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NEWS 2/25/14 2:41pm

UCourt partially invalidates elections

The Student Association Election Committee will rerun the General Elections and merge them with the previously scheduled SA Internal Vice President Elections running through Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. after the University Court found the 2014 SA General Elections partially invalid in a public hearing, according to a letter sent by University Court Chair Evan Austin on Feb. 23. 

NEWS 2/19/14 6:10am

Religion and science partnership possible

Preliminary results of a survey of over 10,000 Americans presented at an American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium on Feb. 16 indicate that Americans have mixed perceptions of the relationship between religion and science, according to study conductor Elaine Howard Ecklund.

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."