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NEWS 9/11/14 10:15am

EMS presents revised legislation guaranteeing housing for in-charges

After reviewing details over the summer, the Rice University Emergency Medical Services presented a revised version of legislation guaranteeing on-campus housing for In-Charges/In-Charge Trainees at the Student Association meeting on Sept. 3.According to Baker College Senator Nitin Agrawal, he and former EMS captain Patrick McCarthy first proposed the legislation in April, but the SA rejected it over concerns that EMS IC/ICTs might not be able to get housing in their own residential colleges.“The main difference [between the new plan and the original] is the removal of the rotation system in which two IC/ICTs stay at their original college, and the other IC/ICTs from that college are assigned to the next available college,” Agrawal said. “The problem was that college student bodies didn’t want their residents to have to live at another college.”Since the SA tabled the original proposal last semester, two IC/ICTs are currently living off campus. EMS captain Mollie Ahn reiterated the need for IC/ICTs to be constantly available on campus in order to maximize EMS’s capacity to respond in an emergency.“EMS can’t reach a medical emergency from outside of Rice,” Ahn, a Brown College senior, said. “EMS response time is usually around three to five minutes, while [the Houston Fire Department] response time is around 15 minutes.”Ahn said, since the nature of IC/ICT involves a large time commitment, having fellow IC/ICTs present on campus is necessary for the delegation of duties.“For six to seven times a month, IC/ICTs have to be available 24 hours, from noon to noon,” Ahn said. “[But they also have a] functionary role; IC/ICTs usually spend around 25 to 27 hours a week maintaining equipment and EMS education classes. If we get a call, all of the available IC/ICTs may already be [involved with] another medical emergency, so we need IC/ICTs to be able to pass the job to each other.”According to Agrawal, the legislation would also serve to provide a more unified housing system for IC/ICTs, as not all of the residential colleges have had a history of housing IC/ICTs.“In the past, each residential college had their own system in dealing with IC/ICT housing,” Agrawal said. “Some colleges did not have a policy, while the policies of those that did were varied. This legislation creates a unified policy that allows everyone to be on the same page.”Agrawal said the legislation would not impact or take away others’ ability to obtain on-campus housing.“The guaranteed housing works in the same manner by which members of the college cabinet receive guaranteed housing,” Agrawal said. “Rice EMS will notify each respective college early enough so that proper accommodations can be made.”Agrawal said the SA will make its decision on implementing the legislation on Sept. 17 and that the proposal in its current form will likely receive agreement this time.“There hasn’t really been any pushback,” Agrawal said. “We will likely have the on-campus housing next school year.”To accompany the article discussing the original proposal, The Thresher wrote an editorial in support of the legislation. 

NEWS 9/4/14 4:29pm

Young Democrats host Annise Parker

City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker (Jones College, ‘78) spoke to Rice University students about her experiences in politics at a Young Democrats-sponsored event on campus Wednesday night.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:56pm

New hardware in January to help Wifi

Rice Information Technologies will perform a hardware refresh in January that will provide new security tools and improve wireless internet performance, according to Barry Ribbeck, Director of Systems, Architecture, Infrastructure, Cloud Strategies and Initiatives at Rice University.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:48pm

New Adobe licensing policy limits CS

The Adobe Creative Suite is no longer available at many computers throughout campus. Due to changes in Adobe’s licensing model, the software is now available only in classrooms in Anderson Hall, the Visual and Dramatic Arts’s Media Center, Fondren Library’s Digital Media Center, and several general use computers on Fondren’s ground floor, according to Barry Ribbeck, Director of Systems, Architecture, Infrastructure, Cloud Strategies and Initiatives at Rice University.“[Adobe] is following a pay-per-use model,” Ribbeck said. “In previous years, software was released through Adobe in what is called a perpetual license. In a perpetual license, you buy the software and you own it, and it’s yours to keep for that version."According to Ribbeck, Rice owns 25 perpetual licenses of Adobe’s CS6, originally purchased by the architecture department. Previously, Rice could use those licenses across campus, so long as there weren’t more than 25 concurrent users, as monitored by a license server. Under current license structures, the software can only be installed on specific machines for which licensing is paid on an annual basis.“We used to take the 25 perpetual license and spread them across a large group of people using a license server,” Ribbeck said. “We still keep those 25 [licenses for CS6]. Any new licenses go on this new subscription type where you pay per year.”Ribbeck said Adobe offers a site license that would allow Rice Information Technologies to maintain the Creative Suite on all computers that could access it previously, but that the cost and lack of use was prohibitive. Rice only uses site licenses for products like Microsoft Office.“The cost before was a lot less, it was just the maintenance fee for 25 licenses,” Ribbeck said. “Now, we pay $180 per seat, per year. To buy 800 seats, it would be $144,000 per year. So we’re not doing that. We don’t use enough of the product to warrant the cost.”According to Ribbeck, the remaining licenses are being used in combination with new licenses to maintain the Creative Suite’s availability at specific locations where it was used in the past.“What we’re doing right now is putting it in spots that are very strategic on campus and seeing what kind of activity we get,” Ribbeck said. “The good news is that if we find there’s this huge demand, and we have to buy more, we can deploy it very quickly, it’s just a matter of getting the funds to cover the cost.”Computers that no longer have access to the Creative Suite will now have open-source alternatives like Gimp, LibreDraw, and Scribus, Ribbeck said.Ribbeck said new licensing models have already arrived, and that Rice IT will handle changes as they come.“That’s our fear, that more and more software companies will switch over to this new licensing model, and maybe even make it only available on the web,” Ribbeck said. “Then what do we do? This is nothing unusual with software companies. Nothing unusual with IT. Our business is about change, and this is just a change in how software companies are starting to move.  This is just another change that we’re going to have to go through.”Ribbeck said any feedback from students about this change or other IT topics should go to Manager of  IT Tech Communications Carlyn Chatfield, who can be reached at carlyn@rice.edu.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:43pm

IT streamlines websites for students

In early May, Rice University Information Technologies released streamlined versions of two websites, mynetid.rice.edu and it.rice.edu, which will make finding frequently used information and tools quicker and easier, according to Manager of IT Technical Communications Carlyn Chatfield. Much of what could previously be found on the two sites has been moved to docs.rice.edu or removed completely, and obvious links to the most popular pages have been added.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:39pm

Delays plague Jones South renovations

After delays in Jones College construction, which was initially scheduled to finish before Orientation Week, Rice University Housing and Dining looks to finish basement and kitchen construction in the South section, according to H&D Associate Vice President Mark Ditman and Facilities, Engineering and Planning Manager of Communications Susann Glenn.

NEWS 9/3/14 2:34pm

Students say no to drop limit, create proposal

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

NEWS 9/3/14 2:32pm

Economics 101: Textbooks

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

NEWS 8/28/14 7:39pm

Honor Council removes undergraduates from graduate cases, violates constitution

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

NEWS 8/28/14 7:39pm

RSVP loses office in RMC

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

NEWS 8/28/14 7:37pm

Rice Apps releases Atlas, considers other ideas

The 10-member student group Rice Apps recently released their second product, Atlas, an app that allows students to search for places on Rice University’s campus and display them on Google Maps, according to founder Waseem Ahmad (Brown College ’14).Ahmad started the initiative last November while he was president of the Computer Science Club.“Rice Apps is an initiative of the Computer Science Club that was started to empower developers to improve student life through technology at Rice,” Ahmad, who currently serves as a mentor to some Rice Apps teams, said.According to the Rice Apps website, there is often room for improvement in daily college life processes, and many of these improvements can be made through software projects.“[Rice Apps] aims to provide the program and resources for students to create and improve open-source projects at Rice,” the website states. “Our goal is to produce multiple projects each year, which can be maintained and improved by future generations of Rice Apps developers.”Ahmad said Rice Apps is currently working on four apps: an unreleased dining app and a new schedule planner, as well as the already released Atlas and Owlections, a secure and convenient online platform for conducting elections at Rice.“[There’s] a dining app that provides servery menu information on the go,” Ahmad said. “The app will allow users to vote on their favorite items at each servery and be notified where and when they’re being served. Another project involves building an improved schedule planner. I’m leading and mentoring the Atlas team, [whose] mission is to provide Rice students with useful campus information such as building location, shuttle information, classes, places to eat, parking, etc.”According to Ahmad, a petition system built specifically for Rice was brought up by Student Association President Ravi Sheth.“[Sheth] thinks a petition app would make it easier for students to bring up issues within the Rice community and collect signatures for running for elections,” Ahmad said.Ahmad said other projects were considered, but with limited time and resources, it became a matter of prioritization regarding what was to be worked on.“[We] considered an application that helps you find roommates and off-campus housing, an Uber / Lyft-like mobile app that the night escort could use to pick up students in a more efficient manner and offload some of the calls RUPD receives, and a lot of other ideas,” Ahmad said. “But we had to prioritize based on the amount of impact they stand to have across the community and how much effort is required to implement minimal functionality.”According to CS Club Treasurer and Rice Apps member Xilin Liu, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson and Martel College senior Sheth recently reached out to Rice Apps to develop an undergraduate well-being app.“[Rice Apps] is pretty interested in helping with creating the app since its our first administrator-backed proposal,” Liu, a Duncan College junior, said. “[Sheth] and Dean Hutchinson and some other members created this idea, [and it’s] the first ‘customer’ request we've gotten, so we [will] try to find some people to work on it once the year starts.”According to Ahmad, although Rice had business plan competitions, there was a lack of implementation-focused initiatives, so when he heard about similar efforts like Penn Labs at the University of Pennsylvania and Application Development Initiative at Columbia University, he felt inspired to create Rice Apps.“I'm a huge believer that successful projects and companies are a product of good execution and not necessarily good ideas,” Ahmad said. “The concept behind the PageRank algorithm wasn't new when Larry and Sergey started Google and many people had thought about electric cars before Elon Musk did. Therefore, I wanted to see more people at Rice executing their ideas and putting what they learn in classes to use.”Ahmad said Rice’s computer science program provided a strong foundation, but there were few classes that encouraged students to simply explore software engineering.“I see Rice Apps fulfilling this need of a creative outlet,” Ahmad said. “Since people across the classes are part of Rice Apps, it also serves as a mentorship platform for many of the underclassmen in getting good internships and becoming better engineers.”According to Ahmad, Rice Apps is an application-based group because there was initially more interest in the group than what could be reasonably managed.“We wanted the organization to be small so everyone could move fast and minimize organizational overhead,” Ahmad said. “Since then, we have been bringing more people on board organically based on interest and projects to work on.”Liu said any Rice student is welcome to work with Rice Apps.“If you're a Rice student with an idea –– fully formed or not - that could help Rice, you can hit us up, and we can publicize it and get you connections to start it up,” Liu said.All of Rice Apps’s work is open-source and available at https://github.com/rice-apps/. Owlections can be found at http://owlection.appspot.com/, and Atlas can be found at http://atlas.riceapps.org/. More information on RiceApps can be found at http://csclub.rice.edu/riceapps.

NEWS 8/28/14 7:32pm

Survey results determine changes at RMC

Student Center staff are readying a report on the 987 responses to a survey sent out least semester asking what the Rice community disliked about the Rice Memorial Center, according to Student Center Director Kate Abad.“Already, the results of the survey have impacted what our priorities were for the summer,” Abad said. “There are obviously some longer-term goals that we’ve identified in the survey that we are unable to meet without a new building. We cannot create additional space.”Abad said although she is advocating for a new student center, there was currently no commitment on whether a new one would be built.“There is no timeline right now,” Abad said. “There is no donor identified currently. We are in a needs-assessment stage, and the plan ... is to do focus grouping this fall to see if our current space on campus is being used appropriately, if the needs that people expressed [servable by] repurposing space around campus, or do we truly need a new student center?”With the new changes, Ambassador Cafe will be moving to Willy’s Pub, with Droubi’s replacing it in the window space. Sammy’s will now be the new location of Dining at Sammy’s which features four new food options by Housing and Dining: pizza, burger, taco and servery “concepts.”In the Brown Garden, new benches and power outlets are being installed, while modern upholstery has been added throughout the RMC.Various offices have also been relocated (see map).