Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Monday, May 27, 2024 — Houston, TX

Maha Aziz


NEWS 1/14/15 5:13pm

IT and CTE pilot cloud-based 'clicker' system

Rice Information Technology and the Center for Teaching Excellence are collaborating to implement a new cloud-based clicker system to replace existing iClickers. According to Carlyn Chatfield, Manager of Rice IT Technical Communications, the system will be university-wide by fall 2015.


NEWS 11/5/14 6:45am

Slackerplanner allows students to select classes by difficulty, ratings, distribution

Brown College senior David Nichol has created a website that allows students to browse courses using data from Esther course evaluations.“The website lets people search for courses based on course evaluations,” Nichol said. “What this means is that you can ask, ‘What are the easiest distribution classes?’ or ‘Which FWIS is the best?’ You can use this information to then choose which classes you should take next semester.”The website is available at www.slackerplanner.com and has course evaluations from fall 2012 to spring 2014, not including summers. Nichol said he created Slackerplanner to see which courses are better than others. “I created the website over winter break when I was incredibly bored,” Nichol said. “I remember when registering for courses wishing I knew which classes were the best ones to take, and then being all like, ‘Oh wait, I’m a comp sci major, I know how to make this thing a thing.’ So then I did.”The website allows students to narrow their search by semester, distribution group, subject and either workload or quality. According to the website, courses with lower numbers are easier or better. Nichol said he hopes the website will make it easier for students to pick classes.“I’ve spent a long time on the website just looking at different courses just to see how classes compare against each other,” Nichol said. “Hopefully people can use it to decide which classes they plan on taking in future semesters.”Peer Academic Advisor Magen Eissenstat said she will not shut out the possibility that students can use a tool like Slackerplanner for good, but she worries it could also fuel a negative mindset when engaging with academics. “I think the most important question to ask yourself when using a tool like this is: Why?,” Eissenstat, a McMurtry College sophomore, said. “We are all here to get an education and to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the world. The distribution program, in particular, is designed to give us the freedom to challenge ourselves to think in new, unfamiliar and therefore sometimes uncomfortable ways.” Eissenstat said students looking for easy distributions for the sake of not working hard or learning may want to think about the opportunities and values associated with academic challenges. “When we think about our academic experiences at Rice, I believe it is more valuable to think about our classes in terms of what we want to gain from them, rather than as an arbitrary list of requirements that we want to ‘get through’ as easily as possible,” Eissenstat said. 


NEWS 8/28/14 7:30pm

Hedgehopper program made simpler

The Rice University Student Association has made changes to the existing Hedgehopper program, according to SA External Vice President Amritha Kanakamedala.“The change to the program was initiated in order to cut costs to participating businesses and make the Hedgehopper program easier and more efficient for students,” Kanakamedala, a Brown College junior, said. “The update is also to help recruit more businesses into the Hedgehopper program.”Kanakamedala said students will no longer be issued a Hedgehopper card and that to use the discounts, students will only have to present their Rice ID to the restaurant.“Last year we had many Hedgehopper cards left over, meaning many students did not pick up their Hedgehopper cards from their college coordinators at the beginning of the year,” Kanakamedala said. “In order to ensure that all Rice students have access to the Hedgehopper resource, we did away with the card and instead asked businesses to simply ask students for Rice IDs when issuing discounts.”Baker College junior Victoria Eng said she believes discontinuing the Hedgehopper card is a positive change to the program.“Now, students can go out and receive discounts without having to remember to bring it,” Eng said. “I think this will encourage more students to venture out and make an effort to visit some of the participating businesses.”Businesses will now have a rolling, multi-year contract instead of a single-year contract, and businesses will no longer be required to pay a joining fee, Kanakamedala said.“The new program has been received well by businesses,” Kanakamedala said. “Businesses who participated in the program in the past were happy to see the elimination of the joining fee.”Students can now earn a reward for referring businesses to the Hedgehopper program, according to Kanakamedala.“Students who refer businesses will receive a $10 gift card to Rice Coffeehouse once the business joins the Hedgehopper program,” Kanakamedala said. “We hope this will encourage students to refer their favorite businesses and to expand the program.”Kanakamedala said since the Hedgehopper program is designed to encourage students to explore outside of the hedges, the SA hopes to expand the program and recruit more businesses.“We always want students to explore outside the hedges, and with this new updated program, we believe that we can foster more of that,” Kanakamedala said. “We want students to see all that Houston has to offer, and more discounts means happier students.”A list of participating businesses and their discounts are listed at http://sa.rice.edu/hedgehopper/.


NEWS 2/11/14 6:00pm

Rice health center offers free STI testing

The Rice University Health Center will provide students with free STI testing for HIV and syphilis from Feb. 10-14 in hopes of increasing awareness about sexual health management, Hanszen College Rice Health Advisor Austin Coe said. He started the project with former Brown College RHA Susy Malca and worked along with the Wellness Center's Student Wellbeing Specialist, Patrick Lukingbeal, and staff at the Health Center."One of the biggest things preventing students and people our age from getting tested is all the negative stigma surrounding STIs and testing," Coe, a Hanszen senior said. "Our hope is that, by providing free tests, we'll be able to chip away at some of this stigma so that students won't feel guilty or nervous about managing their health."According to Malca, a Brown senior, the negative stigma associated with STIs and testing combined with a sentiment among  Rice students that campus is a relatively safe environment can interfere with the awareness of risks."A lot of Rice students feel very safe and comfortable here and, thus, may feel that they are not at risk for STIs," Malca said. "I hope that this program will bring sexual health to the attention of students and help to educate them on risks, prevention and the importance of getting tested."The National College Health Assessment conducts a survey every three years at Rice. In 2011, survey results revealed that while over 50 percent of students had a sexual partner, only 12 percent had been tested for HIV, and less than 70 percent used a barrier method."While these numbers are certainly dated, they illustrate how little awareness some students may have about sexual health and well-being," Coe said. "We think that, by making testing acceptable and by spreading information, we'll be able to improve these numbers."According to Coe, spots to get a free test are filling up fast due to the limited number of tests available. Despite grants from the Student Activities President's Programming fund and the Dr. Bill Wilson Fund at Wiess College, the RHA team could only subsidize 78 tests, but more students may be able to get tested depending on whether some students want one or both tests."This year we could only subsidize tests for HIV and syphilis," Coe said. "If the program is successful, however, we're hoping a new group of students will be able to get more funding. It would be fantastic if Rice could provide all students with completely free testing year-round."Malca said there is almost always hesitation before considering getting tested for STIs, and she hopes this project will make it easier for students to get tested and stay healthy."The uncertainty of how to get tested and what getting tested entails is a barrier for many people," Malca said. "This event will help educate students so that, in the future, they will be more proactive about their sexual health and feel more comfortable with the topic and with getting tested."Lukingbeal said he believes that students should take advantage of the free testing that the health center provides. He thinks the project will increase awareness across campus about the importance of testing for STIs."Testing should be a regular thing and a conversation [students] should have with a potential sexual partner," Lukingbeal said. "The more we are open and honest with our communication, the healthier our communities will be."


NEWS 2/4/14 6:00pm

Rice should maintain support of diversity of beliefs and cultures

Students may have seen us in the Fondren stacks praying. At first glance, it might look like we are reaching for a book, but then we get up again, and then back down again. Our colorful scarves swirl around in the ever-so-charming Houston wind, and our high-fived, "Salaams, bro," can be heard across the quad. Oftentimes, we can be found ducking into the cozy broom closet we affectionately call our prayer room. Chances are, almost every student has had contact with a Rice Muslim.


NEWS 2/4/14 6:00pm

CCD develops alumni network

The Rice University Center for Career Development and the Association of Rice Alumni plan to create an alumni career network to provide career guidance to current students."Alumni can provide students with insights based on real-world experience about careers, industries, companies, organizations and graduate school as those students make decisions on majors, apply for internships or graduate school, and prepare for interviews," Michael Maher, the chairman of the Alumni Advisory Board, said.Maher said the focus is now to increase student awareness and to work on how the CCD can help to connect students with alumni.According to the CCD website calendar, on Feb. 7 there will be a Fall Career and Internship Expo, which includes an Owl Career Mentor Nest. Rice Owl Career Mentor Network Coordinator Katy Portell said the Nest is a booth at the Expo with alumni volunteers who are stationed there to help students create a game plan for meeting with company recruiters at the Expo."It can be very nerve-wracking for students attending an event like the Expo," Portell said. "The alumni at the Nest will help students practice their handshakes, eye contact and greeting, as well as offer encouragement to the students.Portell said another initiative of the Rice Owl Career Mentor Network are Alumni Mentor drop-in hours. There is one Wednesday, Feb. 5 from 5-7 p.m. at Huff House, and Portell said the CCD may continue these during Expo time in the future."Students will meet with alumni volunteers mainly for resume review, but volunteers will help with other things such as interview skills and personal skills," Portell said. "The alums are happy to be a resource to the students."Portell said the Rice Owl Career Mentor Network LinkedIn group is an imperative part of the alumni network. Students can connect and reach out to alums online in a low-risk, flexible and accessible way to find opportunities that interest them. McMurtry College Peer Career Advisor Adriana Bracho said the alumni on the LinkedIn page are very responsive and easy to contact."It can be a little awkward trying to contact someone over the phone or by email for the first time, and the network being in the format of a social media site will make it easier for students and alumni to connect," Bracho, a senior, said.Bracho said the college PCAs will be an important piece of the network as a whole, and she believes this network will make searching and preparing for career and internship opportunities a better experience for both alums and students."The PCAs are here to help jump-start the program and create new topics so the alumni will continue to help Rice students," Bracho said. "I think this new approach will highly benefit both students and alumni because it makes the whole experience a lot more personal and alumni can better direct students to opportunities they otherwise might have overlooked."


NEWS 10/28/13 7:00pm

Thrift store looks to expand operations

Rice University students opened Baltra Thrift Store for the second time this academic year last Thursday, Oct. 24 in the Brown Garden at the Ley Student Center, according to co-manager Tori Laxalt. She said that since Baltra is already known around campus, the staff is looking to experiment and expand the store.According to Laxalt, Baltra was founded last fall and has had six openings so far. "It was one of the projects we deemed would fill a need on campus that hadn't been met in much of a substantial way," Laxalt, a Baker College senior, said. "We found that there was a customer base on campus who would support a thrift store."Baltra eco-coordinator Skye Kelty said she was excited when she learned others were interested in starting a thrift store."I wanted to start a thrift store for quite a while but could not figure out the logistics for it," Kelty, a McMurtry College senior, said. "Then Art Lab independently came up with the Baltra concept, and I jumped on board."Kelty said that in addition to selling clothes, the Baltra staff hopes to host an electronics waste drive at each opening. "We started hosting an electronics waste drive at the Baltra events to make it super easy for people to clear out their closets," Kelty said. "We will be recycling it using an e-Stewards-certified, Houston-based recycling facility."According to Laxalt, the Baltra staff is looking for more Rice staff, undergraduate and graduate student involvement. "We're actually recruiting right now, both for Baltra core team positions as well as for more volunteers and college reps, so there are many different ways for students to get involved," Laxalt said.Kelty said Baltra is looking forward to future openings and wants to increase the size and variety of its inventory to include more than clothing."We are in need of more guys' clothes donations," Kelty said. "But we are also looking to include more art in our openings, like cool recycled mannequins."Duncan College senior Tasneem Islam visited Baltra last Thursday and said she enjoyed the prices of the shop but would like to see more inventory."Thrift stores help me save money," Islam said. "As a college student, I'm always looking for ways to save money and spend wisely, so I'd like to see the store being open every other week, and I would love to see more shoes."Laxalt said the Baltra staff is planning new types of events like a field trip to an off-campus thrift store."We are trying to diversify and expand Baltra's presence for those who are experienced thrifters as well as for those who might be intimidated by the concept of thrifting," Laxalt said. "Students should stay tuned to our Facebook page, facebook.com/baltrathriftstore."Baltra co-manager Corey Bryce said she hopes that Baltra will become a Rice tradition even after part of the staff graduates. She looks forward to working with new staff, other organizations and Rice students."The relevance of environmentally friendly re-use of clothes and promotion of fashion and thrift culture is what makes Baltra so unique," Bryce, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. "We are happy to work with other organizations that share similar goals and want to make things happen here."Baker senior Brennan Halloran, who shopped at Baltra on Thursday, said he enjoyed how low the prices were."There are entire tables filled with clothes for just a dollar," Halloran said. "It can be important for diversifying your style since it exposes you to things that you may not have seen otherwise."Baltra will again be opening at the Ley Student Center on Monday, Dec. 9. Those interested in getting involved with Baltra can email baltrathriftstore@gmail.com.


NEWS 10/8/13 7:00pm

Feminism campaign promotes gender equality

The "Who Needs Feminism?" project was brought to Rice to help eradicate gender inequality and misconceptions about feminism, according to campaign organizer Anastasia Bolshakov."The [project] is pretty much a [public relations] campaign at Rice for feminism," Bolshakov, a Duncan College junior, said. "It's to show the campus that feminism is not this radical, crazy thing but that it's about equality and human rights - at least to me."The project was conceived at Duke University by a group of female students after they learned that many students thought feminism was dead, according to the project's national website, whoneedsfeminism.com.Bolshakov said students at Rice could always improve their understanding of the feminist movement."In our discussions, we talked about the definition of feminism and why Rice needs it," Bolshakov said. "Many people were able to bring up concrete examples of gender inequality on campus."Bolshakov and fellow campaign organizer Clara Roberts said they worked together along with Duncan senior Rachel Poppers and Duncan Master Luis Duno-Gottberg to initiate the project."This is not as much of an organization as it is a movement," Roberts, a Duncan junior, said. "We really want people to get thinking critically about [feminism] and to bring in people who don't really think about this."According to Poppers, the project was given a test run at Duncan before it was brought to the rest of campus."You interact with people who are unlike you every day while you are here at Rice," Poppers said. "It's necessary to learn how to embrace those differences."Duno-Gottberg said he has high hopes that change can be achieved at Rice."My wish is that Rice students come away with a deeper understanding of the many forms [in which] inequality manifests," Duno-Gottberg said. "This project illustrates a method of activism around urgent social issues."Poppers said feminism is a misunderstood and uncomfortable topic in today's society."I hope more people will embrace the 'f-word,' " Poppers said. "Feminism has bad stereotypes associated with it that simply aren't true."The project held an event at the Rice University Women's Resource Center this past week to give students an opportunity to speak their minds by providing whiteboards for students to complete the statement, 'I need feminism because ... '"We didn't provide a definition of feminism [because we wanted] to get people to think about how feminism applies to them personally," Roberts said.According to Roberts, the organizers frequently upload the photos of students and staff posing with their reasons for needing feminism to the project's Facebook page, "Who Needs Feminism at Rice," in order to raise even more awareness.Martel College sophomore Audrey Smith said she identified instances of inequality better after she participated in the project."I had always assumed that women had reached a point of being treated the same as men," Smith said. "Being around and interacting with people who were more conscious of feminist issues made me start to notice them as well."Lovett College junior Daniel Imas said he wrote on his whiteboard, "I need feminism because they shouldn't be called women's rights - they're human rights.""It is important that males send a message that reinforces female equality," Imas said. "If I can lend my voice to a movement that fights to give my mom, my female friends and my female role models a voice, it seems like a no-brainer to me that I should support it."Bolshakov, Roberts and Poppers said they will continue the "Who Needs Feminism?" project at Rice and try to eliminate inequality based on gender, race and other factors here."It's important for young people not to forget how far the U.S. has come in terms of equality, but also how far we have left to go," Imas said.