<![CDATA[The Rice Thresher]]> Sat, 24 Feb 2024 22:52:23 -0600 Sat, 24 Feb 2024 22:52:23 -0600 SNworks CEO 2024 The Rice Thresher <![CDATA[SA presidential debate centers around budget]]> Student Association presidential candidates Jae Kim and Trevor Tobey discussed their vision for the presidency and the SA at the Thresher's SA debate on Monday, Feb. 19. Candidates for secretary and treasurer, the other contested elections, also took the stage during the night.

Kim said he emphasizes advocacy as a vehicle for change, and Tobey, while acknowledging the importance of advocacy, said that change will come from fiscal responsibility. Kim is currently the Brown College president, and Tobey is the Hanszen College senator.

"I believe [in] financial responsibility, spending money on the things you actually care about and organizational efficiency - not just passing useless resolutions and useless statements, but putting our money where our mouth is on those issues," Tobey, a sophomore, said.

"I don't think our greatest strength is with our money, it is with our voices, the relationship we build with administration and the relationship that we build with students," Kim, a junior, countered. "However much money we have in our budget, administration has 10, 20, 30 times that, so I really want to advocate effectively to use that money from administration rather than the budget we have from SA."

Kim pointed to his prior experience with the SA as a new student representative, senator and college president as a strength of his candidacy, particularly when it comes to advocating administration to make change. He joked that he was on texting terms, but "not calling [terms] yet," with David McDonald, the director of Housing and Dining.

Tobey said that his prior experience with the SA showed him some of the organization's shortcomings.

"I think that we fail to have inclusive dialogue in our Student Association," Tobey said. "When I was an NSR, I can't remember a single no vote happening within the Student Association."

Both candidates agreed that the SA often pushes out resolutions and statements that have no tangible impact on student experience.

Another source of debate was the Blanket Tax, an $85 fee that each student pays as a part of their tuition to fund student organizations including the SA. Kim said that the Blanket Tax brings in roughly $400,000 annually, and that he wants to explore raising the tax in the future.

"What I really want to emphasize is that it's not all pocket money for us. We fund Beer Bike with that, we fund [the Rice Programs Council] with that, we fund the Thresher, Campanile, Honor Council [and] UCourt. All of that is funded through the Blanket Tax," Kim said.

Alongside reorganizing Blanket Tax distribution, including continuing the returning of funds from the Campanile, Kim said he hopes to create a unified funding source which cultural clubs can request money from, rather than having it split across the Initiative Fund, Student Activities/President's Programming funding, the multicultural center and more.

Tobey said he does not believe the SA adequately uses its existing money. He said he would like to reallocate the current budget to better fund cultural clubs and events before increasing the Blanket Tax.

"I think that what we have right now is enough, but we are just not spending it effectively," Tobey said. "I'm not opposed to raising the Blanket Tax once we're actually doing good things for students, once we're a legitimate organization that can say we are making change and working for students."

Both candidates advocate for late-night dining options as part of their platforms. Tobey said that the SA budget can be used as leverage for administration to make change.

"I'm willing to pay administrative bonuses to staff who will stay late at serveries to keep serveries open later … I also think we should have healthy late-night food options, and I think that the new vending machines are great, but they would be even greater if they were able to take Rice ID," Tobey said.

Kim responded by saying that he was not sure if administrative bonuses were possible to enact.

"Based on multiple meetings with H&D, the problem is not that they don't have the money to give the staff more time, it's just that a lot of the staff rely on public transport, so no matter how much you pay them, they don't have a means of going back home, they can't [stay later] … I want to expand H&D's student worker pilot program which started a couple years ago," Kim said. He said that the student worker pilot program would have students working the serveries during later hours as opposed to staff members.

In their concluding statements, the candidates spoke about their intentions with the SA presidency, highlighting the differences in their platforms.

"I think that advocacy is action," Kim said. "There are so many changes I want to see in the Student Association, but building upon the experiences and the tangible projects that I've already worked on, I'm committed to further improving the life of Rice students across campus in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, accessibility and student life."

"I think that we really have an opportunity here to change the way that the Student Association operates for students," Tobey said. "I really think that we have failed students over the last few years and we have the opportunity to turn that around. It doesn't start with advocacy, it starts with action. I made specific plans on the budget to fund the projects that I'm going to carry out. That means mental health initiatives, late night food options, expanded student discounts and $10 printing credits."

Candidates for SA treasurer Josh Stallings, a sophomore at Duncan College, and Thomas Ngo, a McMurtry College freshman and NSR, further discussed the SA budget after Kim and Tobey exited the stage. Stallings spoke about potentially raising the Blanket Tax to better fund student organizations through the Initiative Fund, which allocates money to finance new events. Ngo said that he was also considering raising the Blanket Tax, but that reallocating the existing budget could better fund organizations as well.

Candidates for SA secretary Chelsea Asibbey, a freshman at Baker College, and Calla Doh, a Hanszen freshman and NSR, also debated their potential role. Asibbey and Doh both discussed increased use of social media to disseminate information and increased use of polling to gauge student opinions.

"Hopefully as secretary, I get the unique opportunity to continue to not just represent the communities I come from, whether it's first-generation or low-income or the African American community, but allow us to bridge that gap between what the Student Association does and what the student body receives from them," Asibbey said.

<![CDATA[Rice settles financial aid lawsuit for $33.75 million]]> Rice has reached a $33.75 million settlement in the financial aid "cartel" lawsuit today, according to court filings. Rice denied wrongdoing in the settlement.

The class action lawsuit, filed in 2022, accuses Rice and 16 other elite universities of illegal price-fixing that decreased aid to students.

The 17 universities collaborated on financial aid methodologies, which was permitted under Section 568 of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 for need-blind universities. However, the plaintiffs allege that some of the 17 defendant universities were not truly need-blind, and others - like Rice - should have known that their peers did not qualify for inclusion into the eponymous 568 Presidents Group.

In a statement to the Thresher, Rice denied unfairly limiting aid.

"Rice is committed to transforming the lives of students and supporting Owls of all socioeconomic backgrounds through its generous, loan-free financial aid programs and need-blind admissions," Jeff Falk, the assistant vice president for strategic communications, wrote. "The university never conspired to decrease aid for its students.

"The Rice Investment, our signature program to meet the needs and potential of all students, will continue to provide scholarship and grant opportunities to deserving students," Falk added.

Ten universities have now settled in the case. The University of Chicago settled first for $13.5 million. Yale, Emory, Brown, Columbia and Duke universities then settled for a collective $104.5 million, ranging from $18.5 million to $24 million per school.

In addition to Rice's $33.75 million, Dartmouth, Northwestern and Vanderbilt universities announced settlements of $33.75 million, $43.5 million and $55 million today, respectively.

In all, the 10 universities have paid $284 million - and seven other defendant universities remain.

Rice initially set aside the $33.75 million in a financial statement in October.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

<![CDATA[Soul Night combines resilience and creativity to celebrate Black community]]> A one-night-only cultural showcase, Soul Night reflects the artistry and creative lexicon of Rice's Black Student Association. This year's showcase is award show-themed, combining music, dance, spoken word and fashion in the form of a narrative musical. The show takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24 in Hamman Hall. Tickets are $10 and include a pre-show dinner at 5 p.m.

According to Spencer Rembert, a Soul Night coordinator, the theme for this year's showcase draws inspiration from the 2006 movie "Dreamgirls," which follows an R&B music trio of Black women in the 1960s. Rembert, a Brown College sophomore, has worked alongside co-coordinator Avalon Hogans for the past year to bring the BSA's annual event to fruition, while also including their own creative touches.

"I would say what makes it different this year is the storyline." Hogans, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. "It's a narrative jukebox musical, so that's something new we're looking forward to."

Rembert and Hogans have been working on this year's showcase since they were elected as coordinators last year. Both have creative directing experience to draw upon: Hogans directed the BSA's fashion show "Out of Bounds" last month, and Rembert served as stage director for last year's showcase. Beyond the logistical responsibilities of managing the show's budget, recruiting videographers and holding auditions, Rembert said that executing he and Hogans' creative vision proved to be the most important concern.

"We're two artistic people, so we wanted to be innovative," Rembert said. "Over the summer the [award show] idea stemmed from watching the 'Dreamgirls' movie. We knew we wanted a cohesive storyline, and it was just a matter of getting all hands on deck."

Around 5o people are involved in the execution of this year's Soul Night, according to Hogans. Performers auditioned for the show in October of last semester, and the coordinators worked to modify their storyline and characters in order to best accommodate the performers they selected.

"We revamped the script afterwards to make it more inclusive," Rembert said. "We wanted this process to be as easy as possible for everyone … and also as creative and showing of everyone's talents."

This year's show emphasizes the hard work and dedication that must accompany recognition and success as Black individuals, according to Rembert. Such qualities were essential throughout the production process, which entailed three rehearsals a week and many late hours.

"This production focuses on sacrifice, empathy and power," Rembert said. "In order for us to be great, the rules are different, the rules have always been skewed … but if we put in our full effort and energy, we can look back on it and say it was worth it.

"One of the lines in the show is, 'What are you willing to sacrifice for freedom?' and I think that encapsulates how we got here today."

Soul Night also serves as the culmination of "Soul Week," a BSA tradition of events and activities in the week preceding the showcase. Wednesday's activities featured a Black visual art showcase at the Multicultural Center, and BSA hosted Soul Night Pub on Thursday at 10 p.m.

Both the coordinators said they hope that this year's Soul Night is an enriching and informative experience for everyone involved, serving as a reminder of the talented and diverse student population surrounding them.

"I'm hoping one key takeaway will be seeing just how talented and creative and dedicated the Black community at Rice is," Hogans said. "The whole point of this show every year is to celebrate and give voice to that community."

Ndidi Nwosu / Thresher

<![CDATA[Review: Ye and Ty Dolla Sign's 'Vultures' needs less Ye]]> Review: ★½

Top Track: "Burn"

There are few artists who garner the level of passion that Ye, born Kanye West, does - he has diehard fans and relentless haters. Practically every artist in the mainstream rap scene has been influenced by Ye in a major way, and his signature extends far beyond hip hop.

Since "Donda 2" was released on a Stem Player in 2022, "Vultures" is Ye's first proper album release after 2021's "Donda." That album and 2019's "Jesus is King" were spiritual and deeply Christian projects that were released with no explicit tracks. While Ye's newest, a collaboration with artist Ty Dolla Sign, retains the religious content apparent throughout his music, the album revels in a garish vulgarity not seen so prominently in his work since 2016's "The Life of Pablo."

With "Vultures," Ye is done trying to gain his audience's sympathy and leans into boastful, hedonistic excess. It's a project from someone who knows that he's too big to fail and that he'll always have an audience, no matter his antisemitism, misogyny or general insufferableness.

It's no surprise, then, that Ye is frequently the worst part of his own album.

"Back to Me" is a prime example of this. Ty Dolla Sign's chorus is satisfyingly melodic and is a promising opening to the song, but then Ye's verse starts - and, wow, is it bad. Ye spends his verse repeating many of the same lyrics, and none of them are good. His staccato flow doesn't fit the beat, and his insufferable refrain that only serves to dehumanize women is frustrating. Freddie Gibbs brings his all with the song's last verse, though, delivering energetic bars that should've been the track's only rap verse.

This trend of Ye sapping his own tracks continues on "Carnival," one of the album's highlights. Featuring Rich the Kid and Playboi Carti, "Carnival" is an industrial trap banger with rage-esque production. The chanting choir that opens this song immediately grabs the listener's attention, and verses from Rich the Kid and Ty Dolla Sign follow. While their bars aren't great, they mostly retain the song's energy with their flows.

The section that follows however, sees Ye referencing R. Kelly and Bill Cosby, rapping grossly uninspired - and just plain gross - lines like "Anybody pissed off, gotta make em' drink the urine." Thankfully, Playboi Carti comes to the track's rescue with a performance that perfectly matches the atmosphere and is one of the project's best moments.

The album's production is generally good, with "Burn," "Carnival" and "Do It" standing out as the project's highlights. "Burn" sounds like a Ye song from the mid-2000s, and while the song's vibrant mix of soul, boom bap and R&B doesn't really mesh with the rest of the album's nocturnal trap production, the song is still a pleasant diversion. "Do It" is the album's party banger that interlaces a fun Miami Bass beat with an orchestral string sample. Featuring an introduction from Nipsey Hussle, melodic vocals from Ty Dolla Sign and a competent verse from Ye, "Do It" is pure fun.

However, the album is filled with enough production missteps that will likely leave listeners confused. Touches like the "Roxanne" interpolation on "Paid," the intro samples on "Hoodrat" and the high-pitched vocal sample that deflates the momentum a minute into "Fuk Sumn" are just a few examples of eclectic sonic choices that seem strange and abrasive for the sole sake of being strange and abrasive. Ye's public persona in recent years has been characterized by pure shock in the place of substance, and this album epitomizes that.

If listeners aren't convinced already, "Vultures" should serve as an affront to anyone who still plans to take any of Ye's future projects seriously. While features and inspired production choices keep this album listenable, "Vultures" is too unfocused, too lyrically bland and too damn obnoxious to be anything but ignored.

<![CDATA[Condoleezza Rice visits Rice University]]> Condoleezza Rice, a former United States secretary of state and national security advisor under President George W. Bush, came to Rice to speak with David Satterfield, the director of the Baker Institute, as a part of the Shell Distinguished Lecture Series Feb. 15.

President Reggie DesRoches opened the event and presented Rice with the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership.

"History best remembers Rice for her role during the difficult times after the 9/11 attacks where she was a crucial advisor to George W. Bush … She then succeeded Colin Powell as secretary of state during Bush's second term, a role from which she forcefully advocated for human rights in the United States and around the world," DesRoches said in his speech.

According to the Baker Institute, the Baker Prize for Excellence in Leadership is awarded to those who bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action.

The event was hosted in the Brockman Hall for Opera's Morrison Theater. Some 100 students and community members assembled in the Central Quad across the street from the Baker Institute to protest Rice's visit to the university. Satterfield did not respond to a request to comment for this article.

At the start of the event, a few protesters inside Morrison Theater interrupted Rice and chanted, "From Iraq to Palestine, occupation is a crime," before being escorted out by Rice University police officers. They had signs that read "War Crimes OFF Our Campus" and "Baker Oils the War Machine." A Rice University police officer told the Thresher that they removed between two and four protesters from the event.

Rice acknowledged the protestors' presence.

"The thing about democracy is that it is noisy sometimes," Rice said.

Activists have protested Rice over her role in starting the Iraq War and in authorizing "enhanced interrogation techniques," accusing Rice of supporting war crimes, torture and genocide.

Rice spoke about numerous topics at the event, including her time serving as the first Black female secretary of state, free speech, the impact of wedge issues in American politics and foreign policy from Iraq to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Around 500 people attended the event in person, and over 1,500 people watched the virtual stream, according to Avery Franklin, a media relations specialist for the Office of Public Affairs.

DesRoches later told the Thresher that he believes it is important to have speaker events at the Baker Institute.

"It's important that academic institutions like Rice [University] foster an environment for discussions like the one that happened at this event," DesRoches wrote in an email. "Hearing from leading voices and varying perspectives fosters both intellectual engagement and personal growth."

At the event, Rice spoke about how her life experiences such as growing up in segregated Birmingham, Ala., led her to become the first African American woman to be secretary of state.

"We are not perfect but we keep working toward a more perfect union," Rice said. "I think our challenge is to make sure that generation after generation understands how extraordinary it is to have these [democratic] institutions."

The conversation moved to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rice referred to her work facilitating the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access and the Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing, two documents that aimed to improve economic development and the humanitarian situation on the ground in Gaza.

Rice then brought up Satterfield's role as President Joe Biden's special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues. Rice reflected on Israel's military campaign in Gaza in retribution for Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, which has killed nearly 30,000 and thrown the Gaza Strip into a humanitarian crisis, according to The Washington Post.

"At some point [now] the Israelis are going to have to decide that they have done enough damage to Hamas to knock them back," Rice said. "[A resolution] doesn't mean, by the way, the Israelis occupying Gaza, because I'm the one who negotiated the Israelis out of Gaza in 2005 … I think the Israelis can run counterterrorism operations for a long time."

Satterfield then asked Rice a couple of questions submitted by students. The first question asked Rice to reflect on the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The invasion was justified by accusations - later shown to be false - that then-Iraqi prime minister Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

"What you know today cannot affect what you did yesterday," Rice said in response. "We thought [Hussein] was reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction … If Japan is buying large amounts of chlorine, then you probably think they're doing swimming pools. But if Iraq is doing that, you think this is for nerve gas. For a variety of reasons, I think we misread what was going on there."

Though Rice said that the Middle East and Iraq were better off without Hussein, she conceded that she doesn't know if the U.S. government would have acted differently had they known that Hussein hadn't fully reconstituted weapons of mass destruction.

"In the moment, you do what you know," Rice said.

Rice then moved on to emphasize the importance of patience in diplomacy.

"Our impatience with people who are trying to find a way to a more decent life, our impatience with people who are coming out of tyranny and don't quite get it right with their constitution … We, of all people, ought to be patient," Rice said. "How can the United States of America, that counted my ancestors as three-fifths of a man in the first Constitution, and then realized that [in] over a couple hundred years we'd get to a place that I could be secretary of state - how can we be impatient with people who are just starting that journey, [transitioning into a democracy]?"

<![CDATA[Tennis roots propel Grear into final Rice season]]> Alyss Allen Grear wasn't yet pregnant with her sons when she made a silent wish for twins. It was the late 1990s, and Grear was watching Serena and Venus Williams play tennis on her television. She had never played tennis in her life, but watching the Williams sisters, she decided that one day she wanted her kids to play the sport.

"I remember [hearing] Richard Williams tell their story about how he got them into tennis really young because you have a natural partner," Allen Grear said. "I remember thinking, if I ever have twins, I'm going to put them in tennis.

"Sure enough, I had twins. And, you know, here they are."


Just like their mother had hoped, her twins Trinity and Origen Grear started playing tennis when they were around 6 years old. Trinity has now played for 15 years. His final season at Rice is just getting started, and he is one of the top-three players on the team, head coach Efe Ustundag said.

"I hope that as a team we can have the best season we've had in a few years," Ustundag, whose team started the season 5-4, said. "And, also, send [Trinity] out with hopefully a conference championship or an NCAA bid that I believe this team can do."

While the stakes are higher today, Trinity has been serious about tennis since he started playing.

When they were little, Trinity and Origen would go out to the tennis courts with their dad, Tony Grear, on the weekends. Tony, who never played tennis, would sit on the sidelines studying tennis YouTube videos while the twins were on the court.

"If I picked up a racket right now, even after sideline coaching and yelling at them, I still cannot hit the sweet spot," Tony said. "I can't do it. But they were good enough and committed enough. I guess I wasn't patient enough, but they were. Whatever I saw on YouTube, we practiced it."

When it was time to go home, Trinity would cry. Despite often being on the court for five hours, he wanted to stay and practice longer. In hindsight, his mom regretted making him leave before he was ready. Trinity is grateful for the balance his parents provided for his intensity, though.

"They are there to support me in whatever way they can, so I think I naturally love the sport," Trinity said of his parents. "The kind of guidance that they gave me, it was perfect. I think I was able to make a lot of my own decisions, and then they just supported me along the way."

Trinity's serious and competitive nature was obvious off the tennis court as well. He strived to get the best grades. Trinity consistently earned the fastest time in his class at the annual elementary school turkey trot. His dad once saw him practicing his karate moves in the middle of the night before a big tournament the next morning.

"He's never needed very much micromanaging," Tony said. "Whenever he realizes what the task has been, he's going for it. I've always felt like my role is to just help him to be efficient in whatever his processes are based on my experience as an adult."

While they continued to explore other sports, Trinity and Origen began training at the Junior Tennis Champion Center in College Park, Md., when they were around 8 years old. The boys were urged to start pursuing only one sport seriously around age 10. Trinity said choosing tennis was the natural decision.

When the twins were 12, though, Origen hurt his knee and needed surgery. Trinity described the injury as the catalyst for them eventually choosing different paths for high school. While Origen decided to go to public high school and continue to play tennis there, Trinity started training and doing school with JTCC.

"Most of the best players in the country are going to do online school and train pretty much all day because in tennis it's very international," Trinity said. "We need to be able to train, to travel to tournaments and we need the flexibility that online school provides in order to get recruited and to really get better."

Trinity was full-time at the tennis academy by ninth grade. He spent three and a half hours doing his online school before training for four hours.

Trinity caught Ustundag's eye through his rankings. Trinity was top-40 in the country among his class. He was a five-star tennis player. Ustundag said he had the chance to watch him a lot as he was recruiting.

"Everybody I spoke with just had a lot of positive things to say about him," Ustundag said. "It was one of those things [where] every tournament I watched him, I just saw something a little better."

Trinity started the recruiting process during his junior year. He didn't have a "dream college" in mind. Up until committing to Rice in March of his senior year, he wasn't 100 percent sure what he was looking for in a school.

Trinity did online school from Maryland during his first semester at Rice because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When he arrived in January of his first year, he was the only freshman on the team. While the transition wasn't easy, Trinity credits the environment on the team for making him a more well-rounded person today.

He remembers that before coming to Rice, a tennis loss would be detrimental and feel like his whole world. He still cares about his results, but he has an easier time feeling grounded because he has found other things to care about, too.

As he looks to graduate in May with a double major in Business and Sport Management, Ustundag says that on his senior day he will probably have multiple fans whose kids will be vying for the opportunity to present Trinity with his senior award.

"You know, it's not just the speed and the athleticism and stuff," Ustundag said. "He's got that attraction of a good person, athlete, student-athlete that makes it easy to cheer for him."

<![CDATA[Community members protest Condoleezza Rice event at Baker Institute]]> Students and community members gathered in the Central Quad Feb. 15 to protest Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and national security advisor to George W. Bush, coming to campus, demanding that the university "divest from death." A Houston Police Department officer at the protest estimated nearly 100 protesters were in attendance throughout.

Ahead of the demonstration, protesters accused Rice on social media of being a war criminal who was the architect of the Iraq War. In a Feb. 12 Instagram post announcing the protest, Rice Students for Justice in Palestine wrote, "While Rafah remains under threat of ground invasion and experiences constant bombings by Israel, Rice University shamelessly upholds legacies of imperialism that enable the global war machine."

According to a protester who identified as an Arab student and part of Rice SJP's leadership team, this protest was held because they don't want "war criminals on campus." The person spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns of doxxing because of their position with Rice SJP.

"We don't want people on our campus who are in part responsible for the death of a million innocent Iraqis," the Rice SJP leadership member said. "The same day, [the university] decided to host [information technology company] Hewlett Packard Enterprise on campus, which is a major part of the way Israel's prison systems are allowed to continue existing.

"We don't want war criminals on our campus. We don't want people enabling genocide on our campus," the protester added.

Leo Luna, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation who attended the protest, said he cannot support a university inviting someone like Rice to speak.

"Given Condoleezza Rice's involvement in the Iraq War, and given how instrumental she was in having that happen, the fact that she continues to be an advocate in the imperial court and continues to have gigs in this manner is something that we can absolutely not support, especially given it continues to fund the U.S. war machine that Israel will inevitably be a part of," Luna said.

Protesters held Palestinian flags and posters bearing slogans such as "Hands off Rafah!" and "End all U.S. Aid to Israel." Protest organizers from Rice SJP, representatives from University of Houston SJP, Scholars Against The War on Palestine, Palestinian Youth Movement, Houston Democratic Socialists of America and Healthcare Workers for Palestine gave speeches.

Phrases including "Rice, Rice what do you say? How many kids have you killed today? Condi, Condi what do you say? How many kids have you killed today?" and "Israel bombs, Rice pays! How many kids did you kill today? Divestment is our demand! No peace on stolen land!" were chanted throughout the event.

Levi Bullen, a member of Houston Democratic Socialists of America, said protests like this are what bring about change.

"The national narrative around Palestine has shifted over the last 15 years," Bullen said. "This shift is largely due to organizing being done by many different organizations. This shift doesn't happen by itself so we can't be silent."

The Rice SJP leadership team member said that they wanted the university to divest from Israeli interests.

"We want Rice to end all partnerships with Israel and with companies that help like Raytheon and [Department of Defense] contracts like HPE," the student said. "We want all those contracts ended because we don't want our university helping Israel perpetuate genocide."

<![CDATA[S.RES 12 calls for housing accommodations for trans and gender non-conforming students]]> The Student Association passed a resolution to provide support and begin the process of providing accommodations for transgender and gender non-conforming students Feb. 12. The resolution, which was introduced Jan. 24, passed with everyone in attendance voting in favor.

The resolution proposes creating a map of gender-neutral bathrooms around campus and within residential colleges. The resolution also focuses on providing resources during Orientation Week and revising the new student form to outline these new accommodations and emphasize the form's confidentiality.

Katherine Painter, a Brown College new student representative who introduced the resolution, said she was pleased with how it proceeded.

"When we introduced the resolution, there were a lot of people who spoke in opposition, not necessarily to the issue, but just to how we were trying to attack it," Painter, a freshman, said. "At this Senate, I felt really good because no one voted against it. It's like a reaffirmation that what we're doing is good. Not that I ever questioned that; [the resolution passing is] just some more support."

According to Painter, further steps include more meetings with Housing and Dining on how to implement these changes.

Morike Ayodeji, the director of the SA's diversity, equity and inclusion commission, who was also part of the group of students introducing the resolution, said that she hopes this resolution will make this issue a priority for the administration.

"It's just a matter of admin and other groups on campus putting [these accommodations] as one of their priorities and just getting it done," Ayodeji, a senior at McMurtry College said. "There's a lot of small things that will go a long way. Ultimately, why not make people feel more included and comfortable on campus? That's the whole goal of our committee."

Cole Holladay, one of the co-presidents of Rice PRIDE, who was consulted during the drawing up of this resolution, said they have had concerns with H&D's general response to the issue in the past.

"One issue I have had with H&D's response has been that they have previously been unwilling to make changes to existing infrastructure," Holladay, a junior from Martel College, wrote in an email to the Thresher. "Instead, a representative from H&D has stated that they would just shuffle [gender non-conforming] and [transgender] students into colleges that have existing, inclusive infrastructure."

David McDonald, the H&D interim associate vice president, said H&D had been working with key stakeholders at Rice to provide gender-inclusive bathrooms as residential colleges are renovated.

"As colleges are built and reconstructed, we are paying special attention to adding all-gender inclusive restrooms, including in Duncan [College], McMurtry, New Sid [Richardson College], and the three new wings for Baker, Hanszen and Will Rice [Colleges]," McDonald wrote in an email to the Thresher. "We have also designated three bathrooms in Baker to be gender inclusive. Jones North and South also have first floor suites that have gender inclusive bathrooms. We are also adding a gender inclusive restroom to Brown College the summer of 2024."

McDonald said that if students feel uncomfortable with their college accommodations, they should consult their college coordinator of the SAFE office.

Jae Kim, Brown president, who was part of turning the bathrooms in the Brown basement into gender-neutral bathrooms, said he hopes students know that gender-inclusive accommodations can be made throughout campus.

"I feel like every college, if they really dedicated themselves to it, especially the DEI representatives within the college … [should] make it so that every college will be able to equally, fully support students that might not be comfortable with gendered housing," Kim, a junior, said.

Holladay, along with Rice PRIDE co-president Jorge Arnez Gonzales, said that this resolution was a positive step forward.

"We think that this is definitely a step in the right direction to make campus infrastructure more accessible to gender nonconforming and transgender students," Arnez Gonzales, a junior from McMurtry, wrote in an email to the Thresher. "We are working closely with the SA's DEI committee to see this resolution actually be implemented by H&D, so the work has just begun."

Duncan NSR Amogh Varanasi, one of the authors of the resolution, said that he hopes the passing of this resolution will open up larger conversations for the SA regarding other causes in Rice's community.

"I think having this [resolution] is a very good springboard to have some big conversations, not only with student organizations like Rice PRIDE and Student Association and Senate, but also with the bigger players that can make a bigger tangible impact on Rice through legislation and policy," Varanasi said.

<![CDATA[Owls swept by Fighting Irish in season-opening series]]> Kicking off the season with high hopes, Rice baseball faced a tough start this past weekend. They were swept by the University of Notre Dame at home in their opening series, unable to secure a victory over three games. The Owls suffered a 3-1 loss on Friday night, followed by a 9-5 defeat on Saturday afternoon and concluded with a 13-10 loss on Sunday.

"You definitely want to start off with a win on Opening Day," head coach Jose Cruz, Jr. said. "Ultimately, it came down to a mistake, an error on our part and things that led to some runs. That was the difference in this first game."

After junior starting pitcher Parker Smith completed a seamless 1-2-3 inning to start the game, senior infielder Nathan Becker drove in a run with a two-out RBI single, giving the Owls an early lead. In the top of the second, Smith faced pressure as he loaded the bases and walked a batter, resulting in a run.

With the score tied at 1-1 through five innings, the Owls brought junior right-handed pitcher Jack Ben-Shoshan to relieve Smith with runners on first and second. However, Ben-Shoshan struggled, allowing an infield single and hitting the next batter, giving the Fighting Irish a 2-1 lead. The inning concluded with the score at 3-1 after a fielder's choice play by the senior first baseman Jack Riedel.

Cruz said that Smith remained competitive, even though this wasn't his strongest performance, and added that the offense wasn't at their best either.

"Parker was good. I was looking at his numbers, and despite not being at his best, it's still one earned run," Cruz said. "But ultimately, we scored one run, and we have to score more to win a ball game. I think our offensive side of what we're doing is way better than what it showed today."

On a positive note, Cruz pointed out sophomore pitcher Davion Hickson's standout performance. The transfer from Florida State pitched impressively, yielding no hits or runs in four innings.

"I'm really happy for Davion," Cruz said. "He came in and pitched exceptionally well. Davion takes everything to heart and executes to give us a chance to succeed."

On Saturday, Rice junior starting pitcher J.D. McCracken took the mound, but Notre Dame quickly took the lead in the first inning. In the bottom of the first, Jack Riedel's home run tied the game 1-1, followed by Manny Garza's single that gave the Owls a 2-1 lead. Riedel stayed productive, hitting a sac fly in the fourth to extend the lead to 3-2.

However, Notre Dame capitalized on passed balls and wild pitches to regain the lead. Despite this, McCracken struck out the next batter, minimizing the damage. In the bottom of the fifth, graduate student outfielder Brendan Cumming's triple allowed Garza to score, tying the game.

The game remained back and forth until the top of the eighth inning when senior closer Tyler Hamilton's walk led to sophomore pitcher Garrett Stratton giving up a crucial home run, putting Notre Dame ahead 6-4. In the top of the ninth, Rice brought in redshirt junior pitcher Tom Vincent, who struggled, giving up significant hits and errors, resulting in a final score of 9-5 in favor of Notre Dame.

The Owls struck first on Sunday, with Florida State transfer junior infielder Trayton Rank's two-run home run giving them the lead in the bottom of the first. Sophomore pitcher Jackson Mayo started on the mound for the Owls and held Notre Dame to no earned runs through three innings. Despite Rice extending their lead to 3-0, Notre Dame capitalized with two consecutive homers off junior reliever Mauricio Rodriguez.

The Owls continued to perform well at the plate, but their pitching struggled. Notre Dame seized the lead in the top of the seventh inning, going up 8-7. The Owls responded in the bottom of the eighth, but Notre Dame matched them. The game remained tight until the top of the ninth, where Notre Dame widened their lead to 13-10.

"We didn't get the results we wanted from the weekend," Cruz said. "It's the first weekend, and everybody's getting their feet wet, so there's a little bit of grace there. There were a few things that we could have done better. I think our lack of depth on Sunday cost us that game."

Despite the sweep, senior outfielder and catcher Ben Dukes had many positive reflections on the weekend.

"There were a lot of bright spots and a lot of low spots," Dukes said. We have the talent to perform and compete with anybody, and the "want-to" factor is necessary. Commitment to the goal as a team has been shown by everybody, and now it is time to put it on display. Opening weekend jitters are out. Time to play ball."

Cruz discussed the team's philosophy and their aspirations for improvement as the season begins to unfold.

"The whole thing now is just having the guys understand our standard and what we expect from them," Cruz said. "What our brand of baseball is and what you have to do in order to be able to be in the lineup and be a contributing member of our team that leads to wins."

The Owls hosted Sam Houston State University Tuesday night, but the game finished after publication. The Owls will travel to Lafayette, Louisiana for a three-game series this weekend to face the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns.

<![CDATA[02-21-2024 Crossword Solutions]]> <![CDATA[02-21-2024 Crossword: "Black History Month"]]> ]]> <![CDATA[SA Presidential Election Prez-Off]]> <![CDATA[02-21-2024 "Owl American" ]]> "Top of the 9th to you!"

<![CDATA[Rice MBB have significant improvements to make before March ]]> For the Rice men's basketball team, the transition from Conference-USA to the American Athletic Conference was never going to be easy. Just last year, the AAC featured two of the top 15 college basketball squads in the nation with the No. 2 University of Houston and No. 14 University of Memphis.

Although Houston departed to the Big 12 at the end of the 2022-23 season, the competition never got easier for Rice basketball: Florida Atlantic University, which made a historic Cinderella run into the Final Four last year, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, among other teams, moved with Rice from the C-USA to the AAC.

However, despite this tough transition, the Owls' play this season has been nothing short of a disappointment.

Rice sits at a 9-16 overall record, going 3-9 record against conference play, good for fourth-worst in the conference. According to KenPom, a widely respected statistical database in college basketball known for conducting advanced analyses, the Owls rank 228th among the 362 Division 1 college basketball teams nationwide. KenPom's database puts the Owls 12th out of the 14 teams in the conference.

The Owls' primary weakness lies on the defensive side of the ball, which KenPom currently ranks as the 228th in the country. More specifically, they allow opponents to score 76.7 points per game, the 310th in the nation.

Their main defensive struggles come from defending the three-point line, with opposing teams converting 36.3% of their shots beyond the arc, good for the 31st highest three-point percentage allowed in the nation.

Another major weakness on the squad is the team's fouling numbers. The Owls commit a jaw-dropping 15.0 personal fouls a game, which puts them as one of the most undisciplined teams in the nation. Due to the high amount of fouls committed by Rice, opponents visit the charity stripe frequently every game, giving them a further advantage over the Owls. The Owls' opponents take advantage with their numerous visits to the free-throw line as they make 74% of their free throws, which is the 52nd best free-throw conversion rate amongst D1 opponents.

Although some might argue that the statistics could be inflated due to the Owls' increase in competition since they moved to a new conference, when comparing the overall strength of schedule, the difficulty in opponents that the Owls face has not increased significantly. According to Sports Reference, the Owls' currently have the 106th hardest schedule in the nation, compared to the 123rd most difficult schedule last season.

Luckily for the Owls, though, all teams in the AAC qualify for the post-season tournament where the Owls have a chance to rewrite the tale of their regular season. With March rolling around the corner, the Owls have just three weeks to improve upon their weaknesses before the AAC Conference Championship starts on March 13 in Fort Worth. Their final six games of the regular season take place against conference opponents, giving the Owls a perfect opportunity to improve their record against conference foes and improve their seeding for the conference tournament.

Currently, the Owls would be the 10th seed in the tournament and would face off in the second round of the tournament against the 7th seed, the University of North Texas, who currently have a 14-11 record overall and 7-6 against conference opponents. The Mean Green, historically, has been a tough opponent for the Owls. In their 29 overall head-to-heads, the Owls have won only eight times.

If head coach Scott Pera and his team can focus on fixing their significant defensive flaws and discipline issues, the Owls have a chance to draw a less formidable opponent in their inaugural AAC conference championship tournament.

<![CDATA[Owls one game back of first in the AAC, split last week's matchups ]]> Rice women's basketball split their pair of matches last week, beating East Carolina University at home on Wednesday 75-57 before losing on the road to the University of Alabama at Birmingham 87-74 on Saturday.

The pair of games moved the team's record to 15-10 on the season and 9-5 in conference play, enough to put them in a three-way tie for second in the American Athletic Conference as of publication. The Owls play their final three games of the regular season on Feb. 25, March 2 and March 5.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, the Owls hosted the Pirates at Tudor Fieldhouse. After taking the lead with two minutes left in the first quarter, the Owls never let up and went on to win by 18. Junior forward Malia Fisher led the team's offensive attack with a 22-point performance, and three other Owls scored in the double figures. Defensively, the Owls forced 16 Pirate turnovers, but the largest statistical advantage was the 50 bench points for the Owls while holding the Pirates to four.

"I just keep saying that I'm so impressed with how deep this team is," head coach Lindsay Edmonds said after the game. "Different people step up every night and find ways to help us score and help us win. They are all ready when their name is called. I'm just so proud of the group, it was a total team effort."

Riding a three-game win streak, the Owls traveled to Alabama to take on the Blazers. In their only matchup of the season, the Owls and Blazers went back and forth with the Owls holding the lead late in the third quarter, 53-51. However, a quick run gave the Blazers a six-point lead going into the fourth which they never relinquished, winning by a 13-point margin, 87-74. After the game, Fisher said she was disappointed with the Owls' complacency.

"We took this game for granted," Fisher said. "We did not have the right mentality to come out and compete against a team who's been trying to beat us for the last three years. They are a great team, but we hurt ourselves on Saturday and it's not a feeling that we want to feel ever again."

Following the loss, the Owls find themselves in a three-way tie for second in the AAC as of publication, one game behind the top-seeded University of North Texas, whom they are slated to face in their final home game of the season on March 2. Tied for second is UAB, to whom the Owls just lost, and the Temple University, whom the Owls will face at home Feb. 25. With the end of the regular season fast approaching, fifth-year guard Destiny Jackson likes where her team is but knows that each game going forward is important.

"We are in a pretty good spot standings-wise but we can't get complacent," Jackson said. "These last few games are very important, so it's crucial that we take it one game at a time. No pressure, no diamond."

The Owls took the court last night against the University of Memphis in Memphis. The Tigers were sitting at 11th in the conference but bested the Owls on Rice's home court when these two teams last faced each other. According to Fisher, the Owls need to grow from the UAB loss and finish the season strong.

"The best thing we can do is learn and grow," Fisher said. "We dropped the ball, but it has made us reflect on our preparation and think about who we want to be finishing out the season and going into the postseason."

<![CDATA[Black Art at Rice: Doyin Aderele talks writing, magical realism]]> Drawing inspiration from her Nigerian heritage and ancient Yoruba culture, Doyin Aderele is currently working on her senior seminar project, an African fantasy novel that she has been developing for a year. Aderele, a senior at Sid Richardson College, has been studying creative writing since her freshman year at Rice and mostly writes fiction, focusing on fantasy and magical realism.

"I started writing when I was in middle school… The stories I wrote weren't very good, but it just really stuck with me. I've always been a big reader [of] fantasy and mythology novels like Percy Jackson," Aderele said. "I first started involving myself in magic realism seriously in my junior year. I took a fairy tale class [called] Fairytales and Fear Tales … It inspired me to put my own twist on writing fairy tales."

Growing up as a reader, Aderele said that it was always hard to find characters and stories that she could see herself in.

"As I started getting more into writing, I really wanted to see more of myself. I started writing stories that surrounded black characters and different cultures to contribute to the growth of the genre of Black fiction," Aderele said. "I've been reading more authors in those realms lately, and I just really want to be a little bit more a part of that genre, because I think it's really important to have that representation in books and art."

Along with Nigerian and Yoruba culture, Aderele said that her inspiration comes from fantasy writers like Octavia Butler and Tomi Adeyemi, the author of "Children of Blood and Bone." She's also benefited from workshopping her senior seminar project with fellow cohort members.

"Before, all my writing [was] a pretty solo experience. I've just written stuff and then revised on my own a little, but I think working with other people has been really eye-opening and helpful," Aderele said. "I've been able to not only share my work with others and get good feedback, I've also been able to read my fellow cohort members' work, assist them and then get a little bit of inspiration for myself. It's been a good experience."

As an English major, Aderele said that she has been able to focus more on taking her writing seriously by taking fiction-writing classes under published, award-winning professors like Bryan Washington and Kiese Laymon.

"[Writing] used to be a hobby I did on the side. But now I've seen that I really want to take it seriously and perhaps make it a career in the future," Aderele said. "Reading [my professors'] work and learning from them, I've been able to figure out my own voice. I think taking these classes has been a great influence on my personal writing."

Aderele's recent short story, inspired by her own experiences, tells the story of a young girl who travels back home to Nigeria for her grandfather's funeral. The protagonist struggles with her identity, her relationship with her father and her sense of belonging in a culture that feels both familiar and foreign. According to Aderele, it was one of her favorite pieces to write.

"Sometimes you feel like an outcast or just distinct from your own culture when you're not always involved in or engrossed in that culture," Aderele said. "I think as I'm writing, it doesn't feel as personal but then once I get through it, I find connections to my own life. I like to look at my personal experiences and feel how I felt or things I saw and try to weave that in just to make it feel a little bit more real."

<![CDATA[Check out these Black-owned businesses around Houston]]> From restaurants to hair salons, Houston is rich in celebrating Black culture through businesses. Visiting some of these Black-owned businesses may be the best way to celebrate the diversity Houston has to offer. Though Black History month may almost be over, these businesses are open year-round.

Cool Runnings Jamaican Grill

This award-winning grill has been featured on the Food Network and is one of the most well-known authentic Jamaican restaurants in Houston. Located on Bellfort Avenue, the menu features a wide array of items such as jerk chicken and curry goat. According to food critic Keith Lee, this is some of the best food he has ever had. If you enjoy spicy and affordable Caribbean cuisine, then this restaurant is worth a try.

Salon Rose

This salon located in Montrose offers a variety of services such as blowouts, hair coloring and twist braids. With a 4.8 star review on Google, customers report highly regarding the overall atmosphere. Many reviews spoke highly of the customer service with most of the staff treating them kindly. If you're in need of hair services, then this salon may be the place for you.

Trez Bistro & Wine Bar

Voted one of the best wine bars in Houston, this wine bar includes a tasty selection of drinks and appetizers such as cheese, pizza and meatballs. Shawntell McWilliams, owner of Trez, has a strong focus on local partnerships, allowing local Houston artists to display their artwork at the bar. Though this bar is located in Memorial and is strictly 21+, its focus on community and delicious food and beverages may be worth the trip.

Kindred Stories

This small bookstore was founded by a woman who strived to create a safe place for powerful works written by Black authors. Their mission is to make books accessible to the Third Ward community - a diverse, yet underprivileged neighborhood. If you are a bookworm or desire to read Black literature, then this relaxed bookstore has many options to choose from.

The Spot

If you want to "let loose" on a weekend, then this lounge and bar is the place for you. Featuring special theme nights and live music, The Spot provides the sense of community that everyone's longing for. Located only seven minutes from Rice, this bar is relatively accessible for students (just make sure you have a designated driver).

Dandelion Cafe

Though this cafe does have a location in Bellaire, we have one in our very own O'Connor Building. If you haven't checked out this cafe yet, then you're quite late to the game. Dandelion has a variety of food and drink items such as coffee, smoothies and chicken and waffles. Starting off as a small coffee shop, owners J.C. Ricks and Sarah Lieberman have since expanded into a full-on restaurant menu.

<![CDATA[Review: 'Lisa Frankenstein' is less than the sum of its parts]]> Review: ★★½

"Lisa Frankenstein" is a horror/comedy directed by Zelda Williams and written by Diablo Cody of "Jennifer's Body" fame. While the film is aesthetic to the max, has interesting cinematography and includes some satisfying performances, it fails to live up to Cody's previous works. The protagonist is foundationally unlikable, the tonal shifts will give you whiplash and its focus on references of other, better movies just reminds you that you could (and really should) be watching something else.

Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is a high-school misfit, cast out by her peers for, ostensibly, her gothic habits and, in reality, her festering wound of a personality. After the tragic death of her mother at the axe of a masked slasher, her father quickly remarries, expanding the Swallows family with ditzy step-sister Taffy, played by Liza Soberano in the best performance of the film, and wicked stepmother Janet, melodramatically portrayed by Carla Gugino.

Lisa struggles with the many trials of young womanhood - uncomfortable family dynamics, getting her crush to notice her, making friends at her new school - until the Creature (Cole Sprouse), resurrected from the grave of a Victorian bachelor pianist, lurches into her life. With the arrival of her first real friend, Lisa's focus shifts to bringing the corpse back to working order - he's missing an ear, a hand and a special extra part that isn't revealed until the last 15 minutes (but won't surprise anyone who noticed the film's PG-13 rating). She helps him by harvesting the needed pieces from those who've slighted her, falling in love with the Creature in the process.

Once the opening black-and-white credits finish, the movie's best quality begins to shine: its presentation. The cinematography is well-done, with interesting lighting and creative camera work. The set design is impressive, layered with details that make the locations feel lived in. The aesthetics of the movie are certainly very '80s - there's vaporwave coloring and strong geometric patterns positively dripping from the frames. The style is very in-your-face, which could be too much for some viewers, but I found it to be one of the movie's strongest points.

While the style is certainly there, "Lisa Frankenstein'''s substance is lacking. The plot is consciously derivative, a "coming-of-rage" story in the mold of "Carrie" and "Teeth." It doesn't do anything as well as or better than the films that have come before, though, and it doesn't do anything fresh to make it worth its runtime. The tone lurches between silly and serious, never quite able to blend the horror and comedy together into a cohesive genre. The Creature could've counted the number of times I laughed on his one remaining hand, and the "horror" made me cringe more out of cringe than any other emotion.

The protagonist herself is difficult to root for too - Newton delivers a good performance, but there's just nothing compelling enough about Lisa to make her acerbic personality worth dealing with. Every conversation she had with another character merited eye rolls or audience cringes: the main reason she has any chemistry at all with the Creature is because he can't talk.

Overall, "Lisa Frankenstein" is a visual feast but mental famine, lacking a certain cohesion that would bring all of its disparate parts together.

<![CDATA[Campus coffee showdown]]> With the addition of the Dandelion Cafe this semester, Rice's on-campus coffee shop population just gained a new member. With this increase in options, we decided to compare campus's four coffee shops to see which is the best spot for a caffeinated pick-me-up. To keep the rankings as equal as possible, the same drink was ordered from all four shops: an iced vanilla latte with whole milk. Each coffeeshop is being judged on four categories to help inform your choice of coffee establishment.

Brochstein Pavilion

Price: $6.22 (in Tetra)

Wait Time: Short

Flavor: Very good

Seating: Got a table

I went to Brochstein at 10:45 a.m. on a Thursday and waited in line for only a few minutes before ordering. I was able to get a table and get my drink shortly after. It had good vibes for studying, not too loud or quiet. The coffee was excellent: very sweet and creamy.

Dandelion Cafe

Price: $6.60 (in Tetra)

Wait Time: Insanely Short

Flavor: Underwhelming

Seating: Got a table

I went to Dandelion Cafe on a Wednesday afternoon around 2 p.m. The line was super short, and my coffee was ready almost immediately after ordering. I was able to get a table. The space also has good vibes for studying. The coffee was quite underwhelming, particularly the espresso flavor.


Price: $5.41 (not Tetra)

Wait Time: Short

Flavor: Very Good

Seating: Got a Table

Despite not taking Tetra, Audrey's coffee was comparable in flavor to Brochstein while being a bit cheaper. It also had the best seating and study vibes, as they had large tables with comfy booth seats and outlets. I went at 10:45 a.m. on a Thursday, and it was not too crowded with quick service.


Price: $3.50 (in Tetra normally)

Wait Time: Short

Flavor: Okay

Seating: No empty tables

While Chaus by far is the most affordable, it tends to struggle in other categories. I went around 12:45 p.m. on a Monday and the wait was shorter than usual, possibly due to the time of day but could also be related to the fact that they could not take Tetra at the time. Despite the smaller crowd, there were no tables open inside so I had to sit in the RMC instead. The flavor of the coffee was okay, though not as flavorful or sweet as Brochstein or Audrey's.

Final Thoughts

Audrey's was the all-around winner, as it was delicious and moderately priced, with great seating options and vibes. The best value, though, goes to Coffeehouse, whose latte was nearly half the price of its competitors. Brochstein wins for convenience, as it is centrally located, takes Tetra, and is quite delicious but is still more expensive than Audrey's.

<![CDATA[Stuart Weitzman talks about his step into success]]> There's an iconic photograph of Aretha Franklin accepting her award for Favorite Soul Album at the 1983 American Music Awards. In it, the singer beams as she clutches her award in one hand and holds up a pair of glittering high heels in the other. Emblazoned on the insole of the shoes are the words "Stuart Weitzman," a name that Franklin thanked in her acceptance speech alongside her producers and colleagues.

The name might have a familiar ring to the fashion forward, evocative of the high-end footwear brand whose sole struts rampant on red carpets and adorns celebrities such as Gigi Hadid, Sofia Richie and Jennifer Aniston. Perhaps less familiar to our cultural lexicon is the man to whom the name belongs: Weitzman, founder and designer of his eponymous shoe brand. Weitzman visited Rice Feb. 12 and spoke about his entrepreneurial journey to business students in McNair Hall's Shell Auditorium.

No stranger to personal style, it was apparent that Weitzman has had his fingers (and perhaps, his toes) in the design process of his footwear company. The freshly retired CEO sported an all-white ensemble paired with a flashy set of chrome sneakers, as he narrated his role in the company's innovations, both in advertising and developing their most iconic shoes.

"I had absolutely planned to go to Wall Street," Weitzman said in an interview with the Thresher.

The aspiring entrepreuner's intended career path, following graduation from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, soon changed trajectory after seeing one of his shoe designs, which he had sketched as a favor for a family friend's company, sold out in the window of a Bergdorf Goodman.

"[It was] as if you wrote a song and you hear it on the radio for the first time - that's what it was like to see this design of mine on 5th Avenue in one of the finest shoe stores in New York City," Weitzman said. "That took care of Wall Street for me."

At his talk, Weitzman was accompanied by a PowerPoint detailing what he considered foundational tenets, or "truisms," that defined his journey following the founding of his company in the 1980s. Speaking to an audience of mostly women, Weitzman was accompanied by bold, black capital letters emblazoning the words "Risk," "Imagination" and phrases such as "You can't do it alone." Weaving a narrative that reflected both an innate passion for design and an insightful navigation of the business world, Weitzman explained how he mobilized his roles as CEO and head designer to engineer the brand's monumental success.

Entering the footwear industry, Weitzman said he recognized the need for a distinguishing factor in an oversaturated market. He found his niche in designing bridal shoes.

"Once you're in the closet, they make more room for you," Weitzman said.

After establishing his brand, Weitzman expanded his horizons towards red carpets and celebrity endorsements. He noted in his talk the importance of the iconic Aretha Franklin moment, explaining how the singer's enthusiasm in displaying the shoes and thanking him, in front of a broadcast audience of 13 million, worked wonders for his brand's exposure.

Weitzman recognized his keen ability to have his finger on the pulse of the fashion world in the earlier stages of his career. In such a dynamic industry susceptible to trends, he said that designing with a healthy mix of creativity and timeless staples allows his brand to evolve at pace with the fashion world.

"I always create a collection that is 70% evolutionary - if you looked at what I made last year and [compared that with] this year, you would see I evolved a bit," Weitzman said. "But I need the other 30% to be revolutionary. If I made 25 revolutionary looking shoes and two of them clicked, that was success … and the evolutionary shoes, they always sold."

Although Weitzman had undeniable success in keeping his customer base engaged, he admitted that one crucial mistake he made was not recognizing the fashion industry's shift towards a younger generation of consumers.

"I woke up one day and realized our customer, who is very loyal, is now 15 years older," Weitzman said. "Younger gals are starting to spend the money … how do I get that new market?"

Weitzman was quick to find his solution, through a combination of skillful advertising and paying attention to contemporary style influences. He explained how a particular style of thigh-high black leather boots became a best-seller with a younger demographic after he took inspiration from Julia Roberts' shoes in the 1990 movie "Pretty Woman." Weitzman combined the resurgence of '90s fashion with his signature employment of celebrity endorsement, designing a special pair of the thigh-high boots for Taylor Swift that became a staple in her 1989 tour performance wardrobe.

The process of designing and advertising products primarily to women generates curiosity about how Weitzman, as a man, so successfully catered to a female demographic. He did this, Weitzman said, by listening to the female voices around him in order to understand his customer base.

Weitzman said that of the 73 managers in his company, 71 of them were women. To him, the presence of so many female perspectives allowed the company to make informed decisions about both visual appeal and comfort, a combination that came to define the brand's appeal in a time where aestheticism and functionality were virtually irreconcilable in fashion.

"If a girl likes the way a shoe looks, she'll shove her foot in and she'll suffer … that didn't seem to be necessary to me," Weitzman said. "I have a wife and two daughters, and they would say, 'Why can't you make comfortable shoes that look great instead of old lady shoes that are comfortable?' So I put that into my career."

Weitzman retired in 2017, selling his namesake company to the fashion brand Coach for $574 million. When looking back on his career, however, Weitzman said he chooses to define his accomplishments through his personal values, not material milestones, a quality he emphasized to the audience at the conclusion of his talk.

"Everybody's success can be defined by other things in their career," Weitzman said. "But if the people who are supposed to love you do, then you've been successful … all the rest is extra."