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Monday, November 11, 2019 — Houston, TX 35°

editorials


OPINION 2/10/15 6:00pm

Botched election timeline ensures uninformed votes

The Student Association presidential debate, initially scheduled for Monday, is instead being held today, Wednesday, Feb. 11 in the Kyle Morrow room in Fondren Library at 8 p.m. in place of the SA senate meeting. The SA initially planned to host the SA presidential debate on Monday, before elections began. However, according to SA President Ravi Sheth, the debate was moved to Wednesday to increase the event’s turnout.  Additionally, the SA did not release official information for all general election candidates until Monday, less than 24 hours before the ballot opened. Director of Elections Austin Cao said the registrar’s new requirement that all candidates must release information indicating good academic standing forced the SA to delay releasing candidate information. While the Thresher understands exigent circumstances forced the SA to make changes to the elections timeline, these changes have negatively impacted the student body’s knowledge of the candidates and issues. By creating such a large window of time between the start of elections and the debate, framed in an already short voting period, the SA effectively ensures uninformed voting.  Moreover, the idea that delaying the debate will increase turnout to the event is flawed. Sheth’s decision to hold the debate during the scheduled Senate meeting time because those who would typically attend the former will be available for the latter only guarantees that Senate members will be present. Considering Senate members are typically at the forefront of Rice leadership, it is reasonable to expect these individuals to make time to attend the debate regardless of its scheduling. The debate should be scheduled at a time that is most convenient for the entire student body as opposed to a time that appeals to a niche group already engaged in student government. Consistently low voter turnout plagues the SA general elections. Increasing turnout is a responsibility that currently falls upon candidates themselves; however, candidates have their own interests in mind, and although they may contribute towards increasing turnout, they are more focused on becoming elected than sustaining a positive culture surrounding voting. We have long treated low turnout as an inherent problem without a solution, but the truth is that the SA has not yet attempted a solution.  Evidently, elections deserve greater attention from SA leadership. For the sake of its own future, the SA must expand the role of the elections committee to include ensuring a smooth elections timeline and instilling students with a strong sense of civic duty. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.


OPINION 2/4/15 3:49pm

Blanket Tax Crack Team proposal remedies current system’s failures

The SA Blanket Tax Crack Team has petitioned a revamp to the existing blanket tax system with a new “pot of gold” proposal. 200 student signatures are required for the petition to be included in the General Election ballot, where a 20 percent referendum and a two-thirds majority vote will put the measure into effect (see p.1). The Thresher strongly supports the Crack Team’s new proposal and encourages students to sign the petition and to vote for it in the General Election. Currently, organizations petition to qualify for blanket tax status and specify a requested amount of annual funding through a ballot in the General Election. If a blanket tax organization’s budget appears questionable in the Annual Review, they are brought to a Contingency Committee, which can determine if the organization has violated blanket tax laws and if a decrease in funding is warranted. The existing process has proven inefficient at and inconducive to encouraging fiscal responsibility among blanket tax organizations. Since a Contingency Committee must find three violations within a four-year period to decrease a violating organization’s blanket tax, it currently takes years to effect any change in funding, even if an organization demonstrates excessively large surpluses or fiscal irresponsibility. Fleeting institutional memory coupled with a bureaucratic quagmire renders the process infeasible; no subsidiary organization has ever seen a decrease in its funding. The “pot of gold” proposal, which calls for a standing committee, provides a welcome change to a broken system. The standing committee, to be comprised of students and advisors to subsidiary organizations, would predetermine which organizations qualify for priority funding and would conduct annual reviews on these organizations’ budgets. Additionally, new organizations can petition to become subsidiaries and qualify for priority status through the general ballot as before. The proposal also calls for surpluses higher than a predetermined amount to return to the “pot of gold” for use by other student organizations. The mechanisms outlined in this proposal will encourage fiscal responsibility in subsidiary organizations and will ensure student governance can preemptively address issues in blanket tax funding instead of undergoing a cumbersome process. Previous ballot measures have been defeated by a lack of quorum. The Thresher strongly encourages students to voice their support for the proposal by signing the Blanket Tax Crack Team’s petition and by voting for it in the upcoming General Election. If passed, the new measures usher in much-needed blanket tax reforms that promote greater fiscal responsibility and accountability among blanket tax organizations. Editor in Chief Miles Kruppa and Faculty Advisor Kelly Callaway are members of the Blanket Tax Crack Team. They did not contribute to this editorial. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.


OPINION 1/28/15 7:20am

Rice must invest in instructors

Rice has a scalability problem. As undergraduate enrollment at Rice has grown rapidly in the past 10 years, many students and faculty have questioned if the undergraduate experience has lost part of its value: its educational intimacy (see p.1).


OPINION 1/21/15 4:36am

Student Association should not have to handle housing issues

At the most recent Student Association meeting, the SA senate discussed legislation guaranteeing on-campus housing for Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps members (see p.1). Supporters argued that the midshipmen’s early-starting, rigorous schedule and service to the nation justified the guarantee. Those in opposition felt on-campus housing was not required for NROTC students to fulfill their training, as it might have been for Emergency Medical Services in-charges to perform their duties. Ultimately, neither side understood the others’ argument, and the two sides could not reach a middle ground, underscoring the fact that cases like these cannot be legislated by the entire student body.


OPINION 1/14/15 3:54am

Hutchinson’s decision to cancel Cheer Battle strips students of voice

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson has made an executive decision to not allot time to Cheer Battle during Orientation Week 2015 (see p.1). However, O-Week coordinators will retain the option of organizing an unofficial Cheer Battle during O-Week. According to Hutchinson, Cheer Battle “doesn’t represent who we are at Rice anymore” and violates Rice’s harassment policy requiring a non-hostile environment.



OPINION 11/19/14 1:59am

Engineering evaluations deserve attention

During his speech to the Student Association on Oct. 1, President David Leebron presented a graph that showed an increase in average course quality and instructor effectiveness from Fall 2007 to Fall 2013 in all five academic schools that offer undergraduate degrees. However, the graph also showed that the school of engineering consistently had the lowest score in both course and instructor evaluations over time.


OPINION 11/12/14 4:38am

Housing and Dining cup policy must necessarily adjust to student laziness

Rice University students have reached a new level of laziness. This semester, Baker College Kitchen and West Servery have already replaced all 3,200 of their cups. Additionally, last year the serveries collectively purchased, lost and replaced 8,000 cups. To combat the problem, Housing and Dining has suggested adding 16-ounce disposable cups to the servery. and Tierra Moore, SA Environmental Committee co-chair, has proposed H&D not replace the cups to discourage students from stealing them (see p.1).



OPINION 10/28/14 4:49pm

Honor Council should stop defending spending

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee held their first meeting with Honor Council on Monday, Oct. 27 to discuss the documents it submitted for review. During the meeting, Honor Council defended its choice to allocate $50 per head to its yearly changeover dinner and other expenses that include the purchase of 15 tablets at $350 each and a new computer every three years (see p.1). 


OPINION 10/22/14 5:43am

Students must respect alcohol policy at NOD

Following the 2012 Night of Decadence, during which 11 students were hospitalized, as well as other similar instances of unsafe behavior, Rice instituted a new alcohol policy. According to the Student Handbook, the policy “encourages with both regulations and sanctions a shift away from distilled spirits toward beer and wine, which pose a less serious danger of abuse.”