Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

Mengjia Liu

NEWS 2/29/16 9:14am

Spring break travels necessitate Zika precautions

Students traveling abroad over spring break should be aware of the Zika virus and take preventative measures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

NEWS 9/16/15 4:03pm

Authors discuss legacy of Vietnam War at Baker Institute

Four award-winning authors who served in the Vietnam War examined the lasting legacy of the war by reading excerpts from their works and by participating in a panel discussion at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy on Sept. 10. The authors included Philip Caputo, Larry Heinemann, Tim O’Brien and Tobias Wolff.According to Heinemann, an interesting consequence of the war was the proliferation of veterans who became writers, poets or scholars.“It is a remarkable irony of the war that I became a writer,” Heinemann said. “If it hadn't been for my war years, I'd be driving a bus like my old man. This irony is something that I share with a number of other Vietnam veterans who came home.”Wolff said joining the war seemed like a natural path to follow because he grew up in a working-class environment surrounded by veterans.“You saw it as an opportunity to distinguish yourself, but it wasn't my motive when I went in,” Wolff said. “I enlisted when I was 18 largely because I pretty much screwed up my life at that point. I didn't have a high school diploma, and I didn't have any prospects.”On the other hand, Heinemann said he reluctantly joined the war because he was drafted.“I was distinctly not interested in being in the army,” Heinemann said. “The harassment we were treated to offended me.”Caputo, who served for a time as a casualty reporting officer, said his worst experience on the job was having to identify the body and report the death of his best friend, Lieutenant Walter Levy.“His death affected me very deeply and does to this day,” Caputo said. “Not too long ago, I was at a reunion in Washington, and I went to the wall and saw Walt's name there, and 40-some years after the event I just started bawling like a child.”When asked if he would partake in the war again, O’Brien said he views the war as an evil, but is unsure of his own response.“It was sinful,” O’Brien said. “We were killing people. Veterans are too often looked upon as victims, but we are participants. I wouldn't participate again, but until you are in the circumstances, you really don't know.”According to O’Brien, the years following Vietnam have shown how the driving forces behind wars can be misleading.“Wars are always sold to us as pending catastrophes,” O’Brien said. “If we don't go kill people, horrible things will ensue. We lost the war. Where is the catastrophe? We have shirts that are made in Vietnam.”Emily Rao, an event attendee, said she appreciated hearing the speakers share their different perspectives.“The four authors had four very distinct styles and were unsettlingly honest about their experiences, and I just feel lucky to have heard them speak,” Rao, a Baker College sophomore, said.  Dean of the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business William Glick said the event was meant not only to observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War but also to recognize the growing number of veterans at Rice University.“Together with the Jones School, we have set a goal of being the most veteran-friendly MBA program,” Glick said. “The veterans have taken on tremendous leadership roles within the student body and have gone on to be highly valued graduates. They enrich Rice. They enrich Houston and the broader community.”

NEWS 9/1/15 2:26pm

Students found pro-choice group

Pro-Choice Rice, a new advocacy group and the first college chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, aims to bring awareness of women’s reproductive rights to the Rice University campus and the surrounding community.

NEWS 4/22/15 7:33am

Deans discuss tech in music, architecture

Dean of the Shepherd School of Music Robert Yekovich and Dean of the School of Architecture Sarah Whiting discussed the impact of technology on their disciplines at a Scientia colloquium on April 14.According to Yekovich, the development of virtual instruments and electronically produced sounds has dramatically transformed the music market and pushed musicians to find new ways to adapt.“It’s far more cheap and cost-effective to have a computer playing the score for a film than to have 90 or 100 musicians sitting in a recording studio,” Yekovich said. “As a result, many musicians have had to learn computer-based skills, such as how to orchestrate, arrange, record and edit, in addition to knowing how to play their instruments.”Virtual instruments have also changed music composition and the way professors teach composition, Yekovich said. “When I write a string quartet, I can now sit with my computer and hear every note I write in real time on all four instruments,” Yekovich said. “When students go to lessons, they come in with their computer and whatever the piece has been scored for is played in real time.”Yekovich said he believes human performance and human interaction are still many years from being replaced by machine sounds despite these technological advances.“We still contend that human performance and the kind of experiential learning that is derived from that remains central to our musical endeavor,” Yekovich said.According to Whiting, a current challenge in architecture is how to convince people to invest in architecture or push architecture forward instead of imitating designs from the past.“Architecture is experienced in a state of distraction, and the public doesn’t really pay that much attention,” Whiting said. “We need to do is teach students how to make evaluations of their own and make those arguments convincing for a broader audience. If you don’t do that, you can end up repeating the past in a false form.”With new technology, architects can develop more sophisticated models, Whiting said.“Through these softwares, you can form more realistic environments where the imagination is rendered almost real,” Whiting said. “It’s opened the possibility for us to work digitally to create complex relationships among components.”Architecture student and lecture attendee Neha Sahai said she wishes the deans discussed experiential learning in more depth because the school does a great job balancing the technological side with the experiential learning.“Our fields are very based on experiential learning, and technology is a very integral part of our education,” Sahai, a Will Rice College sophomore, said. “For example, we take technology classes for two years in which we learn about structural systems and the basic mechanics behind constructing buildings. So it’s a huge component to the education and lets us push the boundaries with designing.”

NEWS 3/14/15 6:51am

RAFSI to develop junior and sophomore class gift program

Mengjia LiuThresher StaffThe Rice Annual Fund Student Initiative has launched sophomore and junior class gifts for the upcoming fall in addition to the pre-existing senior class gift.According to Sean Cowan, associate director of the Rice Annual Fund, the new class giving projects will function similar to the senior class gift.  “They will run concurrently each fall, led by volunteers,” Cowan said. “We envision volunteers from all three classes working together in colleges, educating their classmates about the importance of philanthropy and facilitating participation.”Cowan said the undergraduate class gifts were not created in previous years because RAFSI wanted to ensure significant participation in the giving project before expanding the program. However, with increased student interest in recent years, the RAF staff, volunteers and campus partners decided to establish class gifts for underclassmen and encourage students to participate in philanthropy earlier on in their college careers.“People often do not realize until graduation that every class of alumni has Annual Fund volunteers who lead class giving projects each year,” Cowan said. “When students learn about these programs and opportunities while on campus, they become more informed and effective alumni volunteers and philanthropists.”According to Cowan, student contributions to the RAF have a lasting impact on Rice’s future, regardless of gift amount. “Every gift is important to Rice University as smaller gifts add up to make a real impact,” Cowan said. “For example, this year alone, hundreds of members of the Class of 2015 collectively contributed nearly $10,000. That's a remarkable demonstration of their passion for Rice.”Cowan said the RAF also created The Parliament, a new giving society that acknowledges loyal supporters, to encourage juniors and sophomores to donate.“The Parliament recognizes those in the Rice community who make gifts [for] the university each and every year,” Cowan said. “To be inducted, you simply give for three years in a row and then continue to give yearly to stay in the society.”According to Cowan, a freshman class gift has not been created  so new students may gain a deeper understanding of the university before giving back, although they can give through Jar Wars and National Philanthropy Week.“Freshmen should experience Rice's unique culture and traditions so they truly appreciate what their future gifts will support,” Cowan said. Nick Thorpe, a fall 2014 Senior Gift Campaign volunteer, said he believes student contributors are crucial to the functioning of the RAF.“These students eventually become lifelong donors and once again give back to the university where they received a quality education,” Thorpe, a Lovett College senior, said.Carmella DeSerto, a class gift representative, said she supports the expansion.“These gifts give students a chance to give back, especially when they are students like myself who benefit from the charity of the university in financial aid,” DeSerto, a Jones College sophomore, said. “I feel it is my duty to pay it forward.”Rachel Bowyer, a Hanszen College freshman, said juniors and sophomores should not be expected to give.“It is very unrealistic to expect sophomores and juniors to donate because their own financial situations are not yet stable,” Bowyer said. “They will lack motivation to give because they have not completed their college experience yet. They are the ones who should still be receiving the benefits from the funds.” 

NEWS 1/31/15 8:48am

Deans discuss teaching and technology at Rice

At a lecture sponsored by Scientia on Jan. 27, Dean of Humanities Nicolas Shumway and Dean of Social Sciences Lyn Ragsdale discussed challenges faced by their respective schools and the impact of technology on teaching at Rice.According to Ragsdale, the School of Social Sciences faces the challenge of large class sizes due to the popularity of its majors.“We have over 200 psychology majors and almost 200 economics majors at Rice,” Ragsdale said. “The average class across the entire curriculum in economics has 43 people in it and almost 50 in psychology. In addition, our intro classes are sort of bursting at the seams with 700 students a year in Intro to Psychology [(PSYC 101)].”Ragsdale said the school considered offering its large introductory classes online when the first wave of Massive Open Online Courses began, but the idea did not take off because faculty members were not enthusiastic about videotaping and creating online versions of their courses.“The social sciences currently have two summer classes that are solely online, but they are teaching very small numbers of students — roughly between four and eight students per summer,” Ragsdale said.However, Ragsdale said the School of Social Sciences has adopted technology in other ways to facilitate active learning and to allow students to study human behavior more effectively.“While we haven’t done the online component in the last five or six years, we have a number of courses across departments that are either flipped classrooms or are classes that take place outside of a truly academic setting,” Ragsdale said. “There is also an opportunity to actually engage students based on the way in which they like to communicate, such as through Facebook.”Shumway said technology will impact the educational system and research by enabling access to information and new methods of assembling information in ways that were inconceivable before.“Looking at a dissertation in music history now, [using technology,] you can actually see the score, hear the music and parse out the parts all at the same place and at the same time,” Shumway said.According to Shumway, the vast amount of information made available by technology poses new challenges.“When we generate knowledge, the first thing we do is eliminate all the information we cannot possibly deal with,” Shumway said. “We have to interpret, eliminate and organize. Technology has made that task so much more complicated because we have so much more information available.”Lecture attendee Mackenzie Nettlow said she expected more discussion on specific uses of technology in the classroom rather than generalizations."I thought the lecture was interesting, but I expected them to focus more on the actual classroom than what people would study outside the classroom or in research areas,” Nettlow, a McMurtry College junior, said.

NEWS 11/18/14 3:44pm

Speakers discuss benefits of legalizing marijuana

Speakers presented on the medical benefits of cannabis and the possibility of its legalization for medical use in Texas in 2015. The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance sponsored he talk on Nov. 12.William Martin, the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the Baker Institute, said therapeutic use of cannabis has faced less opposition than recreational use, with 23 states and the District of Columbia having some system of medical marijuana.Terri Davis Carriker, co-founder of Embrace Moms, described how traditional medicine cannot help her daughter, Catherine, who suffers from treatment-resistant epilepsy. Carriker said early tests with medical marijuana for epileptic patients have shown promising results.“Over the last nine years, we had countless ER tripss and two brain surgeries,” Carriker said. “To disallow [medical marijuana] is tantamount to medical neglect.”Amy Lou Fawell, president and co-founder of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, said primary caretakers of autistic children and the children themselves are often victims of violent behavior that pharmaceutical drugs cannot control. However, despite anecdotal reports of children improving from cannabis treatment, even states that permit medical marijuana do not recognize autism as a qualifying condition. “In [certain cases], breaking the law is necessary to prevent a harm worse than the one the law is aimed at preventing,” Fawell said. Neeraj Shah, a physician at the Seton Medical Center and the Victory Medical Center, said compared to other pharmaceutical drugs and psychoactives, marijuana is relatively safe.“There is no respiratory suppression with cannabis or cannabinoids,” Shah said. “Opiates and benzodiazepines can make you stop breathing, and you can end up on a ventilator, or dead.”Elliott Naishtat, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, said several bills on medicinal marijuana will be introduced in the upcoming session. Naishtat said he has introduced a medical marijuana affirmative defense bill six times, which he believes has the best chance of passing.“A patient, if arrested, would have to prove in court that he or she was suffering from a bona fide medical condition, as defined by his or her physician, and that physician has discussed or recommended marijuana as an option to alleviate the symptoms of the condition,” Naishtat said. “The bill does not legalize marijuana. The judge would be authorized to drop the charges. The judge wouldn’t be required to drop the charges.” Hanszen College freshman Rachel Bowyer said the lecture felt one-sided.“It’s clear that medical marijuana can benefit patients, but they did not present the other side of the argument,” Bowyer said. “I would like to see a more representative debate about the actual legislative issues of passing marijuana laws.”

NEWS 10/17/14 5:31am

Rice slips in THE rankings

Rice University dropped in ranking from 65th to 69th in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2014-15.Universities receive scores in five main areas: teaching (worth 30 percent), research (30 percent), citations (30 percent), industry income (2.5 percent) and international outlook (7.5 percent). Rice received an overall score of 59.8 out of 100, with sub-scores of 41.7 in teaching, 70.8 in international outlook, 34.6 in industry income, 37.1 in research and 99.9 in citations.Despite experiencing a score decrease of 2.4 in teaching and 0.6 in industry income from 2013-14, Rice improved scores in all other areas, with citations, which measures research influence, remaining at 99.9. The net score remains unchanged.Vice President for Finance Kathy Collinssaid she believes small fluctuations in ranking from year to year are to be expected, since over 400 universities around the world receive rankings. “I wouldn't describe Rice's move from 65 to 69 as falling because Rice has consistently been in the top quartile for the past few years,” Collins said. “We are still doing better than we were two years ago when we were at 75.”Collins sad 33 percent of the total score is based on The Academic Reputation survey and the Research Reputation survey.“Because we don’t know about the response rate, or who is filling [the surveys] out, we don’t know whether it is skewed to certain parts of the world,” Collins said. “I don’t think you can say that being ranked at 65 or being ranked at 69 is a statement about a change in our teaching quality or academic quality”Although Rice does not disregard the rankings, the university is more focused on teaching, research and making an impact rather than on directly improving ranking, according to Collins.“The first thing to remember is that Rice does not exist to play the ranking game,” Collins said. "We can strengthen and support our faculty and research and expand our research profile both in terms of awards and citations. That’s helpful to us and may also be helpful in the rankings.”Hanszen College senior Andrew Clark believes a fluctuation in rankings should not concern students."Rice is a great institution,” Clark said. “An arbitrary small change does not really mean a lot.”