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Thursday, September 28, 2023 — Houston, TX


NEWS 2/4/14 6:00pm

Survey set to evaluate academic experience

The University Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and the Student Association collaborated during the fall semester and over winter break to create a survey that evaluates current academic policies and will lead to recommending specific updates to these policies, according to Student Association External Vice President Ravi Sheth. John Cornwell, the associate vice president of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, said feedback from undergraduate students will be sought in the decision-making process. "There's an interest in each of these groups and the constituency they represent [regarding] students dropping courses after add/drop deadline and international study-abroad credit transfers," Cornwell said. "Similarly, we'd like to know more about student experiences with transferring credit from summer school. We'd like to find out the facts and the opinions of the entire undergraduate population here."According to Sheth, the CUC has discussed these issues internally with several undergraduate representatives, including college senators and SA Academics committee chairs. Some of the changes currently under consideration include the difficulty that students have with registering for their required courses due to students who drop classes after the add/drop period. Sheth also identified transfer credit issues that undergraduate students face."With regards to transfer credit, the university needs to understand barriers to receiving transfer credit and how this process can be streamlined," Sheth said. "All of these changes need to be informed by students, and that is why the survey and student response is such an important part of this process."John Haug, a Martel College freshman, said he experienced trouble with registration this semester."The most difficulty I faced was with registering for FWIS courses, because when there are a lot of people who are not getting their first or second choice, the process becomes inefficient and frustrating," Haug said. "I also only had two classes by the time registration ended, so I ended up having to struggle with add/drop, and luckily, one of my courses added spots."According to Registrar David Tenney (Sid '87), the survey is uniquely designed to be highly specific and relevant to individual students."Instead of just sending a survey that's extremely general, [these groups are] working together and providing data so that the survey will be targeted to each student individually," Tenney said. "Each student will be able to answer questions about their specific academic history, why they could or could not get a course to transfer in, and why they have dropped courses after the add deadline. It will give students the opportunity to speak specifically, and it'll give us the opportunity to understand this at a much more relevant level."Due to the specificity of the survey and the improvements that students could see, Sheth, Tenney and Cornwell encouraged student participation."I would ask students to definitely complete the survey," said Tenney. "It's a wonderful opportunity to be heard. We're all working on this to make the survey as streamlined, [user-friendly]and as relevant as possible."According to Cornwell, the survey will be sent out at the end of this week and will be conducted for approximately two weeks. After this period, the CUC will analyze the data to identify any relevant issues and consider potential solutions. Some changes may take longer than others to implement and may lead into the fall 2014 semester.

NEWS 1/27/14 6:00pm

RechargeU store charged with five health violations

The convenience store RechargeU violated five city ordinances during a routine health inspection on Jan. 15, with one employee caught opening a coffee bag with his or her teeth, according to the City of Houston website. These violations are: employees failed to wash their hands, soap was unavailable at washing stations, food was unprotected from contamination, single-use containers were used more than once and food contact surfaces had a greasy or dusty crust.RechargeU is located in the Rice Memorial Center and is operated by Barnes & Noble Inc., according to the Rice dining website. Beath Leaver, the contract administrator for Rice and Barnes & Noble operations in the students center, released a statement on behalf of the company."The behavior of the Barnes & Noble employee violated the city of Houston health code as well as Rice University standards as expressed in our contract," Leaver said. "Barnes & Noble understands this and has taken responsibility and appropriate action. We appreciate and value the contributions Barnes & Noble offers to the campus community in the student center."According to the City of Houston website, the dusty or greasy food service violation was corrected on-site. The comment under food contamination stated that an employee had opened a coffee bag using his or her teeth, and the comment for the food contact surface with a greasy or dusty crust indicated that a food thermometer was not properly sanitized. The strongest violations were that of an employee failing to wash his or her hands and the employee opening the bag with his or her teeth. The Houston Health Department weighted both violations weighted a four out of five, with five being the highest violation.According to Bureau Chief of Consumer Health Services Patrick Key, restaurants that are found to be in violation of health codes are then directed to correct the violations, and given a time period within which to comply. "[The time period] depends on the violation," Key said. "An imminent health hazard must be corrected immediately, and it often depends on the officer as to how long the restaurant owner is given. Violations [such as those of RechargeU] should be fixed right away."Duncan College freshman Cylaina Bird was unaware of the health code violations at RechargeU and said she found these violations disconcerting."I would never expect for any place on campus that sells hot food to display such a blatant disregard for the health of the student body," Bird said. "Though I cannot say whether or not I will completely stop shopping there, it will definitely make me pause before I make any food purchase at RechargeU again."Martel College freshman Jaskeerat Gulati said he frequently shops at RechargeU and has previously purchased hot food items from the store."I didn't know that this happened," Gulati said. "Now I don't think I'm going to purchase anything from there, even if it's not hot food. "[RechargeU] should publicize this, but emphasize how they are changing and making things safer for consumers. Everyone deserves to know the truth."

NEWS 1/20/14 6:00pm

Rice enhances international outreach

Since the formation of the Vision for the Second Century, Rice has prioritized internationalization efforts, according to Sonny Lim, special assistant for international collaborations in Rice University's Office of the President. "Internationalization efforts will be consistent with [the] V2C and will aim to enhance the quality of teaching, research and service on our home campus," Lim said. "In general, Rice will seek to deepen the quality of certain strategic partnerships in the next few semesters, with a focus to enhance learning abroad, research and career platforms, student and faculty opportunities, as well as our growing alumni networks here and abroad."New ProgramsAs a reflection of Rice's efforts, numerous international programs have been established in the past year, Lim said."Our innovative faculty members have recently led new study abroad programs in Cuba for art and Hispanic studies, in the United Kingdom for English language studies, and in China for cultural communication and Mandarin language programs," Lim said. "New exchange programs have been established in France, South Korea and Denmark."There are also new programs and centers on campus, Lim said."In the past academic year, we launched Brasil@Rice to strategically expand and promote academic and cultural mobility to and from Brazil, a dynamic society and rapidly developing economy," Lim said. "With this center in place, our faculty launched a dual [doctoral program] with Brazil's UNICAMP, expanded our visiting doctoral and undergraduate student programs, and awarded travel grants to faculty members who are conducting collaborative research."Brasil@Rice joins other initiatives at the university inspired by the V2C, Lim said."The V2C has also inspired and attracted the creation of the Chao Center for Asian Studies, a new Jewish studies major and a major in Latin American studies, just to name a few," Lim said. "Following up on the V2C, we have significantly deepened our ties in Latin America and Asia, two rapidly transforming and powerful regions. In particular, Rice has both built and strengthened relationships with some of the very best institutions in Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, Denmark and South Korea, among others."Chao Center photographer Arthur Cao said he believes the center is a good representation of Rice's international collaborative efforts."Every single project that I have seen at Chao Center has an international perspective to it," Cao, a Jones College sophomore, said. "Many of the projects ... are done with the cooperation of other institutes of higher education; some domestic, some foreign. I think the Chao Center is a strong and positive force in Rice's internationalization efforts."Study Abroad Ambassador Fernanda Pierre, who enrolled in La Universidad de Buenos Aires and La Universidad Catolica de Argentina as part of IFSA-Butler's Argentine Universities, said promoting international ties between students is important."Just talking from my own personal experience, I can say that I have a lot more international ties that I had before," Pierre, a Jones senior, said. "Especially living in a metropolitan area like Buenos Aires, I made friends not only from Argentina, but from Chile, Spain, Denmark and Canada. These were the kinds of friends where you could have meaningful conversations about your worldview and bounce back ideas on how the environment in your home countries comes into play in such outcomes." New WebsiteAccording to Adria Baker, the associate vice provost for international education, the international proportion of Rice's population has grown significantly since the turn of the century in accordance with the V2C."Internationalization has infiltrated everything: campus life, research, classes, curriculum," Baker said. "It's a part of the campus at this point."Lim said 11 to 12 percent of this year's enrolling undergraduate student body was made up of international students and that there is no set target proportion for international students.To help with the larger focus on internationalization and the bigger international population, a new website was recently launched at international.rice.edu, Lim said."The website was created to help current and prospective students and parents, Rice faculty and visiting scholars and staff, alumni and partners, and the general public," Lim said. "It will, for instance, present a central place for those who are searching for Rice programs or offices with key international resources and responsibilities."According to Baker, resources relating to internationalization were previously spread out across many different departments."It wasn't centralized before," Baker said. "You'd have to apply in admissions, then do something somewhere else. You'd have to go to each different department. The website doesn't repeat any information, but it's a place to link to all of the many offices."

NEWS 1/20/14 6:00pm

Faculty Senate working group to discuss Honor Council

The Faculty Senate has assembled a Working Group on the Honor Council and Graduate Students, according to an email from Speaker of the Faculty Senate Carl Caldwell and working group chair Graham Bader.According to Bader, who is an associate professor of art history, the growth of Rice's graduate student population and its diversification prompted the formation of the working group.He said the group is seeking the opinions and comments of the Rice community on the functioning of the Honor Code with regard to graduate students to guide its evaluation."The [working group] hopes to solicit feedback related to its charge and make appropriate recommendations, if any, to the Faculty Senate," Bader said. "I have no specific expectations, [but] I do hope we'll receive thoughtful and productive comments."The working group includes students and faculty from several different groups, including the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, the Office of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Student Association, Student Judicial Programs and the Graduate Student Council, according to the Faculty Senate website.According to Honor Council Chair Adriana Bracho, both undergraduate and graduate students must sign the Honor Code when they begin their Rice career. Bracho, a McMurtry College senior, serves as an undergraduate representative to the working group."We've had one meeting [so far] to introduce everyone on the working group and [decide on] asking the students and faculty about their opinion on the Honor Code," Bracho said. "I hope to bring the undergraduates' perspective, and I'm also there to clarify a lot of points about the Honor Council and the Honor Code."Graduate Student Association President Michael "Goat" Domeracki said he thinks the formation of the working group is beneficial."The Honor Code is a complex and very important element of student life here at Rice and any opportunity to evaluate it further is worth pursuing," Domeracki said. "I know our graduate student representatives to the council have done an amazing job and have raised issues in the past that need to be investigated more thoroughly."Domeracki said the difference between graduate and undergraduate students should be considered when looking at the Honor Code."The graduate experience is different than the undergraduate, and the same Honor Code rules may not apply equitably to both, and I am glad, though not surprised, to see the university working with both faculty and students to evaluate the policy closely," Domeracki said. "This is just a further example of the great relationship the students have with the university administration."Bader said the working group plans to present its findings to the Faculty Senate by mid-March.

NEWS 1/20/14 6:00pm

RPC announces return of Rondelet

Rondelet, Rice's traditional spring semiformal, will return this year after a two-year absence and will be held Saturday, March 22 at Trevisio Restaurant and Conference Center in the Texas Medical Center, according to Rice Program Council President Aisha Jeeva."We are currently in the initial stages of planning the event," Jeeva, a Martel College junior, said. "We don't have a formal budget yet, [but expect to have] 600 tickets, the capacity of the venue."Jeeva said all ticket sales are used to cover production costs for the event."We never aim to make a profit on the formals," Jeeva said. "Costs include paying for a DJ, sound equipment, EMS, RUPD, any food at the event, non-alcoholic drinks, rental fees, etc. and usually end up in the tens of thousands."The event will be held off campus because Rice does not have a location on campus which accommodate the attendance expected for this type of event, Jeeva said."The only way in which we could have the event on campus is to have it in a tent, which we cannot afford with our current budget," Jeeva said. "We have been lucky with Esperanza the past two years in that there were already tents on campus at the time of the event that we were able to utilize through campus partnerships .... As there is no campus event utilizing a tent taking place around the time of Rondelet, this is not an option for us this year."According to Jeeva, the last time Rondelet was held was in the spring of 2011, when it sold out all 600 of its tickets. She said RPC expects the event to be similarly popular this year."The reason why the event is being brought back this year has to do largely with the significant student demand for it," Jeeva said. "In the past two years that the event has not been held, we have received countless requests for it to be brought back. This student demand combined with the fact that several classes have yet to experience their first Rondelet and greatly wish to do so lead me to believe that this event will be a great success."Jeeva said Rondelet is being held later in the semester than in previous years to allow students more time to prepare."[Rondelet] was not held in ... 2012 because we had only sold [approximately] 20 tickets a week before the formal and would therefore never have been able to cover the cost of the event," Jeeva said. "There were many things that led to this situation, including lack of advertising on our part and the formal being so early in the semester that students didn't have time to find outfits, dates, make plans, etc.Jeeva said Rondelet was not held last year because RPC combined its budget for both semiformals into the Centennial Esperanza in order to ensure it lived up to the centennial experience.Jeeva said RPC will continue to improve how it runs semiformals."We've fixed a lot of the issues with our online ticketing [and] payment system from last year and are currently working on the last few kinks," Jeeva said. "We also got a lot of requests for a coat check at Esperanza this year, so we are going to see if we can implement that at Rondelet. Since we are also working from a fully functioning building, we won't have any issues with running low on things like water or bathrooms.Brown College sophomore Gabriel Wang said he is cautiously looking forward to the dance."Since it hasn't happened in a while, I don't really know what to expect," Wang said. "If it's anything like Esperanza, I'm just excited to let loose and dance with friends. I'm just glad it's actually happening because I think I remember hearing that two years ago, it was canceled relatively late."Sid Richardson College junior Karen Hong said she thinks Rondelet will fill a niche in the spring semester."I'm definitely excited for just the fact that it's happening since I don't think we get any huge events in the spring semester that are comparable to Esperanza," Hong said. "As for it being off campus, I guess my only concern would be getting there [and] back. It seems too close to drive, but not exactly a desirable distance to walk, either."

NEWS 1/13/14 6:00pm

Leebron announces commencement changes

Future Saturday morning commencement ceremonies have been shortened and will no longer include the individual naming of degree recipients. Instead, each degree-level will have a smaller ceremony the day before, at which degree recipients will be named, according to an email from President David Leebron on Jan. 10.The invited commencement speaker, full academic procession, conferral of degrees and walk through the Sallyport will remain on Saturday. The bachelor's degree ceremony will take place Friday evening in the Academic Quad and will recognize award winners and include speeches by members of the graduating class and by a faculty member, according to the email."What's been true of the Rice commencement is that it has been a wonderful tradition, but as we've grown and the length of the ceremony with it, we've lost some of the enthusiasm and joy, and that's what we need to focus on, in my view," Leebron said. "We want people to enjoy the moment a little more."Traditionally, there had been one ceremony for doctoral hooding Friday afternoon and a separate ceremony Saturday morning at which speakers present, and both undergraduates and graduates were called by name to walk across the stage. Leebron said that over the past few years, the undergraduate and graduate bodies have grown steadily, and as a result, the ceremony has lengthened as well. The weather has also been a challenge, as the heat can get intense and the rain plans involve fitting thousands of people inside Tudor Fieldhouse."I would never describe [commencement] as a disaster the way it is, but I actually think it could be a more memorable, exciting experience for students and their families," Leebron said. "Nobody really likes sitting uncomfortably for three hours. [The new ceremonies] will [also provide] opportunities for student speakers, which we didn't have before."According to Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Paula Sanders, three committees were formed to address different aspects of the changes to the commencement ceremony. A committee co-chaired by Sanders and Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson created the schedule and new ceremonies for commencement with the help of Chief Marshal Keith Cooper, who was in charge of logistics. "This committee included the presidents of the undergraduate and graduate student associations, one of the masters and a couple of additional students in leadership positions," Sanders said. A second committee headed by Hutchinson and consisting of undergraduate students is planning a new undergraduate ceremony. The third committee, chaired by Sanders and consisting of students from several different master's degree programs, is planning the new master's degree ceremony.Sid Richardson College senior Michael Lam was not a part of any committees, but will be experiencing this new commencement ceremony."It's great that they are personalizing the event for undergraduates, but the issue would be the date and time," Lam said. "Having it at night, no matter the proposed lighting conditions, can be an issue for post-graduation events like photos. Also, some family relatives may not be able to make it on time since [it's] technically on a workday with potential flight complications on Friday.""Undoubtedly, there are some risks, but we'll have to see how it works." Leebron said. "My guess is [commencement] will continue to evolve over time."Brown College Senior Shaurya Agarwal said he thinks the changes are a definite move in the right direction. "I think  the resasoning behind it is a good compromise," Agarwal said. "Obviously they have to work out a few things, but everyon'es biggest complaint [about the old ceremony] was that it was too long and too hot, and [the changes] will help solve that. It's nice that the university considered student input and what everyone didn't like about the previous ceremonies."  

NEWS 12/3/13 6:00pm

SA committee presents constitution revisions

The Student Association Committee on Constitutional Revisions presented its draft of a proposed SA constitution at the Dec. 2 Student Senate meeting. The proposal may replace the current constitution if the Senate votes to ratify it on Feb. 3, until which point it is still being amended, SA Parliamentarian Brian Baran said."[With] the previous document, we think a lot of the confusion was that procedures were outdated and not really what we were doing," Baran, who is a Thresher copy editor, said. "Each topic was covered in the constitution and bylaws in separate pages. You'd [have to] flip back and forth, and it got very confusing in terms of identifying all the procedures for what you needed to do and then applying them."The proposed draft would restructure what currently exists as two separate entities - the constitution and the bylaws - into a single document that would group information by topic and make references to other sections if necessary for clarification, Baran said."We're restructuring it to make it easier to find procedures for what you're going to do," Baran, a Duncan College junior, said. "[We're] preserving what the SA is [and] how the SA works."The most recent version of the draft is available at sa.rice.edu/constitution. Questions, concerns, comments and suggestions should be sent to bbaran@rice.edu.

NEWS 11/18/13 6:00pm

H&D aims to eliminate paper waste

Housing and Dining is currently working to create a sustainable takeout container system for use in the serveries, according to H&D Senior Business Director David McDonald."One of the things we've been grappling with for years is a defined takeout program," McDonald said. "We don't have a [policy] more defined than just a paper plate and a paper cup and some plastic utensils. We've been really struggling with this over the years to find a middle ground that works for everybody, and we haven't figured it out yet. Hopefully, we can create some dialogue among the students, which is hard to do on this campus because of the 11 distinct college governments [that come with the residential college system]."McDonald said he has been communicating with the EcoReps at each college and with the Student Association about the best way to serve the student body. He said H&D is considering letting students pay $5 in tetra points by swiping their ID card for a plastic container. Students could then return the container for a refund of their points, after which H&D would wash the containers for reuse. These containers would potentially have one large compartment and two small ones and would function as snapware.McDonald said students often consider taking their own plastic containers into the serveries for takeout meals but that this is a health code violation in Houston because the container is not washed and regulated by the servery. McDonald also said students who bring the food into their college commons on a ceramic plate and then transfer it to their own plastic container are practicing bad servery behavior that could be considered looting.McDonald said health code violations also occur if students use the same plate they previously ate off of to get second helpings. He also said eating at the station or in line is discouraged for the same reasons."If you use a dirty plate, we will ask you to drop it off and take a clean plate," McDonald said. "But we can't defend against all of these [violations]. If we see people eating at the station, we'll warn you that it's not good hygiene and that you should think of your fellow students."However, McDonald said he encourages students to use reusable water bottles to minimize waste from paper cups. He said this would not violate the health code because bottles should not touch any of the nozzles on the water dispensaries. Lovett College senior Brian Strasters said he conducted a survey to gauge the student body's interest in implementing plastic takeout containers. He said his findings concluded that most students would use these containers in order to take food back into their dorm rooms or studying areas for academic reasons and that the majority of students would be interested in to-go boxes, but would prefer that the paper plates remained in the servery.According to McDonald, if H&D implemented plastic containers, the servery would discontinue the use of paper plates altogether to minimize cost and waste. He said H&D spends approximately $100,000 each year on to-go paper products and that purchasing a reusable container for every student would cost about $15,000 and save money that the department could use to improving the food in the serveries."We're spending $35 per person on paper, which doesn't even count all the Chinaware and tumblers," McDonald said. "The idea is we want to spend money on the food, not the plates - that's kind of our motto right now. I want all of us to help each other; I can help students with the rates if they help us out, too. We're trying to figure out a more economical takeout program, and if I could get [H&D's] stuff back, that would be great."However, Section 2(c) of the Rice University Campus Housing Agreement for the 2013-14 academic year states, "Disposables are available for take out, but is not All You Care To Eat [sic]." McDonald said that although H&D recognizes that plastic containers are not the perfect fix, a more drastic change might disrupt the normal flow in the servery.According to McDonald, the issue with implementing a to-go policy arises within the residential college structure at Rice. He said it becomes difficult to control the use of plastic containers when students do not have a few centralized dining halls and one commons."We've been toying around with [the idea of plastic containers] for several years and seeing if this is something students would be interested in doing," McDonald said. "[But] we don't really have any restrictions on if you take a China plate out of the servery. At the end of the day, we realized, we have no defense against that. But we're not against the takeout either. We're just trying to find a better, more environmentally friendly way to administer [a] takeout program without paper products."Martel College freshman Ly Nguyen said she prefers using plastic containers to the paper products."I think replacing the plastic bowls and paper [plates] with these to-go containers would reduce waste tremendously and would be extremely convenient for students who wish to take their food outside of the commons," Nguyen said. "I would definitely use them."Hanszen College freshman Peter Yun said he was skeptical of the initiative."I strongly believe Rice students wouldn't really use this resource until they were presented with how and exactly why using these containers would benefit the environment," Yun said. "Also, it would have to be easily accessible to students because most students wouldn't go out of their way to get the container."McDonald said he wants H&D to work with students to find a system that is amenable to everyone."[H&D] is here to work with people, but we can't break code," McDonald said. "But at the end of the day, I'm here to talk with you. If anybody ever wants to come see me, they can come talk to me anytime. We're here to solve this [issue] together. Again, we want to spend our budget on food, not the paper."

NEWS 11/18/13 6:00pm

Three colleges look to fill masters vacancies

Currently, three colleges - Sid Richardson, Hanszen and Lovett Colleges - are searching for a new set of masters, according to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson."Each master, either a couple or individual, is appointed for a five-year term. There is a constant rotation of masters; we don't search for them all simultaneously because it is easier for us to spread it out over a five-year period," Hutchinson said. "Every year, we will be looking for at least two colleges' masters." Hutchinson said the college masters must bring a certain kind of academic presence to the residential life of the college while expressing an interest in education beyond the classroom."One of the masters at each of the colleges has to be a tenured member of the faculty, which means they are scholars and teachers," Hutchinson said. "The masters serve as teachers in students' cultural and social programming."Nick Peterson, chair of Hanszen College's masters search committee, said masters should serve as a resource for a variety of students."We ask for the power to adapt, be flexible and be open to any number of relationships," Peterson, a Hanszen junior, said. "At the same time, [masters] need to have confidence [and] the ability to step in when necessary [while letting] the students demonstrate self-governance."At the beginning of the semester, Hutchinson and President David Leebron sent out an email to all faculty members, according to Hanszen President Caroline Gutierrez. "There was a faculty reception held at the Brown College Master's House for interested faculty members to attend and learn more about the mastership," Gutierrez, a Hanszen senior, said. "After the reception, we followed up with each of the candidates, as well as some faculty members recommended by other Hanszenites to reach out and gauge interest. Applications were given to those that expressed direct interest in becoming Hanszen masters."Each college has its own masters search committee, according to Gutierrez. A committee chair was selected at the beginning of September 2013. Two weeks after the chairs were selected, the colleges formed their masters search committees.Each college's process for searching for masters is based on the timeline set by Dean Hutchinson, according to Peterson. "We laid out a few deadlines that we want things to be done by," Peterson said. "We set aside the search interview, gave time [for casual visits] and isolated a few days to catch up with the committee. The bulk of the work is being done in the six [or] seven weeks preceding Thanksgiving break. It is our job to provide as much feedback as we can on how each candidate fits our college, but it is ultimately the decision of the Dean."Sid Richardson arranges their process around two sets of interviews, Daniel Plants, a freshman on Sid Richardson's masters search committee, explained."The first round is mostly informal with [the] intent of getting to know the couples," Plants said. "The second is much more based on the logistical issues of different scenarios the master might be put into. We also invite the candidates to many Sid-related events, such as powderpuff and study breaks. This is to help the candidates and other Sidizens interact."Hutchinson said that the residential college experience serves as the heart and core to the Rice undergraduate experience."The quality of the residential college experience is deeply dependent on the effectiveness of the masters," Hutchinson said. "It also depends upon the enthusiasm and dedication of the masters to share their wisdom and knowledge with the students."Man on the Street"I really encourage the committee to search for candidates who are willing to go above and beyond to preserve [Rice's] genuine culture of care. I feel the ideal college masters should not just be approachable and receptive, but willing to reach out to students and check up on them if they sense something is wrong." - Sid Richardson College sophomore Alishan Gezgin"I'm looking for people who are easily approachable, friendly, and who are familiar with Sid's culture. They should know Sid's culture because that will at least assure they know what they are getting into concerning the parties." - Sid Richardson College sophomore Andrew Huie"I believe a large part of a master's role is being visible around the college. That way, they are able to interact closely with students and act as mentors for residential college members. We have many great master candidates for Lovett, so I'm excited to find out who our masters will be for next year." - Lovett College senior Megan Chang"We want masters who will understand that we can make our own decisions and won't intrude on our student government's decision making processes unless absolutely critical for the wellbeing of the college." - Lovett College senior Maria-Paula Munoz"We want someone with new and innovative ideas to lead the college forward, whether it be introducing new traditions, new ideas for Hanszen government, or even just fun new study breaks." - Hanszen College junior Kaitlyn Johnson"I think it's really fantastic to be able to engage in thoughtful discussions in a casual setting - dinner, study breaks, etc. - with an older faculty member with a bit more life experiences. It's what I came to Rice for - to constantly be provoked to think." - Hanszen College Denise Lee

NEWS 11/12/13 6:00pm

RPC sells out Esperanza tickets within one week

The 1,705 tickets for Esperanza 2013: "A Night of Fire and Ice" sold out in under one week, Rice Program Council President Aisha Jeeva said."[In] 24 hours, we sold half [of the tickets]," Aisha, a Martel College junior, said. "It was about the same [amount of time to sell out] as last year."Jeeva said a campuswide survey after last year's Esperanza indicated that an on-campus location was a major reason for tickets selling out."The biggest feedback was that [having it] on-campus was good," Jeeva said. "We worked really hard to bring it back on campus this year, and obviously there isn't a venue on campus that's big enough to hold [this] kind of event."According to Jeeva, RPC will strive to keep Esperanza on campus for future years."Since it seems like that's what students want, it is definitely our goal ... if it is within our means," Jeeva said. "It was very expensive. We were lucky that [a venue] was already going to be on campus for the Baker Institute events."Jeeva said logistics worked out such that costs were minimized for RPC."We worked a lot with Alumni Affairs to keep the tent up because they're using it for an event on Friday, so we're paying to keep it up for an extra day until Saturday," Jeeva said.Jeeva said that despite only paying for an extra day, RPC was not making a profit from ticket sales."We're not making money off Esperanza," Jeeva said. "We're covering our costs. We worked out our budget so that we would be able to break even. All of the tickets had to be sold [and] all of the sales are going directly to covering the costs, especially the cost of the tent."Jeeva said that although people are still looking to buy tickets, ticket scalping did not seem to be too large of an issue. "For the most part, it seems like most people are keeping their tickets," Jeeva said. "It's kind of out of our hands. We're not handling the actual reselling of the tickets." McMurtry College junior Da Yae Jeong said she wished there were more tickets available."After Centennial last year, a lot of people are interested in going," Jeong said. "Maybe [RPC] could even sell the tickets at two different times so people who are initially unsure if they want to go or not won't miss out."Sid Richardson College freshman Connie Do said that when she decided to go to Esperanza, tickets had already sold out."I either wish there were more tickets available or that the process to buy them off of people was a bit more formal," Do said. "I would really like to go."

NEWS 11/5/13 6:00pm

Rice professors discuss inspirations at Scientia

In only 30 minutes, the attendees of the Oct. 29 Scientia colloquium gained insight into the ideas that have most powerfully influenced Rice professors. Students, faculty and staff were introduced to Rice University faculty members Erin Cech, Simon Fischer-Baum, Guseka Heffes and Andrew Putman and provided with an opportunity to appreciate the world in a different manner. According to Scientia Director Susan McIntosh, Scientia is an annual lecture series founded in 1981 and aimed at showcasing Rice's talents from a variety of perspectives.Will Rice College junior Petra Constable said her favorite speaker was Cech, an assistant professor of sociology, who spoke about the importance of culture in everyday life. Cech spoke about the power we give culture and the repercussions we voluntarily face if we break culture rules."Culture is a system of symbols and meanings and practices shaped by laws and institutions that help us make sense of our daily experiences," Cech said. "We follow [the rules it dictates] because it makes social situations less demanding .... If culture is real, it is real in its consequences."Fischer-Baum, an assistant professor of psychology, said he wanted to find out how the brain works by detailing the differences between our perceptions of reality."Every individual is as individual as a snowflake," Fischer-Baum said. "We all have six points. We all are made from the same stuff, but in the end, we are unique. We are all special ..., and in order to understand how individuals differ, we need to find our similarities."Heffes, an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, said irreverence between human culture is a key component of cultural innovation. "While many people, perhaps, would find [my condition] uneasy and even distressful, it gave me the great opportunity to look at the world from a different perspective," Heffes said. "I found myself, furthermore, thriving from emergence, since this geopolitical worldview allowed me to reflect on topics that otherwise I would have taken for granted."Putman, an associate professor in mathematics, said he found his field fascinating because it was impossible to define. "Mathematics uses the notion of a proof: a sequence of logical arguments starting with some set of agreed-upon assumptions," Putman said. "But this is not always possible. In fact, there exist simple statements that resemble exercises in high school algebra which are empirically true but cannot be proven."Constable said she thought the Scientia colloquium was riveting because of its brevity. "I loved the Scientia lecture series because it provides interesting lectures on scientific ideas that I would have never thought about on my own," Constable said. "It provides a glimpse of different disciplines that I would not have normally ever interacted with."

NEWS 11/5/13 6:00pm

Private gala marks Baker Institute 20th anniversary

The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy will celebrate its 20th anniversary Nov. 8 with a private gala featuring former President George W. Bush, according to Ambassador Edward Djerejian, the institute's founding director.According to the Baker Institute website, the gala will honor Hushang Ansary with the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership, an award given to individuals who have gained international recognition for their work in government, science or philanthropy. Ansary has been active in both the private and public sectors. A native of Iran, Ansary has served in cabinet positions there, including as the minister of economy and minister of finance and economic affairs. He has also served as the ambassador to the United States. Ansary is also a founding member of the Baker Institute. The event will also celebrate the Baker Institute's contribution to policy worldwide. According to a 2012 study by the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, the Baker Institute ranks 13th among university-affiliated think tanks worldwide."At that event, we'll be recognizing all of our fellows and our scholars, as well as our student forums and student internship exchanges," Djerejian said. "The overall goal of this event is to commemorate symbolically the 20th year of an institute that has arisen really from a very small operation."Djerejian, who served as a diplomat in the United States government for 32 years, said the Baker Institute has been highlighting its research over the course of 2013 in order to commemorate the anniversary. He said the institute focuses on several areas of research, including international economics, energy, health policy, space policy and Middle East relations.According to Djerejian, the Baker Institute first opened its doors in 1994, modeling itself after some of the best think tanks in the world. However, the founders focused on making the research relevant to Houston and Rice students; energy policy was chosen to be the first topic of research because the energy industry is integral not only to public policy, but also to Houston's economy. The founders also incorporate space and health policy into the institute's research because of the proximity of NASA and the Texas Medical Center.Djerejian said Rice students are an integral part of the institute, and said he encourages them to engage in the discussions, forums and debates at the Baker Institute. According to Djerejian, the Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program offered by the institute is one of the most rewarding internships offered by Rice, allowing students to actively participate in the federal government."It's difficult to create something new in any institutional structure in academia, and it takes a lot of reaching out, listening and forming productive collaborations with faculty, students and administration," Djerejian said. "We had a very, very [difficult] challenge: What were we going to do here at Rice in Houston to become a premier think tank? Our vision was a very high one: that we would be a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action [by] bringing together scholars, statements and students."The celebration of the anniversary will continue Nov. 9 with the event Club Berlin. According to the Baker Institute Anniversary website, this event will honor James A. Baker III's contribution to the fall of the Berlin Wall, with honorary event chairs Jenna Hager Bush and Henry Hager. The event will feature a more casual dress code of "Punk-Chic: Chaos to Cocktails," and New York City-based DJ KISS. Tickets to the gala start at $1,500, and tickets to Club Berlin cost $100. Both can be purchased online.

NEWS 10/28/13 7:00pm

IT warns students about dangers of downloading

Downloading Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation or The Legend of Korra can garner a $20,000 fine, but that has not stopped Rice students from doing it. According to Information Technology Security Officer Marc Scarborough, those shows are some of the few that have recently had a large amount of downloads.Scarborough said Rice's IT department does not monitor student activity and responds solely to notices from companies directly contacting him regarding copyright infringement from downloading on the Rice Owls network."[The IT department doesn't] detect illegal activity," Scarborough said. "It's not Rice. It's [the content provider] deciding how they want to distribute material."Scarborough said he has previously received notices for illegal downloads of music, movies, games, software, and textbooks or e-books through programs including BitTorrent, uTorrent, Ares and eMonkey."It's all over the place. It seems like there are patterns of 'today it's HBO and Game of Thrones,' next week it's e-books, some days it's movies, some days it's music," Scarborough said. "There's not a consistent thing about it ... There might be three [notices] a week, or there might be 15 a week. I'd say on average, [we receive] three or four [notices] a week."Scarborough said the notices he receives contain information on the material downloaded and the time and date it was accessed, as well as the Internet Protocol address of the computer used for downloading. He said he then connects the IP address to a specific user on the network - almost always a student - and passes the case on to Student Judicial Programs.Senior Associate General Counsel Joe Davidson said Rice receives 300 to 350 copyright infringement notifications per year for illegal downloads.Due to the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, every source that acts as an Internet service provider, which includes Rice University, must have an individual who can act as the agent of service and process. Davidson acts as the contact for Rice University and thus receives the notices from companies."For music and movies, the notices come from the rights holders, while pornography copyrights are typically enforced by umbrella organizations," Davidson said. "You're seeing a lot of increased enforcement [over the past six years] because the enforcement is [no longer] done manually; it's done by Web crawlers."Davidson said there has been a large increase in the enforcement of pornography copyright laws in the last two years.He said that unlike music, television and movie copyright holders, which typically send a warning letter, pornography enforcement companies directly send a settlement letter meant for the person who downloaded the material. In such cases, the student would then have to pay the associated fines to the company and possibly seek legal counsel. "I encourage students to be very careful with their activities on the Web," Davidson said. "Copyrights can be enforced against you, and you can be liable for statutory damages, [which are] mandatory minimum fines [that may be] $20,000 per violation. It's not worth it. Go buy the copy."Charlotte Larson, a Jones College sophomore, said she was fined $100 because she had illegally downloaded music in spring 2012. As a result, her computer was placed under quarantine, which invalidates a student's Rice Owls network connection. Once she paid the fine, the quarantine was removed, but she was fined once more a month later for illegally downloading music again. Larson said she later realized a program in the "Trash" folder in her computer had been uploading music without her knowledge. "The fine had increased [since the first violation], and I didn't think it was fair," Larson said. "[I was willing] to pay $50 [of the increased fine] for the fact that it was my mistake, but at the same time, I was not actively downloading any music. [SJP] basically said that I could go through the appeal process, which could waste a lot of my time and cause my fine to actually increase."University Court Chair Evan Austin said students who dispute sanctions recommended by SJP have the right to request that their case be referred to UCourt, but such a referral requires the agreement of both the student and SJP."I've never heard of [increased sanctions for appealing a case] being a procedure, and if that's true, I would be concerned, but I've never heard of that," Austin, a Duncan College senior, said.Larson said she paid the fine in full and chose not to appeal SJP's decision. However, even after she paid the fine, her computer was still under quarantine. According to Larson, she visited the IT department at least three times a week over a period of two to three weeks before her computer was unquarantined."IT kept saying it was my computer's fault, and in the process of trying to get my Internet [access] back, they actually caused my hard drive to crash," Larson said. "One of the higher-ups in IT had failed to communicate to the person in charge of [removing the quarantine on] the computer that I was, in fact, ready to be unquarantined."According to Larson, for most of her ordeal, she received help from students at the IT Help Desk. She said she was happy with the aid she received from the students at the IT Help Desk but said she would have preferred to speak with someone higher up in the IT department much sooner than she was able to."It was extremely challenging for me to be quarantined because all of my homework assignments and notes were online. I wish that the process had happened quicker," Larson said. "I'm not trying to attack IT - what happened was a genuine mistake - but there could be some improvements in the communication within IT."Baker College sophomore Victor Prieto said the punishment for illegal downloading should reflect the circumstances surrounding it, regardless of the material."Textbooks are still intellectual property, and if you need it for a class, you should pay for it," Prieto said. "I don't think that downloading music should be penalized more than downloading textbooks, even [in] an academic context."Student Computer Consultant Wesley Fan, who an employee of the IT Help Desk, said a distinction should be made between what the Help Desk can and cannot do."The Help Desk is part of IT, but the network administrators are in charge of [the quarantine] process," Fan, a Martel College junior said. "If you have questions about what is considered illegal or legal, the IT Help Desk can answer those questions."Scarborough said students who have questions about the legality of downloading on the Rice Owls network should approach IT."Generally, my advice to people is 'if it's something you normally have to pay for, then it's something you should be wary of,' " Scarborough said. "We have one policy from IT that directly impacts students: Don't break the law. Don't infringe on anyone's copyright."

NEWS 10/28/13 7:00pm

Rice's religious communities

Faith. You think you have it in full, you have lost it again, there is little in you and you utter "amen." In my first two months at Rice, I found the most startling characteristic of the Rice student body to be its strength of faith. The sheer number of religiously and spiritually affiliated clubs speaks volumes - 23 different opportunities to seek guidance and to learn. Yet when we look closely at the way religion at Rice has both unified many and alienated some, we see there is by no means a resource for everyone.As a rather sheltered Californian, I had not known many young people my age who were particularly or very openly religious. So, when I came here, I began to observe and effectively formulate the idea of a Culture of Christianity. Out of the 23 religious organizations on campus, 21 are based on and teach from the Bible. Christianity comes in many shades; Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and Catholics can all find a niche in at least one of these clubs, if not more. These clubs are not just for religious guidance, either - many are social and support groups as well. A typical Friday night Chi Alpha meeting involves an hour of spiritual learning, after which the second half of the meeting is devoted to a frozen yogurt trip or an outing to a restaurant. After weeks of sampling churches and fellowships, students can choose a place where they have found their own. In these clubs, not only is the soul satisfied, but also friendships are fostered and relationships are refined. And as such, Christianity develops from a religion into a culture, with clubs unifying their members in a way akin to that of the residential college system.My only problem: What about the rest of us?The only two other religiously affiliated clubs on campus are based on Islam and Judaism,  respectively. There is no freedom of choice, no variety in beliefs. If a student does not like the way the club is structured, so be it. Moreover, those who do not adhere to one of the Big Three religions are offered no centralized group at all; Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs are left on their own. There are also little to no avenues for spiritual fulfillment outside of a religious context, either; agnostics and atheists could use a network as well. Everyone should have the opportunity to explore their spirituality and to be a part of the unifying culture of faith, whether they identify with a particular religion or not. College is often the first time one has the independence to develop one's beliefs, and it is necessary that students have a support group to turn to in trying times. As the student body, it is up to us to continue embracing the diversity Rice emphasizes so much. By promoting religious tolerance and mitigating ignorance, we can ensure all students have a chance to be a part of their own culture of faith. Anita Alem  is a Martel College freshman.

NEWS 10/21/13 7:00pm

Rice discontinues new National Merit awards

The National Merit Scholarship Finalists in this year's incoming class were the first to not be offered National Merit Scholarships funded by Rice University since the program's inception at Rice, according to Vice President of Enrollment Chris Munoz. The $1,000 scholarship, renewable annually, is no longer listed as a possible merit scholarship on Rice's website. Students who matriculated in previous years and received the scholarship will continue to receive it for their remaining years at Rice, according to information available on Esther."This year, there are over 100 [students] in the entering class that are National Merit Finalists," Munoz said. "We still have National Merit award students. There are three different funding sources: the first is corporations, the second is the National Merit Scholarship Foundation and the third is colleges. [Rice is] no longer providing a college one."Munoz said the discontinuation of the Rice-funded National Merit Scholarship was considered for multiple years and was ultimately carried out because the criteria for awarding the scholarship were not representative of how Rice recognized merit among its students."It's too one-dimensional," Munoz said. "Awarding a scholarship merely on the basis of how well a student scored when they took a test when they were a junior in high school isn't really who we are. When we admit a student, [it's] on the basis of holistic review, which includes their academic performance in high school, the rigor of the courses [they] took and their test scores. But there are other parts of the variables based on how the students present themselves and what other attributes they would bring to Rice. It's multidimensional."Munoz said typical incoming classes contained 80 to 100 National Merit Finalists and that many of those students received financial awards from other sources and scholarships. "That's $400,000 to $500,000 dollars over four years we would be able to reallocate," Munoz said. "[Cost] was a factor, but the biggest [factor] that drove the discontinuation was ... [that] we were using Rice dollars just to recognize students for doing well on a single test."According to Munoz, the money saved from the discontinuation would be allocated to other scholarships, both need- and merit-based."Over the last five years, Rice has increased [its] profile of students in terms of socioeconomic status," Munoz said. "Rice is known to have a significant portion [of its students] from low-economic backgrounds. These dollars can be used for need-based aid."Munoz said he believes the decision to stop offering college-sponsored National Merit Scholarships will not disadvantage Rice in comparison to its peer institutions."Not very many [of the] universities that students who apply to Rice would be considering have [college-sponsored] National Merit Scholarships," Munoz said. "We were the exception."Duncan College junior Jordan Bley said he felt the lack of a college-sponsored National Merit Scholarship at Rice would discourage applicants from choosing Rice."I feel like the presence of scholarships tends to play at least a partial role in where high-achieving students elect to pursue their undergraduate degrees," Bley said. "Many gifted students [take the PSAT, and] it's a well-established fact that top-tier schools like Rice are expensive. For many students, the scholarships they receive ultimately determine where they spend the next four years. Eliminating a scholarship could be detrimental to the ideal student for Rice."Brown College freshman John King said that while he was surprised when he learned he would not be offered a Rice-sponsored National Merit Scholarship, it did not affect his choice to attend."The money they used to give out wasn't a great enough sum to make Rice competitive with some other schools I applied to in terms of scholarship money," King said. "The other things I loved about Rice couldn't be tarnished by having to pay an extra 4 percent or so."Jones College freshman Andrew Chen said the important point was that the money went toward other scholarships."I don't think it's that big a deal since the money is just being used for other scholarships," Chen said. "Some people might complain that they deserve money for their hard work, ... but that can be said for everyone who goes to Rice."

NEWS 10/21/13 7:00pm

SA renovates website to increase transparency

The Student Association unveiled its renovated website Oct. 7, according to SA President Yoonjin Min. "We've been thinking a lot about how to be more transparent and more accessible this year, and we feel that a website, if it's done correctly, is a great resource for people," Min, a Jones College senior, said. "We didn't feel that our previous website had those capabilities."The new website, still located at sa.rice.edu, features the SA's current projects, its members and ways of getting involved, as well as event promotions and Vines. The site also provides direct ways for students to offer their opinions and concerns via an online forum. A new Gantt Project Tracker allows students to see the progress on the SA's different ventures.External Vice President Ravi Sheth said he worked extensively on renovating the site and that his goal in creating the site was to benefit the student body as much as possible."We feel that the website is now a great way to communicate and spread information to the undergraduate body," Sheth, a Martel College junior, said. "We would certainly appreciate any input to improve in that regard."The site also provides a new online petition system. According to the site, the SA will guarantee a written response from an appropriate Rice University administrator if any petition gets at least 250 student signatures.Min said the creation of the petition system was sparked partly by the response to the parking petition started by Duncan College junior Laurel Bingman earlier this year. "[The parking petition] was a really good way students were showing what they were passionate about," Min said. "However, students were sending it to their friends via Facebook, and it didn't reach as many students as it could have. Since [the SA is] a centralized group on campus, we can use our reach to involve more students [in the petition process]."Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said petitions have not been necessary in the past because students with concerns have always been able to access administrators such as himself and President David Leebron."My reaction is that this is neither good nor bad, but unnecessary," Hutchinson said. "It's not necessary to go through the difficulty of the petition process to be heard .... There are maybe more efficient ways to communicate. I don't know what would motivate the start of a petition as opposed to a normal communication process."Hutchinson said he encourages interaction from students via email and emphasized that there are many avenues for their voices. He said it may be easier for students to approach him or the SA directly with their concerns, as opposed to filling out a petition."Even if I get a petition from 250 students, my response will be 'How do other students feel about this?' because 250 students is less than 10 percent of the student body," Hutchinson said. "The SA is a centralized view of the student body, and that's why it is a more effective communication vehicle."Brown College sophomore Eric Yin said he did not know about the new SA website or the petition system. "I've never really looked for the SA website," Yin said. "There's been no reason for me to, and I never really hear about the effects of the SA in daily life. [The petition system] sounds like something that if I knew about previously, I would use."According to Min, the goal of the petition system is not to increase the number of petitions the administration receives, but to provide students with another avenue for advocacy."If a lot of students want to [advocate through] petitions, that's awesome," Min said. "And if it doesn't really take off and we only see petitions once a semester, that's fine, too. It's really about giving students the ability to say that they care about something or they find issue with something and being able to put it down and communicate it to the student body and the administration."

NEWS 10/8/13 7:00pm

Rice Wi-Fi complaints increase

In recent weeks, Rice University Information Technology has seen an increase in the number of complaints associated with the Rice Owls Wi-Fi network, according to Director of Networking, Telecommunications and Data Center Operations William Deigaard. Deigaard said IT tracks the number of complaints through a ticketing system, in which patrons who contact the IT Help Desk can open a ticket so that their case is properly managed."We have noticed a general trend toward a larger number of tickets coming in, with people saying that [they] can't get connected or [their] signal is weak," Deigaard said. "There are lots of causes that all sort of converge at the same time."The reasons for the Wi-Fi difficulties include power failures, interfering devices and old drivers on computers, according to Deigaard. However, Deigaard said the main issue was a large influx of wireless devices."Everybody's showed up with a laptop, an iPhone or an Android device, [or] a tablet of some sort," Deigaard said. "One of the big problems is the sheer number of devices competing for the shared space. Think of the wireless as a fixed-size freeway. With four cars, everybody gets all the lanes they want. [With] 500 cars on it, they're still moving, [but] it's just a lot slower, and your experience is not as good."Senior Network Architect Danny Eaton said there are several devices that connect to the same radio frequency as that of networking devices, resulting in interference."Microwave ovens, Xbox controllers, Bluetooth keyboards, wireless speakers - all of that can contribute to interference and very poor performance," Eaton said. "[With] an Xbox 360, communication from the controller to the bay station is all in the 2.4 gigahertz. So if you have an [access point] in your room, you could be causing anybody using the 2.4 gigahertz on that access point ... to have problems."Martel College senior Denis Leahy said he recently had a new access point installed outside his dorm room."I've been having poor connection, and [the Internet] has been randomly disconnecting pretty frequently," Leahy said. "I haven't had any problems since [they installed the access point]."Deigaard said IT has made several improvements by adding access points in particularly problematic areas where students reported having connectivity issues. He said IT will be able to make the most effective adjustments if students report their connectivity issues along with where and when they occur. However, Deigaard said there is a limit to the effectiveness of adding access points in easing the connectivity issues."We are always looking for ways to advance the wireless network," Deigaard said. "Just about every enhancement requires money. Every time you add additional access points, you use up some of the [radio frequencies], and sometimes there isn't enough [radio frequency] to make that work. So one thing to do is to add more wireless."Deigaard said students also have another option besides wireless: an Ethernet connection."[A patch cord] is more inconvenient, but if you want to have a very, very good connected experience, you've got to think about using it," Deigaard said. "It takes you off the wireless road and pretty much gives you your own personal HOV lane. We're not saying that's the fix, but it's not like wireless is your only choice."Users can report issues with connecting to the Internet by emailing helpdesk@rice.edu or calling the IT Help Desk at 713-348-4357.

NEWS 9/23/13 7:00pm

Duncan-based websites aid students with books, dates

One Duncan College student has gotten creative with his college's website. Matthew Schurr, the Duncan website committee head and webmaster, expanded the Duncan website last spring to include features that all students can use.Schurr, a Duncan sophomore, is the lead programmer behind the Book Exchange service and the Screw-Yer-Roommate profiles hosted on www.duncancollege.net. "We had [over] 1,300 people log in [to the site] with their NetIDs," Schurr said. "Most of [the users] are from Duncan, and we had an even split between the other colleges."Schurr said Duncan's website committtee chose to expand the site to include a book exchange because of the hassle students experience every semester when purchasing textbooks. He said that although the exchange was available to students late last year, the committee began advertising it more heavily this semester."We wanted to make it easier for people to find the books they want to buy [as well as to] sell," Schurr said. "We decided to make our own [book exchange], and it created a lot of value because people could just search and find students who they knew they could trust because they were students at Rice. It just made things a lot easier."Martel College freshman Neethi Nayak found her textbooks through the site and said the site was particularly useful because she could search for books by course rather the ISBN."I was able to purchase my textbook," Nayak said. "It was nice because there was a search engine, and [I knew] what the condition was for the book. I would definitely use the Duncan book exchange applet in the future to buy my textbooks."According to Schurr, Duncan created a separate site for Screw-Yer-Roommate profiles last year but chose to integrate the service into its main website this year. Schurr said that this year, the site has 122 profiles and approximately 7,000 total profile views. Lovett College freshman Aishwarya Thakur said she still appreciated the usefulness of the site. "Posting on the site was fun, and I certainly got a lot of people to contact me for my roommate," Thakur said.Duncan website committee member Sanjay Gadasalli said he worked on providing content for the site. According to Gadasalli, a junior, he and Schurr updated the website last year by changing the format and moving it to Amazon Cloud Drive to improve loading times.According to Schurr, the book exchange site will be available again next semester, and additional services may be added to the site."We are considering expanding the book exchange to encompass other things that students might want to buy like furniture, bikes, etc.," Schurr said. "We know there's other places that offer this, but we believe that students at Rice will be more willing to use our system because access is restricted only to people within the Rice community ..., and we now have a pretty large user-base within Rice, which means people will be more likely to find [buyers and sellers] on our system than anywhere else."Gadasalli said the website committee has been considering an expansion of the alumni section but is unsure of whether it will continue to supplement Rice Program Council events such as Screw-Yer-Roommate."We're looking to offer services to alumni and to students who want to get connected to alumni," Gadasalli said. "In terms of RPC, if we get ideas, we'd love to host them on our website." Schurr said he encouraged students to contact him with ideas for other additions to the website. He said he plans to advertise the site more as the committee continues to add more features."We want people to use it. It's a kind of network," Schurr said. "The more people who use the services, the more valuable they are. We're also planning on improving the Screw Your Roommate application a lot before next year, taking into the account the feedback we've received from the students who did use it."