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Saturday, December 02, 2023 — Houston, TX


OPINION 3/10/15 7:00pm

Stress exists in the future, so be present

t was the ideal getaway: a tropical island beach, fruity drink in one hand, book in the other, reading a novel about love, revenge and cheese. The only thing missing was a foot massage from a shirtless exotic man. With each passing day of sandy pleasure, however, a latent anxiety began to creep into my consciousness. It started before bed one night, whispering fears of unsent emails and unread inboxes. Then, feeling bolder, the anxiety moved to the daytime, reminding me at the ice cream shop: Time to balance your bank account. Remember, you still have no money. At first, I brushed off these thoughts as silly intruders, but before long, they became overwhelming. I must be behind on everything, I concluded in a state of growing fear. Realizing this on my vacation, of course, only served to further my anxiety. I became hypochondrical, feeling physically unwell due to anxiety, but attributed the symptoms to an undiscovered deadly tropical disease that I had undoubtedly contracted. It was then that my exotic cheese book, The Telling Room, sent me a sign. Like me, the narrator and author, Michael Paterniti, stressed over deadlines, workloads, all-nighters and parenting (perhaps not exactly like me). In running away to Spain, he discovered a hidden town, the story of a famous cheese creator and salvation. Paterniti envied the cheese creator’s dedication to the present. He admired his vivacity and rich family history. He admired his ability to stroll, talk for eight hours straight and drink copious amounts of homemade wine. One of his observations sums up the difference between the two men: “He [the cheese creator] was webbed to the here and now, sunk into it, while I seemed to spend a great deal of time racing through airports, a processed cream-cheese bagel in hand, trying to reach the future.”Victory! I found it: my anxieties perfectly contained in a sentence about bagels and airports. Paterniti’s sentiment is the American mentality: rooted in efficiency, planning and running frantically toward an uncertain future.Here at Rice, we spend a great deal of time and money planning our futures, and not without reason. We want a fulfilling job, the money to live on our own and the security to retire peacefully. Even the day-to-day things — the homework, the problem sets, the essays, the applications — in some way connect to our future aspirations. We happily slave away in Fondren, or drink 14 cups of coffee, if it means we are setting ourselves up for success.But this mentality leaves no room for reflection or observation. Paterniti, after his first visit to the cheese creator, comes to this epiphany, standing in a field of sunflowers one early morning: “The impulse out in the sunflowers that early morning was to stay absolutely still for a moment, sucking in fresh air, immersed and drawn deep under by a powerful silence … I just allowed myself to register the feeling of existing there among the sunflowers.” I realize that, as students, most of us do not have the opportunity to travel to Spain for a sunflower revelation, however urgent the need. Still, we can access stillness and appreciation. Sometimes, deep in the passion of working, I will surface for a moment and realize I have not been aware of myself or my surroundings for hours. For an instant, everything catches me by surprise: the color of the desk, the firmness of the chair, the alabaster necklace of my neighbor.It’s so easy to get caught up in the future and anxieties about the present, and rightfully so. Students lead stressful lives, and sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to finish the work, let alone reflect. That being said, I think the case for taking a moment to be still and conscious, even if it means simply sitting on a bench for 15 minutes and watching people pass by, is dire. If we always look to the future, we will always be behind. There is no “getting ahead” when you plan for something that hasn’t happened yet. There will always be something to worry about, and although anxiety and work is a tempting concoction, it will ultimately only breed more stress. A better escape is mindfulness. The smell of grass, the emptiness of the quad on a Sunday morning and the sight of rain through steamy windows of a dorm room are all effective medications. Each moment, although not quite as healing as an island getaway or a Spanish adventure, provides the opportunity to unwind. 

OPINION 3/10/15 7:00pm

The decline of student self-governance

When I matriculated into Rice in 2011, one of the most exciting prospects of student life was one I’d heard about consistently since I visited for Owl Days — that Rice students are largely self-governing. In my last semester, it’s clear now that students have leeway to influence university regulations and policies only when it doesn’t disagree with the well-intentioned yet flawed opinions of the administration. The elimination of Cheer Battle from Orientation Week, the recent events at McMurtry College reported in the Thresher on Feb. 25 and the controversies regarding Student Judicial Programs’ harassment of students during meetings are just a few examples of how student governance has eroded during my time at Rice.O-Week has been continually touted as a primarily student-run induction of new students, headed by the coordinators selected by each college. Yet despite the existence of the Cheer Battle for about 10 years, the administration decided without consulting the new coordinators that they would no longer sanction the event.At McMurtry, the administration applied an unclear moral standard, vaguely billed as a Title IX violation, to pressure an elected student out of office. The Rice administration has made it clear that students can no longer rely simply on consistent application of explicitly written policies to govern their behavior, since other moral standards may be applied. While students can lobby against existing and clear rules, haphazard application of vague policies diminishes this possibility. This kind of double standard extends beyond the recent events at McMurtry. Despite the prevalence of graphic posters advertising the Vagina Monologues all over campus, the administration rejected Sid Richardson College’s similar desire to portray a “phallic object” on their float this year as they did last year.Finally, the lack of action regarding student concerns about SJP’s methods demonstrates that the administration is not in touch with the student body on important issues such as these. Last semester, I went to President Leebron’s office hours to express my concerns about the policy that no other person, not even a college master, is allowed in student meetings with SJP other than the accused party, given numerous complaints of student harassment (see the Thresher article “Students allege mistreatment from SJP staff”). I was told the administration would address those concerns, yet months later no visible changes have been made. Similar concerns have been expressed to Dean Hutchinson at meetings with the college presidents, and a Thresher op-ed by Lovett President Griffin Thomas last week reiterated the problem (see the Thresher article “SJP meetings should not be secret affairs”).Many of the problematic administrative judgments concern a matter of community values and ethics, including the three detailed above. The Rice community’s sense of ethics, however, should be an open discussion that involves the students. When Dean Hutchinson came to the colleges to discuss changes in the alcohol policy two years ago, he came under the pretense of fielding student questions and concerns regarding future changes, but then told students he was not there to have a discussion. Similarly, in recent conversations about the stripper at McMurtry College, he told students he was disappointed that we even had to have this conversation. In many cases where there are evident gray areas, the administration imposes their views on the student body, but such questions of community values cannot be imposed top-down.The administration’s claims that it grants students the opportunity to govern themselves and that it considers student input in their decision-making appear inconsistent with their actions in the past few years. Dean Hutchinson touts that Rice students are adults who must act reasonably, respectfully and responsibly. This relationship, however, must be reciprocal, and the administration must begin to factor in student opinion more so than it does currently.

OPINION 2/24/15 6:00pm

Stripping incident muddles purpose of Title IX

A recent incident at McMurtry College involving a stripper and the college president-elect has set into motion a debate about Title IX’s application and the sexual climate on campus (see p.1). Behind closed doors, the future college president was surprised by a stripper that a friend had hired for him and did not turn her away. According to an email sent to McMurtry on Feb. 22, multiple students filed complaints under Title IX alleging harassment after the circulation of photos and a video of the event. The president-elect announced his resignation in an email to McMurtry on Feb. 20. In the course of these events, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson has explained that students must use good judgement when engaging in potentially harmful or harassing practices. Accordingly, the administration cannot and should not outline how students should behave in specific situations, as the vague nature of policies governing student conduct allows for flexibility. However, the Thresher believes student reaction and confusion in response to this case has shown a need for more robust communication of what it means to act in good judgment. Considering the recent complex applications of Title IX, it is unreasonable to expect those involved at McMurtry to have understood how to act in good judgment in this situation. The recent federal updates to the Title IX policy have led to the release of an updated student Code of Conduct and the sexual harassment policy, but an unacceptable level of mystery still surrounds this broadly applicable standard. Title IX is an extremely important piece of legislation, and its purpose should not be misunderstood. Among other things, it has ensured the safety of survivors of sexual harassment by requiring that accommodations be made for their well-being. It has also provided scholarships for female athletes commensurate with those for male athletes. In short, it has fought against institutional structures that have prevented women from realizing their right to education. To prevent Title IX from becoming the focus of student hatred as an excuse to ban all forms of potentially sexual traditions, the administration must clearly communicate the policy’s purpose and implications. Part of Title IX’s purpose is to prevent the creation of a hostile environment that constitutes sexual harassment; some would argue that this incident constitutes such a hostile environment. According to Don Ostdiek, Associate Dean of Undergraduates and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, a hostile environment is not related to sexual expression, but results from preventing students equal access to educational opportunities. Previous events involving strippers have set a common-knowledge precedent of appropriateness for sexual entertainment. Baker College used college funds to hire a stripper to perform in their commons for Willy Week, and Hanszen College has consistently incorporated a student strip show into their Mardi Gras party. Even Baker 13 and Night of Decadence, both of which occur in highly public spaces, can be construed as stripping.  Considering Student Judicial Programs was made explicitly aware of the funding source and the activity involved in the Baker event, it was not unreasonable for the students at McMurtry to assume they could hold a similar event behind closed doors. Hutchinson has made clear that “opt-in” environments are acceptable under the policy. Considering those who attended the closed-door event were aware of the proceedings and were not forced to attend, this incidence seems to constitute an “opt-in” environment. If anybody in that room was unable to opt in or opt out, it was the president-elect himself. The administration should be sensitive to the novelty of this application of Title IX and the precedents set by other incidences of sexual entertainment when determining punishment for those involved. Title IX makes provisions for the survivors of sexual harassment; in this specific case, considering its relationship to sexual harassment, it is unclear if punishing the students involved constitutes an accommodation for the harassed. Moving forward, SJP can use this case as an example of when students did not use their good judgment, but it seems unfair to punish students from acting based on precedents of approval. Hutchinson cited a need for students to act as adults would in the real world and use their good judgment. However, in this case, students did act on their good judgment by holding the event behind closed doors and making it opt-in. The administration has the ability to set precedents for potentially sexual events, like NOD, Baker 13 and other events involving stripping through its adjudication of this incident. In order to gain students’ trust, SJP and administration must recognize student investment in this particular case and engage them in dialogue about the proceedings. What started as a private celebration of a student’s achievement has become a complicated discussion about what constitutes harassment on a college campus that is regularly home to sexually charged events. This is an important conversation to have, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that multiple individuals’ lives have been unexpectedly altered in the process. The administration and SJP should now work to ensure that students understand what good judgment and the consequences of not exercising good judgment entail. 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 2/24/15 6:00pm

Students, administration must start Title IX dialogue

The Student Association exists so that students can connect with the administration. Right now, students feel completely disjointed from the administration, and now it’s our place to bridge the gap. It’s time that we take the conversation about McMurtry College out of the private realm, off of social media and into the open. The Student Association has a duty to advocate for student needs. However, if students aren’t aware of the conversations that are occurring behind closed doors, students can never trust that they’re being advocated for. This was written after spending hours meeting with college presidents, members of administration and college masters and talking to students first hand.Due to student confidentiality, no outside party can ever truly talk about the specifics of the case. However, if you look at this situation very broadly, it can serve as a learning experience for the every single member of the community: Students, students leaders, administration and RAs and masters. One of the biggest questions being asked among students is, “How does Title IX apply to the situation at McMurtry and to our campus as a whole?” Title IX is a federal civil rights act that prohibits discrimination in educational programs. This includes, but is not limited to, discrimination based on sex or gender. If a student feels that they have been excluded from a campus-wide resource as a result of their gender, and after an investigation this appears to be true, this can be considered a violation of Title IX. The next logical question is, “What resource was being denied in the specific situation at McMurtry?” In order to answer this, we need to understand that student leaders are resources. With an open mind, honestly answer this question: “If a male public figure hypersexualized or objectified a woman, and this knowledge became known to me, would I, as a female, feel as comfortable approaching this same leader with issues regarding my own sexuality?” As reasonable observers, we can say that this answer is no. Currently the undergraduate population is arguing about what is legal and illegal, when really this situation is much more complex. As a student body, we need to be reminded of why we elect student leaders. Student leaders are elected to foster a community of acceptance, equality and safety. Furthermore, they should behave in such a way that does not contradict the values and principles that Rice University holds. However, this rationale highlights a much bigger problem. We need to know exactly what values our community holds. We should never be in a situation where, as students, we are surprised about a value or standard that the administration has. While we will never have a written list of what is wrong and what is right, it is clear that we need to be given some sort of guideline to help us. Our community is not malicious. No student on campus wants to offend someone or make them feel excluded. No student has the intent to embarrass the university or jeopardize their own academic career. We need more resources to help us avoid these situations. What is important now is not what has happened, but what are we going to do. We are not going to go on a witchhunt for the person(s) who complained. This sets a dangerous and unfair precedent for other students who want to use SJP as a resource in the future. We are not going to demonize any single party in this situation because, as humans, we know that no story is black and white. The SA is currently planning an open campus forum for the week after spring break to be attended by members of administration and students and moderated by the Student Association. This will be a place to clarify and build a common set of goals within our community in a safe environment. We can’t undo what has already happened, but we can prevent future situations by continuing the conversation.

OPINION 2/18/15 3:12pm

President-elect Jazz Silva should look to past for leadership influence

Sid Richardson College junior Jazz Silva will be the Student Association’s next president. She received more than twice the votes of both Lovett College sophomore Aishwarya and Jones College junior Sandra Blackmun in the general election to secure the position (see p.1).  Silva has promised to bring Senate meetings to the residential colleges, involve athletes in the Student Association and implement Rice Education of the Future suggestions and the new blanket tax system. However, the Thresher asks that Silva and her executive cabinet also look to the successes and failures of the current SA administration in order to inform her presidency moving forward. Current SA President Ravi Sheth became leader of the SA with plans to “fix it.” Although his initial platform appeared vague and overly ambitious, Sheth generated tangible results under his administration, including the creation of Rice Education of the Future, blanket tax reformation and the pods system.  However, Sheth did not make a strong enough effort to reach out to the residential colleges and maintain an approachable public presence. On topics concerning students such as the add/drop policy and Cheer Battle, Sheth’s advocacy either did not match the student body’s interests, or he lacked a response completely. In order to address the current SA leadership’s shortcomings, we recommend Jazz not only to directly communicate students’ interests to the administration, but to go a step further and voice opposition to the administration when their interests directly conflict those of students. Silva showed a willingness to question administrative action when she voiced opposition to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson’s decision to remove a designated time for cheer battle during Orientation Week, and the Thresher hopes that she continues in this vein. Silva should regularly update the student body on her discussions with the administration. Her presidency provides an opportunity to make the SA president’s interactions with administration, which have typically not been communicated to the student body, public. However, for this plan to be effective, students must care about the SA. Thus, Silva must make student body outreach a priority; otherwise, there will be neither an engaged constituency to provide input nor an audience to witness the SA’s progress. Silva built her campaign on her ability to enact tangible change and a promise to increase student involvement. If she realizes both campaign objectives, the SA will be in a position to better serve the student body’s interests. 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 2/17/15 6:00pm

SJP meetings should not be secret affairs

In Fall 2012, Olivia Hansen, a former Rice student, wrote an op-ed claiming she was mistreated by members of the university administration when she attempted to file harassment complaints against an abusive partner, and was subsequently forced to withdraw from Rice. While the university claimed this withdrawal was for her emotional well-being, Hansen maintains that it was Rice’s attempt to silence an unhappy student to protect its reputation and quality-of-life rankings. Following Hansen’s alleged mistreatment, the student body lost a great deal of trust in the administration’s ability to adjudicate judicial matters and maintain student well-being; some of this skepticism and mistrust persists more than two years later.As a whole, the university has made tremendous strides to attempt to address student concerns and regain trust in well-being and judicial matters. In fact, Student Judicial Programs — one of the bodies Hansen alleges was involved in her mistreatment — underwent seemingly sweeping changes following Hansen’s allegations, including hiring a new director, Lisa Zollner.While I applaud the administration for the strides they have made, I am troubled by a recent trend within SJP that has greatly undercut student confidence in the institution. On April 24, 2014, the Thresher published an article alleging rampant mistreatment of students by SJP staff. Since this article’s publication, numerous rumors have persisted as students — past and present — have come forward to testify to the same crass, disrespectful and threatening treatment at the hands of SJP.Students who feel that they have been unfairly treated may file a complaint with Dean Hutchinson. However, SJP meetings are private, and students cannot record the exchange or bring a witness to the meeting, such as a Master or resident associate. This lack of documentation makes any student accusation of SJP an immediate he-said-she-said matter that is nearly impossible to prove.However, if repeated student claims of abuse are truly fictitious, and the methods used by SJP staff are as benign as the administration claims, why not increase transparency to assuage student concerns? Dean Hutchinson is currently the only check on SJP, and given repeated and continued student complaints, this check is clearly not enough. Thus, the administration should address these concerns directly by allowing students to record or bring a silent witness to SJP meetings. Such actions will not interfere with official proceedings, but will help ensure that students are treated with basic respect and dignity.SJP plays a tremendously important role on Rice’s campus — as it should. Ensuring that safety is maintained should be a top priority for the administration and student body alike. However, the recent decline of student trust in SJP has negatively impacted its ability to effectively execute its duties and has compromised the confidence it has regained since Hansen’s op-ed.SJP’s job is difficult enough when students have confidence in the institution, but it becomes infinitely more complicated when this relationship becomes adversarial. While the outcomes of SJP proceedings are not always in line with student desires, the student body must at least feel that they can trust in the fairness and legitimacy of the process.

OPINION 2/12/15 2:34am

The Thresher endorses Jazz Silva for SA president

The Student Association presidential debate revealed a clear choice for SA president. After responding to questions from the Thresher editorial staff and the audience, Sid Richardson College Senator Jazz Silva emerged as the most viable candidate. Though Lovett College Senator Aishwarya Thakur and Jones College Treasurer Sandra Blackmun showed passion for issues of importance to Rice students, Silva inspired confidence in her ability to enact change on these issues through the SA.

OPINION 2/10/15 6:00pm

Botched election timeline ensures uninformed votes

The Student Association presidential debate, initially scheduled for Monday, is instead being held today, Wednesday, Feb. 11 in the Kyle Morrow room in Fondren Library at 8 p.m. in place of the SA senate meeting. The SA initially planned to host the SA presidential debate on Monday, before elections began. However, according to SA President Ravi Sheth, the debate was moved to Wednesday to increase the event’s turnout.  Additionally, the SA did not release official information for all general election candidates until Monday, less than 24 hours before the ballot opened. Director of Elections Austin Cao said the registrar’s new requirement that all candidates must release information indicating good academic standing forced the SA to delay releasing candidate information. While the Thresher understands exigent circumstances forced the SA to make changes to the elections timeline, these changes have negatively impacted the student body’s knowledge of the candidates and issues. By creating such a large window of time between the start of elections and the debate, framed in an already short voting period, the SA effectively ensures uninformed voting.  Moreover, the idea that delaying the debate will increase turnout to the event is flawed. Sheth’s decision to hold the debate during the scheduled Senate meeting time because those who would typically attend the former will be available for the latter only guarantees that Senate members will be present. Considering Senate members are typically at the forefront of Rice leadership, it is reasonable to expect these individuals to make time to attend the debate regardless of its scheduling. The debate should be scheduled at a time that is most convenient for the entire student body as opposed to a time that appeals to a niche group already engaged in student government. Consistently low voter turnout plagues the SA general elections. Increasing turnout is a responsibility that currently falls upon candidates themselves; however, candidates have their own interests in mind, and although they may contribute towards increasing turnout, they are more focused on becoming elected than sustaining a positive culture surrounding voting. We have long treated low turnout as an inherent problem without a solution, but the truth is that the SA has not yet attempted a solution.  Evidently, elections deserve greater attention from SA leadership. For the sake of its own future, the SA must expand the role of the elections committee to include ensuring a smooth elections timeline and instilling students with a strong sense of civic duty. 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 2/10/15 6:00pm

I will show you the SA's power

It is a very frustrating time to run for a position in the Student Association. For the past few weeks, I have been walking around campus trying to convince people that I’m capable of running the most powerful student organization on campus. From Facebook spam to “Get Jazzy On It” t-shirts, I’ve been trying to market myself and my campaign. But at the end of the day, I know most Rice students don’t give a damn about a cute flyer. You want to make sure that the 50K you pay a year goes toward a university worth your money. For those students still choosing who to give their vote to, I write this to assure you that I would not run for SA president if I did not wholeheartedly know that I am the most qualified candidate.I am not running on future promises or hopes. I am only running on the platform that I have been holding myself to for this past year. You see something that needs to be fixed and you get that thing done. You don’t wait until someone else makes it a priority.  Parking has been a problem on campus for longer than I’ve been in attendance. So why haven’t we seen any changes until this year? It’s because this year the SA made it a priority. When you elect competent leaders, they do what it takes to command our community. I am not going to mindlessly criticize the SA. No one who’s ever been in the SA would argue that the we don’t have the power, influence, structure or resources to function. What needs to change is the fact that the rest of the student body believes that isn’t true. Roughly six people this week asked me what the SA even does. That’s not acceptable, and it is entirely the fault of the SA. It is not the job of a busy Rice student to find the campus-wide SA meetings, learn about the legislation on the agenda and then show up. The SA should go to the colleges, which is something they used to do. This is not just another election; you are choosing who will set the agenda for an entire year of legislation. When you cast your vote, you are actually choosing the problems that are going to get addressed. I am that person who will stand up for you, and I sincerely hope you trust me with your vote.

OPINION 2/10/15 6:00pm

Let’s improve the Rice experience

My three-point platform of advancing our experiences inside and outside the classroom, and looking ahead beyond Rice is rooted to what I see as the Rice experience. There’s a reason we consistently report being some of the happiest college students around, so there must be something here worth upholding. Whether that includes your appreciation for our self-governing 11 residential colleges, small class sizes, or available career-advancing opportunities, let’s work to maintain them — but also to advance them. Let’s find a way to view the SA not as a 12th college, but an extension of each of the colleges — a part of the student body that connects us all. Let’s fight back against the growing student population and urge administration and faculty to keep our class sizes small and education at its best. Let’s demand for more externship, internship, research and shadowing opportunities; let’s make it easier to connect with 100 years’ worth of alumni who have been in our exact befuddled, yet driven, shoes.With the knowledge of whom to contact and how to contact in the administration, you all have the power to ask for the changes you want to see; with our online petition system, you all even have the power to make those changes. Having been an active leader in the SA as an NSR and senator, I recognize that we need to increase the flow of information from you, the student body, to the administration, and vice versa. Let’s get everyone on the same page from the very beginning of every topic of discussion.With a vision of how to proceed and clear-cut goals, we can truly impact the faculty’s and administration’s thinking. What’s the best way we see fit to handle add/drop for registration? Is there a way students can access new parking spaces as well? Is a two-week spring break feasible for our culture, and how do we as students envision it to provide more opportunities for experiential learning, as we proposed in the Rice Education of the Future Initiative? Let’s work together and relay our ideas to the university.And, lastly, let’s just do it. These are not far-fetched ideas, but a list of concrete plans. Let’s fix what’s broken — such as how we allocate the blanket tax — and let’s better the education we receive. Voice your opinion with your vote and let’s advance the Rice experience together. 

OPINION 2/10/15 6:00pm

I want to create more leaders

My extensive experience in political television series has taught me a great deal about how to be an effective leader and how to empower others to create the significant change they want to see. But more importantly, my experience at Rice has given me the opportunity to meet incredible people, experience the amazing campus culture and to learn that everyone has a voice.I am running to be your next Student Association President because I see the potential of this organization. The SA is an amazing organization that allows us to truly make a change not only for our own undergraduate experience, but also for that of students to come. But something doesn’t add up. If you ask the average Rice student what the SA does, they are unable to tell you. To me, there are two main reasons why this is the case:1)    College and SA Relationship: I believe a current gap exists between the colleges and the SA, and my goal is to bridge this gap. With my college leadership background, I fundamentally understand the college government. I want to allow colleges to remain autonomous and run themselves but also to bring the two organizations together to create campus-wide changes.2)    Communication: Many people are unaware of what the SA actually does. I plan on increasing communication via social media, attending college cabinet/council meetings to create a direct relationship with students and increasing our relationship with the Thresher to publish even more to students.Together, we will make a change. I hope to empower you to make the difference you want to see. One of my favorite quotes in life has absolutely changed the way I work with others, and I hope you’ll know that I will lead with this belief: “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” We can all come together and elicit the changes we want to see in our university, but to do so, we need an SA President who knows both sides of the relationship between the SA and the colleges and who has a vision to empower you. I hope you’ll Stand with Sandra and see this vision become a reality. 

OPINION 2/4/15 3:49pm

Blanket Tax Crack Team proposal remedies current system’s failures

The SA Blanket Tax Crack Team has petitioned a revamp to the existing blanket tax system with a new “pot of gold” proposal. 200 student signatures are required for the petition to be included in the General Election ballot, where a 20 percent referendum and a two-thirds majority vote will put the measure into effect (see p.1). The Thresher strongly supports the Crack Team’s new proposal and encourages students to sign the petition and to vote for it in the General Election. Currently, organizations petition to qualify for blanket tax status and specify a requested amount of annual funding through a ballot in the General Election. If a blanket tax organization’s budget appears questionable in the Annual Review, they are brought to a Contingency Committee, which can determine if the organization has violated blanket tax laws and if a decrease in funding is warranted. The existing process has proven inefficient at and inconducive to encouraging fiscal responsibility among blanket tax organizations. Since a Contingency Committee must find three violations within a four-year period to decrease a violating organization’s blanket tax, it currently takes years to effect any change in funding, even if an organization demonstrates excessively large surpluses or fiscal irresponsibility. Fleeting institutional memory coupled with a bureaucratic quagmire renders the process infeasible; no subsidiary organization has ever seen a decrease in its funding. The “pot of gold” proposal, which calls for a standing committee, provides a welcome change to a broken system. The standing committee, to be comprised of students and advisors to subsidiary organizations, would predetermine which organizations qualify for priority funding and would conduct annual reviews on these organizations’ budgets. Additionally, new organizations can petition to become subsidiaries and qualify for priority status through the general ballot as before. The proposal also calls for surpluses higher than a predetermined amount to return to the “pot of gold” for use by other student organizations. The mechanisms outlined in this proposal will encourage fiscal responsibility in subsidiary organizations and will ensure student governance can preemptively address issues in blanket tax funding instead of undergoing a cumbersome process. Previous ballot measures have been defeated by a lack of quorum. The Thresher strongly encourages students to voice their support for the proposal by signing the Blanket Tax Crack Team’s petition and by voting for it in the upcoming General Election. If passed, the new measures usher in much-needed blanket tax reforms that promote greater fiscal responsibility and accountability among blanket tax organizations. Editor in Chief Miles Kruppa and Faculty Advisor Kelly Callaway are members of the Blanket Tax Crack Team. They did not contribute to this editorial. 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 1/28/15 7:21am

Ravi Writes In

As my term nears its completion, I wanted to reflect on the Student Association’s accomplishments over the next semester and write about what our focus will be in the remaining month. 

OPINION 1/28/15 7:20am

Rice must invest in instructors

Rice has a scalability problem. As undergraduate enrollment at Rice has grown rapidly in the past 10 years, many students and faculty have questioned if the undergraduate experience has lost part of its value: its educational intimacy (see p.1).

OPINION 1/21/15 4:36am

Student Association should not have to handle housing issues

At the most recent Student Association meeting, the SA senate discussed legislation guaranteeing on-campus housing for Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps members (see p.1). Supporters argued that the midshipmen’s early-starting, rigorous schedule and service to the nation justified the guarantee. Those in opposition felt on-campus housing was not required for NROTC students to fulfill their training, as it might have been for Emergency Medical Services in-charges to perform their duties. Ultimately, neither side understood the others’ argument, and the two sides could not reach a middle ground, underscoring the fact that cases like these cannot be legislated by the entire student body.

OPINION 1/21/15 4:34am

NROTC deserves housing

Last Wednesday at Senate, two Rice Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps midshipmen brought forth their request for on-campus housing to voting members of the Student Association. They presented what Elliot and I considered a logical argument, and yet they were met with opposition and doubt. Weston Ruths, a junior midshipman, explained their rigorous morning routine, which requires them to report to training at 5:30 a.m. most days of the week. He also explained the ROTC requirement for all midshipmen to choose a STEM major, and as a result, the majority of the midshipmen have extensive engineering coursework on top of their ROTC training. Ruths pointed out that there are currently 10 midshipmen in the ROTC program at Rice, two to five of whom would ordinarily be kicked off campus on any given year. Given their difficult and demanding training schedule, being off campus proves to be challenging and leaves them with an unhealthy amount of sleep deprivation.

OPINION 1/14/15 3:54am

Hutchinson’s decision to cancel Cheer Battle strips students of voice

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson has made an executive decision to not allot time to Cheer Battle during Orientation Week 2015 (see p.1). However, O-Week coordinators will retain the option of organizing an unofficial Cheer Battle during O-Week. According to Hutchinson, Cheer Battle “doesn’t represent who we are at Rice anymore” and violates Rice’s harassment policy requiring a non-hostile environment.

OPINION 1/14/15 3:50am

Charlie Hebdo attacks affirm place of free speech

For its Jan. 19, 2015 edition, The New Yorker chose the sketch “Solidarité,” by a Spanish artist named Ana Juan. Below the Eiffel Tower is a sea of blood, and the tower itself is dark, only becoming grey when it starts morphing into a pencil — a pencil that writes in red.