Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Saturday, May 18, 2024 — Houston, TX

Minoti Kale

NEWS 11/18/15 9:44am

Salman Rushdie talks tolerance in Houston

Last week Salman Rushdie, an international writing icon who won two Man Booker Prizes for his novel “Midnight’s Children,” came to Houston as part of Inprint’s Margarett Root Brown Reading series. His message, one of religious tolerance and peace, coincidentally came right when both seem to be at risk around the world.Rushdie read a selected excerpt from his new book, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.” Set in New York City, the book is centered around mythical jinn, and involves recurring themes of war, faith, religion and philosophy. The reading was followed by an onstage interview discussing Rushdie’s influences and style.Rushdie’s novel, though seen as a kind of alternate-universe fairy tale, makes several observations on our world’s relationship with things like religion and radicalism today. The interview concluded with two questions from students regarding religiously divisive politics, specifically those in India, and Rushdie’s response summarized his philosophy — secularism and pluralism should be upheld, and we must be open-minded and willing to engage with people from all parts of society while fighting terrorism and extremism.  It is a philosophy that we see in many college campuses, particularly here at Rice. However, recent events both on campuses in other parts of the country and in other parts of the world have led many to ask, to what extent are we actually a secular and plural community?For instance, the event with Rushdie occurred only a few days prior to the tragic events in Beirut and Paris. In the wake of these incidents, discussion on campus and on social media has centered on the motivations of the terrorists, how to manage the aftermath of the situation and the sentiments of those in the areas affected. A candlelight vigil was held on campus by the Bonuik Council on Nov. 15 to show solidarity between Rice students and with those in areas affected by these terrible attacks. However, one major consequence of the attacks came in the form of a statement issued by Greg Abbott. The current Texas governor said Texas will no longer accept incoming Syrian refugees, who were scheduled to come into the country over the next year. Several Rice students, in keeping with Rushdie’s message, immediately reacted to this statement by organizing a campaign that will be held over the course of five days, through Facebook, to protest this announcement and fight for a more humanitarian response to the plight of the refugees who are trying to escape the very same terrorist organization that launched these attacks. “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” has an overarching theme of war between the forces of light and darkness. The havoc-wreaking jinns in the story generate terror in a manner that is very similar to much of the terrorist action we are seeing in the world today. It is important to understand our role in promoting peace and religious tolerance in our community. Facilitating discussions between people from different backgrounds and encouraging people to participate in an ongoing dialogue regarding acceptance in our community is key to promoting a healthy environment that is truly representative of our secular stance in an intellectual community.  

NEWS 11/4/15 3:56am

Rice club uses music to heal

Rice has several clubs geared toward meeting the demands of many varied student interests, but few unite those coming from backgrounds as different as the humanities and medicine. Music MDs, a music therapy-based Rice club that was founded in fall 2014, does just that. Music MD’s roots lie in Florida where the club’s founder, Duncan College junior Varun Bansal, originally started the organization in high school.  The club consists of a group of student musicians, each highly proficient in their chosen area of music, who play music for patients at Houston Methodist Hospital. “What we basically do is go up to patient floors and play in individual patient rooms after asking the patients if they’d like to hear some music,” Bansal said. The members of the organization also have to meet the Methodist volunteer requirements and are a part of the general Methodist volunteer group.Though club members have not gone through formal therapy training, the club operates on the basic principles of music therapy. Though a relatively new health profession, music therapy has been proven to be very effective in assisting with physical therapy, and is also a positive motivator for patients who are undergoing intense medical treatments. The music session dates are organized by the club, in conjunction with the hospital, at the beginning of each month, and members sign up for the times when they are available. Usually a group of around seven people sign up and split into smaller groups of two or three people per room. Each group then plays a short selection of pieces for the patient.The pieces played are usually chosen by the students before they go to the hospital, based on their varying levels of experience. The repertoire covers a wide range of musical styles, though according to Bansal, it is more common for classical pieces and folk music to be requested.“We also have to make sure that the pieces we choose aren’t too long so we don’t interfere with medical care and other hospital protocols,” Bansal said. Though the pieces are generally selected by the students, patients can also request to have specific pieces played beforehand. Some more spontaneous song choices include playing “Happy Birthday” for the patients as a part of hospital birthday celebrations.“Patients in the hospital are out of their normal social  environment,” Bansal said. “What we’re trying to do is try to restore the normalcy of that environment and facilitate interaction with other people, which is something that several of these patients may miss out on.”According to Bansal and Jones College junior Julia Zhang, the music they play essentially serves as an icebreaker for conversation. “It allows us to engage with the patients. Bansal said. “Many times patients enjoy talking about famous musicians they’ve seen and they often have a child or a grandchild who plays an instrument, so playing music for them really helps with generating conversation.” Having such conversations has been clinically proven to help the patients feel happier and more socially connected, which is important to the healing process.Interacting with patients, however, isn’t always easy. According to Bansal and Zhang, students have to learn to not take rejection personally. Many of the hospital patients the students play for have been through long, difficult surgeries and are often in a lot of pain. “If a patient doesn’t want to hear something, you need to be understanding about that,” Bansal said. “Patients sometimes also have very strong opinions about things that you don’t necessarily agree with, but you have to be very sensitive to these feelings and ideas and must be very conciliatory in such situations.”Despite some difficulties, both Bansal and Zhang have found the program incredibly rewarding and several students in the club have received many positive testimonials and feedback from the patients they have played for. According to Bansal, his most memorable experience with the club came from a session with a patient who had recently had open-heart surgery. “She said that she felt like with the music that was played, every note was going right into her heart to heal it,” Bansal said. “That was very touching.”According to Zhang, the club also provides a distinctive experience for students and musicians to experience the medical environment in healthcare in a way that is very different from traditional shadowing. “It feels very involved,” Zhang said. “I think the program gives you a better idea of the empathetic side of what being a doctor would be like — interacting with them, caring for them, talking about their day and trying to help them feel better; and I feel like it is a really unique experience that you don’t really get  when you generally volunteer in the hospital.”Though the organization started in Florida, it already has a branch in Massachusetts, in addition to this newest one through Rice. “We might also try to expand our Houston program to Texas Children’s Hospital as well and to other public hospitals like Memorial Hermann,” Bansal said. “But we will definitely continue with Methodist as it has been a great experience.”

NEWS 4/15/15 10:11am

Language courses reduced to three credit hours from six

The Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication recently announced that all introductory language classes will be worth three credit hours instead of six starting next semester, though they will still offer distribution credit.The move marks a reversal from the past two years, when CLIC’s introductory language classes were increased from four to five credit hours entering the 2013-14 school year, then to six credit hours in the 2014 spring semester.CLIC director Rafael Salaberry said the center made the switch to six-credit-hour classes because these classes are easier to fit into schedules based mainly on multiples of three credit hours. Also, according to Salaberry, the center hoped longer classes would also give students a greater depth of understanding of their target language. However, students expressed concern that they would not have time to take such credit-heavy classes along with their majors, despite the fact that the classes offer distribution credit.According to Salaberry, the current administration at CLIC decided that three-credit-hour classes would be more familiar and easier for students to include in their schedules, as well as making classes more accessible to students from majors with stringent requirements. Lovett College sophomore Amber Tong said the change could increase enrollment in CLIC classes. “Reduction of hours would probably encourage more people to try out language courses considering the limited hours on our schedules,” Tong said. “But as far as learning goes, this would only work if the continuing courses are also restructured to accommodate the change.” According to Tong, who is currently enrolled in Intermediate Hindi II, restructuring would be difficult. Tong said the process of becoming familiar with a new alphabet and system would not be feasible given the shorter class period.Lovett College sophomore and linguistics major Katherine Borden also believes this change will impact the thoroughness of the language learning experience. “I’m glad it was six hours when I took beginning German,” Borden said. “It was a big time commitment, but my ultimate goal is to become fluent, and I just don’t think I could accomplish that with only three hours of instruction a week.”According to Borden, it may be difficult for students to learn languages effectively under the new system, though the classes are available to more students.“Languages are heavily nuanced, and that’s something you can’t pick up on without spending a lot of time with a fluent speaker,” Borden said. “The shorter classes make the languages more accessible, but that’s in exchange for a depth of instruction that I wouldn’t want to give up.”