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2020 VISION baseball seeks a return to glory days read more in our baseball insert, p. 7 - 10 NEWS

Concerning the coronavirus: Rice suspends sponsored travel to China

Pub reopens with new security measures BRIAN LIN SENIOR WRITER

Illustration BY chloe Xu


Due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, Rice Crisis Management suspended all university-sponsored travel to China by faculty, students and staff on Jan. 29, according to a universitywide email. The email also stated that there were no confirmed cases at Rice or in Texas at the time. According to Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman, the university has been paying close attention to the evolving situation. “We’re evaluating what different groups who are really knowledgeable about disease spread and epidemiology in general are saying and it seems like a reasonable precaution [to instate a travel ban],” Gorman said. As of Tuesday evening, there were more than 24,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, an increase from over 800 cases 12

days before, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. 99.1 percent of the cases have been identified in Mainland China; 11 cases have been confirmed in the United States, none of which are in Texas. On Jan. 30, the U.S. Department of State, which issues travel advisories to help people stay safe while abroad, moved the travel advisory for China from a Level 3 to a Level 4: Do Not Travel, the Department’s most severe designation. The Department of State recently urged U.S. citizens in China to stock up on food and stay home as much as possible. Although there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus at Rice, about six Rice community members who have traveled to China in the last 14 days but have not yet developed symptoms are self-isolating, according to Kevin Kirby, the vice president of administration. None of the six members are students. SEE CORONAVIRUS PAGE 2


Shepherd School professor Robert Simpson talks Grammy win IVANKA PEREZ FEATURES EDITOR

Although Billie Eilish may have been the star of this year’s Grammy Awards, the ceremony was a success for another, more local musician: Robert Simpson, a Shepherd School of Music professor who won Best Choral Performance for his role in conducting the Houston Chamber Choir’s recording of “Duruflé: Complete Choral Works.” Simpson began his career as an organist before slowly transitioning to choral conducting. After moving from Atlanta to work at the Episcopal Church cathedral in Houston, he found that he

wanted to conduct secular rather than religious choral music — the kind of music he couldn’t perform

I’m doing really well. Still floating — from the Grammy, of course.

Robert Simpson SHEPHERD SCHOOL PROFESSOR in the cathedral. After discovering a team of talented singers, Simpson and his wife Marianna Parnas-Simpson founded the

Houston Chamber Choir in 1995, and Simpson has been the artistic director ever since. 25 years later, the choir has won its first Grammy. How are you doing? Simpson: I’m doing really well. Still floating — from the Grammy, of course. What was it like to win a Grammy? It was surreal […] We were about an hour and a quarter into that ceremony and then all of a sudden, here comes “Best Choral Performance.” They listed [the nominees] on the screen and announced according to the conductor, so there was that moment when [they say,] “And the Grammy goes to …” and I was

waiting to hear [the] name of a conductor. I was hoping I’d hear “Ro… Robert,” but what we heard was “Duruflé, Complete Choral Works.” It didn’t register with me for a second until my wife next to me started to scream, “We won! We won!” And then I came out of the fog and the rest was just magical. After giving my acceptance speech, they presented me with the Grammy that I thought was our Grammy, but as soon as I got offstage, they whisked it out of my hands. I looked heartbroken, [but someone] said, “Oh, you don’t want this one. This is just a prop.” SEE GRAMMY PAGE 13

To prepare for its reopening this past Monday, Willy’s Pub implemented a camera and ID scanner system at the bar’s entrance. Pub was closed for the first few weeks of the semester following Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission violations in December at the “Last Pub of the Decade” event, according to Frank Rodriguez, board president of Valhalla & Willy’s Permits, which oversees the licenses of Pub and Valhalla. According to a press release by Pub, any further citations from TABC against Pub will likely force Pub to shut down permanently. TABC conducted an investigation of Pub on Dec. 6, the last day Pub was scheduled to open in the fall 2019 semester, and prompted two charges, the first ever made against Pub — one for selling alcohol to a minor and another for permitting a minor to possess or consume alcohol on the premises, according to Rodriguez. “[TABC] gave Willy’s as an establishment what they call administrative citations,” Rodriguez said. “We’re still waiting for TABC to get back to us and let us know if there are going to be fines and what those fines are going to be.” The ID scanner, which resembles a Rice servery scanner, can skim the magnetic strip on the back of driver’s licenses and Texas state IDs for a person’s age and date of birth, according to Julia Robinson, a McMurtry College junior and Pub’s finance manager. “We asked Willy’s after the [TABC investigation] to come up with upgraded procedures that would improve the way we check IDs,” Rodriguez said. “It’s obvious that fake IDs are a problem here, you know, and people are always trying to game the system.” Although the ID scanner can determine the authenticity of a scanned ID, it cannot identify if someone used someone else’s genuine ID to enter Pub, Robinson said. She said in most cases she encounters people using other people’s IDs, rather than fake IDs, to bypass Pub rules. “I think the issue is more that people have IDs that aren’t [theirs],” Robinson said. “Like an ID of a sibling or a friend that might be a legitimate ID. And I think those are mainly the ones I’ve seen that I’m like, I won’t accept this.” SEE PUB PAGE 2





Pub staffers will continue to counteract this form of fraud by comparing the photograph on the ID to the person carrying it and being familiar with the clientele, according to Robinson. Pub also repurposed an existing Rice Memorial Center security camera to capture the faces of people entering the bar, according to Rodriguez. The line into the bar will now wind around a table at the entrance so that customers entering the bar will briefly face the RMC camera, Rodriguez said. “We wouldn’t pull it for any other reason other than if TABC questioned us or wanted to see data of a certain person that was charged with underaged drinking,” Rodriguez said. “And Rice might ask for information on that as well.” Although minors are permitted inside Pub, they are barred from ordering alcohol, according to Emily Duffus, a McMurtry junior and the general manager of Pub. Minors have been able to skirt this restriction by having someone over



Kirby said it is uncertain whether university measures, such as the travel suspension and advised self-isolation, will be increased. “It could be quite different a week from now,” Kirby said. “At the moment, we don’t anticipate any changes, but we don’t know.” If there is a serious escalation in the number of confirmed cases within the U.S. and the significant presence of the virus in Houston and at Rice, the university would be further affected, according to Kirby. “It’d have a dramatic effect on everything we do,” Kirby said. “Not just admissions, but everything [such as] study abroad, people being able to come here, graduate students being able to come here for interviews, our ability to do research collaborations in other countries.” Some students, like Jiayi Sun, have family in China to worry about. Sun, who was born in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak, said her entire family is from the region. “My parents were in contact with my extended family and friends who are still in Wuhan and I hear about how they live everyday in fear and isolation, which is so heartbreaking, especially when there are people who are using this situation as an opportunity to be racist and spread rumors about my birth town and China in general,” Sun, a Lovett College senior, said. TIME magazine recently reported on increasing concerns of xenophobia and hateful rhetoric directed towards those of Asian descent. Sun, who is the president of Asian Pacific American Student Alliance, said her club plans to host a discussion about xenophobia and stereotyping. “I’ve heard people [say to] avoid Chinatown because ‘it’s dirty & diseasefilled,’” Sun said. “I understand why people are fearful because this is a dangerous virus, but don’t fear and blame an entire race.” According to Kirby, the administration received reports of some cases of similarly xenophobic behavior in the campus community. Kirby did not comment on the nature of the incidents, but said that they were very few in number. “We take [those cases] very seriously,” Kirby said. “There’s no place at Rice for that kind of behavior. So when we find out about it, [the leaders of the university] take action.” Sun said she thinks Rice should make a statement against racism and xenophobia in support for Asian students at Rice, in particular international students.

21 purchase drinks and discreetly hand them off, according to Duffus. “Historically if we see people who were underage drinking here, we just reprimand them a little bit and take their drink,” Duffus said. “But [now] we’re not comfortable having people in the bar who we don’t think are working in our interests, and we’ll just make them leave.” Pub has also revised their back door security to ensure no alcohol is brought out of the bar into the alcohol-free RMC, according to Robinson. During the last few weeks of the fall 2018 semester, Pub was shut down over reports of alcohol found in an RMC conference room, which violated the Rice Alcohol Policy. “The back door [security] has to open the door for people leaving to make sure that there aren’t people leaving with drinks because that’s a problem,” Robinson said. “The RMC’s dry. Whereas we’re allowed to have alcohol here, there’s not allowed to be any alcohol [in the RMC].” Pub will also require those over 21 to wear one color of snap-on wristbands and those underage to wear wristbands of a different color, according to Robinson. “We don’t know how much serious this disease can get, which can potentially lead to more aggressive, negative responses,” Sun said. “Some students may have been targets of such racism remarks and feel victimized [or] helpless.” President David Leebron will send out a message on the matter later this week, according to Kirby. Gorman said that no magisters have reached out to her about this particular issue. Gorman added that there is no reason for xenophobic behavior, and that it is important to pay attention to the specifics of what is known about the disease. Erykah Pedro said she was planning on applying to a study abroad program in China, but that her best option now is to apply to the program in an alternate location or for a different term. “Rice still isn’t sponsoring China programs, so if I send in my application I’ll probably still not be able to go,” Pedro, a Jones College sophomore, said. At the moment, there are no Rice students participating in the Center for Civic Leadership’s international programs in China, according to Fatima Raza, assistant director of programs and partnerships. The Department of State travel advisory has also affected the future circumstances of various programs, including the Fulbright scholarships, the Wagoner Fellowship and the Loewenstern Fellowship, Raza said. “We’re trying to work with the students to see if they’re able to come up with an alternative regional location to do the programming since we do have to abide by State Department travel advisories,” Raza said. “Student safety is really our number one priority in terms of our international programming.” According to Caroline Levander, the vice president for global and digital strategy, limited travel to China or possibly other countries affected by the virus will not have a long-term effect on Rice’s ambitions for international engagement. “I think it’s important to remember that [a travel ban] doesn’t stop our faculty from collaborating through remote means, or our students,” Levander said. “Our ability to be wise and thoughtful and respectful of all of our members [is] very important in these times. We all need to treat each other with great compassion and respect.” Editor-in-Chief Christina Tan contributed to this report. Editor’s Note: The Thresher plans to publish an in-depth feature on campus-wide reactions to coronavirus in the upcoming month.

Channing Wang / Thresher

Pub staffers will now use an ID scanner to verify the validity of presented IDs. These changes follow Pub’s being found in violation of Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s policies.

In the past, Pub staffers would draw an X on the hands of minors using Sharpie marker before they could enter Pub, Duffus said. “The Sharpie was really easy to rub off, and people would trade wristbands,” Duffus said. “Now with the two wristband system, I think it’s going to be easier for us to make sure everyone in the bar has a wristband identifying their age.” Robinson said she hopes students will cooperate with Pub to prevent further

TABC violations. In Pub’s press release, staffers urge students to refrain from drinking underage in Pub, handing off drinks to minors or presenting staff with fake IDs. “If being closed for three weeks at the beginning of the semester is the difference between us being open after that or us being closed, literally, forever,” Robinson said, “I think we’re all willing to be closed the first three weeks of the semester to figure it out.”

N THE RADAR Power Women Panel February 6 @ 6 p.m. // Farnsworth Pavillion Rice’s American Association of University Women will host a panel of five women who are leaders in their fields to discuss their career paths and their passion for women empowerment. The panel members include Mana Yegani, immigration attorney, Rose Mary Salum, founder of an award-winning bilingual journal and publishing house and Karen Lu, the head of the gynecological oncology and reproductive medicine department at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The event is free and will provide Thai food.

SpoCo commits crimes against hilarity February 7 @ 7:15 p.m. // Herring 100 Spontaneous Combustion, Rice’s only improv comedy group, will host their first show of the semester this Friday. The event is a criminallythemed show “that’ll surely go down on our permanent records.” It is free and open to the public.

How to make a crossword workshop February 9 @ 1 p.m. // Thresher Office

Come learn how to write your own crosswords from the Thresher’s two experts and regular puzzle-makers, Sam Rossum and Grant Lu, at the Thresher’s first crossword workshop this Sunday. The workshop is a good opportunity, whether you’re interested in taking over their roles next year or just want some insider tips on solving puzzles faster. This event is free and open to the public and will serve tacos and coffee.

Civic Data and Tech Careers Panel February 5 @ 3 p.m. // Miner Lounge

This panel will engage professionals who use technology and data in a variety of ways to impact our communities. Panelists have used or created civic technology to support social service delivery and to increase citizen engagement and empowerment.

INFOGRAPHIC BY dan Helmeci and Anna ta



Women’s Resource Center offers pregnancy tests HAJERA NAVEED THRESHER STAFF The Rice Women’s Resource Center began offering free pregnancy tests last week to all students. These tests are located in the center in the Rice Memorial Center, alongside other previouslyoffered resources like condoms, tampons and pads. RWRC Directors Jane Clinger, Jannie Matar and Reagan Borick said they hoped to give students the opportunity to get pregnancy tests at a central location on campus, and provide them for free for those who can not afford it. The center offers two different types of tests, a strip test and a digital test, both of which claim to be about 99% accurate. Home pregnancy tests typically cost between $1 and $20 over the counter, according to verywellfamily.com. The pregnancy tests came out of the resource center’s preexisting budget. The digital tests, which are used strictly for early detection of pregnancy, are kept behind the desk and available upon request, while the strip tests are available to grab along with other supplies, according to Matar. Clinger said she recommends using the strip test first and then double checking with the digital test if the strip test reads positive. The Rice Student Health Services Office already offers free pregnancy tests, but Clinger said she believes the RWRC is a more convenient location for students to get these tests as they are open for longer hours and are centrally located on campus. To obtain a pregnancy test from Student Health, students must schedule an appointment and come in to see the

Channing wang / Thresher

The Rice Women’s Resource Center began offering free pregnancy tests last week. The tests include both strip and digital forms: The digital tests, which are specifically meant for early detection of pregnancy, are available upon request, while the strip tests are laid out along with other supplies.

doctor, according to Student Health. The center offers urine tests, similar to the ones offered by the RWRC, along with blood tests. “Regardless of how difficult it is to get a test at the health center, it would hopefully be more convenient for [students] to get the test at the women’s resource center,” Clinger said. Clinger also said she believes that having the tests available at the center will grant students greater anonymity. Without the resource center, to get a pregnancy test students have to make an appointment with the health center or walk over to local pharmacies which could make it more difficult for them to remain secret, if that is what they desire. After a week of offering the tests, the center’s directors have said that many people have been taking advantage of

the resource. According to Matar, the pregnancy tests seem popular because they continue to run out and are restocked multiple times a week. One senior said a discreet and convenient way to get pregnancy tests would have helped them during their freshman year. (Editor’s note: This student’s identity has been anonymized to protect them from possible familial repercussions). “My freshman year, I didn’t really have a constant birth control form and I have a very religious family, so talking to them about buying a pregnancy test if I was concerned didn’t seem like an option,” they said. “It was late one night during my first semester here when I realized I had not gotten my period. I was really scared, because obviously I was not trying to get pregnant. I had to walk through

Rice Village to get a pregnancy test and also ended up spending half my monthly budget on a pregnancy test.” The senior also expressed the need to have pregnancy tests readily available, due to the limited family planning options in Texas, which limits options for those who do not find out that they are pregnant early enough. Texas law bans abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization, and requires abortions after 16 weeks to be performed at a surgical center or hospital. MaeLea Williams, a RWRC volunteer, said that the cost of pregnancy tests can be a burden on students. “I am really glad that the resource center is providing these tests for free,” Williams, a Sid Richardson College freshman, said. “Some people are reluctant to buy the tests because of how expensive they are.”

Y2K keeps students waiting RISHAB RAMAPRIYAN NEWS EDITOR Students expressed frustration over hourlong wait times for McMurtry College’s annual Y2K-themed public party, held on Feb. 1. Following unsafe line conditions that led to a student being hospitalized and Rice University Police Department shutting down the party last year, the organizers implemented a new wristband system for Saturday’s public. Some students, however, still reported wait times exceeding two hours, deterring them from staying in line to enter the public. McMurtry external socials sold wristbands for $2 during the week leading up to the party to limit the number of attendees, according to a statement to the Thresher from McMurtry President Joyce Chen on behalf of all the external socials and Chief Justice Augi Liebster. “With [the party’s] history in mind, we decided to limit the number of possible attendees via a wristband system,” they said in their statement. “Ticketing this year for $2 allowed us to hire extra RUPD officers and cap the number of people who can attend the public.” Jared Snow, a Will Rice College sophomore, said he arrived at the Y2K line at 10:45 p.m. and was told at 11:30 p.m. by a security volunteer that he would have to wait two more hours. “I gave up because I didn’t pay $2 to wait for almost 3 hours in the cold, only to get 30 minutes of party,” Snow said. “I was disappointed when I showed up to Y2K, and it appeared that they had very similar problems with capacity and line overcrowding that they did last year.” Doubting the possibility of a refund, Snow said he ended up returning to the party at 12:30 a.m. and was able to get into the party at 1:15 a.m. According to Chen, everyone with a wristband who waited in line got into the public and the line was empty by 1:17 a.m. The Murts said the external social chairs sold more tickets than the capacity of the McMurtry commons since they assumed people would “stream in and out” during the four-hour event. Following rumors about the overselling of wristbands, Chen sent a

message to a McMurtry GroupMe, of which the Thresher obtained a screenshot. “The rumor going around that we oversold for Y2K is 100 percent not true,” Chen, a senior, wrote. “[Our] externals ran models ... and capped ticket sales so that everyone can get in, but if everyone tries to ‘beat the line’ and all show up at 10 p.m., I can guarantee you that we’ll get shut down [like] last year.” The Murts declined to release data about the number of wristbands sold and answer questions about the “models” used, upon multiple requests by the Thresher. They said that the total number of available wristbands was determined by taking into account data from other popular public flows, and that the socials also consulted RUPD, the Office of Risk Management and the McMurtry adult team. “There is a line at every popular public, and we cannot control when people come or how long they stay,” they said. Snow was also a two-time organizer for Architectronica, the public party put on by the School of Architecture. After a shutdown of the 2017 party due to unsafe line conditions, Snow and the organizers implemented a paid wristband system for the 2018 party and moved to QR code tickets via OwlNest for the 2019 party. “For Architectronica, which is an event run in a very similar way insofar as ticketing, we only sold 25 percent over the fire code capacity of our space, and we never had a line outside for more than a few minutes at a time when large groups arrived and had to check in on OwlNest,” Snow said. “I think it was unwise of Y2K to sell ticket numbers clearly much more over their capacity, knowing the reputation that Y2K has as an event that one must arrive early to.” Zain Imam said that he and his friends arrived around midnight, but decided to leave after estimating upwards of a ninetyminute wait. “I felt simply scammed,” Imam, a Duncan College junior, said. “I was looking forward to enjoying a night with my friends, but unfortunately, our hopes were dashed by the poor handling of Y2K. Why have wristbands if you cannot accommodate everyone?”

Summer Tuition Access Grant Degree-seeking Rice undergraduates who qualify for need-based aid during the academic year are eligible to receive a need-based grant to participate in summer study abroad programs through the Rice Study Abroad Office!

Grants awarded in the amount of up to $3000 or 50% summer program tuition (whichever amount is smaller). Limited to 15 eligible students.

Interested students should consult a study abroad advisor. Apply by March 5th—early planning encouraged.



Ion Community Benefits Agreement shifts to City of Houston Oct. 2017 Rice Management Company buys out Sears’ land lease in Midtown.

Feb. 2019 Students begin to organize over concerns about gentrification.

Oct. 2019

Jan. 27, 2020

Feb. 3, 2020

HCEDD officially forms, asks for CBA, has first meeting.

SA introduces SR#8, in support of the goal to get RMC to enter CBA with HCEDD. RMC advises against SR#8.

SR#8 is reintroduced, and HCEDD is replaced with City of Houston. Voting on SR#8 is postponed.

April 2018

July 2019

Jan. 20, 2020

RMC decides to pursue Ion Building and Innovation District Project.

Turner, RMC, and Student Coalition are present at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Student Coalition writes letter to RMC and Board of Trustees demanding that they enter a CBA with HCEDD.

Jan. 29, 2020 Mayor Sylvester Turner tells Grace Wickerson he has appointed Chief Development Officer Andy Icken to negotiate a CBA between City of Houston and RMC.

Timeline of Innovation District CBA advocacy INFOGRAPHIC BY dan Helmeci

RYND MORGAN ASST NEWS EDITOR The ongoing fight for a community benefits agreement between Houston community members and Rice Management Company for the Innovation District project continued on Monday, with a Student Association proposal to change language in their resolution supporting the CBA — the proposal was tabled after heated discussion. The SA Senate proposal, which would shift SA support from community members to the City of Houston, would be a potential blow to the community members who form the Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement. The changes to Senate Resolution #8 are in response Mayor Sylvester Turner’s email to SA President Grace Wickerson on Jan. 29 stating that he has instructed the city’s chief development officer to negotiate a community benefits agreement with Rice Management Company, according to a Houston Chronicle article. A community benefits agreement, or CBA, is a legally binding, enforceable agreement that calls for a range of benefits to the local community to be produced by the development project. The email from Turner follows Rice Management Company’s visit to the Jan. 27 SA Senate meeting, in which representatives from Rice Management Company stated that they did not support

the SA Senate resolution urging them to enter into a CBA with the HCEDD. Since Turner made the announcement in support of a CBA with the City of Houston, President David Leebron has committed Rice to entering a CBA with the City of Houston, according to the new resolution.

I feel like it says more about administration if us supporting the community causes them to not want to work with us anymore. Divine Webber DUNCAN COLLEGE SA SENATOR A coalition such as HCEDD can propose additional stipulations to a CBA during the negotiation process, whereas the City of Houston would be restricted in the stipulations they can ask for, according to Assata Richards, a member of HCEDD. “As an SA, saying that we support a CBA between Houston/[Rice Management Company] is saying that we support taking power away from HCEDD,” Jones College SA Senator Drew Carter said. According to Wickerson, Rice

Management Company does not recognize the HCEDD as a signatory party in the community benefits agreement. Turner has appointed Andy Icken, chief development officer for the City of Houston, to enter negotiations with Rice Management Company. In a statement to the Thresher, Icken said that the city’s interest is focused on ensuring that the benefits of the Ion project are widely shared across our community. “For the past four years, the city has been engaged in an effort to enhance underserved communities across the city,” Icken wrote in the statement to the Thresher. “We will engage them and other citizen-led efforts as we proceed on this effort.” At the SA Senate meeting on Feb. 3, Wickerson and resolution writer Mary Claire Neal discussed the changes to the resolution. One significant change is that while the resolution no longer recognizes the HCEDD as a signatory party, it does ask that the HCEDD is represented in the negotiation process. “My goal is to preserve [the] legitimacy of HCEDD as a negotiating party,” Neal, a Jones College junior, said. “I feel super weird that we’re almost being forced to not recognize the legitimacy of the [HCEDD], even though we as a student body, that’s what we care about.” The changes to the resolution are also motivated by a desire to maintain a relationship with Rice Management Company and the administration so that the

SA can create a task force to work with the company while advocating for the HCEDD, according to Wickerson. “They could no longer work with us [if we supported the HCEDD as a signatory party] because we’ve chosen our side, per se, and that means the door is now closed to pursue future negotiation with a more open clause about who can be the signatory,” Wickerson said. Duncan College SA Senator Divine Webber said that if the Rice administration wants feedback from students, they do not have a choice but to work with the SA, regardless of whether or not the SA supports the HCEDD as a signatory party. “I feel like it says more about administration if us supporting the community causes them to not want to work with us anymore,” Webber, a sophomore, said. “We’re the group on campus that is made up of everyone from all the residential colleges, elected representatives, who are they going to work with if not with us? I feel like that is a very thin threat to place on us.” Neal said she has more confidence in the City of Houston than with Rice to accept the HCEDD as a legitimate coalition. “Obviously Rice has kind of eliminated that, but I don’t think the city can eliminate that because of their responsibility to their constituents,” Neal said. The SA will be hosting a town hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6 to continue discussing the resolution.

Wiess College announces application process for the 2020 John E. Parish Fellowship

Recipients will receive support for approximately two months of travel during the summer of 2020. The purpose of the fellowship is to enhance the undergraduate education of the fellow by broadening the range of experience via self-directed travel. Application information can be found at parish.rice.edu. The deadline for submission of application materials is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, February 28, 2020.

Dynamic and Energetic Teachers wanted. Pay rate is $24 to $38 per hour. We provide all training. Email your resume to rice-jobs@testmasters.com



Rice hires ambulances for weekend nights CHRISTINE ZHAO FOR THE THRESHER Following concerns that the university was putting a strain on Houston’s resources, beginning this spring semester, the Harris County Emergency Corp will be hired for a trial period as the campus’s ambulance service from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night. Rice University Police Department police chief Clemente Rodriguez said that although there hasn’t been an abnormal uptick in call volume, these periods are typically busier for the city as well. For the Rice campus and visitors, HCEC transports will cost the same as normal transports, and ambulances are hired at an undisclosed rate according to Rodriguez and Rice Emergency Medical Services director Lisa Basgall. The Houston Chronicle reports that the base cost for Houston ambulance transports increased 70 percent in 2019 to $1,876.40 plus $14.36 per mile. Rice University student insurance covers 75 percent of ambulance transport costs, according to the Rice Aetna portal, but Basgall said that typical insurance coverage varies widely. Although Justin* doesn’t recall many details from the night of their ambulance transport, they remember receiving help from emergency staff and arriving at Memorial Hermann Hospital in around 5 minutes. (Editor’s Note: The Thresher has granted this student anonymity because of the legal implications of their comments related to an underage drinking incident.) “I remember snippets of people trying to help me, throwing up a little, EMS was there, and I was lying on the ground so out of it,” Justin* said. “I wasn’t really thinking about the cost at that point, I just wasn’t feeling too good. They just took my insurance card and I was like oh, insurance will cover everything.

Channing Wang / Thresher

Rice University has hired the Harris County Emergency Corps to provide transport services on Friday and Saturday nights. Rice Emergency Medical Services (shown above) does not transport.

Turns out they won’t cover everything.” Justin* ended up paying $300 after insurance for a $2000 ambulance bill. Justin* said he is grateful and satisfied with the medical care they received but believes a short trip to the Medical Center didn’t merit the cost. “I think the ambulance helped but I feel like someone else could’ve driven me across the street and I wouldn’t have had to spend $2000,” Justin* said. “I was not really [worried about it] because my parents were the ones who paid for it and so they were more worried about me than they were worried about the money. But for someone who would be impacted more, they would pay for an ambulance ride they didn’t even want to have.” REMS, the campus’s first responder agency, does not provide ambulance transports to the hospital as part of their medical care. The organization has frequently utilized HCEC ambulances as a supplementary transport service for special events such as commencement, publics and sporting events for the past 10 years, but this semester will be the first time that HCEC’s transport services will be hired on a weekly basis. “There hasn’t been a change in our call volume, we’re not seeing any different

trends, but the weekends and evenings tend to be busy for us, with things like Powderpuff injuries or sporting events that come to campus,” Basgall said. REMS and RUPD communicated with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates, Rice Student Health Services Office and the Office of the Vice President over the course of six months to introduce this program. According to Basgall, this decision was primarily made to reduce ambulance response times and strain on the Houston Fire Department’s resources, though HFD raised no complaints, according to Rodriguez. The Thresher reached out to Basgall for anonymized data on the variation of transport volumes throughout a week, but Basgall declined to provide that information on grounds of patient privacy. The REMS homepage reports that throughout the 20182019 academic year, HFD transported 93 of the 650 REMS calls. The goal of having a readily available ambulance service, Basgall said, is to streamline the process from emergency call to the hospital. “Here on campus, REMS is the first responder, so we’ve already sifted out which patients don’t need transport to the hospital,” Basgall said. “If we call 911 and say we need an ambulance to come, sometimes we get fire apparatus, sometimes we get ambulances,

sometimes we get both of those things, so it can take 10-15 minutes to arrive. Having [HCEC] here means that we don’t have to go through those additional steps and we can transport faster.” Although HFD does experience systemwide lags behind the National Fire Protection’s standards, six minutes average versus the five minutes standard, the department is still performing better than the national average response time for ambulances of eight minutes, according to Houston Channel 2 News and Reuters. The response centers closest to Rice’s campus hover around six minutes average response time. Statistics from the REMS website show that the most common REMS call types are related to orthopedic injuries and alcohol incidents. The Thresher reached out to Dr. Jessica McKelvey, director of Rice Student Health, for comment on whether decreasing response times through HCEC would have an impact on common REMS calls but McKelvey could not be reached by time of publication. When Will Rice junior Priscilla Huh got concussed last year and twisted her ankle on Jan. 26, she opted to have her friend drive her to the emergency room for several reasons: She said she believed her injuries weren’t time sensitive. She knew that ambulances were expensive and appreciated the comfort of having a companion nearby. Most of REMS calls ending in transport, 162 of the 262 last year, involved transport to the ER in a privately owned vehicle rather than ambulance, according to the REMS website. “Unless there’s a huge spike in injuries or transport needs, I don’t think people are going to choose to take the ambulance,” Huh said. “At the ER, a lot of times you have to be there for a long time. Having someone to talk to and be there with you is comforting.”




A call to remember what the SA is for We, as active participants in the Student Association Senate, feel that the SA is currently operating by a top-down model, with the chain of communication beginning with Rice administration and ending with the students. But the intent of an organization like the SA should be the opposite. It’s not meant to be a conduit through which university administrators impose their opinions and projects. We have lost a sense of student agency in the SA Senate, and this is a dangerous path for the SA to continue on. The SA is 4,000 students, not just a few elected college representatives and an executive team. The SA Senate is made up of a system of delegates for the sole reason of representing the student body, so let’s use them and listen to them. Throughout previous and current terms we have seen the erosion of student autonomy. For example, in 2016, the imposition of an 18-credit hour cap on undergraduates provoked student outrage and protest. In the decision to build an inflatable dome, while student opinions were collected, the process was rushed and resulted in miscommunications between the administration and students. We have seen more restrictions placed on student events and traditions. Now, with the upcoming development of the Ion, the Rice Management Company is warning the SA Senate that if we support a Community Benefits Agreement with a coalition such as the Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement, a group representing Houston’s Third Ward, it would delegitimize the voice of the SA Senate, and as a result the entire SA, both for this project and in the future. It is unfair of administrators to attempt to manipulate student opinion through implied threats.

As we make this critique, we recognize our own participation in this cycle, and we must note that our student leaders and administrators do their best and truly care. We view the erosion of student autonomy as a process that has occurred slowly over time. As a byproduct, the 2019-2020 SA Senate has grappled with how to respond to campus events and a sense of uncertainty permeates each discussion about how to make statements on behalf of the student body. We suspect that the underlying cause of this sentiment is a fear of angering administration. It is important for our Rice community to recognize and acknowledge that we have lost sight of the intended purpose of the SA and now it is time to stop, reflect and change. The SA Senate should be able to convey student opinion without being delegitimized and without the fear that future student leaders will be punished as a result of our expression and validation of student beliefs. Our opinions are not meant to be in perfect agreement with those of the administration. We all come from unique backgrounds and have different perspectives on Rice issues, so it makes sense that we will develop differing views. So please, Rice administration and Rice Management Company, let us express those views, without threats and manipulation, and listen to them from a place of respect. We coexist at Rice, and our ideas and opinions should be allowed to coexist as well. If Rice is truly a place where diverse ideas and perspectives are celebrated, then the SA Senate should be able to present those ideas to our administration and have them be recognized as valid and truthful. We come to Rice to learn how to critically think about the world, and

student governance provides students with that opportunity. The role of the SA Senate is broad, but we should not be afraid to let a lack of specificity stop us from representing the student body. Our mission as a senate is to listen to the 4,000 voices of the Student Association, and this term the students have made their voices clear: They want big statements calling for action. We have set the stage for more and now it is time to act. It is time for the SA to adapt, listen to the students and our peers, take charge and make real changes on campus. We implore future voting members to take to heart their role as conduits of student opinion, and we ask that our fellow Rice students be active in conveying their opinions to their representatives. To administrators, we ask that you understand and respect that the SA, through its various projects and resolutions, is attempting to reflect our views as students. Our message is clear: We as students deserve an SA Senate that can freely express opinions to the administration. Once Rice can develop a true system of shared governance, we can achieve a relationship founded on trust and collaboration between the SA and Rice Administration. Ariana Engles served as SA President during the 2018 - 2019 year. Ashley Fitzpatrick is the Martel College SA senator.


ASK THE STAFF What/who is your valentine? “The fans in the Rice Memorial Center” – Elizabeth Hergert, Opinion Editor

“One of the triplets Rice did a senior spotlight on last year, but I mix up which one” – Simona Matovic, Backpage Editor

“Anyone who guest swipes me. Find me at Baker Kitchen and it could be you ;)” – Ella Feldman, Features Editor

“The Thresher crosswords” – Henry Baring, Video Staffer


Y2K sets dangerous precedent

Saturday night, hundreds of Rice students paid $2 to stand in line for one of the most popular publics of the year, Y2K, with some waiting over two hours only to not get in. Despite claiming that they based the number of wristband sales on statistical “models” that would allow entry to everyone, McMurtry College refused to release this data publicly, leaving the logic and intent behind this new system unclear. Additionally, the conflicting explanations given by various McMurtry student leaders have muddled the situation rather than clarified it. After last year’s crowded line fiasco, it makes sense that this year’s socials decided to sell a limited amount of wristbands to ensure a smooth entry process while respecting the limitations of the space. However, by not limiting wristband sales to a reasonable amount, the socials were not only unable to fix the issue but also effectively took hundreds of dollars from students who were still denied entry. Simply distributing a controlled number of free wristbands, as suggested by McMurtry student leaders after last year’s fiasco, would have had the same effect of limiting entry without risking the shameful result that transpired. Furthermore, purchasing a ticket simply for a spot in line is unprecedented for any Rice public. Purchasing a wristband for Night of Decadence or Architectronica, the only other publics that have charged for entry, has always resulted in guaranteed admission. McMurtry social chairs should have clarified what students were paying for and they still need to clarify where that money is now. NOD and Architectronica organizers have publicly discussed their ticket numbers and have provided reasoning for sales: NOD needs higher level security, and Architectronica does not have a budget from the School of Architecture. That being said, ticketed publics in general point to a developing issue of selling entry to publics which are supposed to be open to the whole student body. While the $2 price makes Y2K the cheapest ticketed public of the year, it’s a dangerous precedent to set, especially if tickets do not guarantee entry. A widening attendance divide between “good” and “bad” publics should not necessitate ticket sales at the “good” ones. Instead, college governments should work together with the Rice University Police Department to make these events financially accessible — either by subsidizing extra police costs, using quotas or lotteries that don’t require financial buyin or even encouraging colleges to join together and pool resources for joint publics. With three public parties now charging for tickets, and Y2K ostensibly charging for just a spot in line, it’s time for a conversation about the future of public parties.

STAFF Christina Tan* Editor-in-Chief Anna Ta* Managing Editor NEWS Rishab Ramapriyan* Editor Amy Qin* Editor Rynd Morgan Asst. Editor Savannah Kuchar Asst. Editor FEATURES Ivanka Perez* Editor Ella Feldman* Editor ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT Katelyn Landry* Editor & Designer OPINIONS Elizabeth Hergert* Editor

SPORTS Michael Byrnes Editor Madison Buzzard* Editor BACKPAGE Simona Matovic* Editor & Designer PHOTO Channing Wang Editor COPY Vi Burgess Editor Bhavya Gopinath Editor Phillip Jaffe Editor ONLINE Ryan Green Web Editor Priyansh Lunia Video Editor

DESIGN Tina Liu* Director Dalia Gulca A&E Designer Joseph Hsu Features Designer Katherine Hui Sports Designer Anna Chung Ops Designer Dan Helmeci News Designer Yifei Zhang Illustrator Chloe Xu Illustrator

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Justin Collins

Austin Bulman

Cade Edwards
























Braden C





Trei Cruz








* junior college stats


Owls look for improvement over last season MICHAEL BYRNES SPORTS EDITOR

Last year marked a brave new step into an uncharted world for the Rice baseball team. After 27 years, 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and one national championship all under the steady stewardship of Wayne Graham, Rice opted to part ways with the only coach they’d ever achieved success under. But 2018, Graham’s final season, was a far cry from the sustained success that characterized his tenure as Rice’s head coach. The Owls struggled to a 26-31-2 finish, missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994. Enter head coach Matt Bragga. Fresh off a 52-10 season piloting the controls at Tennessee Tech University, Bragga arrived at Rice with experience, exuberance and confidence that the Owls were going to turn things around. So, how did Rice do in 2019? Well, the Owls struggled to a 26-33 record, missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in two years. Rather than getting better, one could argue that Rice got even worse. The Owls’ shakiness in 2019 was evident right out of the gates. Though Rice took two out of three games in its season-opening series against the University of Rhode Island, the Owls’ offense was already starting to exhibit the inconsistency that would plague them throughout the season, scoring only one run in the first game and 15 two days later. Their defense was also skittish, committing seven errors. According to senior third baseman Braden Comeaux, the team never really got on track last season. “We never really meshed together as a team,” Comeaux said. “We never really had that moment where we were all clicking on all cylinders and doing everything right at the right time.” Though Rice’s pitching had strong moments, it continually struggled to close out the end of games. The Owls lost nine games after leading in the eighth inning or later, including all three games of their series against Marshall University to close the regular season. According to senior second baseman Cade

“We did lose a guy in Andrew Dunlap who Edwards, Rice must improve in late-game was very pivotal to our offensive success last situations to make a leap this season. “We were ahead in a lot of games late in year,” Edwards said. “But we’ve got plenty of the game that we ended up losing,” Edwards [new] guys to fill in those gaps that we may said. “And that’ll change a whole season from have lost last year … We’ve gained more than success to failure. That’s probably, looking we’ve lost, I think.” The Owls’ top-end starting pitching was a back, the toughest thing we didn’t do right last bright spot for last year’s team. Then-junior year which we’re hoping to correct this year.” Rice’s lineup depth was another major Matt Canterino and then-senior Evan Kravetz issue. The top of the order was strong, with five combined for a 3.00 ERA and 229 strikeouts in starters hitting over .290: Edwards, Comeaux, 180 innings. But Rice lost both pitchers in the current junior shortstop Trei Cruz, current 2019 MLB Draft. According to Bragga, filling senior outfielder Bradley Gneiting and then- their roles will be tough. “It’s going to be difficult; [they’re] hard to senior designated hitter Andrew Dunlap. However, the rest of Rice’s batters posted a replace,” Bragga said. “[But] we’ve got what I dismal .209 combined batting average, failing feel is a pretty good core in terms of guys that to provide the offensive spark necessary to are gonna get out there and perform.” According to Bragga, junior support the top of the lineup. But Bragga said one of the Owls’ major weaknesses last year Alex DeLeon, a transfer from McLennan Community College, could become an asset is poised to be Rice’s this season. number one starter “We actually have some [depth this This season I think we’ve this year. Junior Kel Bordwine, who made season], so that’s a meshed and [we] have nine starts last season, good thing,” Bragga will most likely feature said. “I think that more team chemistry in the rotation as well. actually could be one than any other team I’ve of our strengths this played on since I’ve been Bragga said the starting pitching after DeLeon year. The dropoff in isn’t set yet, though production should be at Rice. the Owls have several very minimal from top Braden Comeaux pitchers poised to to bottom in the order. make a leap this year. It wouldn’t shock me if SENIOR THIRD BASEMAN “[Sophomore] Blake our seven or eight-hole hitter hit higher than our [five-hole or two- Brogdon right now has taken a huge step forward; his stuff has been electric so far this hole hitter].” This year, Rice brings back four of the spring,” Bragga said. “[Sophomore] Brandon five aforementioned .290 hitters, losing only Deskins is another one: a left-handed pitcher Dunlap to graduation. To help replace his that’s made a huge jump from last year.” Sophomore Dalton Wood, a key bullpen production, and resolve the depth issues from last year, the Owls have added some cog from last year’s team, could compete fresh faces to the offense this year. Junior for rotation time after recovering from his designated hitter Brayden Combs, junior first current injury. One other name to keep baseman Austin Bulman and junior infielder an eye on is senior Roel Garcia, who was Daniel Hernandez all arrive at Rice as junior a regular in the Owls’ rotation two years college transfers, and catcher/outfielder Tyler ago but missed all of last season after LaRue, catcher Cullen Hannigan and infielder undergoing Tommy John surgery. Bragga Cristian Cienfuegos join the team as true said Garcia’s talent is undeniable. “Stuff-wise, he’s elite; I mean, it’s firstfreshmen. Combs, Bulman and LaRue are round talent,” Bragga said. “[And] what we’ve expected to slot into the opening-day lineup. According to Edwards, the Owls’ offense seen [from] him coming back from surgery so far this spring has been just remarkable. So should be improved from last year.

we’re excited to see what he can do.” According to DeLeon, the Owls’ coaches have focused on pitch location and getting ahead in the count during offseason practices. “[Assistant coach Cory Barton] is having us really work on locating fastballs, more specifically early in the count so you can get ahead,” DeLeon said. “After the first couple fastballs you can work off whatever you want; you control their at-bat rather than falling behind to the hitter.” To help with both hitting and pitching, the Owls invested heavily in technology during the offseason. This year, Rice has installed a virtual reality headset in the visitors’ locker room that allows Owl hitters to visualize themselves at the plate against opposing pitchers. Bragga said the VR headset will be hugely beneficial to Rice’s scouting. “[If] we’re going to play [the University of Texas, Austin], you can face Texas’s Friday night guy,” Bragga said. “[You can work on] getting his release point, being able to recognize pitches, [working] on your twostrike hitting, all those different concepts.” Rice has also installed new hitting analytics technology in its batting cages. According to Edwards, it allows Rice’s batters to glean new insights into their approach at the plate. “You can hit off the tee, live [batting practice], off the machine, or whatever, and [the new system] tells you distance, launch angle, exit [velocity], all that kind of stuff,” Edwards said. “It gives you instant feedback: you turn around, look at the screen, and you can make adjustments from there.” Bragga said that Rice has also installed new technology to assist pitchers that measures spin rate, velocity and pitch location. But according to Comeaux, Rice has achieved more than refinements to hitting and pitching approaches during this past offseason. “Honestly, this season I think we’ve meshed and have more team chemistry I’ve played on since I’ve been at Rice,” Comeaux said. “This year we’re a lot closer; all of us are really good friends. We just have a bunch of determined, hardworking people on our team this year. We all have the same common goal, the same mindset that we’re just going to take it one game at a time and do the best we can.”


Alex DeLeon junior

* junior college stats


3 Roel Garcia senior

4 Kel Bordwine junior

5 Blake Brogdon sophomore

Brandon Deskins sophomore

* 2018 stats





























Tyler LaRue



CENTER FIELD Aaron Beaulaurier senior



Bradley Gneiting

Brayden Combs



























* junior college stats

* high school stats


Trei Cruz: A humble and hopeful Owl BEN BAKER-KATZ THRESHER STAFF

Every baseball player remembers when they first picked up the game. For most, it’s playing catch in the backyard or hitting off of a tee. But for Trei Cruz, junior shortstop on this year’s Rice baseball team, his first baseball memory is everything but normal. “I was in Tampa Bay, my dad was with the Devil Rays,” Cruz said. “We were hitting and throwing [on the field] before a game, with a couple of other players and their sons. That was the first time I fell in love with the game; I wanted to go to every single game I possibly could.” Cruz grew up surrounded by baseball. His grandfather, José Cruz, spent 19 years playing Major League Baseball, mostly with the Houston Astros. His father, José Cruz Jr., was a starting outfielder on Rice’s baseball team in the ’90s and played for nine different MLB teams over his 12-year career. Cruz’s uncle, Enrique, also played at Rice; he was the starting second baseman on the Owls’ 2003 national championship team. Last but not least on the field is his brother, current Owl and sophomore outfielder Antonio Cruz. According to Cruz, having such close familial ties to baseball wasn’t always helpful. “Having my grandfather and father play, there’s almost a target on my back,” Cruz said. “A lot of kids put pressure on me, and I kind of put pressure on myself too. But I learned, at the end of the day, I’m not piggybacking off of my dad’s or grandpa’s [career], this is my career and it’s a completely different thing. If you play with pressure, you’re digging a hole for yourself. I just want to play free, have fun, and so I stopped listening to all the outside noise about my family … Whatever happens, happens.” Cruz spent his childhood playing a variety of sports. He said he loved basketball and golf, in addition to baseball — Cruz played all three for as long as he could, but eventually realized that baseball was the sport for him. “I could live without basketball and golf,” Cruz said. “I just felt like baseball was something I always wanted to do.” The man you see today roaming the left side of the infield at Reckling Park looks right at home, almost like he’s lived every second of his life at shortstop. But according to Cruz, that wasn’t always the case. “I grew up as an outfielder, mostly because my dad and grandpa played outfield,” Cruz said. “Then in middle school, I started playing shortstop because we didn’t have one on my summer ball team. I made a couple of nice plays, and my coach told me I should play shortstop. My dad was all for it; he would tell me, ‘You can go from short to any other position, but you can’t go from outfield to infield as easily.’ So I started playing short, stuck with it and I love it.” After his decision to attend Rice, which Cruz said was largely based on his ability to get consistent playing time as a freshman, the former-outfielder-turned-shortstop was pushed out of position again. Three-year starter Ford Proctor played shortstop for Rice in 2018, and so to crack the upperclassmencrowded lineup, Cruz volunteered to play at second base.

“[Changing positions] didn’t bother me at all,” Cruz said. “We had Ford at short my freshman year; he was a great player. And as a freshman, my goal was just to play, no matter where it was. It could have been in centerfield, catcher, wherever. I just wanted to play and get at-bats.” He was able to do just that, starting 58 games his freshman year, all at second base. Cruz was named to the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American Team, led the Owls that season with 40 walks and was tied for the team lead with 45 runs batted in. He finished

I’ve always been taught to stay humble ... I could be ranked the No. 1 player in the nation, and [I] still wouldn’t think I’m a superstar. Trei Cruz JUNIOR SHORTSTOP

every amateur baseball player: the MLB draft. “My whole life since I started baseball, I’ve always thought about the draft,” Cruz said. “I don’t pressure myself with the draft, thinking about [specific] rounds or picks, but I always think about it. Because that’s my dream, to play Major League Baseball. And the fact that it’s so close, it’s so surreal that it’s happening so soon. But I don’t let it consume me. I just take it one day at a time, whatever we’re working on in practice, or whatever I need to work on that day. Whatever happens in the draft, happens in the draft; it’s not completely in my control and I’m just grateful to have the opportunity.” If the commissioner calls his name in May, and he decides to forgo his final season of NCAA eligibility, Cruz would be one step closer to becoming part of the fifth grandfather-father-son combination the MLB has ever seen. According to Rice head coach Matt Bragga, the question is not if Cruz will play in Major League Baseball, but when. “[Cruz] is on a different level right now,” Bragga said. “Having been around this game for so long … Trei is every bit of what a firstrounder looks like. He made a play yesterday in the six-hole, you just don’t see that play made. In batting practice, the way the ball comes off of his bat is just different.” Following his senior year at Episcopal High School in Houston, the Houston Astros selected Cruz in the 35th round of the draft. This past May, Cruz was selected again, this time by the Washington Nationals in the 37th round. Instead of entering the minor leagues, Cruz opted to return to Rice, trying to repeat his uncle’s success and lead the Owls back to the College World Series. “I don’t want to be consumed about me and the draft; I want to be thinking about where our team is, come May,” Cruz said. “I want

that season with a .279 batting average, including an eight-game hit streak and an impressive .955 fielding percentage. Although his first season was a success, Cruz said he still focused on trying to improve his game. According to Cruz, his ability to cope with failure has grown substantially since starting at Rice. “Anyone who knows baseball knows it’s a game of failure,” Cruz said. “Growing up I struggled with it, because I felt like I needed to be perfect and to be the best player all the time. But over the last couple of years [my coaches and family have] helped me develop with the mental side of baseball and how to deal with failure. Because you can fail seven out of ten times and still be great … Not letting [failure] consume me has made me a better player.” Cruz’s sophomore season was even better than his first. He moved back to his home at shortstop and rewarded the Owls with a .305 batting average, 71 hits and a .519 slugging percentage. He also blasted nine home runs and added 44 RBIs. In one game against the University of Rhode Island, he went 4-for6, swatting two home runs and two triples. The nine RBIs he amassed that day was the second-highest single-game total in school history — just one behind the Rice record of 10 RBIs, set in 1995 by his father. Despite his success over the past two seasons, Cruz said he does not think he’s achieved “superstar” status at Rice. “I’ve always been taught to stay humble, no matter what,” Cruz said. “I could be ranked the No. 1 player in the nation, and I still wouldn’t think I’m a superstar. I always think I can be better, and I’m not in the big leagues yet. I could be [an] all-star in the big leagues, and I won’t even think of myself as a superstar. Because even then, I can always try to get better.” Still, a player of Cruz’s caliber does have dreams, and he said his COURTESY Rice athletics dreams include one shared with

to win a conference championship; I want to get to Omaha. Those are the things I have in mind for this season.” As the presumptive three-hitter in the lineup and the captain of the infield, Cruz is a de facto leader of the 2020 Owls. “Trei’s been growing; he’s become a great leader for our team,” Bragga said. “The guys look up to him, in part because he is such a good player.” But Cruz sees his job as more than that. According to Cruz, he needs to be an example for all of the younger players, including his brother, regardless of whether or not he’s playing well. “I definitely think I’m one of the leaders on the team this year,” Cruz said. “There are a lot of young guys that look up to me, especially having a younger brother on the team who looks up to me a lot. I kind of look at everyone as my own brother. I just want to be the guy that lifts people up, whether I’m having a great game or not. I just want to be the guy that gets everyone going.” Individually, Cruz continues to excel. Last week, Cruz was voted the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year in the league’s head coaches’ poll. His name was also mentioned on an NCAA list of player-of-theyear contenders at every position. Cruz said he’s set his sights high for this season. “I want to be Player of the Year; I want to be an All-American,” Cruz said. “Every award a shortstop can possibly get, is what I am striving to get. Just shoot for the stars, and see what happens. And whatever awards come my way, I’m grateful for all of them.





conference rank: 9th/12




conference rank: 7th/12

Kel Bordwine: The superstitious starter SPENCER MOFFAT SENIOR WRITER

Before each Rice baseball home game this season, you can find junior pitcher Kel Bordwine playing ping pong at Baker College or dining at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, where he always eats the same meal in a specific order. But once the game starts, you can expect to see Bordwine on the mound frequently, after he finished last season with a solid 3.69 ERA as opponents hit for a .258 average against him in nine starts. Bordwine said he hopes to contribute to the team this season regardless if he starts or comes in from the bullpen. “For myself, I hope to make it into the rotation,” Bordwine said. “I want to be a weekend guy, but

COURTESY Rice athletics

obviously I want to fit in just somewhere and I want to just go out there and get outs. Whether it is a short-stint bullpen session a couple times a week or a long time in the bullpen, it really doesn’t matter to me.” Last year, Bordwine achieved one of his best performances of the season during Rice’s annual three-game series against the University of Houston in a battle for the Silver Glove Trophy. As a result of only allowing three base hits in a combined 6.2 scoreless innings, Bordwine was selected as the Most Outstanding Player for the series. According to Bordwine, defeating Houston was very satisfying. “Just beating [UH] at all was super sweet,” Bordwine said. Ever since he picked up a baseball and started playing T-ball at the age of four, Bordwine said he has consistently worked to improve his game. However, Bordwine said he realized in high school that he wanted to play Division I baseball. “One day [in high school] I just decided I wanted to be good and I started throwing three bullpens a week and stayed after practice for two hours a day,” Bordwine said. Going into this season, Bordwine said he has worked on two major components of his game in order to help solidify a spot in the starting rotation. “Besides gaining velocity, I went back

and added another pitch,” Bordwine said. According to Bordwine, he added a slider to his pitch repertoire, which also consists of a fastball, changeup and curveball. “Now, I put a lot of time and effort into getting a slider and being able to throw everything for a strike in all counts,” Bordwine said. According to Bragga, Bordwine displays good work ethic and leadership skills. “[Bordwine] just shows up to the yard and does his work,” Bragga said. “He’s a leader.” Bordwine has made major strides in his time at Rice, improving from only appearing in five games out of the bullpen in his first season to making 17 total appearances in his sophomore year with a 4.37 ERA. According to Bordwine, his pregame rituals and locker room habits deserve some credit for his success. “I’m very superstitious,” Bordwine said. “I wear the same clothes to bed the night before [each game] and then I eat Cane’s [before each game] in a certain order. I [also] love to play ping pong. [The] locker room champ is Trei [Cruz], but I’m second.” According to Bordwine, the expectations for Rice are high going into this season. “I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Bordwine said. “I think we are going to win Conference USA outright, but then obviously we want to win the tournament.”

Bragga hopeful for Owl success in 2020 MADISON BUZZARD SPORTS EDITOR

In the fall of 2018, Rice Athletics faced a difficult task: hiring a new baseball head coach in the stead of the legendary Wayne Graham. Rice ultimately selected Matt Bragga, formerly the coach of Tennessee Tech University, as its new head coach. Last season, in his first year at Rice’s helm, Bragga managed a team which limped to a 26-33 finish. This year, Bragga will attempt to right the ship, starting the season with what Bragga said is an especially formidable nonconference schedule. “Our non-conference schedule — I had an opposing coach tell me this — our nonconference schedule, there won’t be one tougher in the country,” Bragga said. “We’ve got [the University of] Texas, [Austin] three games … we’ve got Texas Tech [University] on the road three — and they’re ranked No. 3 [in the] preseason.” Bragga said he still feels hopeful about the team’s chances in the upcoming season. “It’s a challenging nonconference schedule, there’s no doubt about it,” Bragga said. “But I think that’s why guys come to Rice. They want to play good opponents, to play good baseball. If [we] go out and play good in all facets of the game, we’ll have a chance to win all those games.” Since he became the Owls’ head coach, Bragga said he has formed relationships with local Texas high school baseball coaches to develop recruiting pipelines. “People always overrate [me not formerly recruiting in Texas], Bragga said. “[They say], ‘Oh wow, you’ve never been in Texas in recruiting.’ All you gotta do is get to know people. And that’s what we do. That’s our job. That’s the lifeline of our program. If you can’t recruit, you’re not gonna win.” Bragga said he has gotten to know all the players on the team, especially junior shortstop Trei Cruz. According to Bragga, Cruz is a great leader both by example and by communication. Alongside Cruz in Rice’s infield are two seniors: second baseman Cade Edwards and third baseman Braden Comeaux. Bragga said the team relies upon Cruz, Comeaux and Edwards for leadership.

“That will be big losses when we lose those guys. That is an anchor of our team, not only from the perspective of [being] veterans, but from the perspective of experience, from the perspective of leadership,” Bragga said. “They’ve done it. They’re good. Cade had four errors all of last year. Comeaux is a consummate baseball player, great guy ... really good player. Right now Trei is playing every bit of what I think a first rounder looks like, at shortstop.”

This year, we have a lot of returners on the team. So, you don’t feel like as a coach that you are starting over from ground zero. Matt Bragga BASEBALL HEAD COACH According to Bragga, one potential area of concern for the team this season is pitching. After last season, Rice lost the bulk of its innings pitched; former pitching stalwarts such as Matt Canterino, Evan Kravetz and Garrett Gayle were selected in the 2019 MLB draft. Now, Bragga said, Rice must find additional replacements for many excellent pitchers who graduated, including Jackson Parthasarathy and Kendal Jefferies. “We don’t have a lot of [pitching] experience,” Bragga said. “We don’t have a ton of innings coming back — those innings are gone. Even the guys who didn’t get drafted — [for example], Kendal Jeffries, he had a ton of innings last year — those have to be replaced. We’re gonna have to do it with less-Division I-experienced guys.” Last year, Bragga said he did not know every Rice player, so he relied upon the Owls’ leaders to communicate with other players on the team. However, Bragga said he has worked hard to coach more players individually since last season. As a result, the Owls’ preparation this fall outshone

their work done the prior year, according to Bragga. “This fall was good because last year, I was new to everyone, and they were new to me,” Bragga said. “This year, we have a lot of returners on this team. So, you don’t feel like as a coach that you are starting over from ground zero. [I’m] not. Like, when we go over bunt defenses, the guys already know. When we go over cuts and relays, they already know them. The fall was really easy — easy is the wrong word [because] we worked really hard — but easier because of the experience our guys have within our system right now.” Once the team has advanced past its difficult non-conference schedule, Bragga said Rice needs to show up against conference opponents to enhance the pedigree of Conference USA. “We have a good league,” Bragga said. “I’ve always respected Conference USA. Florida Atlantic [University has] done really well now for a while. This league needs Rice back. In order for Conference USA to be the perennial powerhouse baseball conference that it can be, Rice baseball has to be a factor. And that’s good; I like that. I think that’s important. And we’re going to be. But there are some really high quality opponents in this league.”

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5/14 –5/16 MIDDLE TENNESSEE 5/20 –5/24


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6/11 –6/24 COURTESY Rice athletics





Owls fly the nest: students discuss study abroad experiences


Students discuss culture shock, homesickness and academics in their study abroad experiences. See more at ricethresher.org

Future for refugees in Texas remains unclear Governor Abbott’s rejection of refugees leaves Rice community members baffled, seeking action



Saniya Gayake and Spoorthi Kamepalli have not had many lazy Saturday afternoons in the last year. As co-presidents of Houston Empowering Refugees, the Baker College juniors travel once a week to an apartment complex in Houston’s Hillcroft neighborhood and teach lessons on health literacy to 14 refugee women from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They spend two hours discussing topics like child development, mental health, physical health and family planning, in an attempt to provide the women with tools that might help them integrate into life in the United States. But the future of programs like HER has been thrown into question following Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement last month that Texas will not be accepting new refugees this year. The move follows an executive order from President Donald Trump last September requiring states and municipalities to give written consent before refugees can be resettled. Abbott’s move makes Texas the first state to reject resettlements under Trump’s order and reverses Texas’ history of resettling more refugees than any other state since 2010. A few days after Abbott’s decision, a Maryland federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration policy — but the ruling could be overturned if the administration appeals. Gayake said she was disappointed by Abbott’s decision. “Our community has a responsibility to accept people and support people,” she said. “The decision to not accept people has very implicit and explicit connotations of who is worthy and who is not.” WHY REJECT REFUGEES? In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abbott said resettling refugees placed too much of a strain on Texan resources. But according to Kelsey Norman, a fellow who specializes in refugee studies at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, these claims are ungrounded because after 90 days of federal funding, refugees are expected to become self-sufficient or rely on support from non-profits. “The concept that there would be any kind of drain on the economy of Texas is just inaccurate,” Norman said. “The money that refugees use their first 90 days is federal money. It has nothing to do with the state of Texas or his initial complaint that we’re already under such strain because of the border crisis and border security.”

Instead, Norman said she suspects Abbott’s announcement was a politically motivated move. “[The refugee refusal] seemed like it was more about drawing attention to the border issue than it was about refugees being any kind of strain on the cities in which they’re relocated to,” she said. “It’s also just trying to play up this sort of xenophobic rhetoric around refugees.” Following Abbott’s announcement, there has been outcry from both sides of the political aisle in Texas, especially from those who have had firsthand experiences interacting with resettled refugees, Norman said. “You saw pushback from not just NGOs but from religious leaders, from anyone who’s ever had any interaction with resettled refugees who know that they are incredibly active,” she said. WORKING WITH REFUGEES Rice community members like Gayake and Kamepalli who have worked with refugees seem to share this opinion. For Vikram Aggarwal, president of the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees, working with refugees isn’t just another weekly activity, but a window into the experience of people who have been denied access to the life so many people around him were born into and take for granted. “The refugee population is much more focused on trying to better themselves and really take advantage of the opportunities that are given to them by coming here,” Aggarwal, a Hanszen College junior, said. Even with the struggles of integrating into a new life so far away from their home country and culture, Aggarwal said the refugees he has worked with say these conditions are better than what they faced before coming to the United States. “All [the Turkish refugee kids I have worked with] remember was the camp. They don’t remember their house, their actual home country,” he said. “Their education [wasn’t] present because everyone would be so busy trying to survive.” Although Gayake and Kamepalli are the teachers in the classroom, both said they’ve learned just as much from their students. “These women are really trying to improve their situation and make the most of what they have,” Gayake said of the community she works with. “Oftentimes they are fleeing from conflict and violence in their home country, and so they want to call Houston and the United States their home.” After working closely with refugees, Aggarwal, Gayake and Kamepalli all said

they believe countries like the United States have a responsibility to provide refugees with a chance at a better life. This is why they were left baffled by Abbott’s announcement. “Our experiences have shown what important and contributing members of society the refugee women [we worked with] and the [greater] refugee population,” Kamepalli said. “If there were a better understanding of what refugees face and what their experiences are like, I think it would be much harder to justify a ban like this.” Aggarwal said Abbott’s decision angered him, especially in light of the country’s history. “This entire country is [made up of] a lot of people who were immigrants and had been refugees escaping persecution,” he said. “We were all taught about the Mayflower Compact.”

The decision to not accept people has very implicit and explicit connotations of who is worthy and who is not. Saniya Gayake BAKER COLLEGE JUNIOR TAKING ACTION Lily Sethre-Brink, an officer for Rice ACLU, decided to channel her frustration with the possibility of Texas turning away refugees into action. In collaboration with Civic Duty Rice, Sethre-Brink and the rest of Rice ACLU organized a phone banking effort to voice student objection to Abbott’s decision by calling his office. The event took place in the Rice Memorial Center on Jan. 24. “We got them to a point where they would just send us to voicemail as soon as we called because we were flooding the office for the cause,” Sethre-Brink, a Baker College freshman, said. Although on Jan. 15, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte overturned the new Trump refugee policy, Sethre-Brink said she fears that much like Trump’s 2017 travel ban executive order, the judge’s decision will be overturned by the Trump administration. As a result, SethreBrink worked with McMurtry College freshman Angie Fan and Baker College freshman Summer Shabana to introduce

a Student Association resolution to indicate support for continued refugee resettlement. The resolution was introduced on Jan. 27 and will be voted on next week, according to SA President Grace Wickerson. It calls on the SA to stand in support of refugee resettlement, denounce Trump’s executive order and send a letter to Abbott urging him to reverse his decision. To Sethre-Brink, steps like phone banking and the resolution are important so that activism doesn’t just happen in a vacuum, which she said is often the case on college campuses. “Raising awareness is good, yes. But that ultimately isn’t going to solve the problem,” Sethre-Brink said. “It’s important to be involved and to understand what’s happening so that you can be prepared for when disastrous events like this happen and be able to take action.” MORE REFUGEES, LESS RESETTLING The Trump administration’s most recent policy regarding refugees is in line with other actions it has taken to make refugee resettlement more selective. In 2016, 84,994 refugees were admitted to the United States. That number dropped to 30,000 in 2019. For 2020, Trump set the refugee admission ceiling at 18,000. Meanwhile, the number of people fleeing conflict is the highest it’s been since World War II, according to the United Nations. And according to Norman, although international rights were outlined for refugees at the 1951 Geneva Convention that followed the war, many countries — including the United States — have found loopholes to avoid their outlined obligations. “There’s so much discretion given to national governments in the name of security that they can find all sorts of ways of not accepting [refugees],” Norman said. “The U.S. is going to such extreme lengths to prevent people from getting here in the first place.” Aggarwal said he believes that such a refusal sends people the wrong message about Texas. “Not allowing refugees, it can really hurt the cultural landscape of Texas and also make us seem very … intolerant towards other people,” he said. For Sethre-Brink, taking a stand against this policy is not political, but a matter of supporting the Rice community. “At Rice, we have refugee students, we have students who are undocumented,” she said. “Regardless of whatever political camp you fall into, people are people.”



Trimming feathers: Perch becomes home to haircutting business KAVYA SAHNI THRESHER STAFF

On the Perch, a large balcony on the fourth floor of Will Rice College’s Old Dorm which overlooks the quad and New Dorm, Dyllon Schmehl operates his business: a pop-up barber shop. Arav Singhal, one of Schmehl’s customers, described the haircutting business as the most picturesque barber shop he’d ever been to. “The Perch is a really nice place to get a haircut, especially when it’s not cold outside. When it’s a nice day, and you go in the evening, like the golden hour, it’s really nice,” Singhal, a Will Rice sophomore, said. During Beer Bike, it’s tradition for students to cut their hair and then dye it in colors that reflect their college spirit. For Beer Bike 2019, Schmehl gave his first haircut to his roommate, Reece Eberhardt. “At the time, all I had was beard trimming tools so couldn’t really give an actual haircut. We were just messing around, doing it for fun,” Schmehl, a Will Rice sophomore, said. “I ended up doing a decent job, apparently, and people liked it.” According to Eberhardt, the haircut wasn’t the cleanest he’d ever had, but it was decent photo courtesy brandon cua considering the fact that Schmehl had never cut hair before. Will Rice College sophomore Dyllon Schmehl cuts Will Rice sophomore Sean McCormick’s hair on the Perch, a balcony on the fourth floor of Will Rice’s “I was definitely a little nervous, but part Old Dorm overlooking the quad and New Dorm. of Beer Bike is haircuts are haircuts and it’s Cua said Schmehl’s barber shop is he said he trusted me so I just went for it,” hair, it’ll be back within a couple of weeks gonna grow back,” Eberhardt, a Will Rice and you won’t even be able to tell,” Schmehl sophomore, said. “I liked my haircut, and I convenient, considering that haircuts end up Schmehl said. Singhal said he was impressed by how said. “But with a girl’s hair, if it’s not perfect costing $30 to $40 off campus, including the was able to dye it exactly how I wanted.” they’re going to be pretty mad.” professional Schmehl’s pop-up was. After talking to a friend, Schmehl decided Uber and the haircut itself. On a typical weekend, Schmehl gives six “I was a little apprehensive, because “Having Dyllon on campus giving haircuts to learn how to actually cut hair over the summer and try to open up a pop-up barber has been really helpful financially, because obviously he’s not a barber at a barber shop, to eight haircuts. “I try to keep it strictly Fridays and it’s $15 a haircut and he’s literally right across but in the end he did a good job,” Singhal said. shop at the beginning of last fall. “When I went up there, it looked like he was Saturdays because I do have schoolwork and “Over the summer, I practiced cutting on from me,” Cua said. Schmehl said his most memorable well-prepared. He had everything — all the stuff to keep up with as well,” Schmehl said. my dad’s hair, just watched videos, shadowed Schmehl, who is majoring in economics, my barbers a little bit to try to learn techniques hair transformation was the haircut he bits and pieces, the trimmers and whatnot, he and improve what I was doing,” Schmehl gave Singhal. When Singhal approached even had those robe-like things that they put said that he would like to grow the business, but doesn’t know how much he could said. “And then I decided to just go for it at the Schmehl, his hair was a little beyond around you.” Schmehl said that the haircut turned out expand it without cutting into his own time. shoulder length. beginning of last semester.” “Some people have asked if I’d open “I was tired of it. It was becoming too pretty well, and Singhal liked it. Schmehl said that he doesn’t advertise “He got compliments all over campus, and an official student-run business, but I beyond telling his friends and posting on the much to maintain, so I wanted to get rid of it,” people kept coming back to me and telling me don’t know if it’ll make it to that point,” Singhal said. Will Rice Facebook group. However, Schmehl didn’t initially believe they liked the transformation,” Schmehl said. Schmehl said. “It seems like it’d be a lot of “Beyond that, people just find out about Spencer Shah said he likes the experience work. Right now I’m just doing it basically it through their friends or people that I’ve cut that Singhal was being serious. “At first I thought he was joking, because I of getting a haircut at Schmehl’s barber shop. outside my room in the balcony, because I hair for,” Schmehl said. “I like his music choice; [there’s] have the Perch.” Brandon Cua, a Will Rice sophomore, knew he’d been growing it out for over a year. Eberhardt said he doesn’t think said that he has told his friends about He kept saying, ‘When are you going to cut good conversation,” Shah, a Will Rice my hair?’ And eventually I realized he wasn’t freshman, said. “We listen to R&B, hip- Schmehl initially anticipated the success of Schmehl’s business. his business. hop, stuff like that.” “Mutual friends, whenever they ask, kidding,” Schmehl said. “I think it turned into something even The pop-up barbershop is, as of now, Schmehl asked Singhal if he wanted a ‘Oh, who did you get a haircut from?’ I’ll just remember to plug it in,” Cua said. “‘Dyllon trim, or just a little bit of the ends. Singhal exclusively for guys. Schmehl said that he’s he didn’t expect,” Eberhardt said. “It’s awesome, in all honesty, to be able to just too scared to cut anyone else’s hair. gives great haircuts. It’s cheap. You should said that he wanted all of his hair gone. “On the occasion that I do mess up a guy’s pick up a skill like that.” “It felt like a lot of pressure at the time, but check it out.’”

E-I-E-I-O 1



Crossword by Sam Rossum Thresher Staff




















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27 21 24







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ACROSS 1) Insta upload 4) 1-Across alt. 7) Obamacare, for short 8) Watts of “Mulholland Drive” 11) “Mamma Mia” basis 14) 2016 Best Picture winner 15) Nice article? 16) Lay down the lawn 17) Tuchus 20) Likely format for 11-Acrosses 22) Material for some sleeves? 27) Poker pair 29) “Speak Now” country singer 30) Ornamental fish 31) Fear for a tampon user: Abbr. 32) PC file extension

Answers will be posted on ricethresher.org and on the Thresher Facebook page. Shaded squares correspond to the theme.

DOWN 1) Schedule planner 2) Cold War concern, abbr. 3) Baja tourist city 4) Kooky 5) The Galleria, e.g. 6) Mongolian hot spot 9) Java holders 10) “The way I see it...” in texts 12) Old Gmail competitor 13) Sex ed subj. 17) Telecom giant 18) Toothy tools 19) Stash away 20) Red____: lobsterbacks 21) When doubled, a small antelope 23) “Awesome,” for Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Peralta 24) Has someone sleep with the fishes 25) Air Force 1 carrier? 26) Fort with a fortune 28) Yahtzee component





You’re going to get a much better [one] — it’s handmade and it’ll come in six to eight weeks, so don’t worry about it.” Did anyone else help with the recording that you submitted for the Grammy? There were two outstanding Shepherd School faculty members who played on our CD — Ken Cowan, the professor of organ, was extraordinarily important because two of the major pieces on the CD were for choir and organ. We recorded it in the Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall, and Ken Cowan just played brilliantly. And there’s a movement in the Duruflé requiem that calls for a cello line, and Norman Fischer was our cellist, so I feel very, very lucky to have the great talent of the Shepherd School faculty represented on this CD. What is it like to work with the singers in the Houston Chamber Choir? They’re fabulous. These are all professional singers who have trained their voices just as others train to be violinists and instrumentalists. They’re selected through a very competitive audition process, and many of them, once in the choir, as long as family circumstances don’t change, they just stay with the choir, as many of the singers have been with me 10 or 15 years. When there is a change, either people move out of

photos courtesy of a24

town or there’s a baby and there’s no longer the time that the chamber choir takes, then we audition and add somebody into the choir, but the singers really do take that new singer under their wings and give them a sense of what the ensemble is all about. Several of the elite choirs in the United States are comprised of singers from around the country. They all come into a central location, rehearse, give the performances and then they go back home. But the chamber choir is a resident ensemble. We’re all Houstonians. We all live within at least a tolerable drive to downtown, and we start together in the late summer and sing together every week throughout the course of the season, so we really get to be good friends. The singers have a sense of exactly how their fellow singers are going to phrase or when they’re going to make a dynamic increase, how it’s going to go, so they get to know each other very, very well and as a consequence, it’s really a family. Where do you see the direction of choral music heading? I think choral music really is having a renaissance right now. The young composers like Nico Muhly and great composers under 40 are writing a lot of choral music, so I think that there is a growing sense that you can have it all. Yes, you can write a violent concerto or you can write an off-the-wall

kind of piece for electronics, but you can also use the human voice, which is so subtle and so varied in its timbres, to great effect as well. I think choral music is an important part of a much bigger sphere. The fact is that classical music has got to make a case for itself, and within that, choral music needs to make a case for itself. And I think choral music can do it as well as any because it’s direct communication from a person to another person, there’s no instrument in the way. And there’s a text, there’s a story that people can follow and listen to and be drawn into. So, I think choral music is definitely something that future musicians,

generations and composers will continue to find fascinating, and I’m thrilled to see all of that happening. Does the Houston Chamber Choir have any events coming up? [We’re going] to New Zealand in July, where we’ve been asked to sing for the International Choral Symposium. 150 choirs from around the world applied and 24 were accepted, and we’re one of the 24, so we’re going to be taking music from Rice composers with us to New Zealand. This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed for print. Read the full interview at ricethresher.org.

Oscar? Never heard of him I’m not sure why we still care about an awards ceremony that continues to be #sowhite and once gave “Lord of the Rings” 11 Oscars (the same number of nominations that “Joker” somehow received this year) — but here we are! As “Green Book” taught me last year with its unexpected win for Best Picture, there’s no point in trying to predict this year’s big winners ahead of the ceremony, which will air this Sunday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. So, I’ll settle for pointing out the most painful snubs instead. DIRECTING Women. This is my most widely recognized and readily accepted take for a reason: Women were directing some of the year’s most compelling, original and poignant films. Greta Gerwig accomplished the nearly unheard of feat of successfully adapting a beloved classic, “Little Women,” Lulu Wang wrote and directed “The Farewell,” a heartbreaker warmed by the softness of stifled grief and Olivia Wilde flipped the script of the raunchy high-school-carpe-diem genre with “Booksmart.” That’s not even mentioning the less mainstream



photo by jeff grass photography / courtesy houston chamber choir


Celebrate Valentine’s Day early at Amor Eterno, a heart-themed art show featuring work by renowned Mexican folk artist collective and family La Familia Lorenzo among other Mexico-based and local artists. The show is free and open to the public and will be open from 2 - 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Before tuning into the 92nd Academy Awards on Sunday, judge the pool of Oscarnominated short films for yourself at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston this weekend. Visit mfah.org/calendar to view showtimes for animated, live action and documentary short film nominees. Tickets are $9.

Casa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery 241 W 19th St.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 1001 Bissonnet St.

Anna Ta Managing Editor

critically acclaimed works of Alma Har’el (“Honey Boy”), Lorene Scafaria (“Hustlers”) and Celine Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”). In a year of masterpieces directed by Martin Scorsese and Bong Joon Ho, I understand women not sweeping the category. But getting completely shut out? Unconscionable. (But god forbid we miss out on giving “The Joker” another nom!)

in this anxiety-ridden rollercoaster directed by the Safdie brothers in a ingenious display of Sandler’s true talent. In “Uncut Gems,” Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a high stakes gambling addict who is just as sleazy and still a horrible husband, but this time he’s not doing it for laughs — in fact Ratner doesn’t care if you hate him, because you’re still going to root for him.

ACTING Awkwafina in “The Farewell” Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems” I know. Listen, I didn’t expect to hear “Awkwafina and Adam Sandler” in a sentence together in my lifetime, nor did I expect to have it followed by “deserved best acting nominations,” but here I am, personally sending hate mail to each and every member of the Academy for snubbing some of the most brilliant performances of the year. Just kidding, of course hate mail is not okay (and the Thresher gets enough of it for me to make that joke). Everything you hate about the stereotypical Adam Sandler role of him schlepping around, being a garbage husband and general incompetent sleaze is weaponized

CINEMATOGRAPHY “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” In one of the most memorable opening sequences this year, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” underlines and buoys a love letter to one of America’s most unequal and unforgiving cities with a gorgeous original score, soaring it above and sending it careening down the hills of the Bay Area. As the main character, Jimmie Fails, pours love into his long-lost family home, the film also pours love into every shot, with thoughtfulness and attention to the color and light filling each frame.

HERB MEARS EXHIBIT OPENING Foltz Fine Art will celebrate the opening of “Herb Mears: Memoirs of a Mid-Century Master” this Saturday, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. The 50-year retrospective will explore Mears’ legacy as one of Houston’s most prolific figures of the 20th century. This event is free and open to the public. Foltz Fine Art 2143 Westheimer Road

This story has been condensed for print. Read the full story at ricethresher.org

LOW KEYS & APOLLOS WINTER CONCERT Listen to Rice’s all-female and all-male a cappella groups perform hits by Billie Eilish, the Beach Boys and more this Saturday, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. Stick around until the end to hear the Low Keys and Apollos join ranks for a special joint performance. This event is free and open to the public. rice memorial chapel




Hosted by the Rice African Student Association, “Africayé 2020: Coming to Africa” will immerse the Rice community in the sights, sounds and tastes of African culture this Sunday. The annual showcase will feature music, dance, fashion, comedy, skits, food and a newly added art gallery. RASA Event Coordinator Anu Ayeni and RASA President Chidera Ezuma-Igwe said they both got involved with Africayé during their freshman years because of the opportunity to showcase their culture and bring the Rice community together. Ezuma-Igwe, a Jones College senior, said that Africayé presents an opportunity to flip the narrative on what people understand about Africa. “These are a group of people who are often represented in a negative and harsh light,” Ezuma-Igwe said. “All the news likes to focus on in Africa is some dictator, some this, but there’s so much more — there’s music, there’s art, there’s people. I think the most educated group of people in the U.S. are Nigerian Americans.” In a similar vein, Ayeni said that she wants people to know that there’s more to Africa than what is dominantly reported on and taught in the West. “Africa isn’t what the Western media reports it to be,” Ayeni said. “That’s not everything. That’s not all of us. That doesn’t define the continent. Africa is more than what you think it is.” Ayeni said that this year’s theme stems from last year’s focus on “Afrofuturism.” “We wanted to continue the notion of focusing on Africa’s development,” Ayeni, a Brown College junior, said. “I feel like that is definitely overlooked


(From left to right) Hanszen College junior Jolisa Brown, Baker College sophomore Ruth Young, Martel College junior David Karngba III, Brown College junior Anu Ayeni, Martel College senior Selase Buatsi and Muna Uzodike (Martel ‘19) perform at “Africayé 2019: Afrofuturism - The Future is Africa” on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

and we want people to be aware of the progress that the continent is making.” While still building on the theme of development introduced at least year’s showcase, “Africayé 2019: Afrofuturism,” the show will have a more lighthearted tone compared to previous years’, according to Ayeni. This year’s concept, “Coming to Africa,” was inspired by the 1988 film “Coming to America,” a romantic comedy starring Eddie Murphy as an African prince looking for love. The topic of the show’s main skit reflects the film’s playful influence. “The skit we have every year is usually something focusing on a serious issue,” Ayeni said. “Last year, it was interracial relationships and the year before that, it was the journey of a son leaving home, it was more faith-centered; that was more of a religious performance. This year, it’s this funny song about an artist trying to find her man.” Axel Ntamatungiro, a Duncan College

Complete a B.S./B.A. and M.S.back-to-back in 5 years Apply to one of Rice’s Science Master’s programs during your junior year 1-year program for Rice undergrads

Integration of science education with business practices

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junior, will perform a self-composed skit exploring yet another interpretation of the theme. Ntamatungiro said that his skit centers on the experience of African immigrant parents, in which they reflect on the contexts that motivated their journey to the U.S.

Africa isn’t what the Western media reports it to be. That doesn’t define the continent. Africa is more than what you think it is. Anu Ayeni RASA EVENT COORDINATOR

Rodeo Houston: Acts to see MORGAN GAGE THRESHER STAFF

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo offers more than just rollercoasters, mutton bustin’ and fried twinkies — this year, the world’s largest rodeo returns with an impressive lineup of musical performers. From homegrown hitmakers like Lizzo and Willie Nelson to international sensations like K-pop boy group NCT 127 and Latin chart-topper Becky G, this year’s starstudded lineup boasts diversity in genre as well as its performers. Out of the 20 major artists headlining NRG Stadium from March 3 - 22, here are two of five that are definitely not to be missed (the rest are online). LIZZO Playing March 13 Lizzo, who is coming off her three recent Grammy wins, was confirmed as a Rodeo Houston headliner, along with Chance the Rapper and Marshmello, on Tuesday at her alma mater, Elsik High School. The Houstonian’s smash hit “Truth Hurts” was arguably the song of the summer and broke records for being the longest number one Billboard Hot 100 song to chart by a solo female rapper. A champion of body positivity and a stellar performer, TIME magazine’s 2019 Entertainer of the Year is

a must see at this year’s rodeo if you want to see a show packed with upbeat dance numbers and flute solos. In honor of Black Heritage Day, Lizzo will take the NRG stage Friday, March 13. Tickets go on sale Thursday, Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. Must Listen To: “Like a Girl” and “Jerome” KANE BROWN Playing March 11 After becoming the first artist to top all five Country Billboard charts in 2017, Kane Brown remains one of country’s most popular new voices. He rose to fame online after successfully auditioning for the X-Factor in 2013 but left once producers attempted to corral him into a boy band. Since then, Brown has seen considerable chart success and has released genrebending collaborations with fellow Rodeo Houston headliners Marshmello and Becky G. Let’s see if either artist makes a surprise guest appearance at Brown’s NRG concert on Wednesday, March 11 at 6:45 p.m. Resale tickets start at $25 and are on sale now. Must Listen To: “Lost in the Middle of Nowhere (feat. Becky G)” and “What Ifs” This story has been condensed for print. To read the full version, see ricethresher. org.




“Last year, I tried to create a skit that defines what Afrofuturism is through a dialogue between a father and a daughter,” Ntamatungiro said. “This year, I wanted to establish the background and context which the theme was based on: ‘Coming to Africa.’ Why are we coming? Because we left Africa to begin with.” In addition to the skits, there will be multiple musical performances including an Eritrean and Ethiopian Habesha dance and a band playing Highlife music, a jazz-influenced genre of traditional Akan music that was popular in midcentury West Africa. The language act, where performers speak the same line in various African languages, and a fashion show will showcase the wide diversity of the continent’s cultures. During the show’s intermission, visitors will enjoy Ethiopian coffee and baklavas inspired by traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies. According to Ayeni, while Africayé can be a learning experience for attendees, it is also an opportunity to create a safe environment for students to express themselves. “I feel like even here at Rice, sometimes we’re not really afforded the opportunity to just be ourselves,” Ayeni said. “At home, you’re probably not afforded the opportunity to be yourself, being around parents. It’s definitely just a time for people to express themselves the way they want, through fashion, through music, through dance and to just let loose.” “Africayé 2020: Coming to Africa” will be held in the Rice Memorial Center Grand Hall this Sunday, Feb. 9 from 5 - 8 p.m. Ticket sales will take place in the Grand Hall this Wednesday, Feb. 5 and Friday, Feb. 7 from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 presale and $12 at the door.

courtesy sony music latin

To read more and listen to our Spotify playlist of must-listen tracks by Rodeo Houston headliners, visit ricethresher. org.



SPORTS Niche sports provide unconventional experiences for students CHRISTINA TAN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

On any given Saturday, Jorge Zepeda can be found working up a sweat. But instead of hitting the gym or getting on the field, Zepeda has chosen a different way to exercise: Dance Dance Revolution. Zepeda is just one of many students at Rice who find their exercise, stress relief and mental agility in sports not found on traditional college rosters. In order to practice their unconventional sport, Loren Young and Carter Walker, members of the Rice sailing team, leave campus almost every weekend. After driving for 35 minutes down to Clear Lake, Young and Walker practice sailing at the Lakewood Yacht Club for around five hours before stopping by the Seabrook Waffle Company for a snack with the rest of their team. While Young and Walker are in Clear Lake, members of the equestrian team are in Fresno, where they take weekly lessons at the Southern Breeze Equestrian Center, according to team captain Celeste Biltz. This past weekend, the team hosted their own horse show there, inviting schools like Louisiana State University to compete. “As the show hosts, we provide all the ingredients that make the show run: horses, judges, the location and volunteers to run the show,” Biltz, a Jones College senior, said. “We had about 70 riders from 10 different schools, which required us to organize about 30 horses and 40 volunteers.” Lina Tiblier, a member of the equestrian team, said she finds riding physically and mentally difficult, but rewarding. “Not only do you have to focus on your own movements, but you also are reading and analyzing the horse’s movements and making quick decisions on how to respond,” Tiblier, a Brown College sophomore, said. “I think the hardest but most rewarding thing about riding is finding the strength to overcome fear. No matter how many times you’ve fallen off or made mistakes, nothing beats the feeling of when you finally master a new skill — it’s incredibly empowering.” Walker, the sailing team captain, said that sailing requires more mental ability over physical strength, with the exception of sailing on high wind days. “There’s a massive amount of tactics and strategy that go into racing, and one bad decision can often doom your race,” Walker, a Martel College senior, said. Richard Appel, captain of the club fencing team, said he feels similarly about his sport. Fencing involves two players who duel with epees, or needle-like swords. Contact with an opponent sets off a sensor, which alerts the duelers when one of them is hit. “So much of fencing is how you make a plan — learning, studying your opponent and making a plan to best fence against them,” Appel, a Lovett College senior, said. “So that’s something we focus on when we train, both aspects of that, the physical but also the mental.”


Wiess College freshman Ethan Boniuk (left) fences with a guest fencer from another club during a Thursday night practice. As a club sport, the fencing team practices twice a week and competes regularly in regional tournaments.

Zepeda (Sid Richardson College ’18 and a current graduate student), said that DDR is also similar: a balance between physical ability and mental requirements. DDR, a music video game originally found in arcades, features platforms with arrows pointing forward, backward and to each side. Competitors must tap their feet in intricate patterns to match the arrows seen on screen, all while keeping with the rhythm of the music. “It’s a great form of exercise, at least for cardio,” Zepeda said. “At the same time, you’re also listening to fun music that gets you up and moving … and if you ever reach that state of flow, which you can do really fast, it’s super great for stress relief. You just zone out and you just look at the screen and go.” As president of Rice DDR, Zepeda plays DDR every Saturday with his club members in the Graduate Student Association lounge. Claire Skinner, a Sid Richardson senior, said she started playing DDR on the Nintendo Wii when she was little, but reignited her love for the game during a Sid Rich DDR session hosted by Zepeda. Now, Claire Skinner has recruited her sister Colleen Skinner, a Sid Rich freshman, to play with the club. “It’s a rhythm game, so it uses your brain. But it’s exercise — it’s cardio. So it’s like the best of both worlds,” Claire Skinner said. Sometimes, mental fortitude extends beyond the sport itself. Tiblier said that while people see riding as a glamorous hobby, many aspects of the sport are less appetizing than others. “On a regular basis we are scooping poop, cleaning muddy horses and moving heavy jumps or poles. I have yet to leave the barn


Sid Richardson College senior Claire Skinner (left) plays DDR with her sister, Sid Richardson freshman Colleen Skinner (right) during a weekly dance session.

without being covered in at least one layer of dust,” Tiblier said. “The horses at our barn are really great, but accidents can happen. I think we’ve all at some point had toes stepped on or fingers nipped at.” Within these unconventional sports, some students are pushing convention even further. Although fencing allows people of all genders to compete, Jeannie Lee said she and her roommate, Grace Wei, are the only women on the fencing team.

No matter how many times you’ve fallen off or made mistakes, nothing beats the feeling of when you finally master a new skill — it’s incredibly empowering. Lina Tiblier BROWN COLLEGE SOPHOMORE Lee, who has fenced for six years and who qualified for USA Fencing’s Junior Olympic Championships while in high school, said that she will be the only woman competing at an upcoming fencing tournament. Lee said that the unequal gender distribution comes from inherent advantages that come with greater height and arm length. “As a woman, you might feel like you’re more disadvantaged, but … it’s pretty cool how I can also show that women are capable of doing this sport,” Lee, a Baker College freshman, said. Wei said she admires Lee’s persistence, and started fencing solely because of Lee’s encouragement. “I’ve loved fencing, not because I’m good, but because I get to spend more time with [Jeannie],” Wei, a Baker freshman, said. “She’s taught me how to embrace my aggressive side.” Wei is not alone as a newcomer to fencing — most of the team started fencing in college, according to Appel. He said that their team serves both as a practice space for experienced fencers and a training ground for new fencers. With that comes a responsibility to dismantle misconceptions and teach safe practices. “A lot of people, when we say ‘fencing’ ... they kind of freak out, swords and all,” Appel said. “But it’s actually a very, very safe sport. We always say, in the Olympics, fencing actually has fewer injuries than badminton.”

Young said that many members of the sailing team are also introduced to the sport while at Rice. He said that while many people think sailing is hard, he’s been able to teach people how to sail in under an hour. “It’s a tactical sport when we race as you need to know how to read the wind and where to position your boat to go the fastest, but those are skills you pick up the longer you sail; when we’re just lounging around, just have a good attitude and you’ll be able to vibe really well,” Young, a Martel College junior, said. “Because in the end you’re on a boat on a sunny day taking a mental break from homework, so relax and chill out.” Zepeda said the opposite is true about DDR — while it’s easy to pick up, it takes a lot of practice to become good at it. “You think it’s a weird sport, but it’s also a video game, so it’s the middle ground that anyone can come and have some fun, and even if it’s being laughed at by your friends — but I guarantee your friends won’t be able to do much better,” Zepeda said. “At the same time there’s a ridiculously high skill ceiling, so you can just do it for years and still have people better than you.” Zepeda has also carved out his own space in the DDR world, which he and Claire Skinner say mostly exists online. The club plays the game through an open source program, which is run by fellow DDR enthusiasts. Zepeda’s contribution, standardizing the rating system for DDR dances, draws on his academic background — electrical and computer engineering. “The difficulty rating system is wildly inconsistent,” Zepeda said. “I was like, let’s try to objectify the field a little bit. I made a program that essentially looks at the charts and tries to figure it out.” Through their different sports, all of these athletes are figuring it out — practicing what they love with limited resources, space and time. “[My favorite song to dance to] is called ‘99 Red Balloons,’” Claire Skinner said. “It was from the Wii version back in the day, so I played it when I was like 6 or something and I was really bad at it. But now, I can actually do it. I do it every week.” Graduate student Nicole Sevilla said horse riding gives her a break from her academic life. “For me, as a Ph.D. student conducting research, I am always faced with failed experiments and unanswered questions,” Sevilla said. “This sport grants me something to look forward to at the end of a long work week.”




The GPA you approximate for your parents when briefing them on your Spring Break plans

Like Y2K’s line, the SA elections have had their kinks in the past. The first step to learning from prior mistakes is recognizing mistakes have been made. The second step? Sorry, McModeling isn’t equipped for that yet! Just make some changes and hope for the best — you’ll probably see huge improvements and the problem will be fixed, just like they were fixed at Y2K this year.

McModeling with McMurtry

Overestimation? Impossible! It’s basic McMath. Whether your goal is approval to go to South Padre or maximally profiting off of wristbands, a little number crunching (The details of which are McIndustry Secrets, sorry!) can get you there.

If people just staggered their arrival times more, there would have been zero capacity issue at Y2K. That’s why venues for real world timed events, like concerts, rely on a constant staggering of attendees to ensure no overcrowding issues. It’d be a huge problem if people showed up at concerts at the same time or in a few main waves — say, the times the opening acts went on and the time the main act started. Luckily, this never, ever happens. Real-world venue managers definitely rely on over half of the attendees leaving well before the main event.

Concentration of arrival times at a venue

Your GPA going into Midterm Recess

Pub’s ability to stay open

The SA’s ability to smoothly run an election

Hundreds of people who bought wristbands for Y2K didn’t get in at all to the party or had to stand in line for hours — or both! Despite this, McMurtry College insists that a gross overselling of tickets could not have been the issue. This is because their “externals ran models” on ticket sales to ensure admission for everyone who paid. Spelling has never been “McMurty”’s strong suit, so modeling must be! We were so impressed with their infallible forecasting that we asked them to do some forecasting on other numerically sensitive issues on campus. Welcome to McModeling 101.

Attempts to use fake IDs at Pub

The literal maximum capacity of a venue

Accountability? Lame. It’s true that Pub management, staff and everyone who cares about Pub are all begging students not to use fake IDs. But, the McMotto of McModeling is, “Meh, what’s the worst that can happen?” Even if, say, hundreds of students waste their time and money not getting into a public or a 40-year-old student-run business gets shut down, who can really link these things to specific actions? Some may call it selfish and negligent. Whatever! With McPatented McModeling, you can brilliantly cancel out any causation.

The Backpage is satire, written by Simona McMatovic and designed by Simodel Matovic, who actually got into Y2K and had a great time. For comments or questions, email JamesJoyceLovesFarts@rice.edu.



TEACH FOR TESTMASTERS! Dynamic and Energetic teachers wanted. Starting pay rate is $20 to $32 per hour. Flexible schedules. We provide all training, all training is paid, and we pay for travel. Email your resume to jobs@testmasters.com. RICE ALUM HIRING TUTORS for Middle & High School Math, Natural & Social Science, Foreign Language, Humanities and SAT/ACT prep. Reliable transportation required. Pay is based upon variety of factors. Contact 832-428-8330 and email resume to sri.iyengar@sriacademicservices.com


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The Rice Thresher | Wednesday, February 5, 2020  

The Rice Thresher | Wednesday, February 5, 2020  

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