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Thursday, February 27, 2020 — Houston, TX 41°


NEWS 9/17/14 5:22pm

RUPD launches new radio system

The Rice University Police Department launched a new digital two-way radio communications system, marking the end of an extensive two-year collaborative endeavor between RUPD, Facilities Engineering and Planning and Rice IT. According to RUPD Chief Johnny Whitehead, the changes seek to improve communication across campus and with Houston’s Police and Fire Departments.Before the switch, which occurred on Sept. 9, the same radio communications system had been implemented for more than 15 years and presented multiple challenges for RUPD, according to Whitehead.“We had been experiencing some issues with scratchy transmissions and dead spots on campus,” Whitehead said. “[The old system] presented a safety issue to our officers.”According to Whitehead, the switch was also prompted by the City of Houston’s Police Department’s radio communications upgrade that went live last October.“In the past, we had communications with [HPD], but when they went to their new radio system, we lost the ability to communicate with them,” Whitehead said.The findings of a 2012 campus-wide radio study presented two options: building a new radio infrastructure on campus or going to a digital system. RUPD decided to join the city’s radio system, which was already in place, rather than begin an independent project.“The radio project team met with all the radio users on campus including FE&P, Athletics, Housing and Dining, and Transportation to identify their needs,” Whitehead said. “There was a consensus that only the public safety agencies, RUPD, Rice [Emergency Medical Services] and Environmental Health and Safety, should go to the new digital radios.”According to Deigaard, the new system also communication with on-campus departments as well as with off-campus public safety agencies such as the Houston Police and Fire Departments and the University of Texas Police in the Texas Medical Center.“It used to be that dispatch could only listen to one radio channel,” Deigaard said. “[Rice] is not a little stand-alone island anymore. We are now part of a large collective.”

NEWS 9/17/14 5:21pm

Rice among most diverse colleges

The New York Times placed Rice University on a list of the most economically diverse top colleges, calculating a College Access Index based on the number of freshmen coming from Pell Grant families in recent years and on the net price of attendance for low and middle class families.Director of Student Financial Services Anne Walker said Rice is ranked 18th on Pell Grants in the country. “The Pell Grant basically goes to the neediest students,” Walker said. “These are extremely low-income families, and that has been kind of a tool to measure economic diversity. At schools like Rice, and those in our cohort [Consortium on Financing Higher Education], we have middle income students who still have excessive need.”Walker said because Rice covers 100 percent of unmet need, Pell Grant recipients get generous packages and have to pay little out of pocket to Rice.“We don’t package loans for them,” Walker said. “They’ll have a small work study, $2500, if they choose to use that.”However, Walker said the Pell Grant is not the largest part of the aid package.“The largest part of the package comes from Rice,” Walker said.According to Walker, if tuition increases and a family’s income has not changed, Rice covers the difference. However, she said if a family’s income goes up, or circumstances such as one child graduating college — making it so that a family no longer has two college students — change, then a family may not get as generous a package.“The expected family contribution takes in lots of things — income, kids in college, some assets, not many, but [if] the Expected Family Contribution is below, they’ll receive a Pell Grant,” Walker said. Walker said the Office of Financial Aid does not provide loans for families with incomes under $80,000. “Many of those families do not receive Pell [Grants], so we’ve said for us, low income at Rice means under $80,000,” Walker said.According to Walker, a lot of families look at their finances differently and each situation is unique. “Families that have high consumer debt, we don’t take that into consideration,” Walker said. “Families who pay for private high schools, we don’t take that into consideration. Families do have some costs, that when we’re looking at packaging them for aid, we may not consider, and rightfully so.”Walker said economic diversity means diversity in all areas for the Office of Financial Aid. “[It means] social diversity, racial diversity, ethnic diversity,” Walker said. Duncan College sophomore Iqra Dada said she is not surprised Rice is on the list, because demographically, she believes Rice has a lot of variety in students’ background.“[It’s] because of the amazing job the [Office of Financial Aid] does in making college affordable for low-income students,” Dada said.

NEWS 9/17/14 5:18pm

LoL and Smash networks emerge

Rice LoL ClubEach year, a few passionate Rice University students take the initiative to create their own clubs. This year, students have formed Rice’s first  electronic sports club, called the Rice LoL club. According to Club President Tung Nguyen, the club has obtained approval from Assistant Director of Student Activities Julie Neisler and seeks to unite students across campus who play League of Legends.Nguyen, a Sid Richardson College junior, said the club currently has 108 members and has previously organized intramural events.“Our mission is to bring people with similar interests together through tournaments and similar events,” Nguyen said. According to Nguyen, last year, the Rice LoL club participated in ivyLoL’s open league and the collegiate star league, competitions in which the club plays groups from other universities. According to the ivyLol ranking website, last year Rice’s team was ranked fifth in its division, which contained 43 teams. Rice Smash CommunityLast semester, Brian Lee, the external vice president of Rice LoL club, created the Rice Smash Community, a Facebook community for Rice students who enjoy competitively playing Super Smash Bros., a popular fighting game on Nintendo video game consoles.According to Lee, a Jones College junior, the group currently has 64 members and organizes meetups and tournaments.“Our community exists to provide friendly competition for every skill level, from the newest players to the best players in the region,” Lee said. “A few of our members often attend the weekly tournaments run in Pasadena, and our sessions here are meant to help us stand up a little better against Mojo, the number one player in Texas.”According to Lee, the Rice Smash Community has no intentions of becoming an official club in the near future and currently exists solely for students to enjoy playing the game with other students on campus.

NEWS 9/17/14 5:17pm

Printing costs increase $.01

The cost for printing a standard black-and-white page has increased to $0.07 after remaining at $0.06 for a decade, Manager of Information Technologies Technical Communications Carlyn Chatfield said in a campuswide email on Sept. 9. Other printing charges remain the same.“The new charge begins on Sept. 15, 2014, and will allow Rice University to continue meeting the rising cost of printing in the colleges and other student labs,” the email states.The price increase is necessary for a sustainable budget, according to Director for IT Business Services and Planning Yemeen Rahman.“Our goal is to maintain a printing budget which can sustain printers, supplies, maintenance and support,” Rahman said. IT Director for Systems Architecture Infrastructure and Cloud Strategy Barry Ribbeck said the increase is due to a larger student body.“Three years ago, we began evaluating options to outsource the lab printing service, but thus far, the projected expense to the students is higher,” Ribbeck said.

NEWS 9/17/14 5:14pm

Software failure crashes network

The three major Rice University wireless networks, Rice Visitors, Rice Owls and Eduroam, crashed due to software failure, according to Director of Rice Networking, Telecom and Data Center William Deigaard. “It went down in a strange way,” Deigaard said. “The three major SSID that we offered [were] all completely down, which is incredibly rare.”According to Deigaard, Rice uses thin-client centralized control architecture, which means two pairs of controllers serve as the brains of more than 1500 wireless access points on campus. “There is some large, powerful equipment that lives at the [center] of the network,” Deigaard said. “All the access points around the campus are connected to [the controller and] if that crashes, it can take down a very large number of access points.”Normally, the crash of a controller can be remedied by moving access points from the crashed controller to the other controller in the same pair, but in this crash, a software bug paralyzed both controllers. Deigaard said network engineers worked through the night of Sept. 4 to upgrade the wireless controller to a newer version. “We patched it to the newer version the next morning,” Deigaard said. “It took longer than we hoped, [but[ we have been stable since [Sept. 4].”Rachel Gray, a Lovett College junior, said she thinks the performance of the wireless network is not as satisfying as last semester. “The Wi-Fi has been more unstable than my ex-boyfriend,” Gray said. “Jokes aside, I’ve had more problems with it this semester than previous semesters. I haven’t personally noticed a decrease in speed, but the communication will drop suddenly.”According to Deigaard, having many users in one area consuming too much bandwidth can lead to a spotty Wi-Fi connection.“If moving improves [the connection], then congestion was likely the issue,” Deigaard said. “If, however, people find particular areas that never work, we want to know that. When folks have issues like this, they need to bring the machine to [IT Helpdesk] or our networking team can take a look.”Lead Student Computer Consultant at the IT Help Desk Galen Schmidt said the most common issues he sees for Wi-Fi problems are bad drivers and bad certificates. “The drivers for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 weren’t very good when they were released,” Schmidt, a Duncan College senior, said. “Updating the drivers helped in many cases....Some of the updates to Macs have caused certificate problems.”

NEWS 9/17/14 5:10pm

CUC suspends drop proposal in face of SA opposition

Two weeks ago, Duncan College Senator Louis Lesser, Duncan President Mary Anderson and University Court Chair Brian Baran introduced legislation in response to a drop limit proposal by the Committee of Undergraduate Curriculum. In light of student concerns and the CUC’s changing attitudes, the team is pursuing a new focus for their legislation, according to Baran, a Duncan College senior.Baran said the CUC has acknowledged the student body’s rejection of its original proposal and has suspended it.“It sounds like the CUC has heard from multiple sources of student opinion … and basically there is no longer any support for the original CUC proposal,” Baran said. “That proposal is effectively dead.”Despite the fact that CUC is no longer considering its original plan, Baran said it is still necessary to put forward formal legislative action.“Ultimately, the idea is that the Student Senate and the student body still have strong opinions on this issue, and this is certainly an issue that needs to be discussed,” Baran said. “It’s still important to have a lasting record of students’ views on it.”At the Student Association Senate meeting on Sept. 2, where the legislation was tabled, SA President Ravi Sheth said the wording of the proposed legislation might be antagonistic. “This is one of the most aggressively-worded pieces of legislation I have seen in my time in the SA,” Sheth said. Lovett College President Meghan Davenport said she is concerned about the message the legislation is getting across. “I think, as it is written right now, this just sets us up as putting out aggression when we just need to start a conversation,” Davenport said.Baran said he, Anderson and Lesser are hoping to present and pass an amended version of the legislation at the next SA meeting.“For next week, [Lesser], [Anderson] and I will be going back through the legislation and making amendments to get it in a form that can pass the Senate,” Baran said. “I am optimistic [about that].”Baran said he understands the pertinence of the problems caused by students holding onto courses they are not intending to take. According to Baran, he, along with Anderson and Lesser, will explore different approaches to tackling the problems in a manner more specific than the suspended CUC proposal.“We wanted to come up with some concrete alternatives that would better solve [problems caused by students not dropping courses promptly],” Baran said. “Unlike broader issues  … changes to the add/drop policy are something that can be implemented quickly and that can make an immediate impact to that particular kink in the process.”Davenport, a senior, said she wishes to see more discussion between the students and the faculty in working out alternative solutions. “I hope that the [SA] appropriately expresses our desire to continue working with the faculty senate and the CUC in order to come up with a solution that works better for everyone involved,” Davenport said.

NEWS 9/11/14 10:15am

EMS presents revised legislation guaranteeing housing for in-charges

After reviewing details over the summer, the Rice University Emergency Medical Services presented a revised version of legislation guaranteeing on-campus housing for In-Charges/In-Charge Trainees at the Student Association meeting on Sept. 3.According to Baker College Senator Nitin Agrawal, he and former EMS captain Patrick McCarthy first proposed the legislation in April, but the SA rejected it over concerns that EMS IC/ICTs might not be able to get housing in their own residential colleges.“The main difference [between the new plan and the original] is the removal of the rotation system in which two IC/ICTs stay at their original college, and the other IC/ICTs from that college are assigned to the next available college,” Agrawal said. “The problem was that college student bodies didn’t want their residents to have to live at another college.”Since the SA tabled the original proposal last semester, two IC/ICTs are currently living off campus. EMS captain Mollie Ahn reiterated the need for IC/ICTs to be constantly available on campus in order to maximize EMS’s capacity to respond in an emergency.“EMS can’t reach a medical emergency from outside of Rice,” Ahn, a Brown College senior, said. “EMS response time is usually around three to five minutes, while [the Houston Fire Department] response time is around 15 minutes.”Ahn said, since the nature of IC/ICT involves a large time commitment, having fellow IC/ICTs present on campus is necessary for the delegation of duties.“For six to seven times a month, IC/ICTs have to be available 24 hours, from noon to noon,” Ahn said. “[But they also have a] functionary role; IC/ICTs usually spend around 25 to 27 hours a week maintaining equipment and EMS education classes. If we get a call, all of the available IC/ICTs may already be [involved with] another medical emergency, so we need IC/ICTs to be able to pass the job to each other.”According to Agrawal, the legislation would also serve to provide a more unified housing system for IC/ICTs, as not all of the residential colleges have had a history of housing IC/ICTs.“In the past, each residential college had their own system in dealing with IC/ICT housing,” Agrawal said. “Some colleges did not have a policy, while the policies of those that did were varied. This legislation creates a unified policy that allows everyone to be on the same page.”Agrawal said the legislation would not impact or take away others’ ability to obtain on-campus housing.“The guaranteed housing works in the same manner by which members of the college cabinet receive guaranteed housing,” Agrawal said. “Rice EMS will notify each respective college early enough so that proper accommodations can be made.”Agrawal said the SA will make its decision on implementing the legislation on Sept. 17 and that the proposal in its current form will likely receive agreement this time.“There hasn’t really been any pushback,” Agrawal said. “We will likely have the on-campus housing next school year.”To accompany the article discussing the original proposal, The Thresher wrote an editorial in support of the legislation. 

NEWS 9/4/14 4:29pm

Young Democrats host Annise Parker

City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker (Jones College, ‘78) spoke to Rice University students about her experiences in politics at a Young Democrats-sponsored event on campus Wednesday night.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:56pm

New hardware in January to help Wifi

Rice Information Technologies will perform a hardware refresh in January that will provide new security tools and improve wireless internet performance, according to Barry Ribbeck, Director of Systems, Architecture, Infrastructure, Cloud Strategies and Initiatives at Rice University.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:48pm

New Adobe licensing policy limits CS

The Adobe Creative Suite is no longer available at many computers throughout campus. Due to changes in Adobe’s licensing model, the software is now available only in classrooms in Anderson Hall, the Visual and Dramatic Arts’s Media Center, Fondren Library’s Digital Media Center, and several general use computers on Fondren’s ground floor, according to Barry Ribbeck, Director of Systems, Architecture, Infrastructure, Cloud Strategies and Initiatives at Rice University.“[Adobe] is following a pay-per-use model,” Ribbeck said. “In previous years, software was released through Adobe in what is called a perpetual license. In a perpetual license, you buy the software and you own it, and it’s yours to keep for that version."According to Ribbeck, Rice owns 25 perpetual licenses of Adobe’s CS6, originally purchased by the architecture department. Previously, Rice could use those licenses across campus, so long as there weren’t more than 25 concurrent users, as monitored by a license server. Under current license structures, the software can only be installed on specific machines for which licensing is paid on an annual basis.“We used to take the 25 perpetual license and spread them across a large group of people using a license server,” Ribbeck said. “We still keep those 25 [licenses for CS6]. Any new licenses go on this new subscription type where you pay per year.”Ribbeck said Adobe offers a site license that would allow Rice Information Technologies to maintain the Creative Suite on all computers that could access it previously, but that the cost and lack of use was prohibitive. Rice only uses site licenses for products like Microsoft Office.“The cost before was a lot less, it was just the maintenance fee for 25 licenses,” Ribbeck said. “Now, we pay $180 per seat, per year. To buy 800 seats, it would be $144,000 per year. So we’re not doing that. We don’t use enough of the product to warrant the cost.”According to Ribbeck, the remaining licenses are being used in combination with new licenses to maintain the Creative Suite’s availability at specific locations where it was used in the past.“What we’re doing right now is putting it in spots that are very strategic on campus and seeing what kind of activity we get,” Ribbeck said. “The good news is that if we find there’s this huge demand, and we have to buy more, we can deploy it very quickly, it’s just a matter of getting the funds to cover the cost.”Computers that no longer have access to the Creative Suite will now have open-source alternatives like Gimp, LibreDraw, and Scribus, Ribbeck said.Ribbeck said new licensing models have already arrived, and that Rice IT will handle changes as they come.“That’s our fear, that more and more software companies will switch over to this new licensing model, and maybe even make it only available on the web,” Ribbeck said. “Then what do we do? This is nothing unusual with software companies. Nothing unusual with IT. Our business is about change, and this is just a change in how software companies are starting to move.  This is just another change that we’re going to have to go through.”Ribbeck said any feedback from students about this change or other IT topics should go to Manager of  IT Tech Communications Carlyn Chatfield, who can be reached at carlyn@rice.edu.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:43pm

IT streamlines websites for students

In early May, Rice University Information Technologies released streamlined versions of two websites, mynetid.rice.edu and it.rice.edu, which will make finding frequently used information and tools quicker and easier, according to Manager of IT Technical Communications Carlyn Chatfield. Much of what could previously be found on the two sites has been moved to docs.rice.edu or removed completely, and obvious links to the most popular pages have been added.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:39pm

Delays plague Jones South renovations

After delays in Jones College construction, which was initially scheduled to finish before Orientation Week, Rice University Housing and Dining looks to finish basement and kitchen construction in the South section, according to H&D Associate Vice President Mark Ditman and Facilities, Engineering and Planning Manager of Communications Susann Glenn.