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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

NEWS 9/3/14 2:43pm

IT streamlines websites for students

In early May, Rice University Information Technologies released streamlined versions of two websites, and, 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 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.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:34pm

Students say no to drop limit, create proposal

Duncan College Senator Louis Lesser, Duncan President Mary Anderson and University Court Chair Brian Baran introduced their legislation against the Center for Undergraduate Curriculum’s proposed drop limit at the Student Association Senate meeting on August 27.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:32pm

Economics 101: Textbooks

It’s the second week of classes, and students have been buying textbooks for their new classes. According to the official Barnes and Noble website, Barnes and Noble College Booksellers LLC operates 700 college and university bookstores in the United States, including Rice University’s, as of May 3, 2014.

NEWS 8/28/14 7:39pm

Honor Council removes undergraduates from graduate cases, violates constitution

The Faculty Senate approved the recommendations of the Working Group on the Honor Council and Graduate Students last April to form a graduate honor council separate from the undergraduate council, according to the chair of the working group Graham Bader.“We didn’t make any changes at all,” Bader said. “We suggested some, and now, the Provost may put [the recommendations] into effect.”Whether the Provost acts on the recommendations and forms the separate graduate honor council depends on the proposals of a newly-formed Faculty Senate Working Group, according to Speaker of the Faculty Senate James Weston.“We hope that the [new] working group will report back to the senate by the end of the year with a proposal,” Weston said. “I want the working group to represent broad constituencies of stakeholder groups across the university.”The Faculty Senate Working group will design the structure of the new body, which should be fully operational by fall 2015, according to Bader.If the Provost decides to enact the Working Group’s recommendations and form a separate graduate honor council, which would also include faculty members, he would not be following procedures outlined in the current Honor Council Constitution.According to Article XXIII of the Honor Council Constitution, proposed amendments to the Honor System must be approved by a three-fourths majority in both the Honor Council and the Graduate Student Association Council, as well as the senior Judicial Affairs officer, before being put to a vote by the undergraduate student body. However, no such undergraduate student body vote will take place if the Faculty Senate moves forward as planned.“We didn’t think the amendment procedure as outlined by the constitution made much sense in this case,” Bader said. “The proposed changes solely concern graduate education, but the voting procedure as outlined requires a 3/4 majority of undergraduate votes to approve changes. This clearly doesn’t make much sense. Graduate education policy shouldn´t be under the sole control of undergraduates. Hence, we proposed that the provost put the proposed changes into effect.”In spring 2014, the Working Group on the Honor Council and Graduate Students presented its findings and concluded that there is currently skepticism regarding how the existing Honor Council handles graduate student cases, and the integrity of the system needed to be restored.Associate Dean of Undergraduates Donald Ostdiek said the splitting of the Honor Council does not change how the Honor Code applies to graduate and undergraduate students – rather, it just changes the adjudication process once there is an accusation.“If you're a faculty member of a graduate program, and your student plagiarized in a graduate course, you'd view that differently than if you had an undergraduate who plagiarized,” Ostdiek said.According to Ostdiek, the current Honor Council cannot have a different set of sanctions for graduate students versus undergraduate students.Graduate student Suraya Khan, who is not on the Honor Council but represents the Graduate Student Association on the Working Group on the Honor Council and Graduate Students, said many professors were not sending cases to the Honor Council for adjudication because they felt the system was not working well enough.“It seems like there were cases where lawyers were getting involved, and trying to say that [the Honor Council] will not hold up in a court of law – I don't know the full details of these cases,” Khan said. “It seems like there have been some issues, and a lot of professors have not felt that the system was working well enough and weren't sending cases to the Honor Council.”Khan said there is often a power imbalance when undergraduates on the Honor Council must judge a very advanced student who might have had a career and has legal counsel that might come in and try to influence proceedings.“I think there is an understanding that it would be a little bit better to have an Honor Council with more graduate students and even more faculty who are advanced and provide more of a backbone for proceeding,” Khan said.Ostdiek said although graduate students are on the Honor Council, and there have even some graduate student chairs, for the most part, the Honor Council has been focused on undergraduate education.“Historically, there would be cases that come in from graduate student programs, but there were so few that it wasn't really a big deal,” Ostdiek said.According to Ostdiek, one of the faculty concerns was the Honor Council starting to get an increased amount of cases from graduate school.“In some cases, the hearings became difficult and even traumatic for the Honor Council,” Ostdiek said. “After a particularly difficult set of cases a few years ago, the Honor Council leadership came to me and said, ‘Get us out of this, it doesn’t make sense for us to be deciding these penalties.’”Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson said he did not feel any imbalance in pressure or authority when he presided over a case with an older MBA student.“Truthfully, there is no difference for me as chair or for council members in general,” Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, said. “Our system is designed to investigate and hear cases for students in a uniform and unbiased manner, and the system is designed so that it doesn't matter if the student is 18 or 40. I have heard cases for many graduate students, and I have never felt that they were any different from undergraduate cases.”Ostdiek said he does not disagree with Williamson on the capabilities of the Council’s members, but that making a council specific to graduate students is not about the Council not being up to the task.“Our Honor Council is very capable,” Ostdiek said. “In fact, I think it has been quite incredible over the years, and Rice should be very proud of it and the job the students on it do.”Williamson said he is not in favor of splitting the Council since even though penalties levied by the Council could have heavier implications for graduate student than undergraduates, they signed the same honor code."The argument on their part is that anything less than a B for a graduate student is like an F, and that while the Honor Council is a great thing, that penalty structure is not fair to them, in that they could essentially lose their career based on something,” Williamson said.Ostdiek said a separate honor council would not change what is expected of graduate students.“Graduate students are still subject to the same honor code,” Ostdiek said. “You can't get unauthorized aid. It is not made more strict, it is not made less strict.”Ostdiek said undergraduates knew this change was happening and had been part of the process.“This is policy making by consensus of the people involved, with the major actors at all levels, including students,” Ostdiek said. “The Honor Council and the SA were both involved. They had representation.”English graduate student Larry Butz said because graduate students have different institutional situations, it would make sense that the Honor Council adjudication process is different for them.“I know that [graduate] students have received form letters that indicate procedures for undergraduates only, and it is very unclear who we are supposed to contact and how to go about resolving issues,” Butz said.

NEWS 8/28/14 7:39pm

RSVP loses office in RMC

Rice Student Volunteer Program lost its office space in the Rice Memorial Center in a decision finalized in June by Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson and Assistant Dean Catherine Clack. The Office of Study Abroad currently resides in RSVP’s old office. The decision to remove RSVP from its office makes it one of two blanket tax organizations, including Rice Program Council, which voluntarily moved out of its space, to not reside in a physical office in the RMC.According to Clack, the discussion to move RSVP began during conversations in the spring regarding RMC office reallocation and the realization that their office was primarily being used for storage.“It’s an office, and so they need to keep an office in it and maintain office hours,” Clack said. “When it came down to offices moving and expanding, Study Abroad had to move out that way. It was part of the expansion, but if they had been using it properly, I don’t know what we would have done, but we would have found some way to accommodate them somewhere else.”Director of Student Activities Kate Abad coordinated the logistics of RSVP’s move. She said the office was obviously being used primarily for storage.“I don’t know what criteria were made to determine whether they were using their space,” Abad said. “I do know when I was helping with the logistics of moving there were boxes of things, [and] the way that the space was set up it was visually noticeable that it had not been used as office space.”RSVP Co-Chair Pooja Yesantharao said RSVP should be minimally affected by the loss of their office.“We did not really use the office for too many things, so our operations should basically remain the same,” Yesantharao said. “The office was largely used for storage and administrative duties such as interviews. Though we appreciated the office space, we will be able to survive without it.”According to Abad, the construction of a new student center could allow for all blanket tax organizations to have their own permanent office spaces. She said the Office of Student Affairs makes attempts to include students in its decisions, especially those involving blanket tax organizations.“People try to make sure students are involved in the decision making,” Abad said. “There [were] special circumstances this summer [since] students [were] not around. Jacqueline [Jones], the coordinator for RSVP, was asked to communicate with the students and talk with them ... so I do think that is an effort that is made especially well on this campus to make sure that students are involved in conversations that are happening.”