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Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

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NEWS 4/22/15 7:33am

Deans discuss tech in music, architecture

Dean of the Shepherd School of Music Robert Yekovich and Dean of the School of Architecture Sarah Whiting discussed the impact of technology on their disciplines at a Scientia colloquium on April 14.According to Yekovich, the development of virtual instruments and electronically produced sounds has dramatically transformed the music market and pushed musicians to find new ways to adapt.“It’s far more cheap and cost-effective to have a computer playing the score for a film than to have 90 or 100 musicians sitting in a recording studio,” Yekovich said. “As a result, many musicians have had to learn computer-based skills, such as how to orchestrate, arrange, record and edit, in addition to knowing how to play their instruments.”Virtual instruments have also changed music composition and the way professors teach composition, Yekovich said. “When I write a string quartet, I can now sit with my computer and hear every note I write in real time on all four instruments,” Yekovich said. “When students go to lessons, they come in with their computer and whatever the piece has been scored for is played in real time.”Yekovich said he believes human performance and human interaction are still many years from being replaced by machine sounds despite these technological advances.“We still contend that human performance and the kind of experiential learning that is derived from that remains central to our musical endeavor,” Yekovich said.According to Whiting, a current challenge in architecture is how to convince people to invest in architecture or push architecture forward instead of imitating designs from the past.“Architecture is experienced in a state of distraction, and the public doesn’t really pay that much attention,” Whiting said. “We need to do is teach students how to make evaluations of their own and make those arguments convincing for a broader audience. If you don’t do that, you can end up repeating the past in a false form.”With new technology, architects can develop more sophisticated models, Whiting said.“Through these softwares, you can form more realistic environments where the imagination is rendered almost real,” Whiting said. “It’s opened the possibility for us to work digitally to create complex relationships among components.”Architecture student and lecture attendee Neha Sahai said she wishes the deans discussed experiential learning in more depth because the school does a great job balancing the technological side with the experiential learning.“Our fields are very based on experiential learning, and technology is a very integral part of our education,” Sahai, a Will Rice College sophomore, said. “For example, we take technology classes for two years in which we learn about structural systems and the basic mechanics behind constructing buildings. So it’s a huge component to the education and lets us push the boundaries with designing.”


NEWS 4/22/15 7:30am

SJP records judicial meetings in response to student concerns

Rice Student Judicial Programs has implemented two changes to its disciplinary meetings in response to student leader concerns over transparency: Starting in December, SJP has begun recording its proceedings and often includes a second official in the meetings.SJP Director Lisa Zollner, who arrived at the department in 2013 along with Student Conduct Officer Emily Garza, said input from college presidents and chief justices influenced the new policies. Despite the changes, however, students still will not have the right to record meetings. This is in contrast to Texas law, which states that recordings require consent from only one party being recorded.Garza said this change will improve the adjudication process, particularly during factually complex cases that may involve many witnesses.“Having the audio recordings for factually complex cases is very beneficial in terms of getting all of the facts straight and in a more time efficient manner,” Garza said. “If there’s a case that involves, say, 10 witnesses, it’s helpful to have the recordings in order to review facts.”Both directors said the audio recordings are not shared outside the SJP office. Because the change is recent, there has not yet been a decision about how long the recordings will be retained. According to Zollner, student disciplinary files are retained for 10 years after the involved student graduates, but the audio recordings are not a part of these files. “SJP is working with General Counsel to determine a retention schedule for the recordings,” Zollner said. Zollner said another change, made this academic year, is that when possible both she and Garza will be present during meetings with students. This change was also aimed at alleviating campus-wide concerns about SJP proceedings.“Recently, there have been negative rumors toward SJP,” Zollner said. “Some students come into our office expecting the worst. Having two people rather than just one person present is a response to concerns voiced by students.”Zollner and Garza both said SJP’s primary concern is to keep the Rice community safe and this includes being a resource for students who feel they have been victimized. “The true risk of the rumors about SJP is that they will scare students away from SJP’s services,” Zollner said. If students believe SJP is bad, they may decline to seek out SJP as a resource. This is a risk Rice students should not accept, and a risk students should actively work to guard against.” 


NEWS 4/22/15 7:29am

Real food revolution prepares for seventh year of Farm to Fork dinner

The upcoming spring 2015’s Farm to Fork Dinner has an expected attendance of over 80 students and discussion leaders, thus maintaining the success of the semesterly event that is now in its seventh year. Rice University’s Real Food Revolution, an organization which seeks to increase awareness in regards to local foods, is hosting the dinner on April 25.Incoming Real Food Revolution Co-President and Sid Richardson College junior Kathryn Hokamp outlined the details of the event, which will feature a meal cooked by a  chef on campus and food from local farmers and the Rice Farmer’s Market.“We’ll bring in discussion leaders from around the Houston area,” Hokamp said. “We’ll ask farmers, people in food policy, people who write about food, who cook food, who have promoted gardens in Houston, [...] people who are involved in the local foods movement in Houston.”Belle Douglass, who is co-president with Hokamp, said the discussions serve to provide students with additional information on local foods and where food comes from.“We like the conversations to be just that, conversations,” Douglass, a Martel College junior, said. “We have found that the best way to really facilitate discussion and learning is by making the discussions casual and allowing the students to ask questions and be engaged with the discussion leaders.”Hokamp said that while a number of discussion leaders have yet to confirm their presence, there will be representatives from MD Anderson’s Gardening Project, Plant it Forward and Last Organic Outpost. Richard Johnson, head of Sustainability at Rice and the official club sponsor, will also be attending, and the management team of the Farmers Market will serve as discussion leaders. According to Hokamp, the event has a three-pronged purpose.“The first thing is to expose the students and the chefs at Rice to the opportunities of local foods in Houston, to the diversity and amount of local foods in Houston,” Hokamp said. “There is a huge agricultural presence that people just don’t know about.”Hokamp said the second goal of the event is the education about the activism going on in food policy for students. Additionally, Hokamp said they hope the event will allow networking with students and between discussion leaders to possibly help students find jobs.Douglass, said this dinner will feature Edward Castillo, the executive chef at West Servery. “We are so excited to work with him and sample his delicious food,” Douglass said. “Some of the produce will be coming from as close as the Martel and Wiess gardens, [and] the furthest the food can come from is a 200-mile radius from campus.”While this is Real Food Revolution’s biggest event of the semester, Hokamp said the group puts together food stands on a regular basis, from which Rice students can take for free some local food items that Real Food Revolution brought from the Farmers Market or harvested from the Rice gardens. Hokamp also alluded to the possibility of a farm visit to either Cellar Farms or Sullivan Happy Hearts Farms at the end of the semester or during this summer, depending on student interest. Farm to Fork Dinner will be held in the Duncan commons, starting at 6:30 PM, $10 for a meal and $15 for a meal and T-shirt. This year, Chef Ed (West servery) will be the guest chef. See the Facebook event for more information. 


NEWS 4/22/15 7:28am

Alumni vote Shamoo for Excellence in Teaching award

Recent Rice University alumni voted professor of biosciences Yousif Shamoo as the 2015 recipient of the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching.Alumni who graduated two, three and five years ago were asked to nominate professors, according to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson. The professor with the most votes receives the excellence in teaching award, Rice’s top award for teaching. Nine others, chosen by the University Committee on Teaching and the Center of Teaching Excellence based on number of votes, class size and subject, receive awards for superior teaching. All faculty, include non-tenure-track and lecturers, are eligible for the awards, which also carry a monetary prize.Shamoo, who teaches Biochemistry I (BIOC 301) and II (BIOC 302),  previously received the award for superior teaching in 2009, 2011 and 2013, but said he never expected to win the top prize for excellence in teaching.“Biochem is such a hard course; I’m always surprised and honored,” Shamoo, who is also the vice provost for research, Wiess career development chair and director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering, said.Jones College junior Felix Yang said he was unsurprised Shamoo earned the top prize, and that he completely deserved it.“He’s a bro,” Yang, who is currently in BIOC 302, said. “He’s engaged and [cares] about what he teaches and the students he’s teaching.”Shamoo said he was flattered by the award.“This award comes from our alumni and that is especially gratifying,” Shamoo said. “It means that when they get to grad or med school they value all our hard work together. Many of my students are pre-meds and too often they are portrayed in an unflattering light, but my students have real discipline and passion. I’d put my undergrads up against any school!”According to Shamoo, his teaching methods are tried and true.“I am unabashedly old fashioned,” Shamoo said. “There is a huge amount to know for this course series. It is a lecture course and I try to keep things funny and insightful despite the pressured nature of the course for my students. It would be very easy for the course to go off the rails.”Jones College senior Kevin Li said Shamoo was his favorite teacher in the biochemistry department.“He lets students punch him in the arm every year to demonstrate the effects of hemoglobin breakdown,” Li said.All 10 recipients will be honored on April 28, at Rice’s Teaching Award Ceremony. “Amongst the hallmarks of the Rice Education are the excellent faculty and close relationship of the faculty with their students,” Hutchinson said. “The faculty enjoy honoring their students at the end of the year, and this is the best opportunity for the students to honor their faculty. These awards are highly coveted and highly prestigious. All the faculty who receive them feel very honored.”A number of other awards are given out at the event. The George R. Brown Certificate of Highest Merit, awarded for earning multiple George R. Brown prizes for teaching, will be given to professor of psychology Michelle “Mikki” Hebl. The Nicholas Salgo Distinguished Teacher Award, voted on by current juniors and seniors, will be given to professor of bioengineering Ann Saterbak.


NEWS 4/22/15 6:54am

ECON, MTEC curricula undergo major restructuring

The economics and mathematical economic analysis curriculum is undergoing extensive changes for the 2015-16 school year and beyond, according to Chair of Economics George Zodrow. The changes will be mandatory only for students matriculating in and after 2015.The changes include a new introductory course, removal of the Ordinary Differential Equations and Linear Algebra (MATH 211) requirement and renumbering of upper level courses. There is also a new honors program as well as new math, statistics and advanced course requirements. The economics department’s undergraduate committee developed the changes over the course of the 2014-15 year, according to Zodrow. The committee took into account input from ECON faculty and students, and tentative proposals were presented to the faculty and a student advisory board appointed by the Student Association. The department approved the finalized changes in February.According to Zodrow, these changes are a part of the Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics, which is a program focused on improving the teaching and research of economics at Rice. RISE is led by Economics Department Chair Antonio Merlo. Zodrow said the goal of the restructuring was to meet students’ needs more successfully and provide comprehensive preparation for continued schooling or careers.“In particular, the reforms are designed to more clearly delineate our two majors, with an enhanced ECON major available to all students and an MTEC major that is designed for students who wish to pursue graduate study in economics or obtain a position in the private or public sectors that requires advanced analytical and quantitative skills,” Zodrow said.A number of major changes will be implemented, Zodrow said. One is a new introductory course for the major.“We are creating a new course, ECON 100, Principles of Economics, which will provide a non-technical intuitive introduction to microeconomics and macroeconomics,” Zodrow said.MTEC majors who matriculate in 2015 or later will no longer be required to take Ordinary Differential Equations and Linear Algebra (MATH 211) because the material from MATH 211 that MTEC majors need to know will be covered in Mathematical Economics (ECON 308, formerly ECON 401), a prerequisite for Econometrics (ECON 310, formerly ECON 409) and Advanced Topics in Microeconomics for MTEC Majors (ECON 305), according to Zodrow.Also, core courses for ECON and MTEC majors are being renumbered, according to Zodrow. The core courses are Microeconomics (ECON 200, formerly ECON 301), Macroeconomics (ECON 203, formerly ECON 303) and Applied Econometrics (ECON 209, formerly ECON 309).“The renumbering of these courses does not imply they have been diminished in any way,” Zodrow said. “[It] simply recognizes these critical courses provide the basic foundational principles required as preparation for our upper-level courses and should be taken early in a student’s progression in either major.”However, Zodrow said for students who had taken these courses before the 2015-16 school year, the courses would still be listed as 300-level courses on their transcripts.Both ECON and MTEC majors will now be required to take two semesters of calculus. Previously, ECON majors only needed one. According to Zodrow, this change will provide better preparation in mathematics for the core and elective courses. Additionally, ECON and MTEC majors must now enroll in a higher-level statistics course, Probability and Statistics (ECON 307/STAT 310).ECON and MTEC majors will now need to take courses on advanced microeconomic topics. ECON majors will have to take Advanced Topics in Microeconomics for Economics Majors (ECON 300) while MTEC majors will take the more quantitative Advanced Topics in Microeconomics for MTEC Majors (ECON 305).“ECON and MTEC majors will be required to take a new course [on] advanced topics in microeconomics critical to an understanding of recent developments in modern economics,” Zodrow said. “As a result, these quantitative tools courses should be taken earlier in a student’s career than has often been the case in previous years.”According to Zodrow, all MTEC majors must take one of the two new capstone courses based on analysis of current research topics in economics. The prerequisites for these courses provide insight into this subject. The last change is a two-semester honors program in economics.“This program will guide students through the research process and culminate in the authorship of a high-quality research paper,” Zodrow said.MTEC majors would obtain more advanced analytical and quantitative skills through the Applied Econometrics, Econometrics and Mathematical Economics courses taken earlier in their college careers, as well as through the new capstone courses, Zodrow said.“We believe all of these curriculum changes will provide students with a more comprehensive knowledge of economic principles and applications as well as a deeper understanding of the process of research in economics,” Zodrow said.Economics major Jenny Ren said despite the new changes, she will opt to continue with the previous curriculum. “You can choose which general announcements [to] go under, and it would be too much of a hassle to pursue the new track [as] I’ve already taken some of the old classes,” Ren, a Jones College freshman, said. “I am looking forward to the changes this program will bring and hopefully it will create new opportunities in the department.” Martel College junior Cathy Hu said while the changes do not affect upperclassmen, it’s interesting to see things being improved.“In the past, depending on what professors you have, you’d have a very different experience as an ECON major.” Hu, an economics and sociology major, said. “It would definitely be more rigorous and standardized [after the changes].”


NEWS 4/22/15 6:51am

Mackowiak wins Goliard for stars

Stargazing sophomore Mitch Mackowiak was recently awarded the Goliard Scholarship, a $2,500 travel grant described by the Goliard Board as a “whimsical effort … to encourage an international understanding in Rice University’s leaders of tomorrow.” In a proposal titled “Look up and try not to trip: stars and hills in Houston’s opposite” he submitted as his application, Mackowiak, a Lovett College sophomore, detailed his plans to “hang out with the sky” for at least two weeks in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. According to its website, the Goliard Scholarship stems from the definition of a Goliard as a wandering student in medieval Europe “disposed to conviviality, license and the making of ribald and satirical Latin songs.Mackowiak, an architecture major, said he felt he had stumbled upon a gem of a scholarship when he found the prompt, which merely asks, “Where would you go with $2500, and what would you do?”“The magic of the question lies in its asking,” Mackowiak said. “Even if you didn’t get the Goliard, you might still follow that proposal when you do get an opportunity to travel.”Mackowiak said he is considering pursuing a nocturnal lifestyle in Atacama, although he does have additional plans to explore Santiago and camp in the Andes. However, he will keep his belongings to a minimum.“I need to find some astronomer’s binoculars, a nice camera and as much Spanish as I can pick up in a little more than two months,” Mackowiak said. “Otherwise, [I’ll bring] as little as I can.” 


NEWS 4/21/15 5:37pm

SA starts discussion on grade policy

In light of the implementation of grade collaring policies in certain introductory courses, the Student Association hopes to initiate a discussion regarding departmental policies against grade inflation in the fall, according to Sid Richardson College senator Justin Onwenu. Onwenu, a freshman, said he noticed the issue in a statistics class, the syllabus of which stated that only the top 40 percent can receive an A, and felt a need to discuss it.The spring 2015 syllabi for Elementary Applied Statistics (STAT 280), Introduction to Statistics for Biosciences (STAT 305), Probability and Statistics (STAT 310) and Methods for Data Analysis (STAT 385) all state that no more than 40 percent of the classes will receive a grade of A-plus, A or A-minus. According to the STAT 280 and 305 syllabi, “This policy is meant to help [ensure] similar grades across sections taught by different instructors and is being implemented in a number of introductory classes in the department of statistics.”However, according to the course offering page for fall 2015, there will be only one teacher for all STAT 280 and STAT 305 classes.“I was shocked,” Onwenu said. “I brought it up to [the Student Association], and everyone was on the same page in feeling [that] grade inflation policy is an issue that is important — and I know a lot of universities are dealing with it — but it’s how you go about it that’s important.”According to Marina Vannucci, chair of the statistics department, the policy was introduced in the fall semester in response to student concerns."It was discussed and approved by the instructors, following up on concerns raised by students who took the courses in previous semesters," Vannucci said.According to Onwenu, the policy is problematic because it may discourage collaboration and engender negative competition.“The goal is to learn as much as possible and if we can work together and collaborate, that’s good,” Onwenu said. “But if I see you as competition, [I might think,] ‘Oh I’m not going to help you [as you may] get  above me and I may be knocked down a grade level.’”The long-term focus should be on learning instead of besting fellow students, Onwenu said. “Students don’t have a problem with increasing difficulty of classes; students have a problem with a cutthroat environment,” Onwenu said. “I’m worried the statistics department policy [...] has the potential to disrupt Rice’s collaborative sort of environment.”Onwenu said the statistics department probably implemented the grade-collaring policy in response to a legislation passed by the Faculty Senate in April 2014. “Two years ago, the SA and the Faculty Senate launched a working group [and] conducted a tremendous amount of research in terms of how Rice compares to other universities, and how our grading policies and distribution of grades are at Rice,” Onwenu said. The report Onwenu referred to was the Final Report, published in March 2014 by the Working Group on Grade Inflation, which stated, “Every academic program that offers 100- to 300- level courses will have a faculty-wide discussion about grading practices [...] at least once every five years. [...] Each department and program should decide how to frame the discussions of grading in the courses their faculty teach.”While the subject matter is not new, Onwenu said it is crucial to keep the conversation going to ensure the spirit of the legislation translates well into implementation.“Grade inflation is a word that’s just been thrown around — faculty is probably tired of discussing it,” Onwenu said. “But now is the time that the policies are now being implemented. [...] We are finally seeing the effects of it.”Baker College freshman Leah Rubin, who is in STAT 280, said making an introductory course difficult seems contradictory to its purpose.“It is supposed to be an [introductory] low-level class, so to collar the grades doesn’t make sense,” Rubin said.Fanny Huang, a Baker College sophomore, is currently taking Applied Probability (STAT 331), which is not affected by this policy. However, she said the grading policy should not have a huge impact on individuals’ performance.“I’ll just do my best,” Huang said. “And no matter what [grading] scale the professors use, I believe I’ll get the grade I deserve.”Faculty Senate speaker James Weston said the statistics department has the autonomy to configure its own policy, independent of the Senate.“Academic assessment standards belong to the faculty, [not] the Faculty Senate,” Weston said. “Our constitution does not provide any regulatory authority over grade distributions at the class, department or university level. What standards statistics decides to set are up to them.”


NEWS 4/15/15 10:17am

Goldwater scholars named at Rice

Undergraduates Peter Cabeceiras, Kenny Groszman, and Eric Sung were named 2015-16 Goldwater scholars for their academic achievements from a pool of more than 1,200 nominees. 


NEWS 4/15/15 10:16am

Students win BP engineering contest

A team of three Rice University juniors won the United States division of BP’s Ultimate Field Trip last week, according to BP, beating teams from six other American research universities in the final round of competition.The team, composed of McMurtry College junior Benjamin Zhang, Lovett College junior Ruth Long and Hanszen College junior Sun Ji, will travel to Trinidad and Tobago this summer to tour BP facilities with the winning teams from other participating countries.The Ultimate Field Trip is a yearly competition sponsored by BP in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Angola, in which teams of undergraduates from different universities compete to solve an energy engineering problem, according to the program’s online description. This year, the challenge was to find a way to reduce the amount of water consumed by oil, gas and biofuel production.In the final stage of the competition, BP chose the Rice team’s proposal to use microalgae to purify wastewater and then produce crude oil over projects from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State, Texas A&M University, the University of Champagne, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas.“We had such great synergy and fun working on the competition which ultimately culminated into a desire to settle for nothing less than winning first place,” Zhang said.Zhang credited the engineering department at Rice with helping prepare the team for the contest. Zhang, Long and Ji are all majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering.“I would encourage every Rice engineering student to participate in design competitions outside of those offered by Rice University,” Zhang said. “There needs to be more exposure to the wonderful engineering programs offered by Rice University.”


NEWS 4/15/15 10:12am

Silva says Senate approval not needed for second-round election ballot

The Student Association did not vote to approve the ballot for the second-round elections conducted from March 23 to March 28. Former SA Parliamentarian Zach Birenbaum declined to comment; the position is currently unfilled. Director of Elections Austin Cao initially said the ballot was presented at the SA meeting on March 18, with March 23 set as the deadline for finalizing the ballot. The ballot consisted of the unopposed candidate for SA Secretary Brianna Singh. Cao said the SA made announcements at multiple SA meetings encouraging candidates and announced on its Facebook page when the ballot was released. According to Cao, the elections were also publicized on the SA website.SA President Jazz Silva said the SA presented the ballot on March 18 but did not conduct a vote.“We did not vote to approve the ballot because we interpreted that the constitution said we were not required to approve [it],” Silva said. “This election received less public attention than usual because it was an uncontested race in which quorum was not required.”According to Silva, a Sid Richardson College junior, Section XII.B.4 of the constitution requires only that the Director of Elections present the ballot at Senate. This section of the constitution states: “The Director of Elections shall present the ballot for each election, including a list of all candidates for each position and the text of all initiatives and referenda approved in accordance with Article XI (Initiatives and Referenda), to the Student Senate at its last meeting before the election. After addressing any inaccuracies, the Senate may approve the ballot by a majority vote.”Former Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Revisions Brian Baran said he does not recall any discussion of the ballot on March 18. The SA minutes for the meeting also do not include any discussion of the ballot.“I therefore believe that [the discussion] did not occur,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said.Baran said a common-sense reading consistent with the spirit of the constitution indicates Senate approval on the ballot is necessary for a legitimate election. “If you look throughout the constitution, it’s clear that the language ‘may approve by’ along with a voting threshold... is used to specify the threshold needed to approve something, not to remove the need for approval,” Baran said. “The Senate can choose to approve it if it has enough votes to meet that requirement, or its other option — hence the ‘may’ — is to not approve it. And if Senate doesn’t approve the ballot, it’s by definition not approved and can’t be used in the election.”Baran said the SA interpretation that Senate approval is not required is unreasonable considering the wording of the article and the title of the section of the constitution, “Approval of Ballot.”“To get to the SA’s interpretation, you have to accept that the drafters of the constitution would have written this and intended that it mean that there’s two options: The Senate approves it and the election goes forward with that ballot, and the Senate does not approve it and the election goes forward nonetheless with that ballot,” Baran said.Baran said he finds this to be indicative of a larger issue of a lack of transparency from the SA. “I don’t think that burying something on a website constitutes public announcement and I think it’s important, especially with elections, and on SA matters in general, for students to be informed,” Baran said. “Part of the way for students to be informed is for the SA to tell the student what it’s doing.”


NEWS 4/15/15 10:11am

Language courses reduced to three credit hours from six

The Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication recently announced that all introductory language classes will be worth three credit hours instead of six starting next semester, though they will still offer distribution credit.The move marks a reversal from the past two years, when CLIC’s introductory language classes were increased from four to five credit hours entering the 2013-14 school year, then to six credit hours in the 2014 spring semester.CLIC director Rafael Salaberry said the center made the switch to six-credit-hour classes because these classes are easier to fit into schedules based mainly on multiples of three credit hours. Also, according to Salaberry, the center hoped longer classes would also give students a greater depth of understanding of their target language. However, students expressed concern that they would not have time to take such credit-heavy classes along with their majors, despite the fact that the classes offer distribution credit.According to Salaberry, the current administration at CLIC decided that three-credit-hour classes would be more familiar and easier for students to include in their schedules, as well as making classes more accessible to students from majors with stringent requirements. Lovett College sophomore Amber Tong said the change could increase enrollment in CLIC classes. “Reduction of hours would probably encourage more people to try out language courses considering the limited hours on our schedules,” Tong said. “But as far as learning goes, this would only work if the continuing courses are also restructured to accommodate the change.” According to Tong, who is currently enrolled in Intermediate Hindi II, restructuring would be difficult. Tong said the process of becoming familiar with a new alphabet and system would not be feasible given the shorter class period.Lovett College sophomore and linguistics major Katherine Borden also believes this change will impact the thoroughness of the language learning experience. “I’m glad it was six hours when I took beginning German,” Borden said. “It was a big time commitment, but my ultimate goal is to become fluent, and I just don’t think I could accomplish that with only three hours of instruction a week.”According to Borden, it may be difficult for students to learn languages effectively under the new system, though the classes are available to more students.“Languages are heavily nuanced, and that’s something you can’t pick up on without spending a lot of time with a fluent speaker,” Borden said. “The shorter classes make the languages more accessible, but that’s in exchange for a depth of instruction that I wouldn’t want to give up.”


NEWS 4/15/15 10:10am

Rice administration faces student, faculty concerns over rising tuition

As students fret over their GPAs, they can rest assured that there is one number that will not be dropping anytime soon. Concern is growing across campus in light of the administration’s recent announcement that the cost of tuition will rise to $41,560 for the next academic year, a 4.2 percent increase from this year’s cost of $39,880. Over the last 15 years, tuition has climbed by 135 percent, with the new total cost of attendance amounting to $55,903. Brown College Student Association senator Andrew Gatherer, who is leading an initiative in response to the tuition increase, said the administration must provide more information when addressing the rising costs. “I think it would be useful to see where the increased tuition is going,” Gatherer, a freshman, said. “You don’t really see the effects of [increased tuition] in the university. We don’t really know where it goes.”Professor of earth science Jerry Dickens stated in a letter to the Thresher that the administration must clearly explain the tuition hikes, referring to Vice President of Finance Kathy Collins’ statement that the money will be used for “educating students, faculty salaries, library resources and other operational expenses.”“The Rice community, especially students and parents, deserve at least an accurate answer for the skyrocketing tuition,” Dickens said. “I think most professors at Rice would be happily amazed by anything close to a salary increase rate of 135 percent over the last 15 years.”According to Collins, however, tuition increases help cover a number of costs beyond faculty salaries. “I did not say faculty salaries have increased 135 percent over the last 15 years,” Collins said. “I explained that tuition increases help cover a number of costs, and I cited a few examples, including faculty salaries, library resources and other operational expenses.”Vision for the Second CenturyCollins said tuition increases over the past decade have helped expand resources like the Program in Writing and Communication, create new undergraduate minors, bolster academic advising and wellness services and build projects like the Moody Center for the Arts, to be unveiled in 2016. “Inspired by our strategic plan known as the Vision for the Second Century, Rice has invested in strengthening and expanding the quality and range of its educational, research, recreational and community service opportunities,” Collins said.Rice’s operating expenses increased by 129 percent from 2001 to 2014 as a result of the investment in the Vision for the Second Century, according to Collins. Three major revenue sources — endowment distribution (57 percent), net tuition revenue (26 percent) and overhead recovery on grants (5 percent)  — account for 88 percent of the revenues to support the core budget.  Keeping the Cost AffordableAccording to Collins, Rice has tried to keep the rising tuition costs affordable through financial aid and loan programs. Rice’s financial aid packages currently require no more than $2,500 a year in loans and require no loans for families making $80,000 or less in annual income. According to data from the Federal Student Aid website, the unsubsidized federal loan maximum for first-year undergraduates is $9,500.“Rice has made an effort to keep its tuition about $5,000 to $6,000 less than most of its peers while also providing a generous financial aid policy to keep Rice affordable to qualified students from all socio-economic backgrounds,” Collins said. According to Gatherer, despite these efforts, there are still issues with transparency between students and the Office of Financial Aid that he is looking to address through the SA.“A lot of students have trouble connecting with the office,” Gatherer said. “They have to speak to many people before they actually realize how much money they owe and where it’s coming from.”Shaian Mohammadian, recipient of the Beverly and Donald Bonham Scholarship, said he experienced a lack of communication with the Office of Financial Aid.“I didn’t even know there was a tuition increase, and no one from the office has notified me about anything,” Mohammadian, a Jones College freshman said. “The transparency doesn’t seem to be where it needs to be, for sure.”Gatherer said that in light of the tuition increase, students should be aware of how rising costs affect their financial aid plans. “A lot of information is available on their website, but a lot of the time, you don’t realize the specifics for you until you’ve talked to about four or five people at the office,” Gatherer said. “We want to make sure students don’t feel like they’re sinking.”Gatherer said the SA also wants to ensure that the university expands their financial aid and loan programs to accompany rising tuition costs. “It’s not really the SA’s place to complain to the university about how much tuition is,” Gatherer said. “But what the SA is doing is, we’re trying to nullify the bad effects of increasing tuition. Some people come in with so much money in scholarships, and they feel that over the four years they see that money disappear, and if not marginalized, because of the increase in tuition.”Gatherer said despite the current problems with financial aid, he is confident that the office is willing to cooperate with the SA.“I know they’re very busy dealing with all the students who need financial aid,” Gatherer said. “But they are receptive to student concerns. It’s just about having that outline and knowing how much money you’re going to pay.”


NEWS 4/15/15 10:10am

SA seeks proposal for student initiatives program

Yun said he cannot guarantee whether they will be executed following approval due to complications from involved parties, although those are easier to solve than issues with funding.“Following through with an initiative is 80 percent planning and working with campus departments and 20 percent actual implementation,” Yun said. “However, students should not be discouraged. Rice staff and faculty are all very supportive, and in the past initiatives were halted due to cost.”Yun said feasibility and timeline were the main criteria for evaluating proposal ideas. Yun said he has received ideas on a wide variety of topics, including mental health resources and physical changes to the Rice Memorial Center. “If initiatives fall in line with the mission statements of already existing standing committees, then I move them forward to work with those committee chairs,” Yun said. “If it does not and requires significant manpower, like the potential ‘Campus Appreciation Day,’ which is still in the design phase, the student will get its own committee with its own [New StudentRepresentatives].”However, Yun said he agreed publicity for the Student Initiatives Program was not as successful or far-reaching as possible. He said the SA will push for publicity again in the fall semester. Campus Appreciation DayFalade said she has centered her proposal around giving back to the Housing and Dining staff and appreciating community members who support campus beauty and sustainability. To this effect, a new Campus Appreciation Committee would plan a staff appreciation week that culminates in an “Inreach Day.”“For Inreach Day, I see a group of willing and hardworking Rice students gather as a team and tend to our campus and take on some of the responsibilities that we are otherwise never faced with here — things like taking out the trash or tidying some of the areas around campus,” Falade said. “According to Falade, the planning process is still tentative and in early steps. She said she has had full support and approval of the proposal, but understands that not everything can be executed as imagined. Falade said she first thought of the idea for Inreach Day while at the Impact Rice retreat, although she had considered the privileged nature of Rice students ever since arriving on campus.“Volunteering and community outreach might not be such a priority to a lot of students because its importance [is] lost on some of us,” Falade said. “[I thought,] ‘Charity begins at home.’ How could we foster a desire of community serve if we didn’t create that feel for the Rice campus? I believe that once we learn to give back to our immediate community, doing the same for the Houston community will come more naturally.”


NEWS 4/15/15 10:08am

Graduate school mentorship introduced

The graduate/undergraduate mentorship program that intends to facilitate interaction and mentorship among graduate and undergraduate students attracted 207 undergraduate student applicants according to Chris Sabbagh, a former Jones College senator.Once the Graduate Student Association collects applications for graduate student mentors, the Student Association Academics Committee will pair graduate and undergraduate students before the program official begins next semester, Sabbagh, a Jones College sophomore, said.“The idea is to pair at most three undergraduate students with a graduate student,” Sabbagh said. “We will be considering the location of college, hopefully keeping them at a close area. Then we will also be considering the academic specialization that they want to go into.”According to Sabbagh, there will be an introductory kickoff event for undergraduate and graduate students to socialize in next semester. The program suggests the paired students meet three times during a semester. “We don’t want people signing up for this program and having nothing come out of it,” Sabbagh said. “We are thinking of sending out follow-up surveys saying, ‘Did you meet with your graduate students,’ ‘Did you feel this was beneficial to you’ and ‘What would you like to see in future meetings.’”The program will close with a “celebratory mixer” event, recognizing the work people did for this program and the students who get into graduate school.Sabbagh said he realized that Rice lacks in certain graduate programs, such as medical schools or journalism school, so the mentorship program cannot satisfy every students’ needs.  “The goal is to ultimately utilize the [graduate programs] that will be most beneficial to undergraduate students,” Sabbagh said. “I think what we are doing is focusing on what we do have right now, seeing if that is going to be successful and then in the future expand on that.”According to Director of Academic Advising Brian Gibson, statistics show about 70 percent of students at Rice will attend professional programs within five years after they graduate. Graduate students will be a good resource for students who want to apply for graduate schools, Sabbagh said.“One [aspect of this program] is a mentorship side, which is a way for undergraduate students to talk to graduate students about advice on how to apply to graduate school and what the culture of graduate school is like,” Sabbagh said.Sabbagh said the second aspect of the program is to increase interaction among graduate and undergraduate students. The mentorship program integrates graduate students into the associates program. “So through this program, graduate students will be like associates in the sense that they will be able to eat a limited amount of free meals at the colleges,” Sabbagh said. “They will be able to attend associates nights at their colleges. This would increase the personal connection between the graduate and the undergraduate students here.”Amritha Kanakamedala, former SA external vice president, said the program was initiated by students. The idea for the program was suggested by Mitchell Massey, a Jones College senior, who has worked on this program with Kanakamedala and Sabbagh since last semester. “This program has received a lot of support from students, both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the administration,” Kanakamedala said. “We have support from the [Office of Academic Advising], Dean Hutchison’s office, as well as from the office of Dr. Matsuda, the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Students.”Sabbagh said there are more applicants than expected, as well as support from the administration that will ensure the longevity of this program.“Our hope is that we are formalizing this process so that it can happen every year,” Sabbagh said.Cassie Peretore, a Martel College junior, said she applied for the program, which she thinks would be beneficial for students who want to apply for graduate schools. “Rice has always had great resources for students on pre-med tracks or pre-law tracks,” Peretore said. “But those of us who are interested in different types of grad schools struggle a little more to find mentors. I’m really excited about this program because it’ll give me an opportunity to meet a grad student I never would have met and get valuable advice I never would’ve gotten. For those of us who applied to this program and are interested in grad school paths that are less ‘paved out,’ this will be really beneficial.”


NEWS 4/8/15 5:17pm

RiceX prepares for first rocket launch

RiceX completed a major milestone in the form of a successful motor on March 22, a large step towards their goal of creating and launching a hybrid rocket this summer.RiceX began the year with less than $1,000 in their budget and no set goals for the year. Lovett College junior and RiceX president Sarah Hernandez said Brown College freshman Andrew Gatherer’s interest in the club helped spur their growth.“Andrew emailed me even before school started with questions about how to get involved in RiceX. The club wasn’t serious at all back then, but after getting his messages, I felt like I couldn’t let this kid down,” Hernandez said.With a keen desire to build a functioning rocket, Hernandez, Gatherer and other committed team members actively recruited members and generated interest in the club. These efforts allowed the club to expand significantly. They were able to recruit many younger undergraduate students in particular: The team consists mainly of freshmen and sophomores, alongside one junior and one senior.According to Hernandez, one of the factors limiting their success was the lack of funding for the project. To raise money, they worked to get sponsorships from outside organizations. “At certain points, students were paying with personal funds for parts to build the project in hopes that, as their project grew, it would acquire more funding,” Hernandez said.The two biggest successes of RiceX so far have been the model rocket launched about a month ago, as well as the more recent successful motor test.At their single allotted table in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, members of RiceX constructed the engine. According to Gatherer, each piece of the engine was machined in house, including the nozzle, body and ejector plate. Additionally, they made the fuel out of a mixture of candle wax, rubber and nitrous oxide.“Not more than approximately 10 other universities in the nation have been able to construct a hybrid rocket motor,” Gatherer said.As members of RiceX’s avionics and aerodynamics teams work toward a launch this summer, they hope to gain greater funding from the Brown School of Engineering and outside organizations, as well as acquire a larger workspace, accoording to Gatherer. Additionally, they plan on traveling to the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition, where they will see the different kinds of rockets that other top universities around the country are developing.


NEWS 4/8/15 5:16pm

Environmental studies minor to launch fall 2015

A new environmental studies minor will be available to undergraduate students next fall, according to Dominic Boyer, co-chair of the Environmental Studies Faculty Working Group. Rice currently offers several degree programs related to environmental issues: an energy and water sustainability minor, an environmental earth science track within the earth science major and an environmental studies second major. However, the second major requires students take at least thirteen 300-400 level courses, making it  difficult for students from other majors to add.Boyer, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences and a professor of anthropology, said there is room for a holistic environmental studies minor in Rice’s current offerings. “[The environmental studies major is] very very heavy on the science component and lighter on the humanities and social sciences component, so we kept hearing from students that these programs were all very effective in a more narrow sense, but if a student wanted to get an introduction to environmental problems more holistically and comprehensively, they were not as effective,” Boyer said.The new environmental studies minor will serve as an introduction to environmental issues for students of all majors. Boyer said the working group designed it to be interdisciplinary, with  courses from a wide variety of departments. “38 different departments and programs [teach] courses related to environment and sustainability issues, which is a lot of departments,” Boyer said. The minor will use current faculty and will not require Rice to hire, according to Boyer.To develop the minor, the working group asked for student and faculty input on current environmental studies course. Boyer said he never heard anyone oppose the idea of a more holistically conceived minor, and that both students and professors were overwhelmingly in favor of an environmental studies minor. The working group also placed questions related to the minor on the fall 2014 Survey of All Students. “When we asked if students supported forming an environmental studies minor, 61 percent said yes and about 300 students said they would have considered taking the minor had it been available to them when they started at Rice,” Boyer said.Rice Environmental Society president Ashley Ugarte said the minor was a great step for Rice. She and other students participated in the town hall meeting and showed student support for the minor.“I’m really excited. It’s great. You know something that students and the administration have been working on,” Ugarte, a Martel College senior, said. “If I could start over and take this minor, I would.”Boyer said in the past few days, six or seven students have contacted him about the minor. Seniors who have already taken the courses cross-listed in the minor and in their own degree programs need to take only the new Environment, Culture and Society (ENST 100) core course to complete the minor. Boyer said he cannot determine how many students will be taking the courses next year, but is hopeful because the numbers on the survey show there is demand for the minor. The working group consists of faculty from the schools of Architecture, Engineering, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.


NEWS 4/8/15 5:14pm

Budde named commencement speaker

Dennis Budde, a Baker College senior, will speak about improvisation as the student convocation speaker at the commencement ceremony on May 16. “[My speech] is about improvising and making sure that you leave some room for improvisation in your life,” Budde said. “But you also need to make sure you’re sticking to your plans and working hard. … Appreciate the balance.”Budde said he plans to talk about how he discovered improvisation in college. His experience in comedy groups, particularly Rice’s Kinda Sketchy, will be a major part of his speech. “I’m in the sketch comedy group here and I joined it freshmen year,” Budde said. “The people that I met in theater are the ones who encouraged me to start doing sketch comedy, and if I had just been just trying to stick to my plan, I wouldn’t have done that – it wasn’t anything I ever thought about doing. But instead I went for it. I improvised and it turned my life around.”Budde said he has always been interested in performing and writing. One of his writing principles, “the smaller you go, the bigger your audience ends up being,” helped him decide on the content of his speech. “If you are trying to make some big blanket statement then you will just get something wrong,” Budde said. “So I decided that I’ll just talk about something that’s important to me that I’ve personally learned and hoped that it worked.”One of the messages he wants to deliver to the graduating class is the balance between planning and improvisation, Budde said. “People don’t really think about improvising in their lives so much,” Budde said. “You want to set up your five-year plan and leave no room for improvisation. Maybe what you are doing next is what you had always been planning on doing, but don’t force yourself to stick with it if it’s not what you want.”Budde said it is important to him that the audience has fun listening to his speech. “One of the problems is that commencement speeches in general don’t keep people interested,” Budde said. “With that in mind, I really tried to make [my speech] entertaining as well.”


NEWS 4/8/15 5:06pm

Rice alumnus Josh Earnest recalls path to White House

When Josh Earnest first moved from Houston to Washington, D.C. in January 2001, he spent about six weeks sleeping on the floor of a friend’s spare bedroom.He had no job prospects, only a few contacts and friends and had left the life he had known since graduation — working in politics in Houston.What he found, however, were new possibilities.“I drove here from Houston,” Earnest (Sid Richardson ‘97) said. “And I still remember driving around town and even driving in front of the White House at that point sort of thinking about how what a tremendous experience and honor it would be to work at the White House.” Now, as White House press secretary, the 40-year-old Kansas City, Missouri native wakes up early to prepare for the White House’s daily press briefings, where he answers reporters’ questions about both the administration and its reaction to current events. Meetings pack his mornings, such as a 7:45 a.m. meeting with senior White House staff during which he asks them questions about news he had read about the night before.“It’s an opportunity for me to … ask the national security advisor or the president’s top homeland security advisor about news that occurred overnight that’s related to national security,” Earnest, dressed in a dark suit and green tie, said in his West Wing office.  Earnest said he received thorough academic training and learned a lot about writing as a political science and policy studies major at Rice. His extracurriculars included some writing for the Thresher and serving as campus-wide Beer Bike coordinator. “My Rice experience ... genuinely broadened my horizons,” Earnest said.During his senior year, Earnest took a course that sent him to Israel and Gaza for spring break. In Jerusalem, he went to a memorial dedicated to the Holocaust’s lost children at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. In Gaza, Earnest visited locals and learned about the territory’s public health conditions when he went to a center for deaf children. One of his first times overseas, the trip deeply impacted him. “I learned a lot about [the Israeli-Palestinian] situation, and it continues to form the basis of a lot of my knowledge about that situation that I draw upon in the context of this job in particular,” Earnest said.However, Earnest did more than just advance his knowledge of public policy and politics in and out of the classroom. His favorite memory at Sid Richardson College was going to what used to be an annual early-winter “tower party,” in which every floor would have a different theme, such as a piano bar theme or a country western theme.  Prior to being named White House press secretary, Earnest’s jobs included being then-Senator Barack Obama’s Iowa communications director and working for Jay Carney, now his predecessor, as the principal deputy press secretary. “I wouldn’t say that every step of my career has been easy, by any means,” Earnest said. “But I don’t think there’s anything that I regret.” Earnest’s ascent to the press secretary position became a real possibility when Carney left the White House. Very few people knew Carney was stepping down. “I had been involved in an interview process that had only involved a small number of people,” Earnest said. Right before he found out he got the job, which he assumed on June 20, 2014, Earnest was in the middle of an energetic discussion in his office with Jonathan Karl, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News. Brian Mosteller, one of the president’s assistants, opened his office door and told him he was needed upstairs, not wanting to say the president wanted to see Earnest in front of the reporter. Earnest asked Mosteller if he needed to come up immediately, and Mosteller said he did. As Karl started to leave the office, so did Earnest. Earnest, who was not wearing his suit jacket, had taken one step out of his office when Mosteller looked at him and said, “Don’t you think you should put on your suit jacket?” “I thought, oh, yeah, I guess I probably should,” Earnest said. “So I reached for my jacket, and went into the Oval Office and had a conversation with the president, where he offered me the job.”After Earnest returned to his office, he saw that he had missed calls from his wife, Natalie Wyeth, who was then six months pregnant with their first child. She was dealing with an air conditioning repairman at their new townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia. “I called her back, and I said — she obviously knew what was going on — and I said, sweetheart, I’m sorry I wasn’t here to take your calls, but I have the best possible excuse for not being by my cell phone,” Earnest said. “And she knew exactly what I was talking about and she was very excited.” Earnest has had to answer hundreds of questions during his time at White House press briefings, but his favorite response came after 2015 Super Bowl semi-playoff. Referencing New England Patriots’ Tom Brady’s press conference after “DeflateGate,” Earnest answered a CNN reporter, “The one thing I can tell you is that for years it’s been clear that there is no risk that I was gonna take Tom Brady’s job as quarterback of the New England Patriots, but I can tell you that as of today, it’s pretty clear that there’s no risk of him taking my job, either.” His line on Brady elicited comments from many people, including emails from Earnest’s two brothers and friends from other jobs — and a response from the president on Air Force One before traveling to India.  “I was sitting in the conference room,” Earnest said. “And I could hear the president get on the plane and bellow down the hallway, ‘Josh, why [are] you being so mean to Tom Brady?’” Earnest encouraged Rice students to take their academic pursuits seriously, but not too seriously, and to take advantage of as many opportunities at the university as they can to expand their horizons — including faculty. Earnest, who was not a “political junkie” as a teenager, said he got his first political job because of his advisor at Rice, Robert Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of political science. Stein not only influenced his interest in public policy and politics, but also introduced him to people involved in politics around town.  “You can’t put a price tag on something like that,” Earnest said. “Somebody who’s willing to inspire you in that way, and who’s willing to mentor you in that way.” Stein said Earnest was a smart and empathetic student whom “everybody” wanted to work with on class team papers. And Stein’s reaction when he found out his former student had become the White House press secretary? Not shocked at all. “Trust me, this kid was born to have a political career.”Edit (4/13/2014, 11 AM): It was previously stated Earnest was 38. This is incorrect. He is currently 40.


NEWS 4/7/15 3:59pm

Admission rate decreases slightly for Class of 2019

Rice University acceptance letters have been distributed and the campus is gearing up for the roughly 2,600 students invited for Owl Days. For the Class of 2019, there were 17,900 applications, and Rice admitted around 14.7 percent, according to Chris Munoz, vice president for enrollment.Munoz said that determining the exact admission rate is currently in preliminary stages and that the exact number of students attending Rice will not be known until May.“Why [the admittance rate] could change is related to if we elect to take anyone off the waitlist,” Munoz said.Students admitted through the regular decision process may decide before May 1 to attend a different university, and some waitlisted students may decide not to accept a Rice admission offer. Munoz said his office refers to this as the “summer melt process.”“[The admission rate] could go up higher, but again this is speculation because we don’t know of how many students we’ve admitted up to May 1 who are going to make a commitment,” Munoz said.Munoz said each year’s class to excel more than the last. “We’re attracting incredibly well-qualified students,” Munoz said. “The students who are applying to Rice, their qualifying academic records in terms of their grade performance, the rigor of the courses they’ve taken and their test scores are just breathtaking. As a future alum, you want each class behind you to be better than you were because this only raises the value of your degree.”Rice’s admission rate has decreased over the last couple of years, according to Munoz.“Our admit rate over the last eight years has gone from around 25 to 26 percent, down to a low 15 percent and that includes even the fact that we were growing,” Munoz said.Recently, Rice was listed at 29th in desirability in the 2015 Top 100 Colleges by Student Choice, a report by GradReports that considers only acceptance and enrollment, or yield, rate. Last year, Rice had a yield rate of 37.9 percent when 978 of 2,581 accepted students chose to attend.“Anytime Rice is put in favorable light … adds to increasing the perception of the quality and [desirability] of a Rice degree,” Munoz said. “However, U.S. News has the most recognition for its university rankings.” McMurtry College senior Grant Patterson said he didn’t give rankings much weight. “When I was looking at schools, I wasn’t really looking at anything besides the U.S. News rankings, and even then, I was skeptical of rankings in general,” Patterson said. “I was more concerned with visiting the school and whether I could picture myself there.”Patterson said school prestige, if not at the top, didn’t mean much.“A school is either prestigious or it’s not, and the rankings don’t really matter,” Patterson said. “Rank 17th or 10, it doesn’t really matter.”The Student Admission Council aids the Rice Admission Office in recruitment and yield events, SAC director Timothy Chang said. The SAC works to promote Rice, answer questions and help prospective students decide if Rice is the best fit for them.“SAC members serve as ambassadors for Rice both on and off campus through a variety of mediums,” Chang, a Baker College junior, said.