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NEWS 9/16/13 7:00pm

West Lot parking causes headaches

Rice University parkers experienced difficulties in recent weeks due to the ongoing construction of the George R. Brown Tennis Complex in parts of West Lots 2 and 3, planned to be completed in June.The loss of 641 spots in these lots, accompanied by the loss of 350 spots in West Lot 4 due to the construction of the D. Kent and Linda C. Anderson and Robert L. and Jean T. Clarke Center, the new building for the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, resulted in the congestion, according to Parking Manager Michael Morgan.Morgan said those with permits for West Lot 3 are now allowed to park in West Lot 4 due to the parking obstructions. Previously, West Lots 2, 4 and 5 were open only to student, faculty and staff parkers with commuter permits. West Lot 3 had been reserved for resident permits.Morgan said this year, the Parking Office oversold West Lots 2, 4 and 5 by 12 percent but that in former years, these lots were oversold by more, so parking issues were not anticipated because the calculations of the available parking spaces and permits sold did not conflict with each other."By the numbers that we're seeing and what's happening out there, we're not exceeding what we have for [West Lot] permits," Morgan said. "I don't personally know of an overflow to Greenbriar [Lot]. Never have I known yet for us to have exceeded West Lot 5. A lot of the frustrations that I'm hearing are that, 'I used to park in West Lot 2, and it's [full] all the time now, and now I'm seeing myself in 4 or 5.' And that's a part of the permit."Duncan College senior Evan Austin said he had to purchase a permit for Greenbriar because permits in West Lot were sold out."I think there should be some sort of parking system that privileges seniority [in obtaining permits]because I don't know of many freshmen or sophomores that have the time, desire or necessity to engage with off campus opportunities to the extent that upperclassmen do," Austin said. "I go off-campus for an internship three times a week, and the trip out to Greenbriar makes that a lot more difficult. When I was an underclassmen, I used my car for the sole purpose of going to Target. Now, I'm using it to avoid unemployment next year."In a discussion on the parking issue hosted by the Student Association at its Sept. 9 meeting, several students expressed their frustration with congestion at the entrance of West Lot 4. Members proposed increasing shuttle services to Greenbriar and strengthening security.Duncan College junior Laurel Bingman said she expressed her discontent by creating the "Petition to Resolve the Commuter Parking Issue," which requests Rice University make amends by opening parking spaces closer to West Lot than Greenbriar or by reimbursing students who paid for West Lot parking. "I've had to park right next to the stadium, getting there at 9:30 a.m," Bingman said. "Some of my friends were telling me that they had to park in Greenbriar, [which is] more dangerous, and ... not what we paid for." Bingman said she believes the administration did not provide sufficient warning to students about the decreased number of parking spots when students were purchasing their permits."This felt like a decision that we were not even informed of until it was upon us," Bingman said. "What has bothered a lot of us even [more] than just the loss of parking is the fact that we felt like we weren't being told the whole truth from the beginning." Bingman said her petition gained more than 120 signatures in less than three days and that she presented the petition to President David Leebron during his office hours Sept. 10. Leebron said he was aware of the situation and that the university was seeking potential solutions. According to Leebron, some parking issues will most likely remain until the opening of the Glasscock School. He said Rice administration hopes to construct additional parking garages in the future to prevent shortages in parking but that current parking permit costs would not cover the price of a new parking garage."There are some shorter-term issues for parking and some longer-term issues, Leebron said. "We need to address the shorter-term issues ... before the end of the semester." Morgan said the parking issues stemmed not from the Parking Office overselling spots, but from people parking outside of the lots for which they purchased permits. Morgan said the Parking Office has been more strictly enforcing permits to ensure that only people with the proper permits are parking in the West Lots. "When [cars] are in the improper location, enforcement can be called by anyone to say we have people parking here that shouldn't be," Morgan said. "That happened very early on to make sure that people were getting notified that they were not in the right place."According to Morgan, the Parking Office has also improved the situation within the past week by painting 60 new spots distributed across West Lots 2, 3 and 4. Moreover, 90 people who no longer need to park in West Lot 4 have been relocated to Hess Lot. Morgan said students can also enter West Lot 4 quickly via Entrance 44, next to the practice field north of the Rice Stadium, which does not require students to scan their proximity cards to enter.Morgan said the Parking Office is always open to input from students and encouraged them to contact the department with any questions or comments. He said he hopes to increase the department's social media usage to keep students updated in real-time about different issues that might arise.Bingman said she would appreciate student involvement in Parking's decisions."In the future, it would be a lot better if we were kept informed and, if possible, parking issues were brought to the table, not only so that we can know about them ahead of time, but so that maybe we can even put in input to resolve future problems that might arise," Bingman said.

NEWS 9/5/13 7:00pm

Helene Gayle to speak at graduation

Dr. Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere USA, one of the largest aid organizations in the world, will speak May 17 at Rice's 101st Commencement."I was thrilled to accept President [David] Leebron's invitation to speak at the 2014 commencement," Gayle said to Rice News and Media. "I'm honored to play a part in sending another class of Owls out into the world and [to] be a part of their special day."According to committee member John King, five undergraduate students and one graduate student formed the Commencement Speaker Committee that selected Gayle, while Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Robert Griffin and Senior Assistant to the University President David Vassar advised the group. The committee submitted and ranked possible speakers until they came to agreement on Gayle, member Catherine Yuh said."Some of the qualities and characteristics we were looking for in our class speaker were a commitment to serving the broader good, a wide and far-reaching impact and, finally, a dose of star power," Yuh, a Brown College senior, said.Griffin said Gayle duly met those requirements."I think [Gayle] is an incredible role model for our graduates," Griffin said. "Her commitment to service and her experience in the medical field should appeal to many of our students, and I am positive that her address will be inspirational, memorable and enjoyable."Since 2006, Gayle has served as president and CEO of CARE USA. CARE's 2012 Annual Report said that the organization's combined 997 international programs aided 83 million people in 84 countries last year. According to CARE USA's website, its programs include emergency relief during disasters, education and water sanitation.According to an interview Gayle had with Womenetics magazine, Gayle said that while CARE USA had always played a significant role in global aid, her leadership has emphasized the empowerment of women in poverty through campaigns which aim to reduce maternal mortality, improve education and expose women to microfinance.According to her CARE USA biography, Gayle earned her bachelor of arts in psychology at Barnard College, her medical doctor degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and her master of public health at John Hopkins University. She worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 20 years and then directed programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which combated HIV/AIDS, other STDs and tuberculosis, according to her Bloomberg Businessweek biography. Gayle has been listed on Forbes magazine's "100 Most Powerful Women" for three years in a row and was most recently credited by the magazine for aiding over 750,000 people during the severe food crisis in the West African Sahel region last year."She is a world-class leader on issues that Rice students care about, in places where Rice students have served," committee member Andrew Amis, a Martel College senior, said.Yuh said she believes Gayle will resonate with the student body."I think [Gayle] embodies what we strive to be at Rice," Yuh said. "As we expand our reach beyond the hedges, we'll have to think more critically about what's happening beyond our borders." According to committee member Shaan Patel, Gayle will provide valuable lessons for seniors to cherish. "As this group of seniors begin to chart their futures, it is important for them, as well as all members of the Rice community, to keep her message of philanthropy in their minds and hearts," Patel, a McMurtry College senior, said.

NEWS 8/28/13 7:00pm

EMS amnesty policy changed

The medical amnesty section of the Rice Alcohol Policy was amended over the summer to reflect the prohibition of possession and consumption of hard alcohol by those under 21 announced last semester, according to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson. The Thresher previously covered the changes proposed to the alcohol policy in the spring in its April 19 issue ("Changes to alcohol policy announced").

NEWS 5/14/13 7:00pm

Tennis complex construction to start this summer

Tennis at Rice, for recreational, club and varsity players, will soon have a new home. Construction will begin this summer for the George R. Brown Tennis Complex, which held its groundbreaking ceremony on May 7, according to Director of Athletics and Recreation Rick Greenspan. 

NEWS 4/18/13 7:00pm

Students to launch bike share system

In fall 2013, Rice Bike Share will enable students to rent bikes on a per-semester or per-year basis. According to McMurtry College junior Sena McCrory, one of the organizers of Rice Bike Share, the idea for a bike-sharing program at Rice University emerged from a group project in the class ENST 302: Environmental Issues: Rice Into the Future, taught by Department of Sociology chair Elizabeth Long and professor in the practice of environmental studies and sociology Richard Johnson. "Each group had a project in the class," McCrory said. "We decided to make a bike-sharing program at Rice, and we decided to continue working on the project even after the semester was over."To further this program, the original project group made up of McCrory, bioengineering graduate student Allen Chen and Brown College junior Clement Ory added other members such as Martel College EcoRep Denis Leahy, Student Association Environmental Committee members Woojin Lee and Oscar Xu, and Rice Bike Shop employees Matt Makansi and Ben Sachs.Chen said the original goal of the project expanded in order to provide more opportunities to students."At first, we were interested in it because we wanted to make it more convenient to move around campus," Chen said. "Then we decided to establish a bike-sharing program at Rice to encourage students to travel off campus in an environmentally friendly way."Chen said the group researched other bike-sharing programs in cities or at other universities as well as previous unsuccessful attempts to establish such a program at Rice.According to McCrory and Leahy, the main reasons previous attempts were unsuccessful were that student accountability for the bikes was low, the bikes were of poor quality, the programs did not have access to bike maintenance, and the attempts were organized by individual colleges rather than as a centralized, campuswide effort. To avoid these mistakes with Rice Bike Share, the project organizers involved the Rice Bike Shop to help with maintenance as well as bike selection. With Rice Bike Share, students will be more accountable for the bikes they use since they will be borrowing the bikes for a longer term than in previous programs, McCrory said. "The students will check out the bikes once they sign up, will have to go through safety and maintenance training, and will sign liability forms," McCrory said. "They will return them during the finals before winter break, and if they are renting for a year, they will pick up another bike the second semester. They can get check-ups and maintenance at the Bike Shop, which is what $40 of the $50 they pay for bike rental goes toward. We also provide baskets and locks."Additionally, partner rentals are an option, in which a student can rent a bike and share it with a friend, according to McCrory. This option costs $70 total per semester, $35 per person.Martel senior Anna Meriano said she likes the concept of Rice Bike Share."I think bike renting is a great idea, especially for people who don't have cars but occasionally need to go off campus to somewhere nearby," Meriano said.

NEWS 4/18/13 7:00pm

Beer Bike coordinators to vote on reduction in biker numbers

 Beer Bike coordinators are voting on a reduction of the number of bikers per team from 10 to eight, according to Campuswide Coordinator Soorya Avali.Avali, a Brown College junior, said each college has one vote and that voting would conclude Friday, April 19. Each college is represented by its college Beer Bike coordinators, who were told to gauge their college's opinions, Avali said. "[After Friday], we'll decide what's going to happen," Avali said. "We're leaving it up to the vote, [but] there are policies in the rulebook. We'll just make a decision when it comes down to it."Avali said the decision was an informal issue that comes up annually."It's not an official proposal," Avali said. "It's just what we talk about at meetings. If someone brings up a concern, we talk about it. It's one of those things someone always brings up. It gets re-debated on a regular basis."Last year, the proposal came up at a time when newly selected coordinators who did not have any experience held the vote, Avali said."It was contentious, with a lot of meetings and debate," Avali said. "We ended up rejecting the change. Now, the people who just got done with Beer Bike are the ones on the decision."Avali said he had received the most amount of feedback from Will Rice College students opposed to the idea of reducing the number of bikers.Will Rice Beer Bike Coordinator Shayak Sengupta said he and his college were against the reduction and that they plan to vote against it. "We're all randomly assigned to the colleges, so that seems logical and fair," Sengupta, a sophomore, said. "There's no reason why we need to cut down on the number because every college has a fair shot at picking bikers and chuggers."Baker College Beer Bike Coordinator Andrew Stout said he and his college would appreciate the reduction in bikers."I'm speaking on behalf of my experience at Baker .... It's hard for us to find riders," Stout, a sophomore, said. "As you probably know, Baker is not very good at Beer Bike. Sometimes, we have to have riders go multiple times. I voted yes [to] switching to eight. It will make it easier for next year's [college Beer Bike] coordinators. But if [the vote] went the other way, it wouldn't be a big deal to me."

NEWS 4/18/13 7:00pm

Gustin wins George R. Brown teaching award

Rice University alumni from the past decade have selected professor of biochemistry and cell biology Michael Gustin as this year's recipient of the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching.According to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, alumni who graduated two, four and five years ago vote to nominate their professors. The awards are then given to the 10 professors with the most votes, one of whom receives the award for excellence in teaching. The remaining nine professors receive awards for superior teaching.Gustin, a professor at Rice since 1988, said he feels honored to receive his award."Teaching is being challenged by new ideas about how to teach students, particularly in the sciences," Gustin said. "An important part of teaching a course is to try to build a community. It's an opportunity to learn together. Every time I teach, I'm always learning."Gustin said the increasing number of online courses can sometimes lack this sense of community.Gustin said he began to ask himself last year about the purpose of a university and came to the answer that, in university courses, teachers can pass their interest in the material on to their students more effectively. "I'm a pretty enthusiastic guy," Gustin said. "I like what I'm working on, both in teaching and research. I think that enthusiasm is infectious for students."Gustin said his experience as a Wiess College master has been pivotal in his effort to learn all of his students' names in his introductory biology course this year. Hutchinson said all 10 recipients of Brown teaching awards will be honored at 3 p.m. Monday, April 22 at a reception in Keck Hall Room 100. Last year's winner, John and Ann Doerr Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics Mark Embree, will give a lecture about his experiences teaching in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics. All Rice students are invited to attend, Hutchinson said.Hutchinson said the Committee on Teaching, which chooses the recipients from those nominated by alumni, takes class size and subject into consideration."There is a concern that large classes have more alumni, so [they] may attract more votes than small classes," Hutchinson said. "This method actually makes it possible for recognition for faculty teaching all kinds of classes."According to Hutchinson, the nine recipients of awards in superior teaching are professor of biochemistry and cell biology Yousif Shamoo, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science Brent Houchens, professor in the practice of bioengineering Ann Saterbak, professor of economics James Brown, associate professor of history Alexander Byrd, associate professor of sociology Rachel Kimbro, professor of architecture Carlos Jimenez, professor of English Helena Michie and professor of mathematics Michael Wolf.Kimbro said receiving her award was a major highlight of her career."I really thrive on in-classroom engagement with my students," Kimbro said. "I'm very proud to join the large cadre of other sociology professors who have won this award."

NEWS 4/18/13 7:00pm

Owlspark receives $200k grant for entrepreneurship

OwlSpark, Rice University's newest organization to further entrepreneurship by Rice students, recently received a $200,000 grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The funding will go toward social entrepreneurship ventures that will be added to the program this summer, according to OwlSpark co-founder Veronica Saron.

NEWS 3/13/13 7:00pm

Undergraduate tuition announced for 2013-14

Another year means another tuition increase. Undergraduate tuition will be increasing from $36,610 to $38,260 for the 2013-14 school year, according to Vice President for Finance Kathy Collins. Although tuition continues to rise, its rate of growth is decreasing, Collins said. "This is an increase of 4.5 [percent]," Collins said. "Last year it was at 4.9 [percent]. Prior to that, it was 5.3 [percent]. Every year is its own year and its own decision. The trend is slower growth." Collins said the main expenses for the university are paying faculty and staff salaries and that recent building construction has increased facility maintenance costs. "The main sources of revenue to the budget are the endowment and net tuition revenue," Collins said. "Tuition is not going to support the cost of the colleges." According to Collins, financial aid will increase to reflect the increase in tuition. "Rice has maintained need-blind admissions," Collins said. "[Rice] fully meets financial need. Two-thirds of our entering class used financial aid. Rice cares very much about affordability. I think our financial aid policies reflect that." Despite the increase in tuition, Rice still costs less than many peer institutions and is ranked No. 2 for best value, Collins said. "For Rice students who come from lower income levels, there are no loan requirements in financial aid packages," Collins said. "We've limited the loans that we require to $10,000 over four years, which is a great deal compared to other schools." According to the Rice University press release, total cost of attendance, including mandatory fees and room and board, will be $51,950, a 4.1 percent increase over last year. Duncan College freshman Sean Lee said he understood the reasoning behind the increase. "The biggest jumps in tuition started after Rice wanted to become a larger and better university," Lee said. "I think we can expect increases in tuition if we really want to attend a top-notch institution." Managing Edtior Molly Chiu contributed to this article. 

NEWS 2/20/13 6:00pm

Harlem Shake strikes academic quad

The catchy beat of recent viral hit Harlem Shake by Baauer permeated the warm air in Rice University's academic quadrangle Feb. 17. More than 1,000 Rice students, some lured by rumors that sprinter Usain Bolt would make a showing, came to the impromptu recording of the popular meme, according to event organizer Clayton Chaney.