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NEWS 3/18/15 4:25pm

Office of Information Technology merges IT and administrative systems into eight divisions headed by Klara Jelinkova

A new Office of Information Technology launched March 1 and merges Rice University’s academic and administrative IT units: Information Technology and Administrative Systems. The new office will be headed by Klara Jelinkova, who arrived at Rice on Jan. 1 as vice president for information technology and chief information officer. According to Rice News, Jelinkova said the new office will implement university-wide security standards, improve data analytics and reporting and provide stronger support and management of new teaching and scholarship technologies.Eight divisions will compose the new office: enterprise and administrative services; networking and telecommunications; systems engineering; campus services; business intelligence, data warehousing and analytics; teaching, learning and scholarly technologies; IT security; and research computing and cyberinfrastructure.

NEWS 3/18/15 4:22pm

Marie Lynn Miranda named provost of Rice University

Marie Lynn Miranda, Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, will replace George McLendon as the Howard R. Hughes Provost on July 1. McLendon is stepping down after five years as provost to concentrate on teaching and research, according to an email sent to the Rice University community by President David Leebron.“We were struck by the quality and breadth of her scholarly accomplishments, her insights and sensitivity to collaboration as an academic leader, her clear capacity to develop and execute on a vision and her warm engagement with everyone she met,” Leebron wrote in a March 11 email. “[Miranda] is a respected scholar, researcher, teacher and administrator who has made great contributions wherever she has served.”Miranda has gathered over $43 million in sponsored reach as a principal or co-principal investigator, and an additional $14 million as investigator. She said she is eager for interdisciplinary research and academics at Rice.“Even in the information age, with the ensuing democratization of knowledge, colleges and universities hold the greatest potential for helping students bridge the chasm between knowledge and wisdom, especially so in the residential college setting,” Miranda said to Rice News.Miranda, a Truman Scholar and National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, holds a master’s degree and a doctorate, both in economics, from Harvard University.

NEWS 3/18/15 4:21pm

Maeda presents design’s emerging role in tech

Employing a mixed bag of childhood anecdotes, cartoon graphics and pop culture references, John Maeda, design partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers delivered a Design in Tech report on Monday at Rice University.

NEWS 3/18/15 4:19pm

Bun B-taught course to be offered online on EdX

Professors of religion Anthony Pinn and Bernard Freeman, who is commonly known as Houston rapper Bun B, are offering their Religion and Hip Hop (RELI 157) course to the general public for free on the online platform EdX this spring. After teaching the course on campus for two semesters and garnering a wide following both within and beyond the university, the duo said creating an online version felt natural.“It allows us to be creative,” Pinn said. “One of things we wanted to do is make certain that we took students off campus ... and think of the course in a way that privileged that movement beyond the hedges and do this thing differently and to give it to a global audience.”According to Freeman, they plan to film the lectures from a variety of locations in the Houston community, such as churches, mosques and synagogues. “If the students can be sitting anywhere to take the lesson, then we can be anywhere presenting the lesson,” Freeman said. “Houston is a vibrant hip-hop community, and a religious one because the city is so multicultural, so we have more places than other cities to go out to film these lessons.”Discussion is also a major focus of the course, according to the professors. Students in the same area will meet together with a facilitator, a community figure who will serve as their discussion leader. The duo has also proposed continuing the conversations on Twitter, where students and instructors can interact directly. The main goal, according to Pinn, is to bring together multiple perspectives. “We have students signed up from roughly 108 countries, the age range from about 12 to 90, so the conversation will be really interesting,” Pinn said. “But they are required to interact with each other. The more you engage, the better your grade will be.”According to Freeman, disagreement between students is not only expected, but encouraged.“The 12-year-old’s perspective on religion and hip-hop is going to be drastically different from a 90-year-old’s,” Freeman said. “There’s room for each student involved in the classroom to create their own interpretation on what the lesson is. Is it right or is it wrong? It’s really neither.”To further encourage a variety of students to register, the duo is promoting the course to as many people as they can reach.“That’s the whole thing, is to let as many people know its available and that it’s free,” Freeman said. “Most college courses aren’t offered for free in the university, much less online.”The duo has also reached out to figures in both the Rice and Houston communities, such as local artist Gonzo, to help publicize the class. “The Rice college or student group that signs up the most non-Rice folks will get a piece from Gonzo and lunch with us off campus,” Pinn said.As for the future of the course, Freeman said they remain open for more opportunities to offer the course, as well as new courses. “But for now we’re just focusing on the online course and making sure that we knock that out of the park,” Freeman said. “We’re just finding what works. Pop one piece out, another piece in — kind of like academy Jenga.”

NEWS 3/18/15 4:14pm

Code of Conduct outlines new rustication policies

Social Rustication“Removal from social activities at Rice, without restricting the student’s opportunity to live and eat in the colleges.”Cannot attend public or private parties where alcohol is presentCannot participate in campus-wide events including Willy Week, Beer Bike, Rondolet and College NightsCannot be present if there are parties in their own room, even if a roommate or suitemate is the hostCollege Rustication“Removal from the college and college life.”Includes all stipulations from social rusticationCannot live in the collegeCannot eat or be in the serveryCannot be around any of the collegesCampus Rustication“Removal from the University, except for academic access.”Includes all stipulations from social rustication and college rusticationCannot be in or use the Rice Memorial Center or Recreation CenterCannot attend varsity sport or any other campus-wide eventsOnly allowed to be on campus for academic reasonsMaster's Rustication“The ability to impose social or college rustication on students from their own college.”College masters have the ability to impose social or college rustication on students from their own college. They can also ban students from other colleges from the masters’ own college. Masters can “add prohibitions or proscriptions, including those that affect a student’s participation in academic and non-academic Rice activities” to their rustication of a student. However, students are allowed to appeal rustication decisions to the Dean of Undergraduates. Additionally, the masters’ decision does not mean that SJP will not conduct an investigation independent of the master’s decision and impose their own charges.In January, Student Judicial Programs released an updated version of the Code of Student Conduct, to which all students agreed to adhere by virtue of registering for the semester. One major update to the document was the clear outlining of rustication policies. University Court officers were consulted in the creation of the revised Code, although SJP maintained authority over the revisions. Current UCourt Chair Brian Baran said the more precise definitions for each type of rustication, while clarifying, won't affect the court's proceedings. Sanctions are still considered on a case-by-case basis, with the revised Code serving as a starting point.“The previous Code defined rustication broadly, so the terms had to be decided on a case-by-case basis,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said. “The three levels now codified in the Code had already emerged in practice as a result of a need to craft sanctions that were fair, consistent and tailored to a given set of circumstances. The new definition furthers the same objectives with additional clarity for everyone involved.”Edit: The article previously stated that SJP and UCourt jointly determined the new standard set of sanctions, that the revisions were necessary to maintain equity among possible punishments and that sanctions were no longer considered on a case-by-case basis. These statements are incorrect. Although UCourt officers were consulted on the revised Code, SJP ultimately had authority of the revisions. The revisions are meant to serve as clarifications of a process that already occurs. Furthermore, sanctions are still considered on a case-by-case basis.

NEWS 3/17/15 7:02pm

Colin Powell to speak at graduation

The Rice University administration announced Wednesday that former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell will deliver this year’s commencement address on May 16.Powell served as chairman of the JCS, the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, then as secretary of state in the administration of President George W. Bush. According to Rice President David Leebron, a search committee responsible for the address chose Powell because they believed he would deliver a beneficial message to graduates.“We have not generally had people I would call celebrities,” Leebron said. “We’ve had sometimes people not so well-known, sometimes very well-known, but mostly our committee has tried to find people who have accomplished something distinctive in the way of making contributions to society.”Leebron emphasized Powell’s leadership qualities as key to his selection. According to Leebron, Rice is working to improve its leadership programs as part of the newly launched Initiative for Students.“There are few better examples of leadership in the U.S. than General Powell,” Leebron said. “We are hopeful that we will have some new leadership initiatives to announce later this spring … This choice of a commencement speaker is consistent with the increased emphasis on developing the leadership capabilities of our students.”According to Leebron, Powell’s life story will also make him a good choice for commencement speaker. Powell was raised in the South Bronx by Jamaican parents and attended New York City public schools throughout his childhood.“He’s led a remarkable life,” Leebron said. “This is the son of immigrants who rose to the very highest positions in both the military and civilian government, who is widely regarded as one of the great leaders of our time, while [embodying] a person of great integrity and achievement.”Leebron said Powell has made valuable contributions to accessible education through his leadership of several organizations such as America’s Promise Alliance, which works to support children across the country. “He spends most of his philanthropic activity around the issue of education,” Leebron said. “It’s that combination of bringing together passion for what education can do and what is possible for anybody who works hard enough and brings the right values to their life.”According to Leebron, the search committee considered both alumni and faculty contacts as well as companies representing prominent speakers. Last year’s commencement speaker was Dr. Helene Gayle, the president and CEO of the anti-poverty organization CARE USA.Leebron said he hopes Powell will inspire students to consider their futures.“We expect him to stir [graduates’] thinking about their own futures and stick in them a sense of possibility of their own lives,” Leebron said. “Hopefully, they spent the last four years accumulating some of that, but this is an important moment for students and their families, and we hope they’ll be happy to have a well-recognized commencement speaker.”According to Leebron, the university wants students to work to improve society. “We want the students, while they are here, to develop a sense of what they can achieve with their lives, and it’s even better when they leave,” Leebron said. “They get the message of ‘Here’s what you can contribute with your lives, and it requires that whatever field and endeavor you choose, you can be a leader in that endeavor, you can make a difference, you can mobilize other people.’”

NEWS 3/17/15 4:50pm

‘A safer environment’: Working group releases 28 recommendations, including campus-wide climate survey

Major RecommendationsCampus climate survey (aligned with federal regulations)Student extension to Title IX and Clery Act programs, may be similar to RHAsRisk-reduction education beginning with O-Week 2015 along with Project SAFEThree-hour faculty training every two years for Title IX/sexual violence, sexual harassment, cultural competencyMontrose Center to provide LGBT education, off-campus resources in addition to HAWCClery act training and discussion between RUPD, Title IX, General Counsel and Dean of UndergraduatesSJP processes recorded, officers trauma-trainedImprove reputation of SJP and publicize Title IX personnel through student programmingEvaluation of SJPSJP’s processes are trauma-informed and fair to accuser and accusedStudents may view SJP as insensitive and intentionally intimidatingStudents reported knowing peers who decided against reporting due to fear of losing control over handling of caseEssential for administration and students to partner to correct misinformationAfter seven months of evaluation and discussion, the Working Group on University Response to Sexual Assault Initiatives has compiled its review into 28 recommendations. A survey created in conjunction with Stanford University and the University of Chicago will be administered to all undergraduates this semester to determine the prevalence of sexual misconduct at Rice.Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson released the working group’s 15-page report and announced the renovated safe.rice.edu website in an email to the undergraduate student body on Tuesday.“This was an incredible amount of work for this group to seek the input of every member of the community over a very extended period of time, and to do so under some pressure,” Hutchinson said. “They responded in Rice fashion to do well and above what was expected.”Working Group GoalsAssociate Vice Provost Matt Taylor, the chair of the working group, first convened a meeting in summer 2014 in light of the federal report “Not Alone” by the White House Task Force. The group outlined four areas of focus, including disciplinary policies, training of faculty, staff and students, student resources and web communication.Representatives from Student Judicial Programs, Rice University Police Department, the Student Wellbeing Office and the Counseling Center were members of the working group. Former Lovett College president Meghan Davenport served as an undergraduate representative.The recommendations of the group encompass many topics, according to Davenport.“[There’s everything] from staff training to student advocacy to climate surveys,” Davenport said. “I think that when people read our recommendations, they will be almost guaranteed to learn something new. Our recommendations are detailed, thorough, and I think they reflect a deep commitment to creating a better Rice community, when it comes to these issues.”Davenport said she believed the working group accomplished what it set out to do. She said she hopes the recommendations will help teach the Rice community about the available resources.“The goal was to examine and improve our policies and practices, not just getting them in line with Title IX guidelines but going above and beyond them,” Davenport said. “Hopefully, when the recommendations are implemented, we will have a more educated community of staff, faculty, and students, more clearly defined and helpful resources, and an ongoing, informed conversation about sexual assault that will create a safer environment for survivors.”Climate SurveyThe federal government recommended universities complete a campus climate survey studying the prevalence of sexual misconduct before the end of 2015. Taylor and the working group referred to a government template, worked with peer institutions and studied a climate survey administered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create Rice’s five-minute survey. “One of the key motivations to collaborate with our peers is, if we can, to ask questions that are the same,” Taylor said. “In addition, we’d like to draw on more academic knowledge and expertise in order to create a survey that generates useful data.”According to Taylor, he and Davenport, who gathered student input, met with Director of Sexual Violence Prevention Allison Vogt to discuss the suggestions from students.“We’re asking what kinds of things happened without your consent and what might have led to a person assaulting you and about your connection to the person assaulting you,” Hutchinson said. For continuing undergraduate students, the survey will be released in conjunction with the Survey of All Students, although the responses will be completely confidential. Graduating seniors will take the survey in conjunction with the Senior Exit Survey, with similar provisions of confidentiality. An independent body will then analyze the aggregate data, which will also be released to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. “We are doing this [principally] because the working group recommended it,” Hutchinson said. “The recommendation turns out to be consistent with that of the Department of Education. This is a response to a community issue.”Web Resources UpdatesHutchinson announced the updated safe.rice.edu website, which went live last Wednesday. Kate Hildebrandt, the Title IX navigator, and Kate Noonan, director of the Student Wellbeing Office, solicited student feedback for the content and format of the website. Student representatives from Rice Health Advisors, the Women’s Resource Center and the Student Association Wellbeing Committee all worked on programming or legislation in conjunction with the Office of Student Wellbeing. Hildebrandt, Noonan, Vogt and Hutchinson all visited residential colleges to discuss the sexual assault policy.The new site succeeds in following the “two clicks or less” roadmap to resources directly addressing student inquiry, as mandated by federal guidelines. The site features drop-down menus, including tabs for survivors and students looking to support friends who have been through a sexual assault. RecommendationsThe working group’s 28 recommendations also spanned beyond the sexual misconduct policy, survey and web resources to include training for faculty, staff and students, as well as disciplinary procedures with SJP.Several faculty members have already undergone a three-hour training, which will be renewed every two years. The Montrose Center will now be partnering with the Houston Area Women’s Center and Rice to provide training and act as an off-campus resource for students seeking help. Project SAFE training during Orientation Week will now, in addition to bystander intervention training, include risk-reduction information on sexual and domestic violence, in accordance with the Department of Education’s updates to implementing the Clery Act.There are also plans to create a new student arm for the office of Title IX support. Student input from the Student Association Wellbeing Committee led to this idea since there was no independent student-led body committed solely to sexual assault prevention on campus. “It could be helpful for the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Title IX to have students to help them connect with campus,” Taylor said. “It could be like RHAs, but it shouldn’t have to be.”RUPD will work with the Title IX Coordinator, the Dean of Undergraduates and the General Counsel to discuss the Clery Act and sexual violence.Taylor said the working group was impressed by SJP’s policies and procedures for handling cases of sexual assault. However, SJP made several changes to its policies as well, which were included in the new student Code of Conduct released in January. Students may now bring a support person into meetings with SJP in cases of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, although this individual may not act in the capacity of a lawyer. Additionally, SJP now records student meetings.“[The support person] is there for advice or comfort in what might be a stressful period,” Hutchinson said. “In general, every substantive meeting of a student for any purpose with SJP will [also] have two people from SJP in the room at the same time, whether a person is coming in for an inquiry or a complaint. [SJP is] now recording all student judicial process meetings and, in general, every conversation that takes place.”“Comprehensiveness and Sensitivity”Taylor and Hutchinson agreed that the findings of the working group reinforce the measures Rice has already implemented.“In reviewing this, all members of the working group were impressed by the comprehensiveness and the sensitivity of the processes and resources already in place,” Hutchinson said. “Although the recommendations of the working group are many, that is not a reflection that the working group thought we were broken, but rather that there was much strength that could be built upon with input from the community.”Taylor said Rice has been ahead of peer institutions in several areas.“We’ve either been following federal recommendations, or [the changes] were already in the works before the recommendations had even been published,” Taylor said.

NEWS 3/17/15 4:50pm

SA facilitates campus values discussion

Following the Student Association meeting last Wednesday, the SA facilitated a student forum on creating a healthy campus climate. Over 70 students were in attendance at the event, which, according to SA President Jazz Silva, was closed to higher administration to ensure students felt safe sharing their thoughts.Silva facilitated the conversation with a series of questions, such as those concerning Rice values, avoiding bad situations and how to proceed when campus values are violated. At the start of the event, Silva said the forum was created to facilitate conversation, as opposed to a question-and-answer session or a panel. Silva said the event fostered a constructive environment and was not hosted by the SA itself. However, the event was listed on the SA meeting agenda. “I’m sure there’s a little bit of confusion about what this event is,” Silva said. “You should feel confident to say exactly how you feel — it’s just a very safe conversation.”A wide variety of sources of an unhealthy campus environment was discussed, including negativity toward the administration, the alcohol policy and academic and personal stress.Students continued to share concerns regarding the relationship between students and administration as well as campus resources, including Student Judicial Programs and the Wellbeing Center. Some believed a negative outlook toward administration’s actions fostered an unhealthy environment, but others said the administration must reach out to students constructively, as it has not done so in the past.The SA presented the question, “To what extent should administration have a say in creating a standard of values?” Martel College President Rachel Sterling said the administration should foster a more consistent, trusting relationship with students.“I don’t think everything needs to go to the students first,” Sterling said. “But there isn’t a regular form of feedback right now — [we] wait until there’s such a loud outcry that we need to deal with it. I’m sometimes worried about the way administration addresses situations, especially very recently. Sometimes, it feels that [administration doesn’t] trust us.”Students suggested the formation of a feedback system with SJP through the colleges’ chief justices. However, some students said the administration’s current feedback systems were ineffective because they elicited student opinion without responding to it.Attendees were again polarized on whether the relationship between the student body and the administration should be treated as a privilege or a right. Students disagreed on whether they had the right to protest the application of Title IX to the McMurtry College stripper incident when they had failed to provide enough feedback to the administration’s Sexual Assault-Free Working Group.In response to the question of “In what situation is it reasonable for students to seek permission?” students raised doubts on the distinction between defining a public event versus a private one, and the necessity of permission in each case. Some feared that events such as Beer Bike could be deemed offensive and result in change or punishment if students did not seek permission for themes or float ideas.“At what point does someone’s offense constitute or necessitate change?” Lovett College President Griffin Thomas said. “Is it when one person comes forward and we have a discussion about it?”As the forum came to a close, students agreed that they desired transparency and consistency from administration.Silva said the forum was successful as a platform for students to challenge each other respectfully.“Student leaders have the responsibility of being unbiased and acting in a way that is cognizant of all spectrums of the student body,” Silva said. “This forum gave student leaders an opportunity to better understand these varying student concerns.”Silva declined to comment on the SA’s plans to move forward with the concerns expressed at the forum.

NEWS 3/14/15 6:52am

News in Brief: BRC Express

  A new express shuttle route service to the BioScience Research Collaborative began on March 2. The bus runs every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., approximately every 10 minutes. The shuttle that currently stops at the BRC also continues into the Texas Medical Center will continue to run every half hour. The express shuttle route aims to help researchers and students reach labs and classrooms more quickly. The shuttle travels along half of the inner loop, remaining on the side closer to the BRC.

NEWS 3/14/15 6:51am

RAFSI to develop junior and sophomore class gift program

Mengjia LiuThresher StaffThe Rice Annual Fund Student Initiative has launched sophomore and junior class gifts for the upcoming fall in addition to the pre-existing senior class gift.According to Sean Cowan, associate director of the Rice Annual Fund, the new class giving projects will function similar to the senior class gift.  “They will run concurrently each fall, led by volunteers,” Cowan said. “We envision volunteers from all three classes working together in colleges, educating their classmates about the importance of philanthropy and facilitating participation.”Cowan said the undergraduate class gifts were not created in previous years because RAFSI wanted to ensure significant participation in the giving project before expanding the program. However, with increased student interest in recent years, the RAF staff, volunteers and campus partners decided to establish class gifts for underclassmen and encourage students to participate in philanthropy earlier on in their college careers.“People often do not realize until graduation that every class of alumni has Annual Fund volunteers who lead class giving projects each year,” Cowan said. “When students learn about these programs and opportunities while on campus, they become more informed and effective alumni volunteers and philanthropists.”According to Cowan, student contributions to the RAF have a lasting impact on Rice’s future, regardless of gift amount. “Every gift is important to Rice University as smaller gifts add up to make a real impact,” Cowan said. “For example, this year alone, hundreds of members of the Class of 2015 collectively contributed nearly $10,000. That's a remarkable demonstration of their passion for Rice.”Cowan said the RAF also created The Parliament, a new giving society that acknowledges loyal supporters, to encourage juniors and sophomores to donate.“The Parliament recognizes those in the Rice community who make gifts [for] the university each and every year,” Cowan said. “To be inducted, you simply give for three years in a row and then continue to give yearly to stay in the society.”According to Cowan, a freshman class gift has not been created  so new students may gain a deeper understanding of the university before giving back, although they can give through Jar Wars and National Philanthropy Week.“Freshmen should experience Rice's unique culture and traditions so they truly appreciate what their future gifts will support,” Cowan said. Nick Thorpe, a fall 2014 Senior Gift Campaign volunteer, said he believes student contributors are crucial to the functioning of the RAF.“These students eventually become lifelong donors and once again give back to the university where they received a quality education,” Thorpe, a Lovett College senior, said.Carmella DeSerto, a class gift representative, said she supports the expansion.“These gifts give students a chance to give back, especially when they are students like myself who benefit from the charity of the university in financial aid,” DeSerto, a Jones College sophomore, said. “I feel it is my duty to pay it forward.”Rachel Bowyer, a Hanszen College freshman, said juniors and sophomores should not be expected to give.“It is very unrealistic to expect sophomores and juniors to donate because their own financial situations are not yet stable,” Bowyer said. “They will lack motivation to give because they have not completed their college experience yet. They are the ones who should still be receiving the benefits from the funds.” 

NEWS 3/14/15 6:51am

Rondelet tickets sell in record time

 Rondelet, Rice’s annual spring formal hosted by the Rice Program Council, has seen an increase in demand and popularity this year, according to RPC President Aisha Jeeva. This year’s Rondelet will feature a ballpark theme, swing dancing and  a live band, and will be hosted on March 20 at Minute Maid Park.“This Rondelet holds the record for fastest ticket sale in RPC history — all 1,400 tickets were signed up for in a record five hours and 43 minutes,” Jeeva, a Martel College senior said. Jeeva said RPC had taken steps to ensure the ticket distribution method would remain functional. The ticketing website for last semester’s Esperanza had crashed within 10 minutes of opening due to high internet traffic, forcing RPC to distribute tickets through a random lottery drawing.“We worked incredibly hard to ensure that there were no issues with this new ticketing system, including moving away from using Rice servers, which were obviously unable to handle the huge amount of traffic caused by high ticket demand,” Jeeva said.According to Jeeva, the college demographics for ticket sign-ups differed between the two formals. For Esperanza, each college had between 110 and about 150 sign-ups, with Jones and McMurtry having the most at 153 each. For Rondelet, Jones, Lovett, Baker and Wiess each had more than 70, with Wiess having the most at 92.In addition, the number of total ticket sign-ups were around half of Esperanza’s. A total of 1,507 people signed up for the random drawing for Esperanza tickets. For Rondelet, a total of 761 people signed up to purchase 1400 tickets. According to Jeeva, around 1,100 tickets have been paid for. The 300 remaining unclaimed tickets were sold on a first come, first served basis on Thursday, Feb. 26. RPC will host a final round of sales on Thursday, March 12 after students are given a chance to refund their tickets before then.“Students who do not return their tickets [before the 12th] will no longer be able to receive a refund for their tickets whether or not they can attend,” Jeeva said. “As tickets are non-transferable, they will be unable to sell them to other students. This method has been implemented to avoid any instances of unfair ticket scalping.”Jeeva emphasized the importance of student participation in events such as Esperanza and Rondelet.“We do not make any profit on these formals, and all ticket sales are used to cover event costs,” Jeeva said. “[We] hope students understand that if they wish for us to continue to have Esperanza and Rondelet, then it is in their interest to attend the events and support us.”

NEWS 3/14/15 6:50am

Course to provide physician shadowing opportunities

 For undergraduate students considering a future in medicine, the application process and requirements for medical school can be daunting. A new course is currently being developed, which will have Rice students shadow physicians at Methodist Hospital and will be offered next year to help those going through the process.Gia Merlo, the new Vice Dean for Health Professions, said the course comes from a task force she created to strengthen the affiliation between Rice and Methodist Hospital to provide opportunities for students pursuing medicine. “Students will shadow physicians at Methodist and will attend a didactic component that places emphasis on professionalism, ethics [and] reflection on the shadowing experiencing,” Merlo said.According to Merlo, the program’s first goal is to develop an intensive physician shadowing program available exclusively to Rice undergraduate students, beginning in fall 2015. This new course will provide students considering the medical field an assortment of 25 physicians to shadow. The three-credit course will include three to four hours of shadowing and one to two hours of coursework and reflective seminars per week. Currently, the course has 164 slots for undergraduate students. In order to gauge student interest, Merlo’s team sent out a poll, which received 246 responses. The details of the program’s shadowing structure are still being finalized.Merlo said the mission of the program is not to increase the number of medical school applicants accepted, but to enhance the students’ experiences and help them determine if a medical profession is the right fit.“Medical education is undergoing a major transformation for the first time in over 100 years,” Merlo said. “Historically, the focus of medical colleges was almost exclusively on science competencies. Now, the new holistic approach includes focusing on understanding human behavior and the needs of an increasingly diverse patient population.” The medical school application process requires more than just research and a strong GPA, and applicants’ lack of clinical exposure and reflection of experiences is noticed during the interview process, according to Merlo.Christian Capo, a Jones College freshman looking to go into medicine, said he was eager for the new course, but was doubtful he would be able to register for it.“I think more courses should have [a reflective aspect], as it lets students think personally about their courses,” Capo said. “I just fear that the course would be too heavily desired and that many won’t be able to get [medical] perspectives.”The Rice Premedical Society currently runs Doctors Offering Shadowing Experience, a student-run program that connects select RPMS members with a physician willing to be shadowed. Merlo said the new course would provide shadowing opportunities to more students.“Last year, [DOSE]  had over 150 applications and only were able to match about 20 students,” Merlo said. “Therefore, the program was not very effective recently.”DOSE co-coordinator Caroline Zhu said the new course originated from and will replace DOSE.“We were notified last semester that the university would take over the shadowing program and build formal affiliation with hospitals so that eventually all interested students can get spots,” Zhu, a Martel College junior, said. “Now the shadowing course has a different format than DOSE, so essentially DOSE doesn’t exist anymore. We already handed over all DOSE information to Dr. Merlo, and are currently assisting her in planning the shadowing course next year, along with the task force.”

NEWS 3/14/15 6:49am

Humanities merges small departments

Soon, there will no longer be a French studies department, Spanish and Portuguese department, German studies department, Latin American studies department or classical studies department. Effective July 1 for the 2015-16 academic year, the School of Humanities is merging its smallest departments into two larger ones: the department of classical and European studies and the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American studies. This merger will combine German studies, French studies and classical studies into the department of classical and European studies. Latin American studies and the department of Spanish and Portuguese will similarly combine to make the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American studies. The majors within the departments will remain as they are now. According to Dean of Humanities Nicolas Shumway, all majors and major requirements will remain unchanged, and students’ transcripts will continue to state “French studies” or “classical studies.”“Students will hardly notice,” Shumway said. “As far as students are concerned, the ATM has another bank behind it, but it will still look same.”According to Shumway, the only change for students with these majors is the new interdisciplinary opportunities the larger departments will be able to provide students.One such opportunity, a new minor in politics, law and social thought, will become available next year through the department of classical and European studies with elective courses in departments such as philosophy, political science and anthropology. Shumway also noted the possibility of a program in comparative literature.German professor Christian Emden, one of the professors leading the new minor, expressed interest in a film program.The ability to breach the divisions between majors in the form of new majors and minors is, according to both Shumway and Emden, one of the largest benefits of the new departments.“Small departments … are obviously not able to pull that off by themselves,” Emden said. “In fact, I would even go so far to argue that classical and European studies offers the opportunity to think outside traditional departmental structures. Students and faculty alike often forget that departments are nothing but administrative units that are not coextensive with the research questions we all work on.”In addition to creating a space for interdisciplinary opportunities and administrative efficiency, Shumway said the merger makes sense for intellectual reasons.“People have more and more questioned the existence of the nation state, or that culture is somehow based in the nation state,” Shumway said. “There’s a lot of cross-pollination. The Enlightenment doesn’t just happen in one place; it’s something that engulfs all of Europe.”Emden also said the merger will increase student awareness of how vast and interdisciplinary many of these departments are.“German studies or French studies shouldn’t even be called ‘language departments.’ After all, we don't call mathematics the ‘numbers department’ or engineering the ‘gadget school,’” Emden said. “What students really become involved in when they opt for German studies, for instance, is the study of literature, politics, film, history, philosophy, intellectual history and so on — all in a setting that is much more interdisciplinary than what happens in many traditional departments.”Laurel Bingman, a Duncan College senior majoring in biological sciences and Latin American studies, said the interdisciplinary aspect of her Latin American studies major is what interests her.“I’ve personally enjoyed the freedom to be able to mold my major into whatever I wanted it to be, so I could see a lot of benefits in pooling resources from already established departments in that way,” Bingman said. “On the other hand, I can also see potential disadvantages if priority is given to other subsets within the department purely because they are more established.”                                                                                                     

NEWS 3/14/15 6:48am

Rice's tuition has risen faster than its peers'

The Rice University administration announced Friday that undergraduate tuition for the 2015-16 school year will rise to $41,560, an increase of 4.2 percent from this year’s cost of $39,880. Next year’s total cost will be $55,903. The cost of Rice’s graduate programs will also increase, keeping doctoral and undergraduate tuition equal.Rice’s records show that tuition will have risen 135 percent in the last 15 years from the average annual price paid by undergraduates in 2000-01, $17,720. Over the same period, the United States has experienced 36 percent inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.The tuition of many peer institutions has also increased faster than inflation over the same period, according to their archives. Vanderbilt University’s tuition rose 110 percent since 1998; Duke University and Northwestern University saw tuition increases of 91 percent and 69 percent since 2000, respectively. In absolute terms, Rice’s tuition is still less than Vanderbilt’s, Duke’s and Northwestern’s, though the gap between the prices has decreased since the beginning of the century.According to data gathered by the College Board, the average yearly cost of a four-year private college was $31,231 for 2014-15. The cost of such colleges has risen 41 percent since 1999, slightly faster than inflation. The Princeton Review currently names Rice No. 12 on its list of “Colleges That Pay You Back,” and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranked Rice No. 4 for best value.According to Kathy Collins, vice president for finance, tuition increases help cover the costs of educating students, faculty salaries,  library resources and other operational expenses. Additionally, Collins said tuition should be compared between schools in terms of real dollars.“Tuition at Rice has been about $5,000 to $6,000 less than at its peer institutions, so comparisons should be based on the dollar amount of increase rather than the percentage,” Collins said. “To generate the same dollar increase in tuition, Rice has to increase its rate at a higher percentage than its peers.”

NEWS 2/24/15 2:06pm

New common app for co-advisors hits roadbumps

First Year Programs is implementing a new online platform for the Orientation Week 2015 co-advising application. According to Chris Landry, Associate Director of FYP, the application consists of a series of common questions followed by supplements for each individual college. Applicants may apply for up to four colleges.However, some students have reported issues with the application. McMurtry College junior Will Eldridge said he unwittingly submitted his incomplete application when he unsuccessfully tried to go back through the application to review his answers. After attempting to resubmit his application with changes, his old application was not replaced.“It obviously doesn’t work as planned,” Eldridge said. “I don’t even know why they do it if the normal advisor applications worked. Obviously they want to streamline it, but they should keep it the way it’s been working for several years.”The application has since been updated to include a confirmation before submission.Landry said the common application streamlines the application process and saves time for both applicants and O-Week coordinators.“In previous years, applicants would have to complete a full paper application for each college to which they wanted to apply; many times these included similar or identical questions,” Landry said. “They would then have to return it in person to the colleges. ”Sneha Kohirkar, Student Director of O-Week 2015, said the four-college limit makes the application process more effective.“The coordinators were able to select what [their college’s supplement] would look like,” Kohirkar, a McMurtry College senior, said. “This allows for individual colleges to still have the chance to use their theme and ask for specific information.”Kohirkar said the common application gives students more time to apply to co-advise should they be rejected from advising at their own colleges.“We know there is always a quick turnover from advising decisions to co-advisor application deadline,” Kohirkar said.Because the Common Application for college admission has increased applicants for many universities, FYP is interested to see whether this change will increase the number of applicants for co-advising.“As with any new program, there have been a few minor glitches in the survey, but we are responding to issues as quickly as they are reported with our partners in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Qualtrics (the survey company),” Landry said.

NEWS 2/24/15 2:05pm

OIE surveys to gauge academic, career resources

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness is administering three surveys to Rice University undergraduates this spring. According to John Cornwell, associate vice president of the OIE, the Survey of All Students, Senior Exit Survey and Consortium on Financing Higher Education Enrolled Students Survey will be used to gauge student satisfaction with current academic and career resources.“Documenting what students currently are doing with internships, externships, research and such is very important to these initiative as Rice plans to increase these experiences and learn from our current best practices,” Cornwell said.The SAS, which was also released in fall 2014, asks about the university’s teaching, learning and research opportunities to help formulate a plan for the Student Association’s Rice Education of the Future Initiative. Cornwell said he hopes this round of the SAS will expand on the fall results and help the OIE meet the demand for extracurricular learning.“The results supported the president’s view that undergraduate students value experiential and other out-of-classroom experiences and see them as very important to their Rice education,” Cornwell said. “With the new SA Initiative on the educational experience at Rice and the Office of Development’s ‘Initiative for Students,’ the interest in students’ out-of-classes learning has increased substantially.”In addition to the SAS, which will be sent to all undergraduates, the OIE will release the SES to all students graduating this spring. According to OIE Senior Survey Administrator Angela Thompson, the SES will ask, among other questions, whether students would still choose to come to Rice if they were entering college today and if there are any changes they would have made to their experience. As with any survey process, a barrier the OIE faces is student apathy. According to Thompson, the OIE has eliminated this problem by placing holds on student accounts until they complete the surveys.“Overall, we typically receive between a 96 to 98 percent response rate for the Senior Exit Survey and the Survey of All Students,” Thompson said.However, not all students are comfortable taking mandatory surveys. Joelle Whyte, a Baker College freshman, said she finds the practice problematic. “I think there’s a better way for them to convince us,” Whyte said. “They could bribe us with incentives like gift cards, like I’ve seen been done before. I’d definitely take it then.” Unlike the SAS and SES, the ESS is not mandatory and sent only to a representative sample containing 33 percent of Rice undergraduates. According to Thompson, the responses measure student satisfaction and are compared to those from several peer institutions, including Stanford, Duke and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We generated a list using a stratified sample method based on gender, ethnicity and matriculation year,” Thompson said. “This ensures the sample is reflective of the university.”While all students are guaranteed to receive at least one survey this spring, not all students are clear on their purpose. Becca Hsu, a Jones College sophomore, said she has not been satisfied with the undergraduate survey process. “The surveys would be nice if we actually knew what they were used for,” Hsu said. “I don’t feel that invested in them because I don’t get how they are being used in the decision making.” Thompson said that while the results are not available to individual students, they are sent to the departments that use the data for program improvement.“Program-level reports are provided to each program chair regarding how their students answered the major specific questions from the Senior Exit Survey,” Thompson said. “Copies of the reports are also sent to the Dean of Undergraduates as well as the Center for Teaching Excellence.”

NEWS 2/24/15 1:59pm

Rice invests in more Village property

Rice recently closed on its third Rice Village purchase within the last year. In February, Rice acquired the 7,500-square-foot retail building on the corner of Kelvin Drive and Times Boulevard that holds stores such as Miss Saigon Cafe, Yum Yum Cha Cafe and GraceAnne’s Boutique. The Houston real estate website Swamplot estimates the building sold for a little under $4 million.The Rice Management Company, the group responsible for the management of the Rice endowment, bought two other Rice Village properties in the past year. The first was the multi-building, 193,000-square-foot Village Arcade for an estimated $55 to $60 million, according to the Houston Chronicle. The second was the 15,273-square-foot Urban Outfitters store.The Rice Management Company has partnered with Trademark to increase their Village properties’ values. Trademark is a real estate development firm that focuses on outdoor retail and regional malls. In the past, this company has worked on project such as that of Market Street in The Woodlands, TX.Rice has not yet made any statements on intentions for the purchased properties. In an email statement to the Thresher, the Rice Management Company stated it made real estate investments to benefit the university’s endowment.

NEWS 2/24/15 1:58pm

Students to develop new Rice apps

On Rice University’s campus, mobile apps have been welcomed with open arms, as Yik Yak and Snapchat have become some of the major forms of quick connection with society. However, there is little in the ways of practical mobile apps. Imminently, this issue will be resolved due to the newest development on Rice’s campus: the mobile app revolution.Student Association Director of Technology Xilin Liu said a team is developing mobile and web apps that will help with searching for restaurants, tracking inner loop buses and voting on election ballots. Liu said three separate apps might be created: a petitions app, a well-being app and a student life app, the last of which will eventually take the place of the dated Rice app.The new petitions app will expedite voting for elections, according to Liu, and simplify the acquisition of signatures for petitions. “[The petitions app] has already been released and can be found at upvote.riceapps.org,” Liu said. “Everything works, and we’ll hopefully have it ready by second-round elections … We just need to make it look better.” Liu said the well-being app will be released by the end of the spring semester, and the student life app by the end of the calendar year. “The Wellbeing Committee of the SA requested the well-being app, and it was also directly [requested by SA President] Ravi Sheth … and [Dean of Undergraduates] John Hutchinson himself,” Liu said. “Two important features [will be] the blue button system … [and] the Uber[-esque] night escort.” According to Liu, the blue button system will help the Rice University Police Department track  students’ movement using their mobile device if they request aid, rather than students having to stop at blue button kiosks. The Uber-inspired night escort service will simplify the process of requesting the night escort bus.“We aren’t changing anything about the Night Escort bus itself, but simply providing a more accessible, easier way to make reservations,” Liu said. The student life app will institute features including, but not limited to, a map, servery menus, an events calendar, live updates on the Hoot’s inventory and stock as well as the time, place, opponents and amenities featured at Rice sporting events.“[The student life] app would be targeted for undergraduates,” Liu said. “Our goal is to conglomerate a lot of our apps into one mobile app and replace the current Rice app … We’re hoping to have more functions.”

NEWS 2/18/15 4:11pm

Rice moves to seven percent solar energy

Rice University has taken early steps toward  green power and sustainability by signing a one-year contract with MP2 Energy, a renewable energy company. This agreement signifies that an average of seven percent of Rice’s power supply will come from solar energy, according to Richard Johnson, director of Rice’s Administrative Center for Sustainability and Energy Management.“During the afternoon, as much as 25 percent of Rice’s energy will come from [off-site] solar energy, since the amount of solar power we get naturally varies over the course of the day,” Johnson said.Rice had been interested in using solar energy for a while, but there were concerns regarding any extra cost the move might entail, according to Mark Gardner, manager of Energy Strategy and Utility Program Development. According to Johnson, Rice continually indicated its interest in renewable energy sources to MP2 to demonstrate it as a topic about which they remained interested.“We kept signalling our interest, and it didn’t take long for them to catch on that it was something we really wanted,” Johnson said. “They wanted this to happen as much as we did. They’re a really innovative group and they want to be able to demonstrate ways that people can procure green without paying extra.”Rice was able to formulate a plan with MP2 Energy to minimize cost. As a part of this plan, instead of paying one flat rate over the course of the day, Rice pays in hourly increments, with prices varying with the demand for electricity over the course of the day. According to Johnson, with this method of paying for electricity, Rice would pay more for electricity in the afternoon, when the most electricity is used on campus, and less for electricity at night, when less electricity is used and produced via the solar panels.According to Gardner, another benefit to this incremental method of payment involves the solar panels installed on the roof of Jones College. When the prices for solar electricity peak, the panels at Jones produce the most energy. Gardner said because of these sets of solar panels, Rice does not need to purchase as much solar energy from MP2 Energy when prices are the highest.“Because of the shaped curve method [in which the per hour price of electricity varies over the course of the day] of paying for electricity, there is no change in the cost of electricity for Rice,” Gardner said.According to Johnson, this is the first time a commercial entity in Texas has made a deal with an electricity company to use off-site solar power.Johnson said Rice has been looking into incorporating other renewable sources of power as well in order to increase environmental friendliness.“Before we made the agreement with MP2 Energy, we looked into using landfill gas, as well as wind power and other solar power opportunities,” Johnson said. “We’re still looking into using wind power, and we’re looking into opportunities to increase the photovoltaic cells on campus. Our big strategies are [to] use less energy and buy green when it doesn’t cost us more.”Johnson credits Gardner and Energy Manager Eric Valentine with being the most dedicated to finding cost-effective ways for Rice to use green energy.