Click here for updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation at Rice
Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Saturday, May 30, 2020 — Houston, TX °

News


NEWS 10/21/14 4:09pm

LPAP POD debates requirement

The SA Senate will continue evaluating the Lifetime Physical Activity Program requirement, especially for student athletes.According to LPAP Pod member Andy Yuwen, the Pod advised the SA Senate to create a committee to look into this issue further. “I would describe the current state of the LPAP as a requirement that attempts to fulfill an idealistic goal, and could do with some adjustments,” Yuwen, a Lovett College freshman, said.  LPAP: Past In February 2012, the Thresher reported the SA was evaluating the LPAP requirement. After discussion, the Faculty Senate changed the LPAP requirement from a two-credit requirement to only one.“In the spring of 2012, the SA worked with the Recreation Center to conduct a brief survey of the undergraduate population to determine the usefulness of the LPAP requirement,” Associate Director of Recreation Center Programs Elizabeth Slator said. “It was overwhelmingly supported, but most students wished to have the requirements changed from two classes to one. ”Slator said Rice has had a physical education program in one form or another since it was founded in 1912. Originally, LPAPs and all of the Recreation Center was under the Kinesiology Department, until 2001, when Recreation became its own department and gained control of the LPAP program. John Boles (Will Rice ’65), the William P. Hobby Professor of History and author of three books on Rice’s history, said during his time at Rice, what is now called the LPAP was a required, year-long course that introduced students to a variety of recreational activities. “The idea [was] many of them would have had no experience with some of these sports, and that hopefully, people would find one or more [activities] that they would be able to participate in the rest of their lives,” Boles said.  LPAP: FutureAccording to Slator, LPAP course offerings have evolved with the student interest, fitness trends and the availability of space.Slator said she thinks it is important to continually evaluate the effectiveness of LPAP instructors and the courses offered. However, she said she does not think it is necessary to continue a conversation about the LPAP requirement. “It has been decided repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly, by both the Faculty Senate and the Student Association that the LPAP requirement should stand,” Slator said. Slator said most individuals, especially American college students, do not participate in physical activity that provides health benefits. “Given the tremendous amount of stress that Rice students suffer from and [its] physiological and psychological ramifications, offering courses that can potentially alleviate this problem are imperative,” Slator said. LPAP Pod DiscussionAccording to Yuwen, a small, rudimentary poll revealed the majority of the student community is strongly against a mandatory LPAP requirement for athletes, but almost all supported an option for student-athletes to take LPAP courses. Yuwen said within the Pod, he was the only supporter of removing student-athletes’ LPAP requirement.Yuwen said the main arguments in support of athletes’ LPAP requirement are to preserve their fifth year of eligibility by taking their LPAP requirement in their fifth year, to connect to the community and to demonstrate a full commitment to all aspects of lifetime fitness. “Student athletes at other universities pursue Master’s degrees or leave other major requirements for their fifth year of eligibility,” Yuwen said. “Not all student athletes feel disconnected from the community. Some choose to associate themselves with the team, and an optional LPAP requirement would solve this potentially perceived problem. The final argument [is one] I found blatantly disrespectful to Rice’s student-athletes. In my opinion, every Rice student-athlete has demonstrated enough commitment to lifetime fitness to at least be considered for exemption from the LPAP requirement.”  Student Opinions According to Rice swimmer Taylor Armstrong, exercise is an important component in life, and the LPAP should be a Rice requirement. “Students forget that life consists [of things] outside of studying,” Armstrong, a Martel College junior, said. “Rice students forego their health for good grades, and taking an LPAP is a good reminder and introduction to healthier living.”However, Armstrong said she thinks the LPAP should be optional for athletes.“I know this may seem like a double standard, but we literally work out six days a week for a minimum of 2.5 hours at a time anyway,” Armstrong said. “Making [the LPAP] a requirement adds extra pressure and stress for us to fulfill graduation requirements that we don’t necessarily need.”Fifth-year senior Gabe Baker, a safety on the Rice football team, said he thinks LPAPs are an important component of the Rice experience but should not be required for athletes. “They do provide the opportunity for athletes to save the LPAP required class for their last, redshirt semester, like myself,” Baker, a resident of Brown College, said. “The only problem is the difficulty with registering and getting into an LPAP. If they gave a higher priority to students who need to fulfill their requirement, that would be better.”


NEWS 10/21/14 4:07pm

Honor Council deadline passes without response

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee requested that the University Court clarify how its investigations into Honor Council’s finances should continue after the organization failed to respond to the committee’s questions by the Oct. 20 deadline. In the last Contingency Committee meeting, the committee sent Honor Council a list of questions regarding its budget and expenditures and a request for a written statement. However, since Honor Council missed the initial deadline to submit these documents, it is unclear how the Contingency Committee should proceed with the investigations. At the latest meeting, the committee asked SA Parliamentarian Zach Birenbaum to submit a formal request to UCourt requesting a clarification on the proceedings. “I would like [for] the University Court to look into whether the SA Constitution requires the Blanket Tax Contingency Committee (BTCC) to wait for the Honor Council to submit requested written statements and evidence before moving forward with the BTCC investigation,” Birenbaum, a Hanszen College sophomore, wrote in a letter to UCourt Chair Brian Baran. Birenbaum also asked UCourt to examine whether delays in Honor Council’s response will affect how the committee is required to adhere to constitutional deadlines, and if the organization’s lack of response could negatively affect the committee’s decision. “I would like [for] the University Court to look into whether negative inferences be drawn from Honor Council’s failure to abide by these explicit constitutional guidelines which could influence the ultimate decision of the Blanket Tax Contingency Committee,” Birenbaum wrote. In a letter to Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson, SA President and Contingency Committee Chair Ravi Sheth asked for a reply to the committee’s questions and asked Honor Council to meet with the committee on Oct. 27 for its next meeting. “We certainly respect the importance and vital services that Honor Council provides to students, however, all organizations receiving student blanket tax money are subject to these same review processes,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, wrote. Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson said the organization plans to submit documentation after requesting a two-day extension. “[Honor] Council is compiling the requested items for the Contingency Committee and has already request a short two-day extension from the SA so that all documents can be properly prepared and gathered to answer the Contingency Committee’s questions,” Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, said. Contingency Committee Member Anastasia Bolshakov expressed frustration with the process. “There’s a possibility that student funds have been misused, but the investigation is not being taken seriously,” Bolshakov, a Duncan College senior, said. “If you have time to write an opinion piece for the Thresher, I think you should also have the time to reply to an email that the committee investigating you sends.” UCourt Chair Brian Baran said he expects a quick response regarding the constitutional questions raised by the Contingency Committee. “UCourt will thoroughly examine the relevant sections of the SA Constitution and provide its binding interpretation as soon as reasonably possible,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said.All information regarding the Contingency Committee, including future meeting times and locations as well as public documents, can be accessed at sa.rice.edu/btcc. 


NEWS 10/21/14 4:07pm

New Economics chair initiates revamp

A multiyear revamp of the Rice University economics department has begun under newly-hired professor and department chair Antonio Merlo, who plans to take major steps to develop Rice’s economics teaching and research.Merlo, a native of Italy, moved from the University of Pennsylvania to Rice this summer to head the economics department and the Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics (RISE). In these roles, he will lead the effort launched by President David Leebron to rework the department, which Merlo said is currently not fulfilling its potential. “[The Rice economics department is lagging] in a very basic way,” Merlo said. “The economics department at Rice for several years has not been ranked in the place that Rice University deserves. Rice University has been consistently a top-twenty institution; the economics department is not that status. I think that this is something Rice University [should] strive to have: a first-rate economics department that is on par with the quality of the institution overall. That’s why I’m here.”Merlo said Leebron’s vision for the future of economics at Rice is what attracted him to the job at the university. “The stated goal is really to make this a vibrant department that is able to attract the top researchers from around the world, where faculty are actively engaged in teaching and can give the quality of teaching the students deserve and be a vibrant intellectual community where economics thrives,” Merlo said.According to Merlo, RISE is taking several steps towards this goal, starting by hiring 10 more faculty members. Merlo said four academics from the University of Pennsylvania, including himself, and one from Johns Hopkins University have already been hired. “The fact that distinguished scholars were willing to embrace the vision and come here to Rice should already be a testament to how things are changing and evolving,” Merlo said. Merlo said the department is also working to revise the curriculum to better fit the needs of Rice’s undergraduate and graduate economics students.“The curriculum is trying to offer a broader set of classes, but also a different set of classes,” Merlo said. “So it’s not just a matter of a sheer number; it’s also how do we envision a natural progression in the fields of study so that everything makes sense.”The addition of new faculty involved in research will also enhance economics at Rice, according to Merlo.“The way I view the research enterprise is that there are individual faculty who are all interested in different areas, and once you bring them together it expands the set of questions they can address,” Merlo said. “We want faculty who can bring their research experience into the classroom.”Merlo said research experience in addition to teaching ability are important qualities the department is searching for, especially for lower-level classes.“For teaching introductory courses, a combination of people who are really invested in the teaching mission and really invested in the research mission may be the way to go,” Merlo said. “Certainly, the goal is to have a department that is recognized worldwide for their research but also their excellence in teaching.”Mathematical economic analysis major Andrew Jacobson agreed that a focus on introductory economics classes would improve the department.“The gap I see is in the lower level, especially because you have a lot of different [professors], and they all have different teaching styles, so when you get up into the upper levels, people are going to have different levels of knowledge and that’s kind of where an imbalance happens,” Jacobson, a Brown College senior, said. “My experience has been really good once [I reached] the upper-level classes.”According to Merlo, RISE is a five-year-long plan, and the department has just begun to implement changes; more specific plans are under development.“I think we’re just at the early stages, but certainly things are going very well,” Merlo said. “It’s amazing how our alumni, the board, all the friends that Rice has, how energized the whole community is and how responsive people have been to the initiative.”Merlo said he is optimistic about the initiative’s prospects.“We can do something really amazing together, starting with the students and working all the way up to the administration,” Merlo said. “I think the chemistry is there, and there are certainly some positive vibes in motion that are making people understand it is a viable initiative, which is very exciting and the potential gains are very large.”According to Merlo, a strong economics department is important due to the field’s ability to address a wide range of topics.“I was always fascinated by economics as a discipline that really allows you to answer a very diverse set of questions, but at the same time uses a common language and diverse set of tools to answer those questions,” Merlo said.Merlo taught at the University of Minnesota and New York University before beginning his latest tenure at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the course of his career, he said he has researched topics ranging from conventional economics to crime and the choice of politicians by political parties.“My view of the field of economics is a little different than the traditional view; I actually view economics as the science of choice subject to constraints,” Merlo said. “Economics is not just macroeconomics; it’s not that if you’re an economist the only conversation you can have is what’s going to happen to the interest rate.”According to Merlo, the department will incorporate this expanded view of economics as it adapts to changes in the field.“Economics is so central to everything we do in human life,” Merlo said. “It can really help a lot in almost every aspect of whatever career an individual may choose to have.”


NEWS 10/21/14 4:05pm

Women’s Resource Center hosts Consent is Sexy Week

The Rice Women’s Resource Center is celebrating its sixth annual Consent is Sexy Week with a variety of events ranging from a panel of “sexperts” answering questions your parents never did, to a Project SAFE workshop. RWRC Co-Director Kendall Post said the event, which is from Oct. 21-24, starts a conversation about consent among Rice students and fosters a positive attitude towards consensual sexual encounters.“Consent isn’t talked about very much, and I think a lack of consent is normalized to a certain extent,” Post,  a Lovett College senior, said. “We just want to start conversations, especially with [Night of Decadence] coming up, which is a party at which lack of consent is especially normalized. This is a way to reframe the way we think about consent.”Post said consent can often be forgotten at parties as people move ahead with dancing or sexual activities without verbally consenting between partners. Post said she hopes Consent is Sexy Week will strengthen the community at Rice and ensure mutual respect between partners during parties or otherwise.“NOD falls in a time in the year when everyone, especially new students, have become acclimated to Rice,” Post said. “They’re still exploring [if] they want to drink or hook up. Because sex is sort of on everyone’s mind, it’s a very opportune time to say, when you’re thinking about sex, here’s some other really important stuff to keep in mind.”For the first time, the RWRC will be providing a “Breathing Room” at NOD, which is a no re-entry party, for students to escape uncomfortable situations or take a break from the party without having to leave entirely.“The real drive behind it is that any public party can be overwhelming, and NOD can be even more overwhelming,” Post said. “We want to provide confidential, light peer support that is completely student-driven and student-run, with no adults.”


NEWS 10/21/14 12:02pm

Crisis Management Team implements ebola precautions with the Texas Medical Center

Rice University’s Crisis Management Team has been monitoring communications regarding Ebola from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of State. They sent an email to students, faculty and staff over midterm recess assuring the campus population of the precautions the university has implemented with the Texas Medical Center to protect against Ebola infection.


NEWS 10/20/14 6:46pm

Registrar starts beta testing Degree Works

Rice University’s Office of the Registrar is beta testing for a new, web-based degree audit system called Degree Works that is integrated into ESTHER, according to Registrar David Tenney (Sid Richardson ’87).



NEWS 10/20/14 6:35pm

Baker Institute fellow discusses solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In a talk entitled “Track Two Diplomacy Toward an Israeli-Palestinian Solution,” James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy fellow Yair Hirschfeld discussed his new book and shared the key lessons he has learned from his experience working in the region to establish lasting peace. The talk took place in the James A. Baker III Hall on Oct. 13.



NEWS 10/17/14 5:31am

Rice slips in THE rankings

Rice University dropped in ranking from 65th to 69th in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2014-15.Universities receive scores in five main areas: teaching (worth 30 percent), research (30 percent), citations (30 percent), industry income (2.5 percent) and international outlook (7.5 percent). Rice received an overall score of 59.8 out of 100, with sub-scores of 41.7 in teaching, 70.8 in international outlook, 34.6 in industry income, 37.1 in research and 99.9 in citations.Despite experiencing a score decrease of 2.4 in teaching and 0.6 in industry income from 2013-14, Rice improved scores in all other areas, with citations, which measures research influence, remaining at 99.9. The net score remains unchanged.Vice President for Finance Kathy Collinssaid she believes small fluctuations in ranking from year to year are to be expected, since over 400 universities around the world receive rankings. “I wouldn't describe Rice's move from 65 to 69 as falling because Rice has consistently been in the top quartile for the past few years,” Collins said. “We are still doing better than we were two years ago when we were at 75.”Collins sad 33 percent of the total score is based on The Academic Reputation survey and the Research Reputation survey.“Because we don’t know about the response rate, or who is filling [the surveys] out, we don’t know whether it is skewed to certain parts of the world,” Collins said. “I don’t think you can say that being ranked at 65 or being ranked at 69 is a statement about a change in our teaching quality or academic quality”Although Rice does not disregard the rankings, the university is more focused on teaching, research and making an impact rather than on directly improving ranking, according to Collins.“The first thing to remember is that Rice does not exist to play the ranking game,” Collins said. "We can strengthen and support our faculty and research and expand our research profile both in terms of awards and citations. That’s helpful to us and may also be helpful in the rankings.”Hanszen College senior Andrew Clark believes a fluctuation in rankings should not concern students."Rice is a great institution,” Clark said. “An arbitrary small change does not really mean a lot.”



NEWS 10/7/14 5:26pm

Village property changes management

The Rice Management Company has hired Trademark Property Company to oversee asset and property management, leasing and repositioning of the Village Arcade in Rice Village. The Village Arcade, part of the Rice University endowment, is managed by the Rice Management Company, according to company president Allison Thacker (Baker ’96). “We have not made any decisions yet on plans for the Village Arcade, but we have hired Trademark to manage the property and help us plan for the long term,” Thacker said.According to Trademark’s website, the company will improve the Village Arcade by enhancing streetscape, landscaping, storefronts and facades.“Additional Rice-owned property in the Village (approximately seven acres) is available for future mixed-use development,” the Trademark Property and Strategic vision overview stated.Rice acquired the Village Arcade from its former owner, Weingarten Realty Investors, earlier this year. The Rice Management Company said they hope to have more specific plans for the Village Arcade in 2015.


NEWS 10/7/14 5:24pm

Architecture firm examines campus spaces, solicits input

Rice University has hired New York architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi to conduct a two-stage Student Space Study. The first stage of the study will investigate student space usage across campus, according to Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby.“We are to look at how [the spaces] are used and where the deficiencies lie,” Kirby said. “We anticipate [the first stage] being done in the next few months, hopefully by the end of the calendar year, or early next year.”Kirby said the second stage of the study will focus on the Student Center and will address space usage, in addition to proposing changes and providing possible construction plans with different price points. The plans will also ensure the construction will not interfere with regular student activities. “We want to have [the results] by the end of the academic year,” Kirby said. “By May, we want to know what program we are going to have and what policy making should we change.”The administration has formed a Student Space Study Steering Committee which consists of student and administrative representatives. Student Association President and committee member Ravi Sheth said he has tasked college presidents and senators with gathering student opinions to best represent the undergraduate student body on the Steering Committee.“I have had our SA leadership assemble and analyze a wealth of survey data going back five years, with regards to student opinion around space use across campus,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, said. “This data, along with the opinions of student leaders, inform my representation to the Steering Committee.”The study includes interviewing and surveying students, touring walking spaces around campus and researching Rice Memorial Center reservation forms for how various rooms in the Student Center are currently used. “At the end of September, the architects visited campus and met with focus groups, including a panel of campus-wide organization leaders, the college presidents and college masters,” Sheth said. “Through these meetings, the collective student opinion was voiced and communicated.”Kirby said part of the funding for future construction comes from the money gained from selling KTRU’s broadcasting license in 2011. The university will fundraise further while conducting the study. “If we finish raising all the money next summer, it takes us about nine months to do the design and start construction and we can start maybe the following summer,” Kirby said. “But you almost never raise money that quickly.”McMurtry College sophomore Isabella Yang said she thinks the Student Center has good use of space but the fact that student events are divided into each residential college makes the Student Center less popular. Yang participated in a New Student Representative project about the Student Center last year.“In other universities, they have a pretty populated Student Center, since students couldn’t go elsewhere for events,” Yang said. “According to the surveys we collected from students, most want some more study areas; prices of all the stores should be lowered and it is recommended to get more study rooms there so that students can go for study[ing].”Martel College junior Nick Merritt said since the Student Center is a hub for students, the university should prioritize it when considering where to make improvements.“Coffeehouse sometimes gets too crowded,” Merritt said. “We should also improve the staircases in [the] RMC because the two stairs are very confusing.”


NEWS 10/7/14 5:20pm

SA seeks to improve CUC outreach with student representative position

The Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum influences student curricular issues ranging from the creation of new minors to the archiving of syllabi on Esther. Student Association members who are representatives of the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum are adopting a new practice this year and updating the SA after every CUC meeting, according to CUC Student Representative Nicole Moody.CUC Chair Susan McIntosh moderates the meetings. McIntosh said the CUC and the Faculty Senate, which is made up of only faculty members, often receive proposals simultaneously. Sometimes, problems are brought to the CUC by the Faculty Senate, but the CUC itself has also raised issues in the past, such as classroom size. “I ask the [Faculty Senate] senators or the executive committee to have a quick look [to see] if they have major issues right at the beginning, so that as we work on the proposal, we’re taking those into consideration,” McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Rice, said. “That certainly would be the time that we would anticipate, as the proposal comes before the CUC, and our student [representatives] are aware of it, that they would be looking to make any suggestions for modification of the proposal.”Vice President of the Administration and Registrar David Tenney (Sid Richardson ’87) said the CUC oversees proposals regarding the undergraduate curriculum, including creation of a new major or new minor and distribution, transfer and advanced placement credit. Tenney serves as a non-voting advisor to the CUC and said he was involved in the add-drop proposal, as well as the creation of the neuroscience minor and the new Center for Civic Leadership certificate. Student Association President Ravi Sheth said the SA appoints four representatives to the CUC each year who are responsible for gathering and representing undergraduate opinion, as well as sharing the activities of the CUC with the undergraduate body. “While student opinion is certainly of utmost importance with any decision that affects the undergraduate curriculum, students should understand that any change to the curriculum is ultimately a decision left to the faculty,” Sheth said. “This is reflected in the current structure of the CUC: Students are  well-represented in the process, but ultimately the final decision and authority lays with the faculty through Faculty Senate.”Moody said the CUC student representatives will give an update about the CUC after every meeting at Senate. “We’re trying to get thev word out a bit more, trying to be more open to the student body,” Moody said. “I think that’s been pretty effective.”University Court Chair Brian Baran was one of the student writers opposing the CUC’s add-drop proposal. Baran said the student representatives to the CUC are one piece of providing student input, but those students may not be able to represent every perspective in the student body without additional input. Baran said good communication depends on the SA executive committee as well."It's not just the CUC deciding when to provide information; it's also when the SA officers feel the need to bring something before the larger student body," Baran said. "There are choices both on the part of these faculty or university committees and on the part of the SA leadership that are involved in deciding when proposals come in from of the student body as a whole."According to McIntosh, the Faculty Senate recommends potential CUC members to the president, who appoints them, after which the Student Association is asked for nominations for student representatives. The CUC is further broken down into subcommittees, each of which has a student representative.CUC Student Representative Kristi Fu said she believes the CUC likes to have student input, but that the 90-minute meetings may not be long enough to achieve student input.“The meetings aren’t long enough to actually have sufficient input from everyone who wants to speak,” Fu, a Brown College senator and sophomore, said. “They have to get the agenda moving.“McIntosh said faculty members have difficulty scheduling times to meet as the CUC, which is why more frequent or longer meetings are not possible. She also said while some committees may not have faculty representatives from all academic departments, the committees try to contact all stakeholders. The committees also bring topics to the CUC as a whole, which has more representation. “We may end up hearing from engineering, for example, that their particular circumstances were not taken into consideration,” McIntosh said. “Then it’s back to the drawing board, and we work with the engineers at that point.”According to McIntosh, some issues that the CUC has addressed recently include a way to create international exchange programs for Rice students. Tenney said the CUC had also been working on a Rice Center for Engineering Leadership certificate.


NEWS 10/7/14 5:19pm

Rice alum gives lecture on climate-change skepticism

Andrew Dessler (Lovett ’86), a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, gave an overview of the rhetorical practices used by climate change skeptics at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy on Oct. 1. Dessler said a small number of scientists are cited frequently by skeptics, giving the impression that there are more skeptical scientists than there really are. The idea of climate change as primarily human-caused is supported by 97 percent of climate scientists, he said.“There are so few of these [skeptical climate scientists] that they’re endlessly recycled,” Dessler said. According to Dessler, climate change skeptics put out alternative publications to share their ideas. However, Dessler said the body of reports supporting the science of climate change outweigh the relatively few skeptical reports. “There are so many of these reports written, and they all say the same thing,” Dessler said. “It is extremely likely that human influence is a dominant cause [of global temperature increase].”Dessler said it is unlikely climate change skeptics are motivated by money. “In the debate — on both sides — very few people are getting rich,” Dessler said. “People see the facts they want to see. Giving people facts is not the solution to this issue.”According to Dressler, the risks of rising temperatures make climate change a pressing issue.“I’m not sure [the effects of climate change are] going to be bad, but there are lots of ways it could be really, really bad,” Dessler said. Dessler said rhetoric that emphasizes doubt about climate change tends to delay policy changes that could stave off negative effects of climate change; however, scientific doubt of climate change is overstated “Everyone basically agrees,” Dessler said.  Sid Richardson College senior Maddie Camp said she thinks it is important to examine skeptics’ viewpoints to make progress on climate policy.“Because climate change is really a policy issue, skeptics bottleneck the whole process of beginning to address climate change, so it makes sense to understand that barrier and think about how we can move past it,” Camp said.


NEWS 10/7/14 5:16pm

Leebron visits Senate, addresses state of university

President David Leebron presented on the state of the university at the Student Association Senate meeting Wednesday, discussing topics from long-term initiatives to changes in student makeup and priority, followed by a question and answer session.Leebron began his speech with an analysis of the mission statement and Edgar Odell Lovett’s vision of Rice as a place of both learning and teaching.“One of my favorite developments at Rice was the student-taught courses or college courses,” Leebron said. “I can’t think of many things that represent the philosophy of this university much more than that.”Leebron introduced his key ideas in education, including: logical evolution/revolution, changing value proposition, access and affordability, financial sustainability/research funding, sexual assault and campus climate, athletics model and rankings. Leebron continued on to describe the efforts of the students and administration on the sexual assault policy.“I think this has been a good area in which students and administration have worked together,” Leebron said. “It’s something we all have to take seriously and we all have to bring a Rice philosophy to it, which is this culture of care.”Leebron addressed Rice’s recent drop in Princeton Review’s quality of life and happiness rankings and said the control that students feel over their environment contributes to Rice historical performance in rankings.“We pay attention to [U.S. News and World Report rankings] and think about what we can do, but no we’re not going to do those things that violate our fundamental commitment, and that includes commitment to access to our education,” Leebron said.A few of the areas being considered after this year’s ranking release include the graduation rate, class sizes, and how well known Rice is.“The way U.S. News works, it makes a big difference between whether the graduation rate is 91 percent or 93 percent,” Leebron said. “That’s a big thing, and we ought to be better at that than everybody else. And we’re pretty good. We’re around a 90 percent graduation rate in six years.”Leebron said he had numerous priorities for the new century: strategic academic priorities, school investments, campus infrastructure investments, and administrative effectiveness and efficiency. School investment includes investing in overburdened departments such as psychology and economics. “When I went to school, people would say what we were paying for is what happens in the classroom and the grading of exams, a major, transcript, and degree, and that’s 75 percent of what I’m paying for,” Leebron said. “That 75 percent has been reduced in my mind to something like 25 percent.”Leebron said he stressed research and student leadership as integral parts of the Rice experience that should be given a formal and educational framework. New certificates are being created to reflect students’ efforts in a historical record after they have graduated.Since fall 2003, the student body has gone from 55 percent caucasian to 43 percent caucasian and Asian-American students comprise 26 percent of the student body, up from 15 percent. The international student population represents 12 percent of the student body; it represented 3 percent of the student body in 2003.“The most dramatic is the change in the diversity of the undergraduate student body,” Leebron said. “This particular calculation takes out international students, [who] don’t count as part of the diversity; they’re just international students. That gives you the sense of a very changed student body.”Duncan College Senator Louis Lesser asked Leebron about his four priorities for the new century and whether any of them were more pressing than the others“Those are a little more like buckets than priorities you have to pay attention to,” Leebron said.  “Originally, the first formulation of this didn’t have [school] investments. When we saw the success that we had in economics, we realized that sometimes what the school most needs is not part of some university-wide vision: building a great economics department may be the next thing we need.”Leebron said he hopes to develop more interaction between the graduate and undergraduate departments, such as with the Jones school and the creation of the business minor. He said collaborations between the SA and the Graduate Student Association were also important in this process.


NEWS 10/7/14 5:14pm

In-class instant feedback programs pilot to test popularity against current system

Seven Rice undergraduate professors from various departments began piloting two different in-class instant student feedback programs, Top Hat and Poll Everywhere, at the beginning of the fall semester. The end goal of these pilot programs is to select a standardized immediate feedback system to be used by professors across campus. Though the official Rice audience feedback brand has been Turning Point for the past five years, professors have individually branched out to implement various other student polling systems, such as iClicker, in their classes. The pilot programs exist due to professors’ expressed interest in moving towards a unified product at the end of last year, according to Carlos Solis, Assistant Director of Academic Technology Services.“Over time, faculty members have started using different products all over campus, and during a meeting with faculty members early last year, there was an expressed desire for standardization,” Solis said. “[They wanted] a product that is more flexible than what we have right now that will add capabilities that will serve instructional purposes of the faculty better.”Solis acknowledged that professors who have already become accustomed to using particular brand products, like iClicker, might have difficulties making a system transition over to Top Hat or Poll Everywhere. However, he said there would be a benefit for everyone to find one product to fit most people’s purposes. “We want to get to the point of standardization where students do not need to be carrying different clickers or applications on their cell phones or using one product in one class and another in one class,” Solis said. Rice IT identified products on the market and narrowed the choices down to Top Hat and Poll Everywhere after considering the systems’ features and reviewing feedback from other academic institutions and Rice faculty members who have previously used them, according to Solis.Having utilized iClicker in his previous classes, Professor of Physics and Astronomy Paul Padley is one of seven professors piloting one of these two programs.“If I just think about my experience as a professor, I would prefer iClicker [over Top Hat],” Padley said. “However, when I imagine the student perspective, I think Top Hat is better because of the [free] cost and the [reduced] burden of students losing their clickers.” Martel College freshman Jorge Whitley has been using Poll Everywhere in General Chemistry I, a class that has previously used iClickers for instant feedback.“Though I see where it might be useful, it seems to be used primarily as a method of taking attendance,” Whitley said. “I think the polling system itself is clean and easy to use. It’s a question with four answer choices and that’s it, but many of the questions asked in the class have more than one right answer, which can be frustrating given the single-response restriction.”If Rice transitioned towards using one of these systems, there would be no additional individual monetary cost for students beyond the single annual payment that the university would make for a site-wide license. According to Solis, the price of this annual payment is yet to be negotiated and will be largely determined by the choice of response system and the final total volume needed as dictated by the quantity of users. Both systems being piloted offer attractive, user-friendly features that add to the range of interactions professors can have with students, Solis said. “With your typical clicker, you can answer ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ or ‘E’,” Solis said. “With these clickers, you can submit full-text answers, so you can have open-ended questions. There is also the opportunity to ask questions using images and point on the parts of the image for the different answers.” The range of interfaces on which these downloadable programs can be accessed gives professors more room to include all students in this immediate-response-mediated learning.  “We do a survey at the beginning of the year that lets us know what students are bringing to Rice,” Solis said. “Students are, on average, bringing one laptop plus two to three wireless devices with them.”Sid Richardson College sophomore Sean Dilliard said he has tried multiple forms of feedback programs and is glad to hear that professors are using programs other than iClickers.“Considering the high cost I paid to make use of the technology once, maybe twice in my time during the class, I found the iClickers to be rather impractical,” Dilliard said. “While the use of iClickers is rooted in good intentions, to engage the class and increase interactions with the curriculum, their minimal use at such a high cost offsets most of their good. There are and always have been better alternatives to the clickers; I made use of them in one of my CHBE classes.”According to Solis, Top Hat and Poll Everywhere allow students to use specific applications that they can install on their phone, either iOS or Android. The programs can also be accessed through a browser on a phone, laptop or tablet. Student may also use text services and submit answers via SMS.The opinions of faculty members and students will have weight in the final institution-wide decision, according to Solis. In November, both groups will be invited to attend a presentation made by current professor users who will discuss their experiences with Top Hat and Poll Everywhere. “We feel that if we bring vendors to do a sales pitch to the faculty, we will get always get the rosy picture, and it is important to have the users present their experiences to make decisions based off of real-world usage scenarios rather than vendors’ self-serving interests,” Solis said. “Towards the end of the semester, we also want to survey the students in the classes where these products are being tested.” The IT department would like to act quickly after a faculty and student-driven choice is made. “We would like to have this decision taken care off so that by the fall of 2015 we can move forward with a unified system,” Solis said.


NEWS 10/7/14 5:00pm

SA begins review of Honor Council taxes

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee sent Honor Council a request for documents and a written statement regarding the organization’s blanket tax on Oct. 5. The Contingency Committee compiled a list of questions for Honor Council, which the organization must answer in a statement by Oct. 20. According to the official statement released by the Contingency Committee, Honor Council must submit a budget for the coming year and documentation of the organization’s C-Fund and D-Fund. All registered clubs managed by students and overseen by a department have a C-Fund through which their funds are handled, and the D-Fund is used for specific activities within a department. Honor Council must also explain the amount of money spent at its annual changeover dinner, the reoccurrence of a rollover more than 50 percent, the importance of such a rollover to the organization and how a decrease in their blanket tax allocation would affect spending. According to SA President and Contingency Committee Chair Ravi Sheth, the Contingency Committee can recommend a decrease in funding to the Student Senate if Honor Council is found in violation three years out of a four year period. The new proposed blanket tax amount would then be placed on the ballot. However, Sheth said the current system is not feasible and does not encourage responsibility within blanket tax organizations. “Our current blanket tax processes are broken,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, said. “Lengthened, multi-year processes limit the agility and ability of student groups to respond to initiatives and new ideas; this year we are struggling to fund exciting and impactful initiatives such as Future Alumni Committee, Rally Club, Senior Committee or even Homecoming. Furthermore, these processes, in my opinion, do not encourage responsible usage of student money.”Honor Council External Vice-Chair Shayak Sengupta said the organization plans to work with the Contingency Committee to reach a viable solution. “The Honor Council looks forward to working closely with this new committee to resolve the blanket tax issue as quickly as possible,” Sengupta, a Will Rice College senior, said. “We hope to develop a feasible, transparent solution to the challenges that have arisen. Furthermore, we hope that this solution is fair and equitable, first and foremost to the student body and to all blanket tax organizations.” The Contingency Committee, which met on Oct. 3, had met earlier this year to address the concerns raised by Honor Council’s blanket tax review. However, the previous meeting was invalidated because it was not publicly announced, violating the SA Constitution.  All information regarding the Contingency Committee, including future meeting times and locations as well as public documents, can be accessed at sa.rice.edu/btcc. The Contingency Committee will meet with Honor Council the week of Oct. 27 and is currently accepting public comments.


NEWS 10/1/14 3:54am

Baker Institute hosts panel discussing lessons and applications of World War I

The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy hosted a panel discussion titled “Causes and Consequences of World War I: Can the Past Speak to the Present?” on Thursday, Sept. 29, featuring University of Houston Honors College Professor Robert Zaretsky, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Adam R. Seipp, Samuel McCann Professor of History Peter C. Caldwell and commentary by Bonner Means Baker Fellow Joe Barnes. Robert ZaretskyAccording to Zaretsky, the past itself does not speak. Rather, the interpreters — the historians — try to make it speak, and when they ask if the past speaks to the present, they need to specify which past, and which present. “The events of June, July and August of 1914 were not the beginning of the war,” Zaretsky said. “Instead they were the beginning of the end to a story that had begun years before. But when it exactly did it begin? Did it begin in 1903, with the assassination of King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia? Or did it begin in the 1890s, Alfred von Schlieffen’s plans for a war fought on two fronts by Germany, or did it  begin with the so called German War Council of 1912? Does this mean we should forget 1892 and the Franco-Russian Entente?”Zaretsky said where a historian decides to enter a story is just as crucial as where she chooses to start her story.“It goes without saying that these decisions are made by the historian’s particular present, namely the way her own time and her own place have shaped the questions she poses to the past,” Zaretsky said. People need to be careful about equating history with learning lessons, Zaretsky said. “All of us, I suspect, know that famous [quote] of George Santayana’s — those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it,” Zaretsky said. “But we forget that Santayana was a philosopher and a poet. He was not a practicing historian. In fact, is it not equally likely that those who do remember the past are doomed either to repeat it, or to make equally appalling mistakes? Consider the actions of the European leaders during the summer of 1914. They were persuaded that the July crisis of that year, sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was no different than the earlier crises that had traversed the continent, and that all of these crises had been surmounted by European diplomacy. They had been resolved peacefully or contained locally.”Zaretsky said it was this past, marked by diplomatic scrambling and muddling through, that political leaders in Europe remembered in 1914.“20,000,000 casualties, immeasurable horrors and hardship later, the world learned its lesson,” Zaretsky said. “We learn from past mistakes only to make new ones.”Carl CaldwellCaldwell said history seldom offers lessons, and it is important to analyze it at a specific level, not a general one.“[History] offers complex circumstances and unforeseen outcomes,” Caldwell said. “Historical actors are only ever partly aware of what’s going on around them; often, maybe usually, they’re surprised by outcomes. If we abstract from the specifics of an event to find a general lesson, to try to utter a scientific verdict about the causes of war, we risk losing the real dilemmas that historical actors actually faced. In other words, the search for the lesson can actually obscure the history.”Caldwell said the two World Wars seem to offer two big, general lessons about the origin of war.“1914 seems to offer a lesson about what happens when diplomacy fails and military planning takes over — one must keep diplomacy open to preserve the peace, right?” Caldwell said. “When military plans are activated, all the good intentions of diplomats become useless with horrendous outcomes. 1938, however, seems to offer the opposite lesson — diplomatic efforts to preserve the peace at all costs can lead to disastrous consequences.”According to Caldwell, underneath these lessons is also an interpretation of the event itself, as well as the interpretation of the event now that is compared to the past. “To declare, as some of our politicians have, that the situation in Syria today is like 1938, is to make an assumption that something in Syria is like Nazi Germany,” Caldwell said. “I’m not sure what — whether it’s [Bashar al-] Assad’s regime, or whether it’s ISIS. The complexity makes it really hard to make a judgement on the case at hand.” Adam SeippSeipp explored the question of what lessons those who participated in the first World War, and later participated in the second World War — namely French military commander Maurice Gamelin, German Chancellor and war leader Adolf Hitler, and lawyer-turned-politician-turned-President of Czechoslovakia Edvard Benes — derived. “In these three very brief examples, what we see is a bright, flashing cautionary tale about the so-called lessons of history,” Seipp said. “These were men who watched the same war from different vantage points and who derived completely different lessons from it.”Those lessons were mutually contradictory, Seipp said.“In some cases, those lessons would lead directly to state policies that, in part because of what happened in the second World War, seem to us to be morally dubious or atrocious,” Seipp said. “It was the lessons of World War I, as absorbed by this cohort, that would help to fundamentally shape the far bloodier war of the 1940s.”Seipp said, if we want to understand Europe’s disaster fully, we need to see that the two World Wars were fundamentally intertwined. “We have to look to a generation that was not just butchered, that was not just slaughtered, that was not just a lost generation,” Seipp said. “It was a generation that absorbed the lessons it had been taught in Flanders, on the Isonzo River, in the forteresses in Galicia. A generation that absorbed those lessons all too well, even when those lessons were fundamentally opposed to the lessons learned by someone living across an international border.”Joe BarnesBarnes said the question of when World War I begins and ends can be applied to the current situation in Ukraine.“You could quite plausibly say the crisis in the Ukraine is a mopping up operation at the end of a century-long struggle for mastery in Europe, the first armed portion of which ended in essentially an armistice and a stalemate, the second portion of which ended in defeat of Germany, the third portion of which ended in the defeat of the Soviet Union,” Barnes said.Barnes said he found all of the presentations interesting.“They gave us a small taste of how complex and contentious this issue remains after a full century,” Barnes said.McMurtry College sophomore Ruby Sanchez said she particularly liked Caldwell and Seipp’s speech for how they animatedly wove a narrative about the figures, governments and conflicts that started the war and how they lingered into the next one.“As a whole I thought [the discussion] was very interesting and well worth going to,” Sanchez said. 


NEWS 10/1/14 3:53am

Visiting students to receive Rice Gmail accounts for duration of their stays

The IT department is making provisions for visiting undergraduate students to have Rice Gmail accounts, according to Barry Ribbeck, Director of Systems, Architecture, Infrastructure, Cloud Strategies and Initiatives at Rice University. Visiting students are those enrolled at another college or university, but are approved, enrolled and classified as a non-matriculated Rice student.Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said visiting students should have the same access to Gmail as other Rice students. The decision to switch visiting students from RiceMail to Rice Gmail was collectively made by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates, the Office of the Registrar, the IT department and the Administrative Department.“The Student Association Senators brought this issue to me, explaining that our visiting students were not able to have the same access to Gmail as all other students,” Hutchinson said. “We agreed that this was not appropriate. In the interest of fairness to all students, we wished to extend Gmail access to the visiting students.”Google Student Ambassador Julia Hossu said Gmail, unlike RiceMail, is part of Google Apps for Education, which provides educational organizations features including email, online storage, calendars and file sharing within the university.“Currently, visiting students, faculty and graduate students do not have a Google account due to a variety of intellectual property and privacy reasons,” Hossu, a Martel College senior, said. “The main issue that pops up is they are not officially part of the Rice University Google community, so any documents, surveys, etc. shared publicly to only members of the Rice community will not be accessible to them.”According to Ribbeck, the IT department is modifying existing account-management software to automatically provide visiting students with Rice Gmail accounts.“There are two pieces to the process,” Ribbeck said. “One is to ensure that any new incoming students who are marked as visitors get a Gmail account. And then we have to take care of migrating all of the existing visitors from the current mail system to Google.”According to Manager of Rice IT Technical Communications Carlyn Chatfield, the IT department will migrate visiting students’ RiceMail accounts to Gmail on Sept. 30. “During the migration process, [visiting students] will have access to new messages immediately and [their] old messages will be transferred at a rate of 1 message/second until they have all been migrated,” Chatfield said in an email to affected students.Ribbeck said visiting undergraduate students, like any other Rice student, will retain access to their email accounts for eight months after they leave Rice.“[Three months after they leave Rice], we remove the ability for the students to be able to change their passwords,” Ribbeck said. “All the services still work. Sometime in the fall, we start a cleanup process. We start doing communications with them, for about two to three months. Generally in December or January, all the [graduated] students are purged from the system. All [their data] are gone.”Bela Kelbecheva, a visiting student from Paris, said she is happy about this change because with her RiceMail account, she has no access to other Google Apps resources.“[RiceMail] was OK to write emails,” Kelbecheva said. “But it’s impossible to delete mails on [RiceMail]. If you delete it, it still stays there, just crossed out. [RiceMail is] a bit inefficient overall, [and it is] hard to find old emails. I’m happy that communication within Rice is facilitated for me.”