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NEWS 10/28/14 3:56pm

SA to release mandatory survey

A new, mandatory survey for all Rice University undergraduate and graduate students will be released through email by the end of this week. A hold will be placed on registration until it is completed, according to John Cornwell, the associate vice president of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.Cornwell said the purpose of the new survey is to collect much-needed information for the university in a more convenient and streamlined way. The survey will average 15 minutes or less to complete and is designed to be highly specific.“We don’t want to bother students with questions that are not relevant to them,” Cornwell said. “Questions in the survey will be divided into sections specific to various student subpopulations — first-year freshmen, transfer students, international students, athletes, etc. The survey is actually going to be a lot bigger in terms of data collected, but what the students get should be tailored to what we need to know from them. If a question doesn't apply to you, you won’t see it.”According to Cornwell, the survey is a collaboration among various administrative groups on campus and the Student Association. It will include questions on academic interests and major declaration, dropping courses after the add/drop deadline, new student transition, internship and research experiences, and extracurricular interests.“Our approach was to keep the survey fairly short — because we know that’s important — and to collect information that we really need and that will be used,” Cornwell said. “We want to know what we should be putting our energy behind in terms of what students can do here at Rice. With the survey scheduled earlier in the semester, we’ll have results out before the semester is over, so if there are issues we need to act upon we’ll be able to deal with it a lot faster.”In the long term, the survey will be conducted twice a year, and the data will be used to identify trends to improve student life and maintain standards, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. The spring semester survey will include more questions about student satisfaction with the variety of services and resources on campus.“By that time, students will have experienced more and developed more informed opinions,” Cornwell said. “The time boundary means that we can ask appropriate questions in the spring that wouldn’t make sense to ask in the fall and vice versa.”“We should be creating a culture here where students want to give feedback because they’re intrinsically motivated to help the university become a better place,” Cornwell said. “There’s a reverse obligation from the university to do something with that information. The bottom line is that with this new survey, we’re trying to be convenient, we’re trying to honor the students and we want students to expect something out of it.”Brian Baran, a Duncan College senior, said he hoped questions would be asked in a way so that legitimate conclusions could be drawn from the data produced.“The last big survey I remember was the add/drop survey, which I found quite problematic,” Baran said. “Many of the questions were biased, the data did not support the conclusions drawn by the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum, and most of the results were never made public. If the all-student survey can avoid these issues, I think it can be a positive development for the community.”Surveys attempted by the SA in the past have been limited by the lack of student response, according to SA Treasurer Joan Liu.“I think the mandatory nature of the survey is a good effort towards collecting information more representative of the entire student body,” Liu, a Jones College sophomore, said. “I’m confident that however the survey is executed will be in the best interest of the student.”

NEWS 10/27/14 2:27pm

Rice Wins ACM-ICPC Contest

A team of three Rice University students entitled Rice Gray won first place at the South Central USA regionals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest on Oct. 4. The winners are Jose Vera-Garza, a Lovett College sophomore, Philip Taffet, a Duncan College sophomore, and Nick Merritt, a Martel College junior.

NEWS 10/21/14 4:13pm

Concur system streamlines travelling

Concur, a web-based travel and expense system, launched on Oct. 20, according to Tessie Skulskih, assistant controller of disbursements in Rice University’s Controller’s Office. “Now, they start using [Concur] to process expense reports; people can use it to book travel,” Skulski said. According to the Rice Concur website, this new system centralizes two things: first, travel issues such as booking and travel reimbursement; second, expense reimbursement processing, which includes Purchasing-Card reconciliation and cash advance processing. According to Skulski, the travel planning portion, although optional, helps faculty, staff and students traveling for university business better organize their trips. In addition, Skulski said it lowers costs for the university.“The travel part of it is not a mandatory tool,” Skulski said. “But it’s a mechanism for the university to be able to book airfare, hotel [and] car rentals in order to try and capture savings for the university on those expenses.”The expense system, according to Skulski, is applicable to various kinds of reimbursement and therefore points to something bigger: it signifies a fundamental shift from paper-based to Internet-based processing systems.“[The expense product] is a mechanism...that will replace the current system that we have in Webapps,” Skulski said. “It will move us away fromhhh paper.”Skulski said another advantage of Concur is that it is more mobile and accessible to users than Webapps because it eliminates the constraints of media and geographical location. “Up until today, you had to work with paper, and you had to have a computer,” Skulski said. “If you’re away from campus, you had to have VPN access. [Concur] is an internet-based application, does not require VPN access and it works not only on computers, but [also] on your tablets and mobile phones.”As the first day of operation ended with no unforeseen challenges, Skulski said she looks forward to the enthusiasm that whole-campus roll out will elicit. “I think in all the trainings that we have done, I sensed excitement about it,” Skulski said, “At the college treasurers meeting last month, we really sensed excitement from them because they want to get out of paper business as well.”Skulski said in the coming months, the Controller’s Office will continue to help all involved parties become familiar with the system.“We’re booked through the first week of November, and we’ve got more requests for departmental trainings,” Skulski said. “We foresee that we’re going to continue doing training to make sure everybody is on board and is comfortable using the product.”Vicky Yang, a McMurtry College treasurer, said she feels positive about Concur although she hasn’t started using it.“Right now we’re supposed to keep receipts for [a long time],” Yang, a sophomore, said. “[The new system] is good because it’s convenient, and we don’t have to do extra paper organizational work because everything is online. We can clear charges [and] upload electronic receipts, which makes more sense anyway.”

NEWS 10/21/14 4:13pm

CENHS gathers opinions on environmental studies

The Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) is gathering student and faculty opinion on the possibility of a new environmental studies major, according to Dominic Boyer, director of CENHS and professor of anthropology.“We haven’t drafted a proposal or submitted anything, but the working group is meeting and doing events like [town hall meetings],” Boyer said. “We’re also reaching out to faculty and key members of the administration to try to get as many viewpoints as possible before drafting a proposal. We expect to have a proposal ready within just a few weeks.”According to Boyer, growing student interest motivated the proposal for a new environmental studies major.“The greatest motivation is that we’ve heard a lot from students who wished that there was an environmental studies degree program at Rice that worked for them in terms of their interests,” Boyer said.Although there are some programs already currently offered at Rice related to environmental studies, such as the environmental science secondary major and the energy and water sustainability minor, Boyer said the proposed environmental studies major will be more interdisciplinary in nature.“What we’re talking about is the need for a broad, cross-campus approach to environmental studies, one that’s not so much a specialized topic within one discipline, but more of an interdisciplinary field of scholarship that requires students to have some knowledge of science, engineering, humanities and social sciences, and to bring it all together,” Boyer said. “We’re thinking about giving students the opportunity to have a broader, more comprehensive introduction to environmental studies.”Boyer said there is no specific structure for the major at the moment and options are still being considered. According to Boyer, student opinion is also part of the planning for the proposal. “We don’t have a specific model that we’re trying to push, and we are looking closely at what our peer institutions are doing,” Boyer said. “We are exploring a range of options, from doing a minor to a major degree, or from a major degree with a single track to multiple tracks. This whole initiative is to try to provide a better approach to environmental studies from the point of view of the students.”Student Association Environmental Committee Co-Chair Ryan Saathoff said he would like Rice to have an environmental studies major, because it would provide more options for those who come from a social science and humanities background. “Coming here, if you’re interested in the social sciences and want to be involved in environmentalism, there’s not really a true track for you,” Saathoff, a Jones College junior, said. If you look at the current environmental science secondary major, it’s extremely engineering and natural science focused. That’s just not my cup of tea.”According to Boyer, students have voiced similar concerns about the current offerings in environmental studies.“From what I heard, especially at the end of the [town hall meeting], what we have in terms of our degree program is too specialized,” Boyer said. “We have such an abundance of courses but students feel like they’re having to put things together themselves. I think there’s a middle ground there where we can put a structured, well-rounded environmental studies learning experience.”Boyer also said there may be a need for more faculty once the new major is created, and the current offerings in environmental studies have not been maximized. “I think there is going to be a need for some increase in teaching power, but we have amazing resources that haven’t been fully tapped in some good way,” Boyer said. “We have 170 courses on the books right now that can contribute to this major or minor, and yet we don’t have them organized in a way that we’re really making full use them.”“I would say that, first thing, we should make better use of what we have, figure out where the gaps are and try to work with departments and the administration to see if we can fill in those gaps,” Boyer said.

NEWS 10/21/14 4:12pm

Senior Toast raises money for student funds

The Class of 2015 had an opportunity to participate in their Senior Gift Campaign during the Senior Toast held at the Rice Gallery and Susan and Raymond Brochstein Courtyard. The Rice Annual Fund, which covers everything tuition and endowment cannot cover, including providing scholarship aid, hosted the event.Lovett College senior Sayra Alanis said she is a recipient of financial aid, and said she likes that she can now give back. “Somebody did it for us,” Alanis said. “We should do it for future students.” Students can choose to donate specifically to undergraduate scholarships, their respective college, athletic team, organization or simply to the area of greatest financial need. Hanszen College senior Hannelle Fares acknowledged that tuition is already steep , which brings to question whether students should have to feel compelled to give more money. “Helping out the student clubs that are important to me is worth the donation,” Fares said. Other seniors seem to also enjoy the ability to give back to the groups they were involved with during their four years at Rice.  Baker College senior Rico Marquez recognized that college can be a formative time for all.“It’s nice to give back to organizations that helped make us who we are,” Marquez said.Jones College senior Vaughan Andrews also said he appreciated the option to donate to specific organizations. “My favorite experiences are because of the organizations I was involved with, so it’s nice to give back to those,” Andrews said.  “This year’s Senior Gift goals are $12,000 and 70 percent participation amongst seniors,” Erika Moul, Rice Annual Fund Assistant Director, said.Moul said this goal exceeds the Class of 2014’s gift of $10,300 and participation rate of 63 percent. Duncan College Senior Gift Representative and Rice Annual Fund intern Anastasia Bolshakov believes the event went extremely well. “I had a ton of people come up to me at Senior Toast and tell me what a wonderful event it was. I’m glad that it went so well since many senior events were cut last year, it was a great way for us to celebrate our time at Rice,” Bolshakov said. The three residential colleges with the highest participation rates from seniors receive a monetary incentive. Last year, Jones College achieved 99 percent participation, making it the highest out of the residential colleges. The respective college this year will present the Senior Gift check during halftime at the Homecoming football game on Nov. 8.  

NEWS 10/21/14 4:10pm

Rice strengthens quantum materials research focus

Rice University has launched a Center of Quantum Materials to strengthen quantum materials research. Quantum materials are substances that show unique and novel physical properties, such as high temperature superconductivity, when subjected to extreme pressures and temperature.According to Qimiao Si, director of the Center for Quantum Materials, Rice has established itself as a leader of quantum materials — the new department of materials science and nanoengineering is just one example. Si, a Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess professor of physics and astronomy, said the center started as a multidisciplinary effort to collaborate across the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and George R. Brown School of Engineering, specifically in the four departments of chemistry, physics and astronomy, materials science and nanoengineering, and electrical and computer engineering.“We would like to set up a physical and intellectual infrastructure that makes it easier for graduate students and dedicated undergraduate students to have meetings across departments,” Si said. “The work that won the Nobel Prize by Rick Smalley, Bob Curl and Harry Kroto grew out of a culture of interdisciplinary research, and the center seeks to continue that tradition.”According to electrical engineering major JJ Allred, who is currently working in Dr. Junichiro Kono’s laboratory, he realized how reputable Rice is in the field of quantum materials when he was accepted to the NanoJapan program in the summer of his freshman year. “Rice is extremely reputable in this area of research — the buckyball was discovered here, two people who were involved in the discovery of the carbon nanotube are here and [in my laboratory] they have made a new carbon nanotube terahertz detector, the first of its kind,” Allred, a Martel College junior, said. “Dr. Kono has networks all over Japan and around the world — he is always traveling to present his work at conferences.”Si said the center aims to make Rice even better known for its research in quantum materials to other institutions across the world. “We will invite distinguished lecturers to visit Rice and give talks, try to attract more postdoctoral researchers and have workshops for the students,” Si said. “We will also focus on international collaborations with institutions in Europe and Asia — we already have new enhanced partnerships with institutions in Germany, France and China.”According to Si, although the center is currently oriented towards research faculty and graduate students, it aims to engage undergraduate students as well, particularly students who are interested in research in the natural sciences or engineering. “The center hopes to create more research opportunities for Rice undergraduates on campus,” Si said. “We also believe that the center will enhance the intellectual atmosphere that will trickle down to the undergraduate population.”According to Allred, the number of undergraduate research opportunities is currently sufficient in terms of student demand in the electrical engineering department. However, Allred said it may not be enough if the number of electrical engineering majors who wish to do research increases, for example, due to the department’s focus on graduate school.“The electrical engineering department is currently pushing for more people to go to graduate school for various reasons,” Allred said. “In this case, it is good to have more undergraduate research opportunities.”According to a recent Rice News release, Rice’s Office of the Provost and the vice provost for rhesearch have funded the center and are optimistic about the center’s future. Howard R. Hughes Provost George McLendon said the center will help Rice continue to grow in quantum materials research and hopefully spur new breakthroughs and major discoveries.

NEWS 10/21/14 4:09pm

LPAP POD debates requirement

The SA Senate will continue evaluating the Lifetime Physical Activity Program requirement, especially for student athletes.According to LPAP Pod member Andy Yuwen, the Pod advised the SA Senate to create a committee to look into this issue further. “I would describe the current state of the LPAP as a requirement that attempts to fulfill an idealistic goal, and could do with some adjustments,” Yuwen, a Lovett College freshman, said.  LPAP: Past In February 2012, the Thresher reported the SA was evaluating the LPAP requirement. After discussion, the Faculty Senate changed the LPAP requirement from a two-credit requirement to only one.“In the spring of 2012, the SA worked with the Recreation Center to conduct a brief survey of the undergraduate population to determine the usefulness of the LPAP requirement,” Associate Director of Recreation Center Programs Elizabeth Slator said. “It was overwhelmingly supported, but most students wished to have the requirements changed from two classes to one. ”Slator said Rice has had a physical education program in one form or another since it was founded in 1912. Originally, LPAPs and all of the Recreation Center was under the Kinesiology Department, until 2001, when Recreation became its own department and gained control of the LPAP program. John Boles (Will Rice ’65), the William P. Hobby Professor of History and author of three books on Rice’s history, said during his time at Rice, what is now called the LPAP was a required, year-long course that introduced students to a variety of recreational activities. “The idea [was] many of them would have had no experience with some of these sports, and that hopefully, people would find one or more [activities] that they would be able to participate in the rest of their lives,” Boles said.  LPAP: FutureAccording to Slator, LPAP course offerings have evolved with the student interest, fitness trends and the availability of space.Slator said she thinks it is important to continually evaluate the effectiveness of LPAP instructors and the courses offered. However, she said she does not think it is necessary to continue a conversation about the LPAP requirement. “It has been decided repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly, by both the Faculty Senate and the Student Association that the LPAP requirement should stand,” Slator said. Slator said most individuals, especially American college students, do not participate in physical activity that provides health benefits. “Given the tremendous amount of stress that Rice students suffer from and [its] physiological and psychological ramifications, offering courses that can potentially alleviate this problem are imperative,” Slator said. LPAP Pod DiscussionAccording to Yuwen, a small, rudimentary poll revealed the majority of the student community is strongly against a mandatory LPAP requirement for athletes, but almost all supported an option for student-athletes to take LPAP courses. Yuwen said within the Pod, he was the only supporter of removing student-athletes’ LPAP requirement.Yuwen said the main arguments in support of athletes’ LPAP requirement are to preserve their fifth year of eligibility by taking their LPAP requirement in their fifth year, to connect to the community and to demonstrate a full commitment to all aspects of lifetime fitness. “Student athletes at other universities pursue Master’s degrees or leave other major requirements for their fifth year of eligibility,” Yuwen said. “Not all student athletes feel disconnected from the community. Some choose to associate themselves with the team, and an optional LPAP requirement would solve this potentially perceived problem. The final argument [is one] I found blatantly disrespectful to Rice’s student-athletes. In my opinion, every Rice student-athlete has demonstrated enough commitment to lifetime fitness to at least be considered for exemption from the LPAP requirement.”  Student Opinions According to Rice swimmer Taylor Armstrong, exercise is an important component in life, and the LPAP should be a Rice requirement. “Students forget that life consists [of things] outside of studying,” Armstrong, a Martel College junior, said. “Rice students forego their health for good grades, and taking an LPAP is a good reminder and introduction to healthier living.”However, Armstrong said she thinks the LPAP should be optional for athletes.“I know this may seem like a double standard, but we literally work out six days a week for a minimum of 2.5 hours at a time anyway,” Armstrong said. “Making [the LPAP] a requirement adds extra pressure and stress for us to fulfill graduation requirements that we don’t necessarily need.”Fifth-year senior Gabe Baker, a safety on the Rice football team, said he thinks LPAPs are an important component of the Rice experience but should not be required for athletes. “They do provide the opportunity for athletes to save the LPAP required class for their last, redshirt semester, like myself,” Baker, a resident of Brown College, said. “The only problem is the difficulty with registering and getting into an LPAP. If they gave a higher priority to students who need to fulfill their requirement, that would be better.”

NEWS 10/21/14 4:07pm

Honor Council deadline passes without response

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee requested that the University Court clarify how its investigations into Honor Council’s finances should continue after the organization failed to respond to the committee’s questions by the Oct. 20 deadline. In the last Contingency Committee meeting, the committee sent Honor Council a list of questions regarding its budget and expenditures and a request for a written statement. However, since Honor Council missed the initial deadline to submit these documents, it is unclear how the Contingency Committee should proceed with the investigations. At the latest meeting, the committee asked SA Parliamentarian Zach Birenbaum to submit a formal request to UCourt requesting a clarification on the proceedings. “I would like [for] the University Court to look into whether the SA Constitution requires the Blanket Tax Contingency Committee (BTCC) to wait for the Honor Council to submit requested written statements and evidence before moving forward with the BTCC investigation,” Birenbaum, a Hanszen College sophomore, wrote in a letter to UCourt Chair Brian Baran. Birenbaum also asked UCourt to examine whether delays in Honor Council’s response will affect how the committee is required to adhere to constitutional deadlines, and if the organization’s lack of response could negatively affect the committee’s decision. “I would like [for] the University Court to look into whether negative inferences be drawn from Honor Council’s failure to abide by these explicit constitutional guidelines which could influence the ultimate decision of the Blanket Tax Contingency Committee,” Birenbaum wrote. In a letter to Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson, SA President and Contingency Committee Chair Ravi Sheth asked for a reply to the committee’s questions and asked Honor Council to meet with the committee on Oct. 27 for its next meeting. “We certainly respect the importance and vital services that Honor Council provides to students, however, all organizations receiving student blanket tax money are subject to these same review processes,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, wrote. Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson said the organization plans to submit documentation after requesting a two-day extension. “[Honor] Council is compiling the requested items for the Contingency Committee and has already request a short two-day extension from the SA so that all documents can be properly prepared and gathered to answer the Contingency Committee’s questions,” Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, said. Contingency Committee Member Anastasia Bolshakov expressed frustration with the process. “There’s a possibility that student funds have been misused, but the investigation is not being taken seriously,” Bolshakov, a Duncan College senior, said. “If you have time to write an opinion piece for the Thresher, I think you should also have the time to reply to an email that the committee investigating you sends.” UCourt Chair Brian Baran said he expects a quick response regarding the constitutional questions raised by the Contingency Committee. “UCourt will thoroughly examine the relevant sections of the SA Constitution and provide its binding interpretation as soon as reasonably possible,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said.All information regarding the Contingency Committee, including future meeting times and locations as well as public documents, can be accessed at sa.rice.edu/btcc. 

NEWS 10/21/14 4:07pm

New Economics chair initiates revamp

A multiyear revamp of the Rice University economics department has begun under newly-hired professor and department chair Antonio Merlo, who plans to take major steps to develop Rice’s economics teaching and research.Merlo, a native of Italy, moved from the University of Pennsylvania to Rice this summer to head the economics department and the Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics (RISE). In these roles, he will lead the effort launched by President David Leebron to rework the department, which Merlo said is currently not fulfilling its potential. “[The Rice economics department is lagging] in a very basic way,” Merlo said. “The economics department at Rice for several years has not been ranked in the place that Rice University deserves. Rice University has been consistently a top-twenty institution; the economics department is not that status. I think that this is something Rice University [should] strive to have: a first-rate economics department that is on par with the quality of the institution overall. That’s why I’m here.”Merlo said Leebron’s vision for the future of economics at Rice is what attracted him to the job at the university. “The stated goal is really to make this a vibrant department that is able to attract the top researchers from around the world, where faculty are actively engaged in teaching and can give the quality of teaching the students deserve and be a vibrant intellectual community where economics thrives,” Merlo said.According to Merlo, RISE is taking several steps towards this goal, starting by hiring 10 more faculty members. Merlo said four academics from the University of Pennsylvania, including himself, and one from Johns Hopkins University have already been hired. “The fact that distinguished scholars were willing to embrace the vision and come here to Rice should already be a testament to how things are changing and evolving,” Merlo said. Merlo said the department is also working to revise the curriculum to better fit the needs of Rice’s undergraduate and graduate economics students.“The curriculum is trying to offer a broader set of classes, but also a different set of classes,” Merlo said. “So it’s not just a matter of a sheer number; it’s also how do we envision a natural progression in the fields of study so that everything makes sense.”The addition of new faculty involved in research will also enhance economics at Rice, according to Merlo.“The way I view the research enterprise is that there are individual faculty who are all interested in different areas, and once you bring them together it expands the set of questions they can address,” Merlo said. “We want faculty who can bring their research experience into the classroom.”Merlo said research experience in addition to teaching ability are important qualities the department is searching for, especially for lower-level classes.“For teaching introductory courses, a combination of people who are really invested in the teaching mission and really invested in the research mission may be the way to go,” Merlo said. “Certainly, the goal is to have a department that is recognized worldwide for their research but also their excellence in teaching.”Mathematical economic analysis major Andrew Jacobson agreed that a focus on introductory economics classes would improve the department.“The gap I see is in the lower level, especially because you have a lot of different [professors], and they all have different teaching styles, so when you get up into the upper levels, people are going to have different levels of knowledge and that’s kind of where an imbalance happens,” Jacobson, a Brown College senior, said. “My experience has been really good once [I reached] the upper-level classes.”According to Merlo, RISE is a five-year-long plan, and the department has just begun to implement changes; more specific plans are under development.“I think we’re just at the early stages, but certainly things are going very well,” Merlo said. “It’s amazing how our alumni, the board, all the friends that Rice has, how energized the whole community is and how responsive people have been to the initiative.”Merlo said he is optimistic about the initiative’s prospects.“We can do something really amazing together, starting with the students and working all the way up to the administration,” Merlo said. “I think the chemistry is there, and there are certainly some positive vibes in motion that are making people understand it is a viable initiative, which is very exciting and the potential gains are very large.”According to Merlo, a strong economics department is important due to the field’s ability to address a wide range of topics.“I was always fascinated by economics as a discipline that really allows you to answer a very diverse set of questions, but at the same time uses a common language and diverse set of tools to answer those questions,” Merlo said.Merlo taught at the University of Minnesota and New York University before beginning his latest tenure at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the course of his career, he said he has researched topics ranging from conventional economics to crime and the choice of politicians by political parties.“My view of the field of economics is a little different than the traditional view; I actually view economics as the science of choice subject to constraints,” Merlo said. “Economics is not just macroeconomics; it’s not that if you’re an economist the only conversation you can have is what’s going to happen to the interest rate.”According to Merlo, the department will incorporate this expanded view of economics as it adapts to changes in the field.“Economics is so central to everything we do in human life,” Merlo said. “It can really help a lot in almost every aspect of whatever career an individual may choose to have.”

NEWS 10/21/14 4:05pm

Women’s Resource Center hosts Consent is Sexy Week

The Rice Women’s Resource Center is celebrating its sixth annual Consent is Sexy Week with a variety of events ranging from a panel of “sexperts” answering questions your parents never did, to a Project SAFE workshop. RWRC Co-Director Kendall Post said the event, which is from Oct. 21-24, starts a conversation about consent among Rice students and fosters a positive attitude towards consensual sexual encounters.“Consent isn’t talked about very much, and I think a lack of consent is normalized to a certain extent,” Post,  a Lovett College senior, said. “We just want to start conversations, especially with [Night of Decadence] coming up, which is a party at which lack of consent is especially normalized. This is a way to reframe the way we think about consent.”Post said consent can often be forgotten at parties as people move ahead with dancing or sexual activities without verbally consenting between partners. Post said she hopes Consent is Sexy Week will strengthen the community at Rice and ensure mutual respect between partners during parties or otherwise.“NOD falls in a time in the year when everyone, especially new students, have become acclimated to Rice,” Post said. “They’re still exploring [if] they want to drink or hook up. Because sex is sort of on everyone’s mind, it’s a very opportune time to say, when you’re thinking about sex, here’s some other really important stuff to keep in mind.”For the first time, the RWRC will be providing a “Breathing Room” at NOD, which is a no re-entry party, for students to escape uncomfortable situations or take a break from the party without having to leave entirely.“The real drive behind it is that any public party can be overwhelming, and NOD can be even more overwhelming,” Post said. “We want to provide confidential, light peer support that is completely student-driven and student-run, with no adults.”

NEWS 10/21/14 12:02pm

Crisis Management Team implements ebola precautions with the Texas Medical Center

Rice University’s Crisis Management Team has been monitoring communications regarding Ebola from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of State. They sent an email to students, faculty and staff over midterm recess assuring the campus population of the precautions the university has implemented with the Texas Medical Center to protect against Ebola infection.

NEWS 10/20/14 6:46pm

Registrar starts beta testing Degree Works

Rice University’s Office of the Registrar is beta testing for a new, web-based degree audit system called Degree Works that is integrated into ESTHER, according to Registrar David Tenney (Sid Richardson ’87).

NEWS 10/20/14 6:35pm

Baker Institute fellow discusses solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In a talk entitled “Track Two Diplomacy Toward an Israeli-Palestinian Solution,” James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy fellow Yair Hirschfeld discussed his new book and shared the key lessons he has learned from his experience working in the region to establish lasting peace. The talk took place in the James A. Baker III Hall on Oct. 13.

NEWS 10/17/14 5:31am

Rice slips in THE rankings

Rice University dropped in ranking from 65th to 69th in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2014-15.Universities receive scores in five main areas: teaching (worth 30 percent), research (30 percent), citations (30 percent), industry income (2.5 percent) and international outlook (7.5 percent). Rice received an overall score of 59.8 out of 100, with sub-scores of 41.7 in teaching, 70.8 in international outlook, 34.6 in industry income, 37.1 in research and 99.9 in citations.Despite experiencing a score decrease of 2.4 in teaching and 0.6 in industry income from 2013-14, Rice improved scores in all other areas, with citations, which measures research influence, remaining at 99.9. The net score remains unchanged.Vice President for Finance Kathy Collinssaid she believes small fluctuations in ranking from year to year are to be expected, since over 400 universities around the world receive rankings. “I wouldn't describe Rice's move from 65 to 69 as falling because Rice has consistently been in the top quartile for the past few years,” Collins said. “We are still doing better than we were two years ago when we were at 75.”Collins sad 33 percent of the total score is based on The Academic Reputation survey and the Research Reputation survey.“Because we don’t know about the response rate, or who is filling [the surveys] out, we don’t know whether it is skewed to certain parts of the world,” Collins said. “I don’t think you can say that being ranked at 65 or being ranked at 69 is a statement about a change in our teaching quality or academic quality”Although Rice does not disregard the rankings, the university is more focused on teaching, research and making an impact rather than on directly improving ranking, according to Collins.“The first thing to remember is that Rice does not exist to play the ranking game,” Collins said. "We can strengthen and support our faculty and research and expand our research profile both in terms of awards and citations. That’s helpful to us and may also be helpful in the rankings.”Hanszen College senior Andrew Clark believes a fluctuation in rankings should not concern students."Rice is a great institution,” Clark said. “An arbitrary small change does not really mean a lot.”

NEWS 10/7/14 5:26pm

Village property changes management

The Rice Management Company has hired Trademark Property Company to oversee asset and property management, leasing and repositioning of the Village Arcade in Rice Village. The Village Arcade, part of the Rice University endowment, is managed by the Rice Management Company, according to company president Allison Thacker (Baker ’96). “We have not made any decisions yet on plans for the Village Arcade, but we have hired Trademark to manage the property and help us plan for the long term,” Thacker said.According to Trademark’s website, the company will improve the Village Arcade by enhancing streetscape, landscaping, storefronts and facades.“Additional Rice-owned property in the Village (approximately seven acres) is available for future mixed-use development,” the Trademark Property and Strategic vision overview stated.Rice acquired the Village Arcade from its former owner, Weingarten Realty Investors, earlier this year. The Rice Management Company said they hope to have more specific plans for the Village Arcade in 2015.

NEWS 10/7/14 5:24pm

Architecture firm examines campus spaces, solicits input

Rice University has hired New York architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi to conduct a two-stage Student Space Study. The first stage of the study will investigate student space usage across campus, according to Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby.“We are to look at how [the spaces] are used and where the deficiencies lie,” Kirby said. “We anticipate [the first stage] being done in the next few months, hopefully by the end of the calendar year, or early next year.”Kirby said the second stage of the study will focus on the Student Center and will address space usage, in addition to proposing changes and providing possible construction plans with different price points. The plans will also ensure the construction will not interfere with regular student activities. “We want to have [the results] by the end of the academic year,” Kirby said. “By May, we want to know what program we are going to have and what policy making should we change.”The administration has formed a Student Space Study Steering Committee which consists of student and administrative representatives. Student Association President and committee member Ravi Sheth said he has tasked college presidents and senators with gathering student opinions to best represent the undergraduate student body on the Steering Committee.“I have had our SA leadership assemble and analyze a wealth of survey data going back five years, with regards to student opinion around space use across campus,” Sheth, a Martel College senior, said. “This data, along with the opinions of student leaders, inform my representation to the Steering Committee.”The study includes interviewing and surveying students, touring walking spaces around campus and researching Rice Memorial Center reservation forms for how various rooms in the Student Center are currently used. “At the end of September, the architects visited campus and met with focus groups, including a panel of campus-wide organization leaders, the college presidents and college masters,” Sheth said. “Through these meetings, the collective student opinion was voiced and communicated.”Kirby said part of the funding for future construction comes from the money gained from selling KTRU’s broadcasting license in 2011. The university will fundraise further while conducting the study. “If we finish raising all the money next summer, it takes us about nine months to do the design and start construction and we can start maybe the following summer,” Kirby said. “But you almost never raise money that quickly.”McMurtry College sophomore Isabella Yang said she thinks the Student Center has good use of space but the fact that student events are divided into each residential college makes the Student Center less popular. Yang participated in a New Student Representative project about the Student Center last year.“In other universities, they have a pretty populated Student Center, since students couldn’t go elsewhere for events,” Yang said. “According to the surveys we collected from students, most want some more study areas; prices of all the stores should be lowered and it is recommended to get more study rooms there so that students can go for study[ing].”Martel College junior Nick Merritt said since the Student Center is a hub for students, the university should prioritize it when considering where to make improvements.“Coffeehouse sometimes gets too crowded,” Merritt said. “We should also improve the staircases in [the] RMC because the two stairs are very confusing.”

NEWS 10/7/14 5:20pm

SA seeks to improve CUC outreach with student representative position

The Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum influences student curricular issues ranging from the creation of new minors to the archiving of syllabi on Esther. Student Association members who are representatives of the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum are adopting a new practice this year and updating the SA after every CUC meeting, according to CUC Student Representative Nicole Moody.CUC Chair Susan McIntosh moderates the meetings. McIntosh said the CUC and the Faculty Senate, which is made up of only faculty members, often receive proposals simultaneously. Sometimes, problems are brought to the CUC by the Faculty Senate, but the CUC itself has also raised issues in the past, such as classroom size. “I ask the [Faculty Senate] senators or the executive committee to have a quick look [to see] if they have major issues right at the beginning, so that as we work on the proposal, we’re taking those into consideration,” McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Rice, said. “That certainly would be the time that we would anticipate, as the proposal comes before the CUC, and our student [representatives] are aware of it, that they would be looking to make any suggestions for modification of the proposal.”Vice President of the Administration and Registrar David Tenney (Sid Richardson ’87) said the CUC oversees proposals regarding the undergraduate curriculum, including creation of a new major or new minor and distribution, transfer and advanced placement credit. Tenney serves as a non-voting advisor to the CUC and said he was involved in the add-drop proposal, as well as the creation of the neuroscience minor and the new Center for Civic Leadership certificate. Student Association President Ravi Sheth said the SA appoints four representatives to the CUC each year who are responsible for gathering and representing undergraduate opinion, as well as sharing the activities of the CUC with the undergraduate body. “While student opinion is certainly of utmost importance with any decision that affects the undergraduate curriculum, students should understand that any change to the curriculum is ultimately a decision left to the faculty,” Sheth said. “This is reflected in the current structure of the CUC: Students are  well-represented in the process, but ultimately the final decision and authority lays with the faculty through Faculty Senate.”Moody said the CUC student representatives will give an update about the CUC after every meeting at Senate. “We’re trying to get thev word out a bit more, trying to be more open to the student body,” Moody said. “I think that’s been pretty effective.”University Court Chair Brian Baran was one of the student writers opposing the CUC’s add-drop proposal. Baran said the student representatives to the CUC are one piece of providing student input, but those students may not be able to represent every perspective in the student body without additional input. Baran said good communication depends on the SA executive committee as well."It's not just the CUC deciding when to provide information; it's also when the SA officers feel the need to bring something before the larger student body," Baran said. "There are choices both on the part of these faculty or university committees and on the part of the SA leadership that are involved in deciding when proposals come in from of the student body as a whole."According to McIntosh, the Faculty Senate recommends potential CUC members to the president, who appoints them, after which the Student Association is asked for nominations for student representatives. The CUC is further broken down into subcommittees, each of which has a student representative.CUC Student Representative Kristi Fu said she believes the CUC likes to have student input, but that the 90-minute meetings may not be long enough to achieve student input.“The meetings aren’t long enough to actually have sufficient input from everyone who wants to speak,” Fu, a Brown College senator and sophomore, said. “They have to get the agenda moving.“McIntosh said faculty members have difficulty scheduling times to meet as the CUC, which is why more frequent or longer meetings are not possible. She also said while some committees may not have faculty representatives from all academic departments, the committees try to contact all stakeholders. The committees also bring topics to the CUC as a whole, which has more representation. “We may end up hearing from engineering, for example, that their particular circumstances were not taken into consideration,” McIntosh said. “Then it’s back to the drawing board, and we work with the engineers at that point.”According to McIntosh, some issues that the CUC has addressed recently include a way to create international exchange programs for Rice students. Tenney said the CUC had also been working on a Rice Center for Engineering Leadership certificate.