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Friday, December 01, 2023 — Houston, TX


OPINION 10/8/14 3:38am

Remembering life outside Rice

A broken laptop saved my life this week. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in desperate need of some time outside of Rice University. My eventual venture off campus gave me a vitally refreshing reminder that life still exists outside of Rice.

OPINION 10/1/14 10:22am

Life's a Mitch: Examining Rice's neglected outdoor spaces

Hi, my name is Mitch, and I’ll be your guide for the Rice University Tour of Publically Neglected Outdoor Spaces. Many outdoor spaces on campus exceed in beauty, like the grove outside Brochstein Pavilion, the courtyards abutting Anderson Hall and the Humanities Building and the engineering quad. As we shall see, some spaces are equal in beauty and opposite in utility.

OPINION 9/24/14 10:34am

Campus involvement should be deep, not broad

Two weeks into the semester, I was sitting on McMurtry College’s fifth floor, on the verge of tears as I told my friend I felt overwhelmed. “You’re just ‘Sophomore-Tina’ again,” my friend told me. He had confirmed my suspicion that I was overcommitting again. Sophomore-me spread herself too thin due to a combination of exploring too many interests and having a fear of missing out. As I sat on McMurtry fifth, I knew I did not want to revert to my overcommitted sophomore-self. The next afternoon, I made a difficult decision and withdrew from a research opportunity.

OPINION 9/24/14 10:32am

Make sure your vote counts in November elections

In the 2012 presidential election, Texas ranked 48 among the 50 states and Washington in voter turnout. Since then, Texas legislators have enacted a series of regulations that many believe will suppress voter turnout. For example, did you know that you need one of seven select government-issued photo IDs to vote? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Many people, Rice students among them, are not informed about the changes that have been made since the last general election. While it is not yet evident if these new laws will suppress voter turnout, it is important to understand them to make sure that your vote counts this November.

OPINION 9/17/14 2:44pm

SA should not discourage fiery rhetoric

At the most recent Student Association meeting, SA President Ravi Sheth and other SA members expressed concerns over what they considered to be the aggressive wording of the legislation opposing the CUC drop limit proposal (see p. 1). Another point of contention raised in the meeting was whether such a formal mode of expressing disapproval was constructive or appropriate. The Thresher believes that, by critiquing the language of the proposal, SA members distract from the function of the legislation, which is to act as a permanent record of student response to administrative actions.

OPINION 9/17/14 12:39pm

Engineers should embrace unconventionality

I did not take a private, Wi-Fi-equipped shuttle to work for my engineering internship this summer. Instead, I walked, squinting into the sunlight as I passed numerous fruit and vegetable stands on the dusty road that led to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. I was as far from Silicon Valley as I could be; the Internet connection, when it functioned, was painfully slow, and I worked in a hospital so strapped for cash that it couldn’t afford to buy spare parts for the dozens of broken oxygen concentrators that were desperately needed to keep babies alive. The constant chatter of “disruptive innovation” that fills the air in tech circles and universities these days was nowhere to be heard. (And there was no Snapchat, either.) But even without all these things that characterize modern day engineering, I was in Malawi to learn how to be a better engineer.

OPINION 9/10/14 5:44pm

Students should be taught to be virtuous, respectful

As a student at Rice University, I have read message after message regarding sexual assault. It’s one of the most pervasive issues at this time in our lives and deserves every bit of the attention it is receiving. The federal government, Rice’s administration, and the students and colleges have all made efforts to discuss and educate upon preventative measures, consequences and expectations, and make environments more hospitable to reporting and assessing sexual assault incidents. However, almost every discussion (and commentary on these discussions) presented has been handled with negative connotations regarding the solution to the problem. There is a clear leaning in the language used and solutions called for which suggests perpetrators of sexual assault are always going to do so and cannot be reasoned with. To combat the perceived onslaught of potential perpetrators, continual attention is given to the repercussions of sexual assault, with little consideration to the plethora of circumstances that lead up to assaults making their way into discussions on how to handle the problem.

OPINION 9/3/14 2:34pm

Focus of sexual assault education, culture deserves reconsideration

After what seemed like a successful Orientation Week, which included discussions on the alcohol policy and a Project SAFE session addressing sexual violence, one of my freshmen approached me and said, “What I’ve learned from all of these talks is that it’s worse for me to have Everclear in my room than it is for me to rape someone.” As an advisor who also sat through the talks in question, I realized that my new student had a point.

OPINION 8/29/14 2:51pm

Ravi writes in

Welcome to the 2014-15 school year! I would like to share with you why I joined the Student Association (SA), and what we are working towards – with your help – this year.

OPINION 4/24/14 2:37pm

Ravi Writes In

As of today, I have served 44 days as your SA President. I would like to highlight some of our key accomplishments:

OPINION 4/24/14 2:36pm

Students must stand up to misguided drop limit proposal

The time has come once again for students to stand up to the University Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum and its latest attempt to change the way dropping classes works at Rice University (“Proposed legislation limits number of class drops to four,” April 16). And it is also time to acknowledge what is really happening here. In focusing our attention on students’ selection of courses, the CUC is — whether intentionally or not — distracting our community from the more important issue: the number of courses and sections offered, which is closely tied to the number of faculty members Rice is willing to hire.The CUC’s proposal to limit to four the number of courses students can drop between the week two add deadline and the week seven drop deadline without an indication of a withdrawal on their transcripts is not a solution. It is overly broad with regard to the purported problem and utterly useless as a response to the actual problem.It is disconcerting that each time the CUC raises this issue, the claimed problem and justifications change, but effectively moving the drop deadline to week two is somehow still the solution. This should lead us to suspect that the CUC is just looking for a justification that resonates with the community.Why would the CUC want to do this? Perhaps it is the usual reason: Rice should follow its peer institutions in order to maintain its reputation.Prior to his campaign for Student Association president, in which he promised to stand up to the administration, Ravi Sheth served as  external vice president and worked with the CUC and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness to conduct the survey the CUC is using to justify its proposal. In an emailed response to my concerns about biased questions, Sheth defended the survey and claimed this is about more than just registration problems.“The more egregious problem, however, is the fact that you can drop a class with no impact on the transcript,” Sheth said. “In comparison with our peer institutions, this is incredibly lax, to the point that other institutions demean the quality and meaningful nature of Rice transcripts.”However, the Thresher quoted CUC Chair Susan McIntosh as saying some peer institutions’ drop deadlines are near week two, but others range from weeks five to nine.Rice is not in poor company. Among those with  similar drop deadlines are Cornell, Harvard and Princeton. If this proposal is meant to improve Rice’s reputation, it is a solution in search of a problem.This leaves us with two other purported problems the CUC claims its proposal will solve.First, the Thresher quoted McIntosh as saying the current system encourages students to take on overly rigorous and stressful course loads, reducing their academic performance.This cannot be inferred from 45 percent of respondents reporting that they register for more courses than they intend to complete, many of whom may have meant that they drop the extra courses during the shopping period. This is not a problem; it is the point of the shopping period. Furthermore, the CUC has not reported the overlap between those 45 percent of respondents and the 44 percent who said they dropped courses because they had too large of an academic load.However, we should grant that even after the add deadline, some students keep more courses than they plan to finish, in part because it is often still unclear at week two what a course will be like.This is a problem to the extent that it prevents other students from taking those courses. But the resulting stress and academic consequences do not warrant the CUC’s pseudo-parental response. Rice students are adults, and those who take more courses than they can handle are responsible for the consequences of their decisions. The entire student body should not be penalized for some students’ irresponsibility.This brings us to the problem as presented in the survey’s most spectacularly biased question.That question reads, “In order to enable more students to enroll in high-demand classes, a change is needed to the add/drop policy. Recognizing this, what should be the disincentive(s) to dropping after the first two weeks of classes? Select all that apply.”There was no option to say that no change was needed.According to the Thresher, 44 percent of respondents said they could not get into courses they wanted. The CUC seems to think this is caused by 45 percent of students registering for more courses than they plan to take. Rice faculty members should know better than to confuse correlation with causation.Furthermore, it is unclear what is really meant by students not getting into courses they want. The data do not distinguish between freshmen unable to get into popular electives filled by seniors (that’s life), students unable to get into required courses because not enough sections are offered (a problem not solved by the CUC’s proposal), and students unable to get into courses because they are full and some of the students in them are registered for more courses than they intend to take.I suspect the third type of experience is shared by far fewer than 44 percent of students. It is nevertheless a problem, but one that warrants a narrowly tailored solution.For example, Rice could keep the drop deadline at week seven but impose a fine for students who, after week two, drop courses that were full at the add deadline, with exceptions for extenuating circumstances and where the fine would present an unreasonable financial burden.Anything beyond a narrowly tailored solution will merely harm students for no additional benefit. If the CUC wants to fix the problem of students not getting into classes they need or want, it should recommend a real solution: Rice needs to account for its larger student body by offering more sections of popular and required courses and, where necessary, hiring more faculty.Students should be offended that the CUC is essentially blaming them for registration woes stemming from inadequate availability of courses. We must stand up against the accusation that the problem is that we are registering for too many courses — by paying full-time tuition, we purchase the right to take anywhere from 12 to 20 credits each semester. We are not breaking the system by doing so. Our current registration problems will not be solved until Rice puts its money where its mouth is by offering enough courses and sections and hiring enough faculty to meet the needs of its expanded student body.The Student Association exists to serve and advocate for the interests of students. We, the students, therefore need to encourage our representatives in the Student Senate to stand up to the CUC. The Senate should pass a resolution opposing the CUC’s misguided proposal and advocating for a real solution instead. We stalled this once; let’s now stop it for good.Brian Baran is a Duncan College Junior and a UCourt Chair