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NEWS 12/3/14 7:13am

Rice takes steps to avoid 'phantom class' scandal

In response to recent reports from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill of athletes taking classes for eligibility without actually attending them, Rice University is reexamining potential risk factors that could lead to these “phantom classes.”Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said these phantom classes, which reportedly sometimes require no class attendance or work, compromise the academic integrity of sports programs, and are opposed to Rice University’s standards.“[Rice] will never compromise any of our ethical standards on any principle,” Hutchinson said. “We don’t think we have similar issues, but it requires vigilance to make sure that we will not.”According to Hutchinson, there are four academic advisors for athletes in the Office of Academic Advising. The advising for athletes is under a unified system so that it is analogous to the advising for other students. The only additional factor for the advising of athletes is to make sure the scheduling of classes accommodates the special demands on athletes’ time.“One of the ways that is significant in Rice is the fact that the academic advising of athletes is not part of the athletic program,” Hutchinson said. “We carefully coordinate between Dr. Karlgaard’s office and mine to make sure that we are doing the best for our students. That significantly reduces the possibility of the conflict of interest that can result and compromise the academic integrity like UNC-Chapel Hill.”At the Faculty Senate meeting on Nov. 12, Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard said despite Rice’s high degree of integrity, the university is still susceptible to this type of scandal. “I think that institutions that are not proactive at looking into these issues and making sure that they are doing all they can … to guard against academic integrity issues are susceptible to them,” Karlgaard said. “Just because we are Rice, and just because we are an institution with high integrity, doesn’t mean we can’t pay attention to this issue.”Karlgaard said the UNC-Chapel Hill scandal is a cautionary tale for Rice. The scandal has brought together several different departments, including the Office of Academic Advising, Dean of Undergraduates and the athletic department, to reexamine Rice’s structure for potential risk factors that had not been considered previously. “When we first heard about the scope and scale of the issues in North Carolina, it caused us to come together and make sure that all the systems of checks are right,” Karlgaard said. “I don’t know if we are going to make any changes other than potentially subtle ones — maybe how often we get our group together — but I would say that it’s something that we will be willing to evolve over time.”In response to whether the classes that are known as easy and mostly taken by athletes compromise Rice’s academic standard, Hutchinson said Rice designs classes to ensure students with all academic backgrounds can succeed academically. “Academic integrity has to do with making sure that students are receiving appropriate academic instruction, being held accountable for that and being appropriately accessed,” Hutchinson said. “That’s what went wrong with UNC-Chapel Hill. These phantom courses weren’t real courses and there’s no appropriate assessment in those courses.”One student-athlete said she is not surprised by the UNC-Chapel Hill scandal. She chose to remain anonymous to maintain her reputation. However, she said the problems at UNC-Chapel Hill do not reflect the situation of student athletes at Rice. “In the [statistics] class last semester, we had take-home tests and finals and some weekly assignments,” the student said. “I know some athletes just ask their friends for answers, and they basically learn[ed] nothing from the class. [But] most student-athletes here work really hard and actually do their own work. We have really good academic advisors; they help us a lot. For example, they would hire us tutors if we need help.”

NEWS 12/3/14 7:12am

Faculty Senate reconsiders AP policy

Drew KellerStaff WriterA Faculty Senate committee is studying the school’s policy of awarding course credit for high scores on most Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams amid concerns that such credits give some students an unfair advantage and a less comprehensive college education.University Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum Chair Susan McIntosh presented an analysis of the committee’s current policy on Pre-Matriculation Credits at the Nov. 12 Faculty Senate meeting. McIntosh said many other universities have reduced the amount of AP and other exam credit they grant in recent years.“We wanted to just examine, to see the kind of effect of these credits and our policies, which are quite liberal,” McIntosh, a professor of anthropology, said.According to McIntosh, the committee found that students with more exam credit hours spent significantly less time at Rice, based on data from students who matriculated in 2006, 2007 and 2008.“Students who are coming in with less than 20 to 30 credit hours are, in general, taking more than eight semesters to graduate,” McIntosh said. “[Students] who are coming in with over 30 are taking between 7.5 and eight semesters to graduate. What we take from this is that it’s a disadvantage for students to come in without many credit hours that their majors require.”Additionally, the committee’s data showed a clear correlation between exam credits and GPA, with more exam credits corresponding to a higher GPA. Michael Wolf, the faculty director of the Rice Emerging Scholars Program, said students without many exam credits might not be as prepared as their peers for college academics.“There happens to be a very high correlation between not very many AP courses and decently crummy high schools,” Wolf, a professor of mathematics, said. “So it’s not just how many college credits you come in with; it also correlates to their general preparation to do Rice work.”Wolf also said international students have less access to AP courses, though IB and several other programs offer comparable credit. However, according to President David Leebron, access to college-comparable courses in high school does not affect admission to Rice.“We judge applicants by the level of courses they take relative to what is offered at their school,” Leebron said. “Students who attend a school that offers honors credit, and who choose not to take those courses, ... are heavily disadvantaged in the application … They can get straight As and we don’t treat that as a straight-A student.”At the Faculty Senate meeting, several faculty members expressed support for reducing the extent to which AP credit is applied, including Gerald Dickens, a professor of earth science. “There should be a minimum threshold of what a student has to experience in college, has to experience in classes,” Dickens said. “There should be a minimum threshold of distribution.” Dickens said he was concerned with students’ ability to get a Rice degree with a relatively small number of actual college classes and students using exam credits for distribution and never taking classes outside of their major. “I think the argument that students are taking too many classes is false,” Dickens said. “It’s students taking [fewer] and using AP credits, consistently.”However, the data presented by McIntosh showed the number of credits students earn at Rice generally is not affected by the number of pre-matriculation credits, at least for the large majority of students matriculating with fewer than 60 exam credits. The mean number of Rice credits earned by graduation increased slightly from 116.7 to 119 between 2006 and 2008.“We didn’t see any trend [with regards to pre-matriculation credits] there,” McIntosh said. “[Exam credits] allow students to experiment with more majors in different types of schools.”Michael Diehl, a professor of bioengineering and chemistry, also disagreed with the argument that students use exam credits to reduce the number of courses they take at Rice.“It’s my impression that it could be quite the opposite,” Diehl said. “I’ve had a number of students come through my laboratory who want to do research but don’t have the time … They’re loading up on credits, not getting out of them. I think there’s a tendency in the undergraduate populace to take too many courses.”According to Wolf, the workload required by many majors, especially in natural sciences and engineering, is difficult for students to handle without pre-matriculation credit. Wolf questioned whether it was plausible to graduate with majors such as bioengineering without exam credit. Adrian Perez, a Brown College freshman, also said test credit could provide a valuable advantage.“It’s helpful to have a head start with AP credits, especially for engineering,” Perez said. “I think [the credit system] is fine how it is right now, but if they were to change something it would only be for specific majors … Like a chemistry major wouldn’t be able to use AP Chem, but any other major would be. I know [General] Chemistry is way harder than AP Chem.”Cody VanZandt, a sophomore computer science major, said his lack of AP credit has set him back in his major. VanZandt’s high school did not offer AP classes for him to take.“I know for sure it’s put me definitely behind the ball on my Comp Sci degree, especially switching into Comp Sci sophomore year,” VanZandt, a member of Brown College, said. “At this point, I’m going to have to take classes outside of Rice. Especially if you decide to change your major, it makes a serious difference.”

NEWS 12/3/14 7:08am

Honor Council found 'in violation'

The Blanket Tax Contingency Committee found the Honor Council in violation of the blanket tax process. The Honor Council has pledged to return its surplus rollover of $18,882, according to Student Association President Ravi Sheth. The Contingency Committee reviewed the Honor Council with three possible outcomes: in good standing, in violation and in aggravated violation. If an organization is found in violation three times within a period of four years, the Contingency Committee may recommend that the blanket tax be reduced or removed. A count of aggravated violation is equivalent to two violations. After this decision, the Honor Council stands at one violation.The only other way by which a blanket tax organization’s funding can be reduced is by an initative petitioned directly by the students and voted on in the General Elections. The organization was judged based on four criteria outlined in the SA Constitution. These criteria included whether the organization acted as good stewards of student money and whether the funds were used in a manner consistent with the organization’s mission, for organizational purposes and consistent with Rice rules and regulations. The Honor Council was found in violation of two criteria: acting as good stewards of student money and using the blanket tax funds in a manner consistent with the organization’s mission, goals and purposes.According to the Report on Contingency Review, the Contingency Committee found three examples showing that the Honor Council did not act as good stewards of student money. The Honor Council’s budgets for 2013-14 were found to reflect irresponsible record-keeping, although the committee commended the organization for its recent budget amendment efforts. The committee noted that the Honor Council did not spend its blanket tax funds properly from 2013-14 and the years before, indicated by the $21,582 surplus at the start of the 2014-15 review year. The Committee also recommended the Honor Council halve the changeover dinner budget to $25/person.However, while the changeover dinner cost was decreased in the amended budget, other new food expenses were added, which increased the total amount spent on food by $500. In order to determine whether the Honor Council is in aggravated violation, the Contingency Committee evaluated the organization based on three criteria outlined within the SA n Constitution: if the organization’s budget reflected a surplus of at least 50% in the previous year, if the organization has not adequately justified its surplus and if the organization does not indicate a reasonable attempt to address this issue. If the Honor Council were to be found in violation of all three criteria, the committee would then require a two-thirds majority vote to find the organization in aggravated violation.According to the report, the Honor Council had made a good faith effort to make a reasonable attempt to address the issues and surpluses in the 2014-15 year. As a result, the Contingency Committee did not find the organization in aggravated violation.In Honor Council’s amended 2014-15 budget, the surplus decreased from the initial 50% to 43%. This was due to the addition of a $2,260 expense for training conferences not included in the original budget as well as the increased amount budgeted for food. The annualized replacement costs for furniture and electronics remained unchanged. According to Sheth, when and if the Honor Council returns its surplus, the SA executive committee will determine how to best allocate the approximately $18,000 in funds. Sheth said because this is the first time a Contingency Committee has ever convened, the ruling will have lasting effects on the blanket tax review process.“I believe that this is an important moment for the effectiveness of our processes, and also gives us an opportunity to reflect and think about what we can do better in our overall allocations, and processes — which our Blanket Tax Crack Team... is currently looking into,” Sheth said.

NEWS 11/24/14 9:44pm

Students organize Ferguson solidarity rally

Rice University students are organizing a solidarity rally at noon in the academic quad after a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson, 28, for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown.

NEWS 11/18/14 4:19pm

Rice outlines plans for climate neutrality by 2038

Over the past few weeks, passersby in north campus may have noticed the Jones College south wing rooftop is undergoing construction of solar panels to be completed in the coming months. But this project, led by Housing and Dining, is no usual renovation: According to Rice University’s Director of Energy and Sustainability Richard Johnson, it is the first of many initiatives aimed at making Rice a more environmentally-friendly campus.“We will also be starting soon on an energy efficiency project in the Space Sciences building,” Johnson said. “Our intention is, over the next ten years, to reduce our emissions by 20 percent.”Last year, a university-led committee of administrators, faculty and staff completed a study called the Rice Integrated Climate and Energy Master Plan. The plan, which includes projects like investing in renewable energy, retrofitting buildings and establishing energy efficiency standards for new construction, provides an outline to make campus climate neutral — in other words, producing zero net emissions — by 2038.“We’ll still have some emissions, but we’ll have something that counters it,” Johnson said. “And that something is in the form of a 50,000-acre timber plantation in southwest Louisiana — the Rice Land Lumber company, a part of William Marsh Rice’s original endowment. It sequesters carbon, providing an offset for some of our emissions.”Though the plantation has been around for years, Johnson says this initiative has been made possible only recently due to the development of new, sustainable technologies.“In 2006, electricity from a photovoltaic panel cost $9 per watt,” Johnson said. “Today, that number is down to $2. That’s an illustration of how significantly change in cost has made projects like this viable.” The idea of climate neutrality gained traction among universities in 2006 when a group of university presidents initiated the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment aimed at phasing out greenhouse gas emissions from campuses nationwide. President Leebron signed the pledge in 2007, making Rice one of the now 684 members of the initiative. Johnson said Rice’s participation will yield substantial benefits for the environment as well as the university itself. “[This] is an excellent learning opportunity for our Rice community, especially for our students,” Johnson said. “To this end, students have played a key role over the last several years in developing the university’s carbon footprint and identifying potential strategies to mitigate our emissions … In fact, one of those projects ended up leading in part to the solar installations at Jones.”On a larger scale, Johnson said he is confident the climate neutrality plan will have a positive impact on the university’s reputation as a leader in addressing environmental sustainability.“This particular initiative speaks to our desire to leave a better world for future generations,” Johnson said. “We’re in the energy capital of the world, so it makes a powerful statement for us to take a leadership position.”Tierra Moore, head of the Student Association Environmental Committee, said she hopes to extend awareness of the climate neutrality initiative to the entire student body. “In order for things like [the initiative] to be successful, it’s important for the SA environmental committee in particular to host an educational campaign across campus to show students what it truly means to be sustainable,” Moore, a Baker College senior, said. “We have made progress in securing funding for future environmental and climate related student projects. With regards to the SA40K, the senate recommended allotting $22,000 to the Rice Environmental Society.  I’m thinking of hosting a meeting with Rice Environmental Society to discuss how we should move forward. I think we should advertise these funds as a platform for us to go forth with this educational campaign and see if we can make it into [Orientation Week].”Several students have voiced their approval for a campus-wide educational campaign. Camila Kennedy, a native of Austin, Texas, said she was surprised that Houston is not as environmentally conscious as her hometown.“I arrived here and was shocked that people didn’t seem to be using the recycling bins around campus,” Kennedy, a Jones College sophomore said. “And when I went to the grocery store, I didn’t have to bring my own reusable bag. It’s very different from Austin, which is very progressive about environmental issues. So I would definitely be in favor of an educational campaign.” 

NEWS 11/18/14 4:18pm

Faculty Senate approves RCEL certificate proposal

The Faculty Senate unanimously ratified the Leadership Certificate proposal for the Rice University Center for Engineering Leadership during its Oct. 1 meeting. The program began three years ago and has around 120 students currently enrolled, according to Kazimir Karwowski, executive director of RCEL.Karwowski said the purpose of the certificate program is to train future engineers to develop leadership, management and teamwork skills outside the technical realm and to connect students with professional mentors and leaders.According to Karwowski, the program was established as part of a broader movement outlined in a National Academy of Engineering report, “The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century.” Peer institutions like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University have adopted similar engineering leadership programs in recent years.“The days when an engineer could just get a solid academic background and expect to succeed in the world are over,” Karwowski said. “The program is part of a movement toward changing the way future engineers are educated.”The newly-approved certificate is open to all engineering undergraduates and consists of 10 credits of coursework, experiential learning, internship and presentation components.“It’s not a huge commitment, but it’s definitely something that you want to make sure you’re invested in,” Karwowski said. “If you actually invest in asking for coaching and mentorship and you look for multiple internships, you’re going to get a lot out of it.”The certificate will appear on the student transcript as an academic credential, according to Karwowski. “Employers will recognize the certificate,” Karwowski said. “They will say, ‘You took a certificate in engineering leadership? Well obviously you have the skills that we’re looking for.’ We have companies interested in interacting with our students because of the training they are receiving.”Karwowski said the long-term goal of RCEL is to expand from the current 10 percent of the School of Engineering involved in the certificate program to 20 percent. With this growth, an increase in faculty and resources would be necessary to maintain quality of instruction.“I think that anyone [who] wants to pursue it should be able to pursue it, and we’ll grow accordingly without diluting the program,” Karwowski said. “Not everyone is a leader and not everyone wants to be a leader, so you don’t want to force people to do something they’re not interested in doing. But we want them to at least have the opportunity to try it.”Jones College sophomore Austin James said the skills he has gained in leadership labs have been invaluable.“The faculty will point out things that you may not have thought about, like the use of negotiation power in our everyday lives, and help you develop skills that you’ll be using as a leader in a company,” James said. “Everything we practice is applicable to our futures in the engineering field.”Ryan McKnight, a McMurtry College senior, said one of the best parts of the program is having one-on-one advising with faculty mentors. McKnight is part of the Student Advisory Board that hopes to expand the program and steer it toward catering to a more diverse representation of all engineering majors. “The certificate program has given me the opportunity to invest in skills I wouldn’t learn in a typical class,” McKnight said. “I don’t know of anyone in the program that would regret it. I think in the next couple years, you’ll start getting people graduating from the program coming back and saying, ‘Yes, this has really impacted my personal development and my career.’ And I hope to be one of those people.”

NEWS 11/18/14 4:15pm

SA senators partner on legislation to create oral communications courses

Student Association senators have teamed up to spearhead an initiative on creating disciplinary oral communications courses for undergraduates. Martel College sophomore Neethi Nayak and McMurtry College sophomore Madhuri Venkateswar co-authored the legislation, which passed at the SA Senate meeting on Nov. 5.“In today’s world, it’s becoming increasingly important to have the communication skills in addition to the technical skills,” Venkateswar said. “You cannot get past a certain point if you cannot communicate orally and through writing. I saw that through my experience and I thought that it was extremely important that Rice students have that knowledge because it puts them above other students from other institutions.”According to Nayak and Venkateswar, peer institutions like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University offer resources to undergraduates including mandatory annual communications courses. Venkateswar said Rice is behind, but currently on the right trajectory.“There are classes that really emphasize [public speaking], like [BIOE] 252 with problem-based learning, but that was one semester — it wasn’t a consistent way for students to grow,” Venkateswar said. “Especially with oral communication, you need consistent feedback in order to fix the things that you were doing wrong.”Venkateswar said the team collaborated with Tracy Volz, director of the Program for Writing and Communication, to identify areas in which oral communications classes are necessary. The legislation proposes an introduction to communications course as well as departmental architecture, medical, technical and legal courses.Nayak said the high number of students enrolling in BUSI 296: Business Communications is evidence of the need for more specific communications courses. Venkateswar said the high demand for enrollment in HUMA 201: Public Speaking, also indicates interest.“The university has a deficiency in these areas and some courses, like BUSI 296, are oversubscribed when they shouldn’t be,” Venkateswar said. “People are taking that class to gain some oral communication skills but might be better suited in a more nuanced communications class.”Nayak said her own experience in courses involving communication led her to believe Rice had the need for more emphasis on oral communication.“Several of my classes require presenting information to an audience that may not have experience with a particular topic that you’re discussing,” Nayak said. “You have to be able to communicate things that may seem very technical to an audience that doesn’t know what you’re necessarily talking about.”The legislation also recommends greater emphasis on oral communication within FWIS courses. According to Nayak and Venkateswar, FWIS courses currently require only one oral presentation and do not guarantee consistent feedback with skills.During the presentation of the legislation at the SA Senate meeting, some raised concerns about the necessity of communications courses when they may be repeated in graduate school.“The response to that is that I’m an engineer, I’m not planning to go to law school, but I still want to learn how to deal with argumentative communication or with confrontational communication,” Venkateswar said. “Legal communication doesn’t have to be just if you’re going to law school. These skills are applicable across the board.”Venkateswar said the communications courses are not necessarily specific to individual majors.“I can be a pre-med and still want to learn technical communication,” Venkateswar said. “You can take what you want to take depending on what your professional/personal  sinterests are, but you may not be [learning more about] that in the future.According to Nayak, the timeline for the availability of these courses for undergraduates is in the hands of the Committee for Undergraduate Curriculum and the Faculty Senate.

NEWS 11/18/14 4:06pm

SA40K Recommendations

Student Association senators presented their recommendations on allocating $40,540.92 in leftover funds at the Senate meeting on Nov. 12. According to the senators, these recommendations are based on undergraduate surveys carried out at each college. Students also pitched ideas for multi-year, sustainable initiatives. Since Rice Endowment for Sustainable Energy Technology originally intended the money be used for environmental sustainability, the majority of the funds are allocated toward supporting sustainable initiatives. Funding has been set aside for Query’s creation of a Queer Resource Center, Rainbow. Student organizations Rice Emergency Medical Services and Rice Bikes would receive several thousand dollars for purchasing equipment. The Initiative Fund is intended to support campus-wide programming like Rally Club. The final allocations of the funds will be decided by the Senate Executive Committee and presented at the SA meeting on Nov. 19. The SA Senate will then vote on the final proposals.

NEWS 11/18/14 4:04pm

H&D proposes repurposing space creatively

New, creative design spaces may come to residential colleges in the coming years, according to David McDonald, senior business director of  Housing and Dining. H&D is initiating the endeavor in collaboration with Rice Education of the Future. The spaces will be multi-disciplinary and their design open to student input.“This is all very new, very student driven and very organic,” McDonald said. “The space we envision in the college is a [multi-disciplinary] collaboration. So we’ve asked the colleges to define what a creative space [looks like] in their college, recognizing the fact that 11 colleges have very unique identities. H&D will help support and help them innovate the design and keep them on the right path of what the ultimate design will look like.”Student Association Executive Vice President Trent Navran said the REF task force is communicating with college leadership about this initiative, but the actual implementation of the creative space depends on the individual colleges themselves.“The idea is students have to, at each of their colleges, come up with their idea of what creativity looks like,” Navran, a McMurtry College senior, said. “It’s a lot more about starting a conversation and getting the residential college to be facilitators for a college wide conversation ... There is a huge burden on residential college presidents to communicate this effectively.”McMurtry Senator Madhuri Venkateswar said her college has already begun considering possibilities for the space.“This has been pitched at McMurtry and at Duncan [College]...and McMurtry specifically has created an innovation space committee composed of architects and engineers to create this innovation space,” Venkateswar, a sophomore, said. “Basically, they are first defining what innovation is.”Susann Glenn, manager of Communications for Rice Facilities Engineering and Planning, said H&D aims to support the students’ design of the creative space in colleges and the SA is responsible for facilitating the conversation with the students. “We are here to support the efforts and help find the space and ensure whatever [is] proposed is reasonable,” Glenn said. “We are not facilitating this conversation. It’s a student-driven initiative.”Currently, several colleges, including Sid Richardson College, Duncan College and Jones College, have started creating committees on creative design space. “Some colleges are talking about combining efforts together,” Glenn said. “Maybe some shared space somewhere can benefit both colleges, and then it also encourages interactions between colleges and collaborations between colleges.”McDonald said creative design space will enrich students’ residential college experience.“You all spend a lot of time in your colleges,” McDonald said. “If [the creative design space] is down on the first floor, it’s more likely that you go down there and play in the space.”

NEWS 11/18/14 3:55pm

Rice follows federal sexual assault rules

The U.S. Department of Education released a new set of rules for college campuses that make provisions for changes to the Violence Against Women Act and the Clery Act. These rules include providing mandatory sexual assault trainings, disclosing “unfounded” reports of sexual assault, using the preponderance of evidence standard in sexual assault cases and allowing for students to have independent advisors during proceedings. Colleges are required to comply to these rules by July 2015 and to make a good-faith attempt in the meantime. Rice University currently has most of these new rules already in place as part of recent efforts to provide training and resources as well as the introduction of the Sexual Misconduct Policy earlier this year. Sexual Assault TrainingAccording to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, Rice provides sexual harassment training that is mandatory for faculty, staff and graduate students. As of now, the online sexual harassment training emailed out to undergraduate students is considered mandatory, but participation is not regulated. “Technically, that’s mandatory, but right now we haven’t put any consequences in place for people who haven’t participated,” Hutchinson said. “We will soon be adding consequences for not participating.”According to Student Wellbeing Director Kate Noonan, many staff and faculty members have undergone Title IX training in order to better assist students. “This semester alone, Student Wellbeing has provided training to many key faculty and staff, including masters, RAs and over 15 departments who work closely with students, and to student advisors for O-Week,” Noonan said. “This training covers Title IX responsibilities and our sexual misconduct policy at Rice as well as how to connect students with the resources available to them on and off campus.” Student Wellbeing Specialist Kate Hildebrandt said. in addition to Title IX training, Rice uses the Project SAFE initiative to promote discussion and to address issues surrounding assault on campuses. “All incoming students and advisers receive training through Project SAFE, and we offer ongoing sessions throughout the year,’ Hildebrandt said. “We’re also really excited to expand our trainings in the coming semesters to talk about topics like healthy relationships, healthy sexuality and shifting the norms of rape culture.”  “Unfounded” Reports of Sexual Assaults The new federal rules also require that colleges provide campus crime statistics that include “unfounded” reports of sexual assault. Rice currently does not follow this policy, but plans to do so in the future, according to Hutchinson. “I think ‘unfounded’ is a poor word ... because we might find [a case] ‘not in violation’ only because the evidence is insufficient to find ‘in violation,’” Hutchinson said. “That doesn’t mean it was unfounded, it just means that there wasn’t a preponderance of the evidence to find in violation.”While Hutchinson said Rice does not report unfounded claims, he also said he does not see any difficulty in following this protocol. “I was surprised when I saw it, because I recognized it as a change, but it’s a change we can easily adapt to,” Hutchinson said.  Preponderance of EvidenceAnother nationwide change on campuses outlined by the federal rules is a shift to using the “preponderance of evidence” standard in sexual assault cases instead of the more rigorous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Rice already uses the “preponderance of evidence” criteria in issues involving sexual assault, and according to Hutchinson, this measure is a more appropriate one given the sensitive nature of these cases. “Our standard at the university is to make sure we have an environment where students can study or live without fear of harassment or assault or any form of sexual discrimination,”  Hutchinson said. “Any time we have an allegation that comes forward where the preponderance of the evidence tells us in fact that we have created an environment where discrimination has occurred, and in some cases the discrimination may go all the way to the point of sexual assault, then we need to act on that. We’re trying to preserve the safe environment for all of our students.”  Independent Advisors The federal rules also require that alleged victims and perpetrators be allowed to have an independent advisor, such as a parent or lawyer, to support them throughout the process. Rice’s Sexual Misconduct Policy from earlier this year allows for the inclusion of such advisors, who, according to Hutchinson, can provide students with advice and moral support. Associate Dean of Undergraduates Matthew Taylor, who is the chair of Rice's Working Group on University Responses to Federal Initiatives on Sexual Assault, said knowing they are allowed to have advisors might encourage students to report sexual assault while also providing advice and perspective. “Those situations are difficult situations, whether it’s a hearing or an informal meeting, and. in my experience, students in those situations oftentimes don’t necessarily have clarity on what’s being said to them or even on what they’re saying,” Taylor said. “These are very intense meetings because they are addressing  very serious questions. Having someone familiar nearby as a support can help.” Affirmative ConsentThe federal rules, however, do not include affirmative consent as a legal definition.According to Hutchinson, affirmative consent, given either through words or actions, is a part of Rice’s policy and an important component of healthy, mutual sexual relationships. “Affirmative consent as a standard protects an individual from being a passive victim of someone else’s behavior,” Hutchinson said. “A sexual relationship should be a mutually consensual relationship at the outset and throughout the entire sexual relationship, and that requires affirmative consent.”

NEWS 11/18/14 3:51pm

Course, instructor evaluations show engineering lags

Course evaluations have improved on average for all academic schools at Rice University since they were first published in 2004, but the engineering and natural sciences departments still lag behind social sciences and humanities in both course and instructor evaluations.President David Leebron mentioned the rise in evaluations during his speech to the Student Association on Oct. 1, and the evaluation process is currently being investigated by an SA Senate subcommittee that includes students, faculty and Registrar David Tenney (Sid Richardson ’87).Course evaluations have been made publicly available since 2004, a development Tenney said is valuable to Rice’s student body.“There’s a recognition that evaluations serve an important role for Rice students,” Tenney said. “They’re not just for teachers; they’re critical forstudents.”Since 2007, all six of Rice’s academic schools have shown improvement in two important measures included in evaluations: average course quality and average instructor effectiveness. Both of these metrics are measured on a five-point scale where one is the best possible response and five is the worst. The departmental averages have fallen by between 0.1 and 0.2 points since 2007, with the School of Architecture and School of Social Sciences showing thegreatest improvement. Despite the advances, a clear difference still exists between the evaluations for the STEM and non-STEM subjects. Since 2007, the School of Engineering has consistently had the worst or second-worst average course and instructor evaluations, around 2.15 and 2.1 respectively for the fall 2013 semester. This is between 0.3 and 0.4 points worse than the School of Social Sciences, the School of Humanities and the School of Architecture, which are all in the 1.7to 1.9 range. The School of Natural Sciences has received evaluations only slightly better than the School of Engineering, standing at 2.05 for course quality and 1.9 for instructor effectiveness for the fall 2013 semester. The School of Music, on the other hand, has the best evaluations of any division at 1.5 for both metrics, though it has shown the least improvement, about 0.05 points,since 2007.However, not all engineering classes or even majors have lower evaluations than other subjects. For example, mechanical engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering courses tend to have worse reviews than computer science and electrical engineering, which are actually comparable to average courses in the humanities. In addition to this trend, which holds true across departments, upper-level courses generally have better evaluations than introductoryclasses.Dimitri Nikolaou, a  chemical and biomolecular engineering major, pointed to course difficulty and lack of focus on teaching as reasons for the School of Engineering’s worseevaluations.“The kids are pushed more, so innately they’re more frustrated because they have to work more,” Nikolaou, a Brown College junior, said. “I feel like more engineering professors are brought in for being research-oriented rather than oriented toward undergraduateteaching.”According to Alexandra Franklin, the Brown Senator and a member of the SA Senate subcommittee on evaluations, the SA plans to modify the evaluation process in the future to make it more useful to administration andstudents. “We are currently looking into different options for future evaluations,” Franklin, a junior, said. “The changes will probably take about two years to completely integrate, but everything is pending presentation to the Teaching Committee at large and the Faculty Senate.”With the changes, Franklin said the SA hopes to continue the role of evaluations as an important tool in the Rice community.“We want to create evaluations that better serve the students, the faculty themselves and the administration as a whole,” Franklin said.

NEWS 11/18/14 3:49pm

City health code bans reusable containers

Hannah Chefor the ThresherA proposal to set up reusable take-out containers at the serveries has been prevented by the city of Houston health code, according to Housing and Dining Senior Business Director David McDonald. The objection rose from a concern about cross-contamination hazards. “The logic was, let’s say you have a cold, and you bring back a container that is contaminated,” McDonald said. “When you take food, the serving spoon touches the container, and when it is placed back into the food, it contaminates everybody else who’s going to get food that day. That’s what we call cross-contamination.”McDonald argued the sanitary concern is unfounded because the reusable containers would be washed by H&D. “We’re professionals, and we’re certified,” McDonald said. “Since we’re washing the containers, the risk of contamination would be no different from the risk associated with using paper plates. We feel like we’ve taken the risk out of it, but [the health officials] didn’t see it that way.” The reusable containers would replace the current paper plates and greatly minimize both paper waste and cost, according to McDonald. The system was tested at the Faculty Club last year and seemed to work, but McDonald said logistical issues would arise from the greater demand at the serveries.“There were concerns that the system would slow down lines,” McDonald said. “Also, that students wouldn’t like the idea of us charging five dollars at the counter to get the container, or the fact that they wouldn’t have paper plates.”The University of Houston has a similar container system already in place, according to McDonald, but it follows a different health code.“They’re governed by the state of Texas, because they’re a state school,” McDonald said. “As a private institution, Rice is governed by the city of Houston health code, which has one of the strictest set of food handling guidelines I’ve seen.”McDonald said this container idea came three years ago from an ENGI 302 class project.“Students wanted to see if the serveries could use reusable to-go containers instead of paper plates,” McDonald said. “How it would work is you would come in and say, ‘I want to-go today.’ Then I would charge you five dollars on your tetra points, give you a container and you’d get your food. When you returned the container, I would credit back the five dollars for the cost of the container or switch with you and give you a new clean container.”Tierra Moore, the co-chair of the Student Association Environmental Committee, said a survey by the new student representatives last month found most students were in favor of the idea. “We collected over 270 responses from students and found that 80 percent of them would have liked to use this product,” Moore, a Baker College senior, said. Moore said that students cold contact city health officials to discuss setting up a special-case situation for Rice.According to McDonald, the reusable containers are no longer being considered by H&D. However, students are allowed to bring in reusable bottles to fill with water and other beverages.“The reason I can get away with that is because they’re dispenser style,” McDonald said. “So there is no cross-contamination hazard.”McDonald said the reusable container proposal reflects broader issues about sustainability and the growing take-out culture on campus.“The disposable paper plate usage just ticks up every year, and with the reusable containers, we’re primarily trying to mitigate this,” McDonald said. “But I think the best thing that could happen from a sustainability standpoint is to just stop using so much take-out. In the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve seen a huge increase in people taking out plates instead of eating in their commons.”Moore said discussion stems back to the issue of how much student behavior can be controlled. “I don’t really think you can add [reusable containers] to the serveries and expect the takeout culture to decrease — I mean obviously it would facilitate the existing demand for takeout,” Moore said. “But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.”

NEWS 11/18/14 3:44pm

Speakers discuss benefits of legalizing marijuana

Speakers presented on the medical benefits of cannabis and the possibility of its legalization for medical use in Texas in 2015. The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance sponsored he talk on Nov. 12.William Martin, the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the Baker Institute, said therapeutic use of cannabis has faced less opposition than recreational use, with 23 states and the District of Columbia having some system of medical marijuana.Terri Davis Carriker, co-founder of Embrace Moms, described how traditional medicine cannot help her daughter, Catherine, who suffers from treatment-resistant epilepsy. Carriker said early tests with medical marijuana for epileptic patients have shown promising results.“Over the last nine years, we had countless ER tripss and two brain surgeries,” Carriker said. “To disallow [medical marijuana] is tantamount to medical neglect.”Amy Lou Fawell, president and co-founder of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, said primary caretakers of autistic children and the children themselves are often victims of violent behavior that pharmaceutical drugs cannot control. However, despite anecdotal reports of children improving from cannabis treatment, even states that permit medical marijuana do not recognize autism as a qualifying condition. “In [certain cases], breaking the law is necessary to prevent a harm worse than the one the law is aimed at preventing,” Fawell said. Neeraj Shah, a physician at the Seton Medical Center and the Victory Medical Center, said compared to other pharmaceutical drugs and psychoactives, marijuana is relatively safe.“There is no respiratory suppression with cannabis or cannabinoids,” Shah said. “Opiates and benzodiazepines can make you stop breathing, and you can end up on a ventilator, or dead.”Elliott Naishtat, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, said several bills on medicinal marijuana will be introduced in the upcoming session. Naishtat said he has introduced a medical marijuana affirmative defense bill six times, which he believes has the best chance of passing.“A patient, if arrested, would have to prove in court that he or she was suffering from a bona fide medical condition, as defined by his or her physician, and that physician has discussed or recommended marijuana as an option to alleviate the symptoms of the condition,” Naishtat said. “The bill does not legalize marijuana. The judge would be authorized to drop the charges. The judge wouldn’t be required to drop the charges.” Hanszen College freshman Rachel Bowyer said the lecture felt one-sided.“It’s clear that medical marijuana can benefit patients, but they did not present the other side of the argument,” Bowyer said. “I would like to see a more representative debate about the actual legislative issues of passing marijuana laws.”

NEWS 11/12/14 8:07am

M.I.A: This semester, Baker and West serveries lost all 3,200 of their plastic cups

The Student Association Environmental Committee presented at the SA Senate meeting on the issue of lost cups from the servery, according to committee co-chair Tierra Moore.“In the last academic year, roughly 8,000 cups were purchased, lost and replaced,” Moore, who presented on Nov. 5, said. “Baker and West serveries have had all of their cups replaced this semester alone. This adds up to a significant 3,200 cups.”According to Moore, to offset losses, Housing and Dining has proposed that disposable, recyclable 16-oz. plastic cups be added to the serveries. Moore said she thinks this proposal is environmentally undesirable.“With [Rice’s] recycling rate at just 28 percent, this might negatively impact [our] waste stream,” Moore said.H&D Senior Business Director David McDonald said the additional cost of disposable cups may potentially increase H&D expenditure, which is ultimately funded by students.“It is important to note that behavior directly influences the cost of room and board each year,” McDonald said. “If we are spending more on disposables and tumblers, we will need to make up for this increased cost in some way.”Moore said the committee thought the real issue is a growing take-out culture among students and proposed replacing fewer cups in serveries to discourage wastefulness.“The loss of dishes in the serveries is an issue driven by student behavior,” Moore said. “For that reason, I proposed reducing the amount of cups replaced in the serveries … The reduced supply may prompt students to be more conscientious about returning cups.”H&D, however, said they are uncertain whether purchasing fewer cups is appropriate, since it goes against the mission of the department, according to McDonald.“We are a service organization funded by the room and board payments by students on meal plans,” McDonald said. “If students don’t have cups available, we feel that we are not meeting our goals of providing for the students.”At the SA Senate meeting, University Court Chair Brian Baran said reducing the number of reusable cups may leave students with no alternatives but to take disposable cups. Baran said a more realistic option is to keep the current number of reusable cups and to increase the disposable ones. “I doubt any marketing effort will convince enough students to change their behavior to outweigh the increase in reusable cup shortages,” Baran said. “If the disposable cups were a reasonable size, students taking their meal to go would be less inclined to take the reusable cups, so fewer would go missing. We have to accept and work with the reality that many students’ schedules prevent them from eating every meal in their college’s commons.”Moore said the overall response she got at the SA Senate meeting seemed to suggest a reluctance to take her proposal; most seemed to favor H&D’s plan.“Ideally, the SA would campaign this change as a positive, student-led initiative to improve campus sustainability,” Moore said. “However, at last week’s [SA Senate meeting,] the SA showed a tepid response to this proposal. They appear to support the addition of the disposable plastic cups, as long as there are places to recycle them.”Moore said work has already been done with regards to adding recycling infrastructure.“It should be noted that Rice has been working toward installing outdoor recycle bins across campus,” Moore said. “This initiative was supported by Ping [Leebron], who helped secure a $50,000 grant to add approximately 25 outdoor recycle bins. [Facilities, Engineering and Planning] is working towards installing these bins within the next year or so.”Ultimately, the root of the problem of lost cups is still student attitude, accordintg to Moore.“It is also important to address student behavior,” Moore said. “A general lack of education, misinformation and student apathy contribute significantly to these problems.”Richard Johnson, director of Energy and Sustainability for Rice University, said the cup problem warrants serious attention.“I fully support H&D’s efforts to initiate a broader conversation about this topic,” Johnson said. “In the interim, I appeal to Rice students to return tumblers, plates and flatware — which are Rice property — back to the serveries where they belong.”

NEWS 11/12/14 8:06am

Contingency Committee deliberates outcome

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee deliberated on whether to find Honor Council in good standing, violation or aggravated violation of the blanket tax process at the latest meeting on Monday. As of the latest meeting, Honor Council has submitted a letter to the committee in response to concerns raised in the Oct 27. meeting, as well as an amended budget for 2014-15 and a projected budget for 2015-16. Amended BudgetIn the letter to the committee, Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson wrote that the organization will now discontinue its practice of buying gifts for departing seniors, an expense that totaled around $400 a year. Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, also wrote that Honor Council’s changeover dinner will be reduced from a price of $50 per person to a maximum of $25 per person starting in spring 2015. “Changeover dinner at $50 or less per person was consistent with Honor Council’s understanding [of] Rice University policy,” Williamson wrote. “The Honor Council now understands, through the committee, that the student body wants blanket tax organizations to follow a different expectation.” In the original 2014-15 budget submitted before its meeting with the Contingency Committee, Honor Council had listed $1,700 under “Student Organization Events,” with $1,500 of that amount allocated for the changeover dinner. Now, under the amended 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets, Honor Council allocates $2,200 for student organization events. While the price of the changeover dinner has been halved to $750, a new expenditure of $1,250 listed under “misc. meals” has been added. This expense was not included in the original proposed budget. The amended budgets also include a new expenditure of $2,260 for training and conferences. The training, which Honor Council has projected as a two-night event for four people, allocateds $900 for three hotel rooms, $1000 for conference registration and $360 for meals. However, Honor Council has still failed to provide its C- and D- fund expense reports from the past four years, which were requested by the Contingency Committee over a month ago now.In a constitutional clarification regarding the contingency process, University Court stated that an organization’s noncompliance can be grounds for a violation.“An organization’s failure to comply with the contingency process, unless the available information supports a finding of Good Standing despite the noncompliance, constitutes a violation [of the SA constitution],” UCourt Secretary Makenzie Drukker wrote in the court’s abstract.Potential OutcomesThe voting members of the Contingency Committee can find Honor Council either in compliance, in violation or in aggravated violation of blanket tax review criteria. The SA constitution states blanket tax organizations must use their funds to further their “mission, purpose and goals,” solely for “organizational purposes,” and “in a manner consistent with all Rice University rules and regulations.” It further requires these organizations to be “good stewards of student money.” If a blanket tax organization does not meet one or more of these four review criteria, then the Contingency Committee will find it in violation.An aggravated violation can occur if an organization has a surplus greater than 50 percent, cannot justify such a surplus and does not address the issue reasonably in its proposed budget for the current year. A single violation is similar to a strike, while an aggravated counts as two strikes. If an organization accrues three strikes in a four-year period, the Contingency Committee can recommend a decrease in blanket tax funding.

NEWS 11/12/14 8:05am

Recommendations for non-tenure track faculty members pass in Faculty Senate

In light of a greater conversation in academia about the rights and roles of non-tenure track faculty, Rice University is reconsidering their titles, obligations and job security.According to the Rice Faculty Handbook, “academic tenure protects faculty members from being dismissed for teaching, researching or inquiring into areas that might be politically or commercially controversial.” However, NTT faculty do not have tenure and are not on paths that potentially lead to tenure within the university.The Faculty Senate approved the Task Force on Non-Tenure Track Faculty’s five recommendations to increase job stability and growth opportunities for non-tenure track faculty while more clearly defining their roles at its meeting on Oct. 1. Paula Sanders, vice provost for academic affairs, and Stanislav Sazykin, senior faculty fellow in physics and astronomy, presented the five recommendations at the Student Association Senate meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 5. The task force’s primary recommendations were to create full-time NTT teaching and research positions with the titles of Assistant, Associate and (full) Teaching/Research Professor. The other three recommendations were to clarify the titles and roles of lecturers and instructors, limit the use of the “Professor in the Practice” title and allow the Schools of Business, Music and Architecture to develop their own NTT titles.  Trends in NTT FacultyThe recommendations come in the wake of a greater discussion in academia about the roles and treatment of NTT faculty, according to Sanders, a professor of history.Nationwide, NTT positions account for 76 percent of all instructional staff appointments in American higher education, according to the American Association of University Professors. According to the Office of Institutional Research, in fall 2013, NTT faculty taught 38 percent of undergraduate courses at Rice compared to 45 percent TTT faculty and 15 percent other instructors. Additionally, in fall 2013, TTT faculty made up 71 percent of instructional faculty on a Full-Time Equivalent basis, compared to 29 percent NTT faculty. The OIR calculates FTE by adding all the full time TTT faculty to one-third of part time TTT faculty. “Many universities have used more and more contingent faculty, meaning faculty who are part time, have no benefits and have no job security, to carry out their undergraduate teaching mission,” Sanders said. “At Rice, the majority of our faculty continue to be TTT, tenured and tenure track faculty.” Sanders said Rice also has a number of full-time faculty who are NTT and have served the university well for a long time and that Rice actively attempts to employ full-time NTT faculty whenever possible. She said there are organizations in higher education, like the AAUP, that have called for universities to take measures similar to those in the recommendations. “There are lots of places where you have individuals who will piece together a living,” Sanders said. “They teach at three to five institutions, they teach a gazillion courses, they get paid almost nothing, they have no benefits. That’s a terrible situation. It’s a bad situation for those people, it’s a bad situation for a university.”An NTT faculty member, who asked to be anonymous for their job protection, said one of the main concerns of NTT faculty nationwide is that their expiring contracts will not be renewed. “One effectively doesn’t have to be fired; one’s contract only need not be renewed,” the NTT faculty member said. “So that’s kind of how the employment situation works for NTTs.”The NTT faculty member said they think one of the arguments in favor of moving toward the sorts of recommendations the task force endorses is to encourage academic freedom in teaching and research. “I’m not suggesting that NTTs don’t have that, because I think that most NTTs function in their positions as if though they do have academic freedom,” the NTT faculty member said. “You’re at a university, you assume you have academic freedom. But one of the broader concerns that’s been expressed in the country by many organizations that are looking at these issues is academic freedom, in addition to the issue of employment security.”The NTT faculty member said the task force’s recommendations will not only benefit NTTs, but will benefit the campus at large, in particular students.  “If you look at countrywide trends, NTTs are an integral part of universities,” the NTT faculty member said. “I don’t see that changing, I don’t see that landscape changing. NTTs are people, basically, who have dedicated their careers to either doing teaching or research, but not both. The fact that Rice put together this task force and recommendations, a year in the making, shows that Rice is acknowledging the role that NTTs play in the overall academic experience at Rice.”Sanders said the new policies will make Rice more competitive for hiring the best NTT faculty and retaining them.“We ... wanted to ensure that we are able to hire and retain the highest quality faculty for everything we do at Rice, from our [tenured and tenure track] positions where tenure track faculty have the responsibilities for research, teaching and service, all the way through the whole range of faculty who teach full time or even part time mostly for our undergraduates,” Sanders said. “If we want to recruit and retain the best faculty, we have to have jobs that are appealing for people.”ImplementationAccording to Sanders, the task force decided to put management, planning and implementation issues in a separate document that the Faculty Senate did not vote on, but serves as a record of issues that have been raised for consideration and discussion by the administration. She said her highest priority is the full implementation of the recommendations by June 30, 2016.“We decided that we would put a lot of other things that are not really governance issues, but management and planning and implementation issues, in a separate document so that they would be there, so that they would be on the record of things that people wanted to have considered,” Sanders said. Sanders said the task force did not discuss compensation.“There are compensation questions that our committee did not address,” Sanders said. “And those are things that are going to have to be addressed down the road.”According to Sanders, issues such as whether or not NTT faculty will be eligible to become college masters and whether or not NTT faculty should have sabbaticals will be discussed during the implementation phase.“There are questions about what privileges and rights [and] entitlements different categories of employees should have,” Sanders said. “Having these principles doesn’t mean everybody should have exactly the same entitlements for their role.”At the Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 1, Senator Mike Wolf said the wording “While not required, the record of scholarship and professional activity outside the university … should be considered in the promotion and renewal process” is problematic given the definition of NTT teaching roles. “Is such activity a part of the job description or is it not?” Wolf, a professor of mathematics, said. “If it is not part of the job, it has no role in promotion and renewal. If it is part of the job, then those activities need to be included in the job description — currently centered on teaching, teaching-related activities and service — and there need to be provisions made so that all candidates have a fair and adequate opportunity to engage in those activities.”According to the Faculty Senate meeting minutes, Sanders replied by saying the task force felt it was reasonable to say that scholarship could be part of the total assessment of NTT faculty, but it was not required, and that the goal is to create a career track for NTT faculty. In an email, Sanders said the conversation with Wolf was centered on making sure that all the requirements and criteria for evaluation and promotion would be included in the job description. She said the conversation was not a definitive discussion of the issue, and the task force’s feeling that it was reasonable to say scholarship could be part of NTT faculty’s total assessment was not a position that she personally espouses. Susan McIntosh, Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum chair, said NTT faculty bring diverse expertise in teaching and research to the undergraduate student body. “The NTT initiative serves to ensure fair treatment of our valuable NTT faculty, creating career tracks in those cases where their teaching skills contribute to the undergraduate program on a long-term basis,” McIntosh said. “NTT is not a single, monolithic category and can’t really be discussed as such. NTT faculty bring a wide variety of qualities and benefits to our undergraduate curriculum.”

NEWS 11/12/14 8:01am

Rice reflects on Kennedy's famous moon speech

As part of the homecoming lecture series, Director of Rice Space Institute David Alexander reflected on Nov. 7 on how Rice is continuing the legacy of President John Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice Stadium.“[Kennedy’s speech] is one of the highlights of the hundred years of Rice,” Alexander said at the lecture, titled “Continuing the Legacy of the Kennedy Speech at Rice Stadium." “It’s still relevant in 2014, [roughly] 50 years after the speech.”According to Alexander, some of Rice’s current programs and accomplishments are a direct result of Rice’s role in the early space program.“Rice created the very first department dedicated to the space sciences,” Alexander said. “Over the course of 50 years, we’ve graduated 248 Ph.D.s. We have instruments on the moon.”The space race was primarily motivated by the prospect of beating the Soviet Union, Alexander said.“There was this competition for all the wrong reasons,” Alexander said. “It wasn’t about science, it wasn’t about technology. [It] was the drive … to prevent the Russians from claiming technological superiority.”However, the space program has been key to the United States’ technological and economic development, according to Alexander.“The biggest spin-off [of the space program] was the number of people who entered science, technology, engineering and math,” Alexander said. “The American economy became the economy of the world because of [this].”According to Alexander, the space program has motivated cooperation with other nations in a way Kennedy probably could not have predicted.“[Kennedy would] be amazed that right now the biggest piece of hardware we have in space was built by different countries [and] one of the partners is Russia,” Alexander said.Kennedy would likely be discouraged by the lack of progress since the moon landing, according to Alexander.“Kennedy said we’d get to the moon by the end of the decade, and we did,” Alexander said. “[But] he’d be very surprised … by how little we’ve done in the 45 years since.”McMurtry College senior Shane Alpert said she hopes Rice will continue the legacy of collaboration with the space program.“I think Rice should be involved with … the future of the space program,” Alpert said. “Their connection to NASA is partially why I chose to attend Rice, and it’s an important role that they should continue to hold.”Alexander said thinking about space needs to change.“We need to be thinking of space as … what it does for us on Earth,” Alexander said. “Space isn’t just a destination; it’s a resource.”

NEWS 11/12/14 8:00am

Humans, not squirrels, compose Homecoming court

Rice Homecoming broke tradition this year in choosing students as the newly crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Hanszen College senior Chris Chu and Sid Richardson College senior Morgan McNeel were crowned at the football game on Saturday.The student body nominated the Homecoming Court on Oct. 30, and the final list consisted of four male and four female students. Traditionally, nominees have been various random objects, animals or faculty members. According to the centennial timeline, Rice students first began nominating unconventionally candidates for the Homecoming Court in the 1940s. A few of the nominated individuals were masters’ spouses and children, a cat, an iguana, a car and a former Texas governor. In 2011, Saint Arnold Centenni-Ale was crowned Homecoming King, while in 2008, Hurrican Ike took the honors. More recently in 2013, Bucky and Bushy the squirrels were placed on the ballot following an active Facebook campaign. Bushy ultimately won the title of Homecoming Queen.Melissa Cespedes, Chair of the Homecoming Committee and a Homecoming Court nominee, said she has been working with students and faculty to establish Homecoming as a Rice tradition. Cespedes, a Wiess College junior, said she thinks students enjoy having a voice in nominating the Homecoming Court instead of treating the tradition humorously.“Putting the face of actual students, instead of objects or faculty, can make an impact in establishing Homecoming as a tradition at Rice,” Cespedes said. “Since students have friends actually participating in the Homecoming Court, I think the election will allow them to be more notified of what is happening around campus and will encourage more participation in the Homecoming events.”Sid Richardson Senior Michael Gwede was nominated for Homecoming Court but said he prefers the old tradition of choosing silly objects or animals.“I think that type of lightheartedness is what makes Rice a fun place to go to school,” Gwede said. “Luckily all of the nominees took a lighthearted approach to the competition, so it was still a fun experience. However, I could see this change resulting in more serious Homecoming King/Queen races in the future, which would be pretty lame in my opinion.”Brown College junior Ibrahim Akbar, who was nominated for Homecoming Court last year as well as this year, said he thinks the Homecoming Court has always been a fun tradition. “It’s a running joke for my friends — I didn’t campaign or anything but I had lovely friends who found embarrassing pictures of me and made memes that they would spread on Facebook,” Akbar said. “I grew up overseas — personally I think Homecoming Court is a funny tradition; nominating animals seems to make fun of something that other schools take too seriously.”Duncan College President and Homeocoming Queen nominee Mary Anderson said even with this year’s switch to actual student nominees, the competition was purely in the spirit of fun and nominees had a carefree attitude, which separates homecoming from other schools’.“At other universities, there [are] interviews, pageants, etc. and [are] overall extremely more stressful,” Anderson said. “I’d say that the process this year is still unconventional since we don’t take Homecoming King/Queen too seriously.”

NEWS 11/12/14 7:58am

Medical alums form support network

Rice Alumni in Medicine, a network of Rice University alumni in the medical field, officially launched with a lecture and alumni-student mixer the day before Homecoming.“RAM was formally launched this year just before homecoming but has been in the works over the past year as we [recruited] alums [for] the initial leadership body,” RAM President Freddy Nguyen said.Rice alumni in medical and health care professions had expressed a desire to give back more to the Rice community by helping Rice students interested in medicine. There was also a need for alumni to band together to support Rice’s large body of pre-health professions students, leading to the creation of RAM, according to Nguyen (Lovett ‘02). Nguyen said RAM allows Rice alumni in medicine to support Rice pre-health students by mentoring students and hosting networking events, among other activities.“Rice alums already participate in a number of programs throughout campus on an individual basis,” Nguyen said. Some of these programs include Rice Pre-Medical Society’s mock interviews for juniors preparing for interviews, as well as RPMS’s Big Owl, Little Owl program, where Rice pre-medical students learn about medical school and the medical field from medical students and physicians, according to Nguyen.“RAM will look to further strengthen those programs in working with the Rice Pre-Med Society,” Nguyen said. “This allows for easier access to these opportunities for alumni instead of reinventing the wheel each time. RAM is also looking into potential opportunities with [the] Rice 360 Institute for Global Health Technologies.”Some pre-medical students said they supported a network for alumni in medicine.“I believe RAM will be helpful because it is kind of like networking and will help the [pre-medical students] have connections even after graduating,” Tamer Ghanayem, a Duncan College sophomore, said.Other students had some ideas for how such a network could best help them.“It’ll be great if each alum gets paired with one or two students and serves as their mentor,” Wenting Li, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. “Personally, I would love to have a designated mentor who’s there to give me advice when I need it and ... it’s a more personal connection.”Nguyen said he believes a network for alumni in medicine is essential, because even though Rice alums in medicine have been involved on an individual basis, a network will allow for more alumni to support Rice pre-health students. Additionally, RAM would allow support of Rice pre-health students even after they graduate from Rice.“RAM will provide an opportunity for Rice alums in medicine to come together to network and support Rice students and alumni during not only their time at Rice, but also as they embark into their lifelong trek in medicine through medical school, residency, fellowship and profession,” Nguyen said.