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Recently, Rice University announced that all undergraduate international travel has been canceled until the start of the fall semester. I can imagine that this decision has been challenging for many undergrads who were looking forward to expanding their horizons by practicing a new language or immersing themselves in a new culture over the summer. At the risk of sounding cliche, I can say that international travel opportunities I received through Rice have been some of the most transformative experiences of my life. These cancellations come with a heavy sense of loss, and I hope that someday soon every student who was looking forward to international travel will get to spread their wings. Yet, I think that in this pause, we have the opportunity to reflect upon and stop a particular kind of predatory tourism pervasive at Rice: voluntourism.
At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has completely uprooted the daily lives of so many, the entire country is constantly having to adjust. But for Rice student-athletes, the stakes are higher than most, given the pressure to stay in shape and train remotely. This is especially true for Rice’s swim team. With shelter-in-place orders taking effect in 42 states, and only “essential businesses” remaining open, pools and swimming facilities have been shuttered throughout the country. According to swimmer Rebecca Brandt, this has left much of the team unable to practice their craft.
Shut down for the remainder of the semester, student-run businesses are facing challenges filling the financial and emotional gap left by COVID-19. Questions hover for Coffeehouse, The Hoot and Rice Bikes, as well as student-owned East-West Tea and student-staffed Willy’s Pub, as to how they will support their student employees, deal with disrupted income and plan ahead.
The honor council, which upholds one of Rice’s longest-standing systems, has been adapting to their new virtual environment for investigative meetings and hearings as a result of Rice’s response to COVID-19. University court, however, will not continue hearing cases in this remote environment.
For the students still staying in the south colleges, one noise rises above the rest: the sounds of construction on the new Sid Richardson College building. Although most major buildings on campus have been closed, all construction projects on campus have continued due to their continued classification as “essential” under Houston’s stay-at-home order.
For the less than 10 percent of the undergraduate population remaining on campus past March 25, campus life in the midst of the pandemic comes with changes to their living spaces, daily routines and the overall atmosphere of the campus.
For our lovely readers, you may know that “The Weekly Scene” is a regular fixture of the Thresher’s print A&E section that promotes local arts events both on campus and throughout Houston every week. However, due to campus and citywide restrictions on public gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak and our subsequent inability to print issues for the remainder of the semester, the Weekly Scene is sadly obsolete at the moment. Thus, to fill the gap in my heart left by my beloved little column, I’d like to present the Weekly Screen: a short list of TV, movies and videos to check out from the socially-distanced comfort of your home.
Without a word or warning, elusive singer-songwriter Frank Ocean resurfaced from his sea of isolation this past Friday with the release of two new tracks, “Dear April” and “Cayendo.” Both intimate ballads stripped of rich instrumentation and centered around Ocean’s emotional vocals, the two tracks popped up out of the blue on Ocean’s website in October 2019 in the form of preorder vinyls which just shipped out last week, coinciding with the songs’ digital release.
After recently celebrating the restoration of its original call sign letters last fall, KTRU has entered yet another new chapter in its vibrant history: completely remote operations. Rather than surrendering the airwaves to Robo — the station’s “robot” automated system which plays prerecorded music and announcements on loop — the DJs of Rice Radio have found a way to preserve the human touch that makes KTRU a destination for eclectic music lovers across Houston and beyond.
Virtually every traditional movie theater across the country has closed indefinitely by now, which has thrown a wrench into several upcoming movie releases, including highly anticipated blockbusters like Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow” and Disney’s live action remake of “Mulan.” Box Office Mojo says U.S. movie theatres have grossed only $5,000 in each of the past two weeks on average, several orders of magnitude less than this time last year. Films that were scheduled to come out this spring and summer have been pushed back several months, and for those which have not, expect them to be delayed soon. Here are the major delays grouped by production company:
Alyson Riley and Leah Kanihan met a little over a year ago and started dating right after they got back from summer break in fall 2019. Following the outbreak of COVID-19 this spring, they have had to suddenly transition into a long distance relationship, like many other couples at Rice.
As we all exist in isolation from one another, it can be grounding to take a moment to reflect on where we are and how we're doing, and hear the same from others. With that in mind, the Thresher asked for brief stories from the Rice community about what living in social isolation has been like. Here’s what people told us:
Best Song: The entire album
Rice’s budding student-run arts magazine ASTR* will release its second issue online as a result of the campus shutdown. Its editors talk about thriving on chaos and collaboration, and how the current situation has influenced the production of their magazine.
March Madness brackets are a familiar sight — 64 teams face off, with one team crowned the winner. But a bracket created by an informal group of Rice students showcases a different competition: a showdown between 64 of pop artist Taylor Swift’s best songs.
Editor’s Note: The identities of some students and sources mentioned in this story have been removed to protect them from possible backlash. Anonymous students who are referenced multiple times were given false names marked with an asterisk. Any questions about our anonymity policy and sourcing should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rice will offer temporary housing for medical personnel who work in nearby Texas Medical Center hospitals at Wiess and Hanszen Colleges and relocate students currently living there, according to an announcement from President David Leebron on Sunday afternoon.
Rice announced that it is implementing a staff hiring freeze effective immediately, according to an email sent to division leads and administrators on Wednesday night. The email, which was obtained by the Thresher, also said that there will be no pay raises for staff for fiscal year 2021.
Restaurants across Houston have suffered reductions in revenue, some over 50 percent, after Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo suspended dine-in service in the county in an order on March 17 as a response to increased concerns about COVID-19 in Houston.