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Monday, April 15, 2024 — Houston, TX


OPINION 11/4/15 5:10am

CS growing pains

Since fall 2012, student enrollment in the introductory computer science classes has more than tripled. And why shouldn’t it have? Not only is the Rice computer science department one of the top 20 in the nation, it’s also full of engaging professors dedicated to seeing their students succeed. And, as many students are aware, jobs in computing are among the fastest growing and highest paid in the nation.However, not everything about the CS department is sunshine and rainbows. Students must follow a rigid sequence of prerequisite classes their first two-and-a-half years before they can begin to take electives, making it difficult to transfer into the major late and still graduate on time with a BS, although a three-year BA track is possible. Though the number of students declaring a CS major has tripled, the number of professors and sections offered for each required class has for the most part remained the same, with the exception of Computational Thinking (COMP 140). Unfortunately, that means the size of many required CS courses has increased to the point that few classrooms can adequately hold every student enrolled in the class, forcing students to sit on steps during lectures and, in the most egregious cases, during midterms.The lack of faculty growth in the computer science department doesn’t just affect CS majors. Because CS majors fill computer science classes to the brim, incredibly useful and practical CS classes are forced to exclude non-majors. Disciplines like sociology, psychology, statistics and almost all engineering fields are becoming increasingly more dependent on people with a knowledge of computer science, yet the CS department has restricted their access to amazing courses like COMP 140 to ensure enough seats for CS majors. As a result, many students are attempting to find jobs and internships without the programming skills they need to improve their chances of being hired. The growth in undergraduate CS majors and lack of response in adjusting the faculty size has ramifications across the university and for the careers of many of Rice’s students.The solution “We should hire more faculty or instructors” is easier said than done. A plethora of trade-offs and decisions must be made by students, faculty and administration to ensure Rice is best equipped to handle the current and future growth of computer science. As a student body, we have a responsibility to ourselves, to the university and to future owls to voice our opinions. If we don’t notify the administration of the problems, they won’t be aware of them.The CS Club sponsored a Town Hall meeting in conjunction with Dr. Sarkar, Dr. Saterbak and Dr. Nakhleh on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. to talk about student concerns regarding department growth and how the CS department can best respond to those concerns.If you feel the overcrowding of computer science classes and lack of opportunities for non-majors affects you in any way, contribute your feedback! Help continue the momentum of the department by being part of the solution. Nicholas Hansen-Holtry is a Sid Richardson College seniorRaymond Cano is a Wiess College senior

OPINION 11/4/15 4:19am

R2: Powder

Editor’s Note: The phrase “taking a secret to your grave” has become colloquial to the point where we don’t stop to think about its deeper implications. While many of the pieces we received had outstandingly creative takes on that colloquial meaning, this story really stood out to us in its raw and real interpretation of what it means to take a secret to your grave — how sometimes, it is the secret itself that takes you to your grave.-Bailey Tulloch, R2 Monthly Contest Committee HeadI went to Iraq to tell a story. Two years ago, I had sat in the Big Boss’s office in New York, where he told me that if I reported on the war for  a while and gave him a stellar story, he’d give me what people in the business would kill for — the nightly news anchor chair. How long I’d be there, he didn’t know, but he assured me that the soldiers would keep my crew and me safe.The first month, seven American troops and 102 civilians died when a suicide bomber blew up a food market in the city’s center. The Big Boss loved the emotional touches in my story. The third month, the soldiers discovered two members of a suicide bomber network. The Big Boss applauded how my story showed America’s war progress. The fifth month, I overheard some troops at my base talk about how they raped the women when they burst into civilian homes. My story never ran. Eventually, I got a letter in the mail, a warning from the Big Boss to not push the line.I saw them on the outskirts of Baghdad, during the eight month. I’d been following two of the troops on a mission to kill a trainee suicide bomber, and we stopped on the road so one of them could pee. Less than half a mile away, we saw a father carrying his infant son. He was sunburned across his face, and was swaying as he walked, wheezing. After the soldier zipped up his pants, he pulled out his machine gun, firing twice. First at the father – to spare him the pain of watching his son die, he told me later that day – and next at the child.“It’s always good to eliminate any potential problems,” he explained.Those words kept cycling through my head that evening back at the base. They still do. Every time I finish reading the nightly news, I go back to my Manhattan apartment, wash off the powder, and sleep, only to have the words and the father and son creep into my dreams. Sometimes I play the tape of the story I reported that night – two American troops ended the life of a suicide bomber before he ended anyone else’s – and I press my fingernails hard against my skull, hoping for it to break. November Prompt: “Coming Home”We welcome everyone to submit a piece! Email a short story or poem up to 600 words in length to r2ricereview@gmail.com. Winners receive a $25 Coffeehouse gift card!

OPINION 11/4/15 4:18am

We cannot call Rice exceptional yet

Earlier this year, the University of Texas, Austin came under fire for what many called a racist border patrol themed frat party. Media outlets from all over the country reported on the dynamics of the party, how the university administration was responding and what students were saying. In the wake of these events I heard a lot of Rice students expressing what I can only call Rice Exceptionalism: the belief that Rice is inherently different or better than all the other universities across the country. Students said, “That would never happen at Rice,” or “Did they actually think they would get away with promoting an event like that,” or my personal favorite, “ Did no one tell them that was a bad idea?”Because I had also “taken the red pill” and believed Rice Exceptionalism, I shared these sentiments. It wasn’t until Brown’s College Night that I realized maybe we aren’t as different as we think. Titled “The Presidential Election: Trump ’16: There’s Hell Toupee (Make Brown Great Again!),” College Night included a slew of activities, movies, trivia, food, etc. However, the superlatives activity was most revealing and troubling to me. Among a page-long list of seemingly playful and harmless “most likely to” statements the one that caught my attention read, “Most likely to be a bitch ass nigga.” Originally I thought I read it wrong: There was no way that in 2015 at Rice University a group of students thought it okay to not only give this superlative to a fellow student, but to plaster it all over both elevators in the tower.Obviously it isn’t the first time I’ve heard this word while at Rice — usually I hear it when the college stacks blast rap on Friday afternoons, or when someone feels close enough to me that they can use the term endearingly. Even though its usage isn’t uncommon, I am often perplexed why people want to use a word that carries centuries of oppression. I pondered this quandary for hours before I decided to address it, ultimately hoping I wouldn’t have to do it all. That I  as one of the few active black students at Brown and former diversity facilitator, wouldn’t have to be the one to point out racial insensitivities. While I got a lot of support and apologies from my peers, I was saddened and disappointed that no one else  stood up and said anything.If we are truly to be an exceptional place, we must be cognizant of how our actions impact our peers and have the audacity to speak out against injustices. Of course the incident at Brown is drastically different from the one at UT, but both incidents are rooted in ignorance,  inconsideration and disrespect. Don’t get me wrong:  I am extremely blessed and honored to be at Rice, but I definitely believe we have a long way to go before we can honestly be exceptional.James Carter is a Brown College junior. 

OPINION 11/4/15 4:17am

The academic menagerie of knowledge

The other day I learned that a solution to Einstein’s field equations, found by the mathematician Kurt Gödel, calls for a rotating universe that (in theory) permits travel between any two points on the space-time continuum. The same day, I also learned of the Elliott Wave Principle as a method of economic analysis that can predict market trends, as well as how I will probably never fully understand what Wittgenstein meant by “The world is everything that is the case.” Funny thing is, I didn’t learn any of these things in the classroom, but from simply engaging my peers in conversation. This illustrates what I’d call cross-pollination learning. Rice students are scattered across 53 majors, 18 minors and several other interdisciplinary programs and certificates. So it’s odd we don’t normally consider the academic diversity around us. Think about it: When and where else in our lives will we be in an environment so pacaced with individuals with such heterogeneous intellectual interests, yet still united by this unadulterated thirst for knowledge and learning? I know a junior who’s read Goethe’s “Faust” and another who’s currently ploughing through Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu” — in their original German and French, respectively. A friend of mine is using organic semiconductors to build electronics on the molecular scale, while another can parse a Mahler symphony into its most basic harmonic and formal components and explain the logic behind each measure. The collective breadth and depth of people’s knowledge and capabilities here is staggering.We come to college to study under professors, but we can learn a lot from each other as well, scholastically speaking. As Nathaniel Hawthorne observed, “It contributes greatly toward a man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.” But in our day-to-day activities on campus we rarely partake in this cross-pollination learning. Even though our social lives are spent in close proximity with students from all disciplines, we generally wind up clustered together with those who take the same classes, or are in the same major and division, as ourselves. When we do meet those in disparate disciplines, through chance acquaintances or student clubs, how often do we bother to inquire deeply about what they’re learning in their favorite class, or what their research project is all about?It’s never pleasing to find out how much we really don’t know, how confined we are with our existing knowledge and skills, but that’s exactly what Socrates realized after all his philosophizing, isn’t it? It’s an experience at once profoundly humbling and tremendously conducive to the refining of our minds. No one ever complained about getting more educated. Learning a bit more about astrophysics, mathematical finance, analytic philosophy and the other fields I’ve stumbled across through my chats with other students in my five semesters here, has only imparted on me a more sincere appreciation for the diversity of human knowledge, for how far we’ve come  in comprehending the confusing, farcical, sacred, tragic, surprising and infinitely intricate world around us and its inhabitants.A function of education is obviously to acquire knowledge, but it also shows us the limitations of our knowledge and helps us press on despite those limitations. Our peers are thus a substantial resource we can harness to grasp this. So next time you meet a fellow student, try starting up a conversation about his or her intellectual passions. It will be worth your while.Henry Bair is a Baker College junior.

OPINION 11/4/15 4:16am

SB#4 task force demands proper representation

Following her proposal to implement a mandatory critical thinking and sexuality course for new students, Student Association President Jazz Silva has introduced Senate Bill #4 that creates a student task force to develop the course’s content and structure (see p. 1). Students should pay attention to the debate and outcome of this legislation, no matter where they stand on the original proposal; currently, no one knows what the course will look like, just that the composition of the task force will play a significant role in shaping it. Silva must thus ensure the task force accurately represents campus.So far, Silva has added members to the task force based only on the interest they have expressed to her in helping to develop the class. While it is important that members of the task force are invested, this selection process could lead to a group consisting exclusively of those who strongly support the project as it has already been envisioned. Silva must take care to include not only the loudest voices or only supporters. A small group of members who are self-selected or chosen by just one person could easily become an echo chamber unable to fairly judge valid criticism.The task force should include those with reservations about the proposed course. Instead of disregarding a substantial proportion of the student body – over 30 percent of the students who voted in surveys at several residential colleges – that does not support the class as proposed, the task force must work to understand and address their concerns. Whether expressed openly or not, differing sentiments present in the student body now will also be present in incoming freshmen who would be mandated to enroll in the course. The best way to create a course that will challenge students to think critically is for dissenting perspectives to have a voice throughout its creation.Silva should delegate the responsibility of appointing further members to the Senate or an impartial party. In doing so, Silva would ensure that her advocacy of her proposed class does not conflict with her duty as president to include all parts of the student body. At the very least, to uphold strong ethical standards, Silva should address her conflict of interest as both the proposer of the course and creator of the task force. The Senate should consider whether this situation necessitates a constitutional change to mitigate any future conflicts of interest for proceeding presidents who propose bills.More Senators should be appointed to the task force, as they have already gathered representative feedback from their colleges and have legitimacy as elected officials in representing their college’s voice. Concerned students have a right to be a part of the task force, but it’s important to acknowledge and address that these students are not representatives of whatever groups in which they are a part, whether that be college, ethnicity, religion, gender or otherwise.Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

OPINION 11/4/15 4:15am

One student can’t decide for every student

Over the past two weeks, the Student Association, led by President Jazz Silva, has promoted an innovative mandatory class aimed to improve Rice’s culture of sexual misconduct. Although her efforts so far have been commendable, Silva’s decision to advocate for her own plans conflicts with her responsibilities as SA President. It is the SA president’s duty to convey the opinions of the Senate and of all students, not just her own, to the faculty and administration. While I believe this course could be beneficial, the current process proposed to create it shuts out many students’ opinions.Last week, Silva and the Duncan College President Colin Shaw introduced Senate Bill 4, which would create a task force to develop a curriculum for the Critical Thinking in Sexuality course. While introducing the legislation, Silva outlined details of the course not specified in the legislation’s content that should be left for the task force to determine. When the members of the Senate vote on this legislation, they will be forced to vote on the idea of the class regardless of its content. While many students support the idea of the course, far fewer support all of the technically undecided details. SA members must consider whether the task force will actually debate issues relevant to developing the course or simply accept the solutions Silva proposes.Silva first mentioned her idea for a mandatory first-year sexual education class to the SA Senate one week before receiving feedback from students at the well-attended “It’s Up to Us” town hall. Senators made numerous suggestions to Silva that, for the most part, were not addressed and did not make it into the proposal. Silva first informed the college presidents about the details of the class only after she released them to the Thresher, giving the presidents no time to offer her their feedback. Silva has dismissed others’ views while considering the course, revealing the problems inherent to her conflict of interest. As a result, Silva should limit her influence on the course development process. Creating a task force should help create a balanced solution so long as its members explore the breadth of student opinion. Accordingly, I support the creation of a task force to construct the curriculum. In order to increase the task force’s accountability, Senate approved an amendment proposed by Brown College President Tom Carroll requiring the SA’s vote of approval on the plan the task force produces before it is presented to the Faculty Senate. A vote of approval would indicate to faculty members if students support the class before they conduct their own vote. Surprisingly, Silva informed the Senators that she interpreted this amendment to allow the Senate vote to occur after the Faculty Senate had already approved the course for the curriculum, depriving the Faculty of an opportunity to gauge student support of the curriculum change.Still, in theory, a task force should resolve this issue by ensuring its product fairly represents student opinion. The Senate often votes to select members of task forces, but according to the legislation, only the SA president can appoint members of this task force, allowing Silva deep control over the legislation’s direction and making it possible to build a task force unrepresentative of the breadth of student opinion. If the Senate is able to appoint members to the task force and vote on the proposal for a curriculum change before the faculty vote, the final course will better serve the community.The SA president has served our community admirably by taking an aggressive stance against a culture allowing sexual assault on campus, but the Senate should not treat Silva’s proposal any differently than one proposed by another student. In order to ensure that one student’s voice does not dictate a policy that will affect generations of future students, Silva should separate herself and her strong opinions from the debate, planning and implementation of the course, and she should not be responsible for appointing members to the task force. Furthermore, Silva should allow the Student Senate to vote on the proposal for curriculum change before the Faculty Senate initially votes on it, staying true to the spirit of Carroll’s amendment. For this course to succeed and for students to engage its mission, all students must be invested and on board with the plan, not just one.Jake Nyquist is a Will Rice College sophomore, SA Senator and the Thresher Photo Editor

OPINION 11/4/15 4:15am

Letter to the Editor: #ThinkAbtWar

On October 22, we in the “Dear Rice Community” received an email notifying us that an Army Apache helicopter and Stryker armored vehicle would be on campus, inviting us to admire them and take advantage of the photo op. The idea behind this event, which coincided with a Rice v. West Point football game, was presumably to celebrate the work of the military in a time of ongoing war. As an anthropologist who studies the ramifications of war violence in the lives of American soldiers, veterans, and their families, I think acknowledging that hardship and labor, and thinking carefully about what it really entails, is extremely important. And this is exactly why I was profoundly disturbed by this stunt.  Treating these deadly weapons as an opportunity to snap a selfie simultaneously erases and glorifies the violent power of war. Were we to think about what happens when metal meets flesh, we might not treat it so cavalierly. If we are going to make a space on campus for acknowledging the work of war, we must do so as part of a public conversation. And we must think carefully about the violence that is the heart of that work. A campuswide email enjoining us to celebrate a sanitized image of war’s power with a “go owls” chant shuts such conversation down.  In this instance, evidence of this horrifying power is readily available. The notorious “Collateral Murder” videos released by Wikileaks in 2010 depict a 2007 US aerial assault in Baghdad in which at least 9 innocent Iraqi civilians, including a Reuters journalist, and dozens of others were grievously injured, including two children in a van whose driver was attempting to rescue the wounded. These videos were shot from onboard the Apache helicopters from Fort Hood’s First Cavalry Division who carried out the assault.If the Apache on our campus this weekend was one of those used in the 2007 attack, would we still be happy to pose for a picture with it? And if it was not, why should we feel any different?It is a disturbing irony that at the very same moment we are voicing our grave concerns, even our disgust, at the idea of guns on our campus, we seem willing to ignore, or even celebrate, the presence of these other weapons. In the campus carry conversation here at Rice, many have noted that weapons and the aura of violence they bring are incompatible with the environment of learning we seek to create. Surely, then, before inviting military vehicles onto our campus we would want to at least consider the effect of the presence of these behemoths armed with 30 mm and .50 caliber machine guns, hellfire missiles and rocket launchers.What might the spectacle of weapons of war on our college campus signify to the members of this community whose diversity we prize? What terrible histories might this reenact? For our Egyptian or Palestinian colleagues whose universities have been specially targeted for military oppression? For members of our community involved in #blacklivesmatter, catalyzed both by the state-sanctioned killing of young black citizens and also by the militarized violence that meets their protests? For those among us whose lives are marked by the threat and use of military weapons on the Texas-Mexico border?  For those who remember all too well that mere decades ago, military weapons on American college campuses threatened and took the lives of students? Or for those who have themselves fired these weapons, who do not have the luxury of glamorizing their violent power, or who know in their aching bones what it feels like to be blown up inside a Stryker (a vehicle that might save you, but not your buddy, or might keep you alive and shattered at the same time)? We owe it to our community to think carefully about such things. And if the aim of this stunt was indeed to acknowledge the work of the military in this time of ongoing war, let us please think carefully about that too. Now, in anticipation of Veteran’s Day, we have an opportunity to do just that. Between now and November 11, learn something new about lived experiences of war in America today. Share something you know about it with other members of the Rice community. Ask your students to consider what the military weapons on our campus this weekend showed, and what they hid. Talk to your friends about what they think. Share this letter on social media. And tweet your thoughts with the tag #ThinkAbtWar. Zoë H. Wool, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Anthropology at Rice University

OPINION 10/29/15 7:51am

Will you allow legal discrimination in Houston?

Despite the fact that Houston is the fourth-largest city in America with one of the most diverse populations in the country, it remains one of the only major cities without a nondiscrimination ordinance. Our rapidly growing city does not provide its millions of citizens with comprehensive, local protections to discrimination.The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was enacted with the support of Mayor Annise Parker in 2014, then petitioned by opponents and suspended until a public vote, and now will appear on the ballot this Nov. 3 election as Proposition 1. This election is your chance to help Houston affirm and protect the rights of all its residents to live, work and raise families without fear.Houstonians experience discrimination based on many characteristics, which include sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity and pregnancy. HERO provides everyone in Houston city-level recourse in these unjust situations without forcing people who have suffered discrimination to file lengthy and expensive federal lawsuits which may not go anywhere.We see repeatedly in the news and hear from our friends and loved ones that discrimination continues to be an issue in our city. During the 232 days HERO was in effect, 58 percent of reported cases of discrimination were based on race or national origin, 17 percent were gender based, 15 percent were based on age, 4 percent were based on disability, 4 percent were based on sexual orientation or gender identity and 2 percent were based on veteran status. This information provides more evidence that Houston needs a nondiscrimination ordinance because the absence of one affects a broad range of Houstonians.Though the federal government identifies certain characteristics of humans as protected classes, such as religion, ethnicity, national origin and pregnancy, and allows people to counter discrimination based on these classes, these laws do not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, the laws protecting these classes require people to file complaints or lawsuits through expensive, lengthy, understaffed and overworked federal or state agencies to find recourse.Opponents of HERO mainly attack it based on claims that it will allow men to pretend to be transgender women and enter women’s restrooms to assault them. This claim has no basis in reality. Since 1972, the Houston city code made it illegal for anyone to knowingly and intentionally enter a restroom of the opposite sex “in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance”. HERO does not contradict this law, and in fact, does not mention bathrooms anywhere in its text. Furthermore, passing HERO and allowing people to express their gender identity via the corresponding restroom would not contradict established laws.Since HERO was proposed its opponents have insisted it will increase assaults, of transgender people in particular, using restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The data strongly contradicts this fear-mongering. Over 19 states and 180 cities and municipalities have enacted non-discrimination laws protecting gender identity, some of which have been in place for decades with  absolutely no increase in assault in bathrooms in any of these places. In fact, some reports show that 66 percent of transgender people have experienced assault, and overwhelmingly these people have been proven more in danger of being harmed by others by using bathrooms corresponding to their birth assigned sex than they are in danger of being possible threats to cisgender (non-transgender) people.Finally, it is important to note HERO will change nothing for college students, postdocs, faculty and staff. Because Rice University falls under both Title IX, Title VII, and follows Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, we are all already protected from discrimination based on the 15 classes protected by HERO. This ordinance would extend the safety we currently enjoy to the entirety of Houston.Your vote matters in this tight election. HERO has been surrounded by controversy and unfortunately poll numbers are very close. Early voting began on Oct. 19, and you can vote early at any polling location. On election day, if you live on campus you can vote in the Rice Memorial Center. If not, please check your polling location at www.harrisvotes.com . Remember, in order to vote you must bring a valid form of identification such as a Texas driver’s license, Texas state ID, Texas voter ID, passport or concealed handgun license.Help give Houston the same protections we enjoy on campus and on Tuesday, Nov. 3, support equality and vote Yes on Proposition 1.Sarah Grefe, on behalf of the Gender and Sexually Diverse Graduates & Postdocs Club Officers. 

OPINION 10/29/15 7:50am

Equality only matters because we don’t have it

Of the most populous 200 cities in the United States, Houston is the only without a non-discrimination ordinance, despite being the fourth largest. That means millions go unprotected in America’s fastest-growing economic hub. This is why the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was enacted by the City Council with the support of Mayor Annise Parker in 2014. It was reversed by the City Council and put on the ballot this August due to a Texas Supreme Court decision giving the option of full repeal or referendum. However, I see this as a chance for Houston to prove it affirms the rights and protections of its residents. HERO protects 15 characteristics of every Houstonian: sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity and pregnancy status. Each of us falls into one of those categories and knows others who do too.

OPINION 10/29/15 7:49am

HERO would directly impact all of us

On Nov. 3 Houston will decide whether it will maintain its status quo as the only city of its size without an equal rights ordinance that goes beyond the protections of federal law. I believe the passing of HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, is crucial to the economic development of Houston and the protection of Houstonians from discrimination.

OPINION 10/28/15 5:29am

Sexual assault should not be associated with NOD

This year, the release and discussion of the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences results have bled into talks that precede the yearly Night of Decadence party. As a coincidence, in the week leading up to NOD, residential colleges are simultaneously discussing sexual assault and consent in both SUSE and NOD talks.

OPINION 10/28/15 5:27am

Halloween night can be fun for everyone

One of the biggest reasons I love Rice University is its value of diversity. As Halloween approaches, what to do on one of the semester’s biggest nights dominates dinner table chatter. Since many of us come from different backgrounds and have varying ideas of fun, it is important to embrace each other and the decisions we make.

OPINION 10/28/15 5:26am

‘It’s Up To Us’ SA meeting problematic

“Rice students are apathetic.” We’ve heard this lamentable statement in a thousand different contexts, from social justice movements to Student Association elections. I disagree. I’ve seen incredibly passionate student-led dialogue and action. However, the examples that come to mind — Baker lunch restrictions, college president resignations or the changing Alcohol Policy — are immediate issues, with immediate consequences to members of the Rice campus. It’s much more difficult to incite a population of busy college students to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system than to limit a servery’s hours. Yet sexual assault is equally an immediate issue directly affecting all of us — the statistics from the Survey on Unwanted Sexual Experiences results represent real humans in our campus community. They are us, our roommates, our classmates and our peers.

OPINION 10/28/15 5:22am

The measure of measures? A critical eye toward grades

So many of us Rice students have an interesting, almost masochistic, relationship with grades. We burden ourselves immensely with them and even claim to enjoy doing so. It’s disturbing how readily our grades shape our self-esteem. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves a good grade is a statement on our value, in a moral or metaphysical sense. Good grades lead to good postgraduate schools, which lead to high-paying or world-shaking jobs. This haunting sense of having our lives dictated by a fraction of a digit constantly lingers on the edge of our consciousness. Compounding to this encumbrance is our distorted perspective of what “doing well” means. For many Rice students, “doing well” equals nothing less than an A-, perhaps due to relativism: Last semester, more than 30 percent of all students obtained a GPA greater than 3.88. That’s an absurdly high number. If many of those around you are getting A’s, then getting a B, a very good grade at almost any other school (especially considering that most Rice courses are more rigorous than their counterparts in other colleges), doesn’t seem like much of an achievement. 

OPINION 10/20/15 8:13pm

I know how you can find your soulmate

I recently came across a book called “When God Writes Your Love Story,” which I found funny mostly because it conjured the image of God as a hopeless romantic typing up people’s love stories at Brochstein Pavilion. To be fair, “How do I find my soulmate?” is an interesting question — one that I never get asked. I’m the scrawny computer science major who likes to play ping pong, Sudoku and nonograms, so I’m not surprised. But it is a shame because I have the perfect solution, one that I’ve tested personally.As my COMP 140 professor would say, there are several subproblems you have to address first. Regardless of your religiosity, prayer is a must. Write down all the things you want in a soulmate: smart, funny, attractive, not gullible, etc. Meditate on these attributes and chant, “Leeeeeebs,” under your breath 83 times with increasing tempo and with your eyes closed, obviously. If you start to see visions of a middle-aged Jewish man, you’ve gone too far. Never, ever go full Leebron. The last person to go full Leebron founded monotheism.After becoming spiritually prepared for your soulmate, you must become physically ready. To demonstrate your commitment to your future soulmate, plan on working out at the Rec every free second of your week, as unrealistic as that may sound. As you know, we Rice students blow off most of our workouts anyway, so you have to overcompensate. Also, don’t think that because you walk to all of your classes, you can skip leg day. Don’t skip leg day, ever.You will also need mental preparedness. Taylor Swift’s classic “You Belong With Me” is the perfect soulmate primer because if you really believe you are that guy or girl next door, you will be. To mold your mind even more, watch a few hours of Dean Hutch’s Gen Chem video lectures. Hutch’s godly voice will warm your heart, and his chemistry knowledge will help you and your soulmate bond over some terrible chemistry puns. Finally, read the Communist Manifesto because that’s apparently what marriage is like.If you’ve solved these subproblems correctly, there is one final step before you meet your soulmate. Before the big day, you must collect the tail of a Rice University squirrel or Donald Trump’s toupee (They’re really the same thing right?), a dozen homemade cinnamon rolls from West servery and the tears of all the freshmen who failed their first midterm. Mix these in a boiling cauldron until you have a neon green slime. It will smell like cinnamon, salt and The Donald’s bank vault. Paint your forehead with this concoction.Have a few drinks, if you haven’t already, and make your way to the nearest public party. Dance with everyone you meet because as far as you know, these will be the last moments of your single life. At half past 12, you will meet your soulmate. A slow song will come on. Take a deep breath. Turn around. Your soulmate will be the one with a neon green forehead.Kenneth Li is a Duncan College freshman.

OPINION 10/20/15 8:12pm

Let me choose my major in peace

My friend told me a while back that he encountered an “astounding ass.” He was returning a textbook at a UPS station, and the man assisting him asked him his major, to which my friend responded that he wasn’t sure yet.“Well, let me give you some advice,” UPS Man said. “Whatever you do, don’t become an English major. I mean, why would you major in a language you already speak and know?”My friend relayed this experience to me with righteous rage and frustration — probably half of which was for my benefit.I wasn’t even upset by the story. I mean, recently a Rice administrator literally said on the record, with extraordinary nonchalance, that our incoming humanities majors this year had lower test scores than STEM majors.I’ve come to expect this attitude, at this point. It’s so easy to feel the projected stereotypes — English majors aren’t good at math, English majors have it so easy in school, English majors want to publish a novel and become the next J.K. Rowling. It’s always a surprise if someone says, in response to my “confessing” that I’m an English major, “That’s really cool, I don’t think I could ever do that!”How many times have people I barely know asked me what I was going to do with an English major? How many times have people asked me why I wanted to be an English major? How many times have people asked me if I’m also pre-med or pre-law, as if that’ll somehow justify “what” I am? Why can’t I just be an English major?Every first club meeting, every casual introduction during which we detail name, college, major, I flinch when I have to follow “CHBE” or “kinesiology pre-med” with plain old “English.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction of feeling, like I have to explain myself, because apparently being an English major is intrinsically confounding. It’s not just others’ perceptions; I’ve begun to believe the prejudice myself. I won’t lie — I’ve had more than my fair share of moments of inferiority. When I hear that someone, especially a girl, is majoring in computer science or bioengineering, I feel awe and a strong pinch of jealousy. I always ask myself, “Why couldn’t I do that?”And I think this feeling of inferiority is especially prevalent at Rice, a school so obviously focused on STEM students, that every English major I meet is a treasure to behold, a rare sympathizer and genuine peer.Some people think we sit on our butts all day and ponder fictional characters uselessly, that we don’t actually do anything while other students are at lab or research or the OEDK. Yes, the STEM students are incredibly busy — I respect that. They’re brilliant and they do so much in school and the real world. But the fact that English (and really any humanities) majors have shockingly fewer class requirements does not invalidate what we do. We make sure we’re busy, and we choose what makes us busy. Trust me, we’re loaded on the extracurriculars, and our classes take time too, in a different way. Such critics should be ashamed for shaming us and what we love. What right do they have to criticize the choice we’ve made? Maybe we know something they don’t — something hidden in the (literal) hundreds of books we have to read in school, our analyses, the millions of words we’ve written.Language built this world. Who cares if we all already know it? In the Old Testament, when the people grew too arrogant and tried to build the Tower of Babel with an intent to reach the heavens, God only had to take away their ability to communicate, and they fell apart, just like that.English teaches us about people and how to understand them. It teaches us about experiences we have yet to encounter. It teaches us about the many facets of the world about which we would otherwise have no idea.So before you assume English majors had no other choice and that they are literally incapable of everything else, ask yourself if you’re able to analyze the hell out of a seven-word sentence the way we can, or turn a three-second encounter into a 16-page short story, or even begin to comprehend the world in all its layers and people and confusions. And before you take to criticism, ask yourself if you love your major as much as English majors love theirs. Very few people these days can boast they truly know their passions. In the millennial world, where instant gratification (not to mention instant moneymaking) is all the rage and ladder-climbing is considered an absolute necessity, many have lost sight of what they genuinely love. If there’s one thing I know about English majors, it’s that we all love what we’re studying.English majors aren’t the lackadaisical, last-resort people some might assume them to be. We didn’t swivel around looking for anything but this and find that we had no choice but to sigh, settle for English. And so what if being purely an English major without a pre-____ track sometimes means having to “wait and see”? There’s nothing wrong with that. People jump from job to job in their 20s anyway, sometimes later than that.I’m tired of defending my life choice to people. I’m tired of having to cite people like Mario Cuomo, Sting (ha), Diane Sawyer or Steven Spielberg. Do I really have to justify my major based on celebrities’ successes?I’m not going to make it my mission to critique your or anyone’s major because it’s not like mine. Major in whatever the heck you want. The point is, don’t shit on *insert major here* because you probably have no idea what you’re talking about. Trust that it’s nearly the same across the board for any major: If we work hard, we’ll get somewhere. Simple as that. Even if our “somewhere” is not as concrete as “I’m going to be a pediatric oncologist” or “I’m going to be a software engineer,” doesn’t mean it’s not valid. We’ll figure it out. There’s nothing wrong with giving it a little time.Julianne Wey is a Jones College sophomore and a Thresher Copy Editor.A version of this article appeared in The Odyssey.

OPINION 10/20/15 8:12pm

Sexual education should include general wellness

Student Association President Jazz Silva has created a proposal to implement a mandatory sexual education course for new students in light of the results from the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences (see p. 1). The Thresher commends Silva for positioning Rice as a leader in the national discussion on sexual assault. It is certainly true that the prevalence of sexual assault on campus demands major change, not simply a doubling down on current policies. However, Rice should use this opportunity to address other student health issues as well.As proposed by Silva, the course will help close the knowledge gap regarding sexuality for incoming students; however, it may be less useful for and thus taken less seriously by students who are already well-informed, especially given its semester-long length. Furthermore, many students may face pressing personal wellness questions not related to sexuality.Instead of mandating a course about only sexual education, the proposed course should address general well-being. This would maximize the benefit of the class to a wide range of students: Every student can gain something from a course on well-being within the realms of mental, physical or emotional health. This kind of course would serve to destigmatize conversations about not only sex and sexuality but also about topics such as depression and eating disorders that are equally concerning to college students. While it is critical to address questions relating to healthy relationships, consent and sexual assault, other health issues should also not be ignored once Orientation Week ends. A mandatory first-year course is an opportunity to effectively combat both sexual misconduct and other serious personal health problems on campus.Attendance should be mandatory to ensure students do not have gaps in their knowledge. However, for students to truly take the class seriously, it is necessary that instructors emphasize that every student’s commitment to well-being directly affects their peers’ health. It may be harmful to place a letter grade on this course, as students should be motivated not by the desire to succeed academically, but rather by the chance to contribute to and learn from a meaningful discussion with their peers. A satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade could be a better measure. The course’s grading should reflect that it is not intended to be academically rigorous.Cementing any sort of reactionary measure without considering all possible options could result in a haphazard solution. As Silva has said, her proposal is a starting point; we encourage students to remain open-minded and continue the conversation about how to create tangible ways to improve overall student wellness.Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

OPINION 10/6/15 9:33pm

Club registration must verify sustainability

Rice has too many clubs, apparently. This semester alone, Rice approved 49 new clubs, bringing the grand total to 316 (see p. 1). The more troubling matter is that, if past trends hold true, nearly half of those clubs won’t renew. Clearly, the ratifi cation process for clubs does not thoroughly verify whether they’re serving an unmet and persistent need in a sustainable manner.