrupt campus activities," the spokesperson wrote. "While we honor personal expression and academic freedom at Rice, we must also maintain a safe campus for all students. Fortunately, the student organizers agreed to modify their original plans related to structures and sound levels to maintain an environment of respectful discourse."

The "liberated zone" on Rice campus follows a tense week of student protest at universities nationwide.

On April 18, the Columbia University president asked the New York Police Department to sweep the "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on the university's main lawn. Officers in riot gear arrested more than 100 students, the Columbia Spectator reported, and the university issued suspensions.

Student activists at other universities have pitched their own tents in response.

At Yale University, police arrested 47 students on the third day of their encampment on Monday, April 22. The NYPD arrested another 120 protestors, including students and faculty, at New York University later that day. Pro-Palestinian groups are leading similar encampments at campuses across the country, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Minnesota and the University of California, Berkeley. California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt has closed its campus through Wednesday after a group of students barricaded themselves inside a university building. And protests have only grown at Columbia, where classes are now hybrid through the rest of the semester.

"We're seeing this … resurgence of this political strategy on campuses in a way that we have never seen on this scale and not seen at all since the Vietnam War era," Haacke said. "It's really [about] taking up this land of these universities that are profiting off genocide and saying that we will not leave, we will put our bodies on the line, we will get arrested."

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<![CDATA[Jeremy Zucker is no longer a 'sad-boy troubadour']]> Jeremy Zucker's arms, like most of his body, host a scrapbook of tattoos - a faded clementine peel, his childhood pets (Rusty and Susie), a Pinterest doodle of Sonic the Hedgehog with a bouquet of flowers. His middle finger is etched with a single tooth, hanging off a thin branch that curls around the rest of his hand.

After graduating in 2018 with a degree in molecular biology, he got matching tattoos with his three Colorado College roommates - a house, stick-figured and the size of a stamp, on his right bicep. "It cemented [my] home," Zucker said in an interview with the Thresher, just before he headlined Moody X-Fest on April 19.

It was his first-ever tattoo. Just four months later he would release "comethru," his breakout song that would eventually amass over 800 million Spotify streams. Now, he has over 9.5 billion global streams and too many tattoos to count.

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Rice Thresher: Welcome to Rice. How's it treating you? Have you been here before?

Jeremy Zucker: Never been here before, no. It's awesome. I didn't expect it to be so green. And humid.

RT: You went to Colorado College and you've performed at colleges before. How does it feel to be back on campus?

JZ: It feels great. I'm trying to think of the last college show that I did. Honestly, I can't remember. I do a couple of them every year. But Rice reminds me a lot of Tulane … It's the same long sidewalks with big trees lining the sidewalks. And the whole campus under a canopy.

RT: How's it different from your normal venues like House of Blues? The actual concert-concerts?

JZ: I mean, super different inside, for sure. I really love playing shows outside, though. All the college shows are usually on a lawn, depending on the weather. But if they're not on a lawn, then they can be kind of weird, because then there'll be like, a gymnasium or an auditorium.

RT: Shifting gears a little bit, happy five-year anniversary of "you were good to me." It came out April 19, exactly five years ago.

JZ: Oh, my God. Today? I wonder if my team knows that. What's crazy about it is that "you were good to me" just went double platinum.

RT: That was with Chelsea Cutler. You've done an EP with Chelsea, you've toured with The Kid LAROI. You did a song with blackbear, and "Heavy" and "make daddy proud" have the same melody … Can you talk a little bit about how your collaborations throughout your music career have shaped where you are now, shaped your music?

JZ: When I work with people, it usually happens one of two ways. When I was first starting out, I would have an idea for a song that wouldn't fit in my main stuff. I would leave an open verse and be, "Oh, so-and-so would sound good on this." The blackbear thing, that's how "talk is overrated" happened. That was after he remixed my song "Heavy." Since he did that, we were like, "Hey, we did you this favor. You want to get on my song?" and he was like, "Sure. That's awesome."

These days, collaborations exist very separately. My process is very solitary. My state of mind and my emotional state at that moment matter a lot. Bringing another person in just means bringing another unknown factor, when there are already a lot of unknown factors.

RT: Speaking of vibes, I'm going to list the names of some of your songs: "cry with you," "therapist," "we're fucked, it's fine," "all the kids are depressed." Your Apple Music bio describes you as a "sad-boy troubadour for the extremely online age."

JZ: Woooow.

RT: What are your thoughts? Is that accurate?

JZ: I don't think it's accurate anymore. For that era, it was super accurate for two reasons. One, I definitely used to be way more hopelessly sad and hopelessly romantic. During that time when I was making music, the Tumblr vibe was still alive online. The "sad boy" aesthetic was a thing. You don't really hear that much anymore.

These days, I'm much happier. There's less hopeless melancholy in my music, for sure.

RT: What do you think changed? Was it more so the music industry, or was it personal for you?

JZ: The industry changed so much, and that really made me reevaluate why I'm doing this and it made me come back to it with a bit more intention. Things just got faster. Music got supersaturated and I didn't want to be another voice competing for noise.

RT: Your career actually started on SoundCloud, a platform that has launched so many other careers of big artists: Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Lil Uzi Vert. Now, you're talking about change in the industry and how TikTok has risen so much. Where do you think the SoundCloud era of music is going? Is it going anywhere? Is it dead?

JZ: I think the SoundCloud era is kind of dead. I think people don't want to - I mean, I definitely don't - put in energy to find your music. The easier it is to discover music, that's what catches on. That's why radio was so big for so long. I think that's why TikTok is catching on, because it's so easy for people to discover music.

That said, I don't really know what comes next. It stinks for someone who doesn't want to make music for TikTok. I'd like to think I'm curating something deeper. But I would love to have a song blow up on TikTok again, for the record.

RT: So what do you make music for?

JZ: For the longest time, I was making it for myself and to understand myself. It still is this way, just less hopeless because I do understand myself way more than I used to. It's like therapy, it's like understanding my place in the world and contextualizing things that I've been through. Sometimes tossing in things that can help people and make them feel less alone.

RT: To jump a few years back to the music industry, how'd you get into it? And how'd you balance it in college?

JZ: It's funny. For some reason, I really didn't have a hard time balancing music and school … My school kept me so humble. If I was at a big state school and I was this kid picking [up] music, releasing stuff and going on tour, it probably would have gotten to my head pretty fast. At my small school, people were like "Oh, thinks he's too good for us now," and I was like, "No!"

But yeah, I didn't have any free time. My free time was when I would make music. That'd be my alone time. That'd be how [I'd] process emotions. It became a necessity to do that.

RT: You were pre-med, then obviously switched gears a little bit. You're in good company, since so many people here are pre-med. What advice would you have for a Rice student, or really any college student, who is pre-med and is considering going in a different direction?

JZ: If it doesn't feel right, it's probably not right … I worked at an optometrist for summer, but I didn't do any of the things you're supposed to be doing. I was not thinking about it because at the front of my mind, I was like, "This is my backup. I want to be making music."

RT: Okay, we have a few minutes left. I have a few rapid-fire questions. Physics or orgo?

JZ: Orgo.

RT: What's your tattoo with the biggest story behind it?

JZ: Probably my first two, which is this house and the world. I got this house with all my roommates in college when I graduated. It was the first time that I lived with a bunch of friends and it really felt like a home.

Later, I got this world map. Even though I have a lot of roots in my home, I want to see the world and get out there.

RT: You told TMRW Magazine in one of your interviews that you take a bunch of photos. How many do you have in your camera?

JZ: Oh, good question. Let's see. I got a two-terabyte phone, so I don't have to think about it. 42,000.

RT: One of Rice's mottos is "unconventional wisdom." What do you think that means?

JZ: That's a motto? For a school?

RT: Another one is "home of intellectual brutality." It's the athletics motto.

JZ: That's weird. Someone was either cynical or had a good sense of humor.

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<![CDATA[Jeremy Zucker headlines second-ever Moody X-Fest]]> Jeremy Zucker headlined Rice's second annual Moody X-Fest in Founder's Court on April 19. In advance of Zucker's set, student groups like Basmati Beats, Rice Philharmonic and BASYK performed. The festival also offered complimentary merchandise and food from Dripped Birra, Cane's and Oh my Gogi.

Students said they appreciated this year's outdoor venue - last year's X-Fest was held in Tudor Fieldhouse due to inclement weather - and expanded food options.

The event celebrates the Moody Foundation's $100 million dollar gift to Rice, which will fund construction of the new student center and support undergraduate extracurricular activities. Moody X-Fest is a part of inquiry week, which highlights research, design and creative works at Rice.

Lana Nguyen, who performed with Rice Lions, the lion-dancing team and one of X-Fest's featured student groups, said that they were excited to interact with the audience. The Rice Philharmonic performed a cappella renditions of popular songs, including Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" and Hozier's "Too Sweet." It was the second year they had performed at X-Fest, and singer Taylor Stowers said she appreciated the crowd's energy.

"It was so fun," Stowers, a Duncan College junior, said. "The energy of the crowd was fantastic. Even at soundcheck earlier, the fact that we worked with professional equipment in there, we feel that this is a real, actual performance. We had to step up our game a little bit, but it was a really positive way."

Zucker took the X-Fest stage at 8:30 p.m."Who wants to cry?" he asked at the beginning of his hour-long performance, before launching into a setlist that included popular songs like "comethru," "all the kids are depressed" and "talk is overrated."

X-Fest was open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and Ph.D student Sandro Serpone said that he was glad that he came.

"It's been a great event so far, the music is good, the food has been good, the environment and the atmosphere," Serpone said.

Nithya Ramcharan, a Lovett College junior, said she wasn't familiar with Zucker's music prior to the concert, but understands his appeal.

"I thought it was really incredible, it was a really nice atmosphere overall and I loved how the community was brought together," Ramcharan said. "I think he was a really good choice, because I do know he is popular among a lot of Rice students, so I think he was popular enough for there to be a good ambiance. I think he appeals a lot to college students, being a relatively young person too."

Towards the end of his set, Zucker paused from singing to talk about his own time in college.

"Many years ago, I majored in molecular biology," he said. "Where the science people at?" The crowd answered with a collective scream.

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<![CDATA[Jones wins men's and women's Beer Bike races, GSA snags alumni]]> Jones College won both the women's and men's Beer Bike 2024 races, while the Graduate Student Association claimed the alumni team win. Hanszen College bike teams were the runner-up in the alumni and men's races, while Brown College was the runner-up in the women's race. Martel and McMurtry Colleges did not bike in the alumni race, according to the Rice Program Council's final report, and the GSA was disqualified from the men's race for accidentally sending out two bikers simultaneously.

The results arrived nearly two weeks after the races on April 6. The final results account for penalties, appeals and internal review, according to campus-wide Beer Bike coordinator Willa Liou.

Last year, Beer Bike results were released April 5, 2023, only four days after the races - but were quickly recalled after Jones and Will Rice College submitted formal contestations of the results. Several teams had also submitted appeals, including the GSA, Jones, Brown, Wiess College and Duncan College. The correct, final results were announced April 14, 2023.

This year, only the final placements were announced. Times, appeals and formal contestations will remain private, according to "college request," Liou said.

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<![CDATA[Super Smash Bros. ultimate tournament sees smashing success]]> The Super Smash Bros. Club held their second annual ultimate tournament Friday, April 12. Club president Jashun Paluru said all Smash players were welcome, regardless of ability, experience or involvement in the club. The event was held in collaboration with Owls After Dark, a late-night activity series headed by the Rice Student Center, at the Rice Memorial Center's Grand Hall.

Paluru said that the goal of the tournament was to get more people to play Smash.

"I think people have tried and played, but a lot are like, 'I'm not that good.'"

Paluru, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. "We want to foster a beginner-friendly environment where people can come and feel comfortable playing Smash and hanging out."

According to Paluru, the club usually hosts smaller tournaments every other week and tournament watch parties. He said planning for the event started before spring break.

"I've never planned a tournament of this scale before, so it's super helpful having notes from last [year's event] … It's been super seamless," Paluru said. "In terms of communication, [Owls After Dark] is great to work with whenever we've had difficulties come up or issues that we need to resolve. Other people in the club are always super willing to help out, which makes it really easy to plan."

According to Paluru, the tournament had over 70 participants, starkly higher than the club's usual attendance of 20 at regular club tournaments and meetings. Paluru said that the most challenging part of planning the tournament was the advertising, which included flyers and GroupMe announcements.

"My favorite part has just been seeing it come along into a fully cohesive event," Paluru said. "[We'd have] spaces for people to hang out, eat food and mingle, so it [was] a pretty social event, atypical of Smash players."

Participant Ashton Lee said that the tournament was run professionally and that despite his lack of skill, he enjoyed casually playing.

"I would say I'm a regular, but not good, Smash player," Lee, a Martel College sophomore, said. "It was cool to see the games and see my friends do pretty well. I was there for the experience … and man, did I learn that Rice has some really skilled, top-tier players."

Justin Kim, a club board member, said that he played Super Smash Bros. in high school but wanted to get more involved in college, even going beyond Rice to play in collegiate tournaments.

"We're just a bunch of people wanting to play video games with a weird ambition to run a big tournament without any prior experience," Kim, a Baker College senior, said. "It's pretty exciting to play new people and also see friends who I didn't know play the game come out."

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<![CDATA['Off the beaten track': Commencement speakers through the years]]> A former American president, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nobel laureates and the founder of Khan Academy. All may share similar traits or levels of fame, but there's another, quieter, common ground: They've all spoken at Rice's commencement.

This year's commencement speaker is Rice alumna and "America's most experienced astronaut" Peggy Whitson '86, who has logged more days in space - 675, to be precise - than any other American astronaut. Whitson got her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rice in 1985, finishing her dissertation just in time to apply for a position at NASA.

"I wanted to be able to write on my [NASA] application that I had a Ph.D. from Rice," Whitson told Rice Magazine in 2003.

As an astronaut, she contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and earth science. From 2009 to 2012, Whitson was the first woman and first civilian to serve as the Chief of the Astronaut Office.

Half a century after John F. Kennedy's "We choose to go to the Moon" speech at Rice Stadium, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson arrived on campus to speak at the university's 100th commencement. With him was Alice Young '79, Tyson's wife, making their trip more than an homage to Rice's relationship with space exploration, but also a "homecoming," he noted.

"We went to the moon to explore it, but in fact we discovered Earth, for the first time," Tyson said in his commencement speech.

"In the years since we landed on the moon, America has lost its exploratory compass," he continued. "Now is the time for the Class of 2013 to lead the nation as Rice graduates once again."

Tyson was chosen to speak by a commencement speaker selection committee, composed of undergraduate and graduate students, an associate professor, the Hanszen College magister and the senior assistant to then-Rice president David Leebron. Committee members told the Thresher in August 2012 they were seeking a commencement speaker with humor and a vibrant stage presence.

"We were looking for someone quirky and off the beaten track, like Rice students," committee member Alex Fernandez said at the time.'

Just a year before Tyson spoke, Rice hosted Salman Khan, founder of free educational video publisher Khan Academy, for their 99th commencement.

Shortly after Khan was announced as that year's speaker, the Thresher Editorial Board applauded the selection, deeming him a "solid choice."

"[Khan] lacks the star power typical of a commencement speaker, yet represents many of the aspects of an ideal Rice graduate," the editorial board wrote. "While Khan may not be a household name right now, he certainly represents the upcoming generation of leaders."

Khan delivered his speech on a rainy May morning in 2012. He spoke about empowerment, encouraged the graduates to "ask the naive questions" and advised them to keep their success in perspective.

"I want you to think about how you can leverage [your diploma] to increase the positivity in the world and to empower others," Khan said in his speech. "When your ego starts feeling a little bit large, keep in mind that the sun will supernova one day. We are these small mammals on this small planet. Just have peace in the little successes."

"[His speech was] a good reminder to help others so that our degrees are for the greater good and not just to make money," then-student Sophie Bonifaz told the Thresher after the address.

In 2003, Rice welcomed Shannon Lucid, an astronaut and scientist who held the record for the longest-duration spaceflight by an American woman at the time. In 1978, NASA announced Lucid, alongside Sally Ride, were selected as one of the first six female astronauts. In a full-circle moment, Whitson cited Lucid's career as a catalyst for her own entry in space exploration - and, four years after Lucid's commencement speech, broke her record for the longest-duration spaceflight.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter's 1993 speech marked Rice's third consecutive year of hosting major political figures - then-president of Germany Richard von Weizsäcker spoke in 1992, and then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker in 1991.

In his speech, Carter emphasized the role of students and activism, especially in a post-Cold War United States. He discussed his work with the Carter Center, the human rights organization he had founded a decade prior.

"When you are at the college level and age and have that experience behind you with an expanded mind and expanded heart … is the best time to say, 'What will I do with [my] life?'" Carter advised the graduating class.

Peter Howley, one of the Thresher's editors-in-chief at the time, wrote an op-ed in the May 14, 1993 issue of the Thresher describing Carter's address as a "speech even a conservative could love."

"Here was the man who paved the way for 12 years of Republican rule after blundering through his thankfully brief tenure," Howley wrote. "I was prepared to cry 'liberal' when Carter evoked class struggle and decried discrimination by the rich against the poor. But when he defined rich to include almost every American, I saw his point."

Founding president of Leland Stanford Junior University - now simply called Stanford, David Starr Jordan, delivered Rice's first-ever commencement speech, titled "Is War Eternal?" in 1916.

"Leland Stanford presents the closest analogy to Rice of any college in the United States, and no man could have been chosen who is in a better position to understand thoroughly what the Institute represents," the Thresher wrote in its Feb. 26, 1916 issue.

"It may be that kings and empires, privilege and exploitation, swords and cannon, dreadnaughts and Zeppelins must all pass away in one grand horror," Jordan said in his speech's closing remarks. "But the end must come. God is not mocked forever, neither is man."

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<![CDATA[Rice wraps up Conversations on the Middle East series, looks to fall semester]]> With the final session rescheduled to Wednesday April 17, the Conversations on the Middle East series is coming to a close.

Introduced by Provost Amy Dittmar in early March, the five-part series intended to facilitate difficult conversations about the Israel-Hamas war and the larger crisis in the Middle East. Five faculty members from four different departments - political science, history, sociology and religion - led sessions presenting their insights to undergraduate and graduate students.

"At Rice, our richly diverse, international community, deeply grounded in a culture of compassion and understanding, can serve as a model for having crucial conversations," Dittmar wrote in her announcement. "We are hosting a series of educational events where faculty members will present topics that provide background and perspectives on the current conflict and that are related to their scholarly work."

Abdel Razzaq Takriti, the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Arab Studies and an associate professor of history, will lead the final session, "Anti-Palestinian Racism and the Politics of Scholasticide," on April 17.

The first session, held March 21, introduced game theoretic models of deterrence and was hosted by T. Clifton Morgan, a professor of political science. Morgan discussed the balance between a country convincing its adversaries that it will respond to an attack while showing that it will not attack if not provoked.

A week later, Nathan Citino, the chair of the history department, led a talk about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociology professor and the director of the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance, ran a seminar the following week titled "Islamophobia and Antisemitism in the U.S." Instances of Islamophobia and antisemitism have increased dramatically since Oct. 7, 2023.

In the fourth session on April 9, Matthias Henze evaluated multiple definitions of antisemitism and offered guidelines for detecting it. After the talk, titled "What is Antisemitism?" Henze, the director of Rice's Jewish Studies program, told the Thresher that a first step in combating antisemitism is to recognize it.

The conversations about deterrence and foreign policy each had about 15 attendees, the faculty who led them said, while "Islamophobia and Antisemitism in the U.S." had approximately half a dozen. Two students attended Henze's talk. Students were required to RSVP for the talks in advance, and sign-ups were limited to 25 per session.

"I was very surprised by the low attendance," Henze wrote in an email to the Thresher. "I understand that the other Conversations were also poorly attended. Similar events at other universities were much better attended. Traditionally, Rice students have not shown much interest in politics, at least not compared to students at other university campuses. This lack of interest is disappointing, for so many reasons."

Dittmar said that the sessions were intended to be more intimate. The goal was to model the feel of a Rice classroom, she said, in which students could be comfortable asking questions and sharing their opinions on hot button issues. Each session ended with a question-and-answer period, which often took the conversation beyond the allotted hour.

There were many possible reasons for empty seats in the room, Dittmar said. Some are simple: the time of day and time of week of the session. Others are inherently related to Rice: one session was held two days before Beer Bike and another three days after. A few students also registered for sessions but did not attend. Broadly, Dittmar said, there were constraints when scheduling five sessions between spring break and the end of the semester.

"To me, it's engagement because it's offering the opportunity," she said. "Would I rather have had five sessions and lots of people? Maybe, but that's not where we are as a university. I wanted to offer this to the students. It's also possible that some of these spur students to sign up for the classes next semester. There's a lot of things that can produce engagement that might not be the people in the room.

"Obviously, two [attendees] is far from 25. Is 15 far from 25?" Dittmar added. "I don't know."

Citino said he was happy with the smaller group setting at his session. "That word 'conversations' is in the title, not 'lecture,'" he said.

"I actually think this kind of smaller setting was probably the way to go," Citino said. "I think it worked. Of course, the downside is you can only engage with relatively so many folks."

Dittmar said another benefit of the restricted attendance was respectful dialogue. Many other universities have faced heated dialogue surrounding the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"From the actual discussions, or the issues, you could imagine this could have gone very differently," Dittmar said. "And it didn't. People were quite engaged and interested in what they were talking about … I mean, it really speaks really highly of Rice students."

Rice's response to the Israel-Hamas war

The Conversations on the Middle East were the latest part of Rice's response to the Israel-Hamas war.

In her announcement of the conversations, Dittmar highlighted a November panel discussion with two fellows from the Baker Institute. Later in an interview, Dittmar pointed to a series of faculty- and student-led events over the last six months.

"I think it's added to the conversation," Dittmar said about Rice's administrative response. "I don't think it was ever meant to be the whole conversation, but I think it has added to the conversation."

The Conversations on the Middle East series came out of a faculty advisory group the president and provost formed in December 2023. Dittmar wanted to highlight the scholarship of Rice researchers and the content from classes offered by Rice faculty to students who may not want to take a full three-credit course, she said.

According to Citino, the university also wanted to show students how to engage academically with a "really difficult issue" like the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"For students, there's been a lot of conversation about rights, free speech, right to petition, right to assemble, right to be free from harassment and intimidation and things like that. All of those things are really important," Citino said. "With this series of conversations, it's also important to showcase the opportunities that students have on a university campus when dealing with an issue like Israel-Palestine … to see opportunities for understanding by engaging with different academic disciplines on campus."

"What can we learn from the debates that historians have had about the history of this conflict?" Citino added. "What can we learn from social sciences, from the conversations that are going on in philosophy or in the arts?"

The role of the university, Citino said, is to show students how to address difficult subjects from an academic perspective.

"I think that the job of the university is to give students tools, and I primarily mean intellectual tools, for understanding, for coming to their own educated engagement," Citino said. "To create and to foster a space where people can have intellectual pluralism … and to tend that environment is probably the most important thing that universities can do."

Dittmar said the Conversations on the Middle East can inform Rice's approach to contentious world events beyond the Israel-Hamas war, pointing to the upcoming 2024 presidential election that will likely see a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Series like these are part of an "ongoing commitment to developing an educated campus citizenry," she later wrote in a follow-up statement to Thresher.

"Thinking about how we make discourse in this way a part of the overall Rice experience and part of the fuller co-curricular curriculum is an important thing for Rice to focus on," Dittmar said. "I think it's important for every university to focus on."

"My real hope in being involved with that series of talks was to get students to see this as part of their education, not extracurricular … to see those issues not as outside or alongside what students are studying, but as an integral part of their education at the university," Citino added.

"If this kind of critical engagement doesn't happen at the university," Henze wrote, "then where will it happen?"

News Editor Sarah Knowlton contributed reporting.

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<![CDATA[Rice SJP hosts protest in response to S.RES 02 tabling]]> Rice Students for Justice in Palestine staged a walkout and protest in response to the tabling of S.RES 02, a resolution that proposed a divestment of student funds to Israel-aligned companies, outside the Allen Center, April 12. The protest occurred during Owl Days, when prospective students were touring the campus.

"We hope that Rice can respect our academic freedoms, respect our freedom of speech and allow us to simply vote on a resolution without fearmongering the voting members, without having to block it because of frivolous claims, so we hope [this protest] builds pressure on administration," Rice SJP organizer Matti Haacke said.

Following recommendations from the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement, S.RES 02 proposed a divestment of Student Association-disbursed funds from Israel-aligned companies. The resolution was never voted on - it was tabled indefinitely by the Office of Access, Equity and Equal Opportunity following a discrimination complaint.

During the protest, students voiced their support for Palestinians and denounced Rice for tabling S.RES 02 and the threats of disciplinary charges for S.A. members who do not comply with the AEEO. Protesters specifically denounced President Reggie DesRoches and Richard Baker, director of the AEEO, for being "complicit in genocide."

Chris Stipes, executive director of news and media relations, declined to comment.

A Rice University Police Department officer estimated that about 20 people attended the hour-long protest. Rice SJP organizer Kathryn Jarjoura said she deemed the protest a success, despite lower turnout than she had hoped for.

"There were a lot of people here for Owl Days," Jarjoura, a Baker College senior, said. "I saw a lot of admin come out of the Allen Center and stand and watch or record us. A lot of people visiting [were] just standing and watching. People came out of Baker when we started and stood and watched. I think a lot of people saw and heard us, and I think that is a success."

A number of the protesters gave speeches, including a speech from faculty member Kamala Visweswaran, a professor of anthropology. In her speech, she applauded the protesters for their activism and encouraged them to continue being critical and informed about world issues.

"I am appalled at Rice administration interference in student governance by forcing the Student Association to table its recent divestment resolution," Visweswaran wrote in an email to the Thresher. "The SA should be allowed to proceed with the vote with no penalties … The pattern of bringing disciplinary charges against Rice students for exercising pro-Palestinian speech must stop."

Rice SJP's original Instagram post announcing the protest, and a number of the protesters present, made reference to ongoing student-administration conflicts at Pomona College and Vanderbilt University.

"We hope that this protest is a rallying cry for students to tell administration that we're not going to stand for suppression on this campus," Haacke, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. "Obviously this is not a unique situation on Rice campus - this is happening around the country with administrations even arresting their own students."

At Pomona, 20 students were arrested during a sit-in following the school's attempted removal of a "mock apartheid wall." During a sit-in at Vanderbilt protesting the university's removal of a divestment amendment from the student government's constitution, four students were arrested and, following a hearing, three were expelled. At the same protest, a local reporter was detained after making attempts to enter a locked building.

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<![CDATA[Peggy Whitson breaks the glass ceiling, lands among the stars]]> Peggy Whitson has spent more time in space than any other American. She was the first female, nonmilitary Chief of the Astronaut Office for NASA and the first woman commander of the International Space Station, but despite all her success, Whitson denies any claims of special talent or giftedness. Above all else, she said, hard work and perseverance brought her to the top.

"I've always felt like it was important to be the best at my job," Whitson, a Rice distinguished alumna, said. "I worked with a bunch of people who are wicked smart … but I would say work ethic was my secret weapon."

Whitson grew up on a hog and soybean farm in a rural town near Beaconsfield, Iowa. She turned her gaze to the stars at age 9, when the Apollo 11 mission put men on the moon for the first time. Her dad flew planes for fun, and going on joy rides with him kept Whitson excited about the possibility of spaceflight, but the lack of an American female presence in space was discouraging at first. When Sally Ride and Shannon Lucid were announced as the first female and nonmilitary NASA astronauts in 1978, she realized a future in space exploration might be possible for her after all.

"It wasn't until I graduated high school, and they picked the first female astronauts, that the dream became … a goal," Whitson said. "That made it seem like a real possibility."

Motivated from a young age, Whitson graduated as salutatorian from Mount Ayr Community High School in 1978, and earned a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1981 before pursuing a Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at Rice.

As she was nearing college graduation, Whitson was discouraged from pursuing a career in space by advisors who said her talents would be better put to use in medical school. One mentor even proffered a prediction that astronauts would have become obsolete by the time she reached her goals. But Whitson said her critics did little to deter her from the path she knew was right for herself. In fact, they only made her more persistent.

"It's great to have the mentors, but it was also great to have a little bit of criticism along the way," Whitson said. "It motivated me. I was going to prove that person wrong."

Whitson's Ph.D. advisor, Kathleen Matthews, was impressed with her from day one. She saw Whitson go above and beyond the discipline and drive required of most doctoral candidates, she said.

"[Some of] the experiments that needed to be done required a 48-hour time period … so she slept in my office for two nights with an alarm and got up and did what she needed to do, and then tried to go back to sleep," Matthews, a Stewart memorial professor emeritus of biosciences at Rice, said. "She's a very calm person, she has an easy laugh and she has an incredible ability to focus."

In 1986, Whitson began a postdoctoral research fellowship at NASA's Johnson Space Center, but it took 10 years for her to be accepted into their astronaut program. In the meantime, she worked on several research and development projects, including a bone cell experiment executed on a 1992 joint mission between the U.S. and Japan and the ISS's precursory Shuttle-Mir program; she served adjunct professor positions at the University of Texas and at Rice; and she held leadership roles such as deputy division chief of the medical sciences division at JSC and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian space science working group.

During her eight years of involvement in U.S.-Russian space activity, Whitson spent time in Moscow working in collaboration with what is now Russia's Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities. Her work in Russia paved the path for her eventually becoming an astronaut, considering the long history of space relations between the two countries.

"The years in Russia were hard because she didn't go knowing the language, but she listened, saw how things were done in Russia, [and] I think that was very helpful to her," Matthews said.

Whitson received a total of four rejection letters before finally being accepted to the program in 1996. By the time she had submitted her fifth and final application, she said she was an ideal candidate.

"Having all that leadership experience, showing that I worked [well] with international partners … made me more interesting to a selection board that was looking to hire astronauts to work on an international space station," Whitson said. "[Those] 10 years were pivotal in me [becoming] the first female commander, the first female chief of the astronaut office, the first nonmilitary chief of the astronaut office."

A six-month-long expedition to the ISS in 2002 was the first of Whitson's three flights with NASA. She spent another six months on the ISS in 2008, and a nine-month-long stay at the station in 2016 marked her final trip with NASA.

Whitson and her crews were tasked with a number of responsibilities while onboard the ISS, such as infrastructure assembly, space walks and life and microgravity sciences research. Whitson took advantage of space's unique environment to observe accelerated bone decay and cell proliferation.

"When you do experiments in space, you're using the lack of gravity to help you model or develop something," Whitson said. "We did a lot of really cool research when I was with NASA."

Several hours of resistive and cardiovascular exercise was required of each crew member in order to combat the deteriorative effects that living in space has on the human body. Whitson said that each time she came back stronger than ever, but that returning to Earth was always a big adjustment.

"Even though I could bench press my body weight when I got back, I still felt like a klutz," Whitson said. "We did 45 days worth of reconditioning to try and teach the little muscles how to work together [again]. Just jumping off of a step felt scary."

Whitson was barred from state-supervised spaceflight after her third expedition due to radiation limitations, but she was determined to find another way to return to zero gravity, waving off health concerns.

"I'm not worried about it," Whitson said. "I think [the limits] are too conservative, [and] it was particularly conservative for females."

After retiring from NASA in 2018, she joined private space infrastructure firm Axiom Space and spent another 10 days in low-Earth orbit in May 2023. Currently, as Axiom's director of human spaceflight, she helps engineer the space suits and stations of the future.

"I would probably say [I have] an addiction to space," Whitson said. "I really love the experience; I love being a part of something that feels bigger than me."

"When I left [NASA], I had no anticipation that commercial entities would be growing so quickly, but in less than five years, I was flying on a space mission [again]," Whitson continued. "The path isn't always a straight line right to your goals … You have to learn along the way."

Editor-in-Chief Riya Misra contributed reporting.

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<![CDATA[Tribute band 'Suede Hedgehog' talks inspirations, legacies]]> Last Thursday, the halls of the RMC were graced with smooth melodies and funky grooves courtesy of "Suede Hedgehog," Rice's very own tribute band to "Silk Sonic," a musical duo made up of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. Although the tiny desk concert only lasted about 20 minutes the atmosphere was electric, and Coffeehouse - their venue - was packed with listeners.

"The night was so much fun for me, full of love and camaraderie from everyone, and it was such a dream to see my vision and long-time love for performance actualized," Gina Matos, the 'Bruno Mars' singer of the band, said.

Matos, a Lovett College senior originally came up with the idea for the band: the other members joined after she reached out to the Rice Music Collective at the end of last semester to see if anyone else was interested in the idea.

Molly Kyles, the 'Anderson .Paak' singer for "Suede Hedgehog", expressed a similar feeling about their performance.

"[The] camaraderie is one of the most valuable things I will take from this experience. I hope that this show inspires people to bring people together and make their creative visions a reality," Kyles, a Lovett College senior said.

Although Kyles said that performing live for dozens of Rice students was beyond her comfort zone, she said that singing in "Suede Hedgehog" is very rewarding.

"[It's] one of the most meaningful things I've] had the chance to participate in during my time at Rice," Kyles said.

Through their practices, the band members grew more talented and confident to step into the shoes of Mars and .Paak, Ethan Perryman '23 said.

"[Silk Sonic's] songs may be lyrically lighthearted and simple, but they are musically quite complex. It definitely challenged all of our vocalists and instrumentalists to learn the songs," Perryman said.

The band also became tightly knit over the months of rehearsal, according to Carmen Lizarraga, a Martel College sophomore, another musician in the band. She said that working with all of the members has been an honor.

Many of the musicians are graduating this semester, making this both their first and last time performing for the Rice community. While "Suede Hedgehog" may not play again, its musicians hope that other students will be inspired by its example and bring their musical passions to life.

"I hope that [Silk Sonic] can help encourage more students to perform live music around campus," Miles Gantcher, a Martel sophomore, said.

"It's infectious to watch people perform something that they have a passion for or love so much," Matos said. "There's a lot of 'secret' artists at Rice, people who have randomly been playing an instrument or dancing or singing since they were little. All in all, I hope we've contributed to carving out the art scene at Rice just a little more, because I know there's insane potential."

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<![CDATA[Seniors showcase their artistic journey in 'Opia']]> "Opia," the title of this year's visual and dramatic arts senior showcase, is defined by the artists as "the intense vulnerability of looking someone in the eye, and the beautiful discomfort of seeing yourself reflected in their gaze." These concepts of introspection and interpersonal connection resonate powerfully across the diverse bodies of work produced by a class of 17 artists, who will open up their showcase to the Rice community on Thursday April 18.

"Opia" represents the culmination of a VADA degree at Rice. VADA majors embark on a yearlong senior seminar alongside an intensive independent curation of each student's art with the intention of being displayed in the annual spring exhibition.

"Especially over this [last] year, you bond with everyone … You're in class together for six hours every week, for the entire year," VADA major Natalie Pellette said. "I think art classes tend to be more intimate than your typical academic classes, because you're creating work that is based on your personal experience."

Pellette, a Hanszen College senior, plans to display two paintings and one larger installation piece in "Opia." According to Pellette, it's easy to distinguish between the works of the different artists in their small class, which she attributes to the deeply individual nature of the artistic experience.

"I think our art each has its own personality," Pellette said.

In addition to personality, this year's senior class also displays a diversity of mediums. The works displayed in "Opia" range from photography and film to painting and sculpture. The art will be organized into two sections: a communal space where the different artists will each display some of their works together and a section for individual displays of each artist's own work.

Sophia Rohlfsen, a VADA major concentrating in film and photography, plans to display a variety of both 35mm film and large format (4x5) photographs in the senior showcase. According to Rohlfsen, the resources and support she received within the art major at Rice were integral to her ability to express herself in less accessible mediums. With the help of faculty and specialized classes, Rohlfsen was able to use expensive equipment such as cameras, lenses, tripods and printers to create her large format photographs.

"I was able to produce work that I would probably not have had the resources to do for the rest of my life," Rohflson, a Baker College senior, said. "It's just insane … the support you will get if you're really interested in something in one of these smaller majors."

Beyond the increased access to the technology to express themselves with, seniors like Kexin Shen have also found an improved ability to engage with their cultural heritage and explore their identity through the VADA major. Shen, who grew up in China before coming to Rice, has been able to infuse her own experiences and feelings throughout her college experience with traditional Chinese painting techniques, in a body of work she calls her "Rice diary."

"I'm using the traditional materials, like the rice paper, the brushes, the Chinese color set … but the themes are different," Shen, a Brown College senior, said. "They're about my personal life as a Rice student … [and] reflecting these raw emotions I've had during my life."

The VADA program is unique in its ability to serve as an added dimensionality to the Rice experience for its diverse class of seniors. Most of the senior class is double majoring in another field - Shen is also a physics student, Rohlfsen studies electrical and computer engineering and Pellette's second major is civil and environmental engineering. The variety in knowledge and background brought to the class makes for an interesting artistic experience, according to Angela Chen, one of the instructors of this semester's senior seminar.

"As the majority of our art seniors are double-majors, they bring a unique perspective to their artmaking. Their creative practice is enriched by a diverse knowledge base that incorporates scientific observation, engineering know-how, and research in the humanities," Chen wrote in an email to the Thresher.

"Opia" will open with a reception this Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in Provisional Campus Facilities tent 2. Following the reception, the gallery will be open for community viewing from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 6 p.m. on weekends, until the commencement ceremony on May 4.

"When you see the senior show, you'll see this is very serious academic work," Rohlfsen said. "It's the thing I'm going to take away most from Rice."

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<![CDATA[04-17-2024 Crossword Solutions]]> <![CDATA[04-17-2024 Crossword: "Until We Meet Again"]]> ]]>