Category Archives: Rice

A self-reflection: farewell to student newspapers, again

We were going for a John Hughes style and I think we pulled it off. Finally, I'm not Ducky.

So I’ve finished my tenure with the Cardozo Jurist. I did not join my 1L year because I naively thought that I would instead concentrate on classes and get good grades and get on a law journal or externship or something instead of just write for what I viewed at the time as a rather mediocre student newspaper. As I said many times, working for a student newspaper in law school makes as much sense as working for a law journal in undergrad. But as my failures became more obvious, I decided to play towards my strengths and join the Jurist. Two years later, I regret not joining earlier.

I’m used to being outspoken in print, but the irrational fear of expressing opinion that infests law students makes my normal style seem even more outrageous. However, this was tempered by the fact that the Jurist only came out once a month, and lots of law students simply didn’t care about a student newspaper.

I would like to think that I had a positive influence on the paper, showing that there was a space for student voices, leading a much-needed redesign, encouraging a switch from QuarkXpress to InDesign, and pushing for the creation of and then leading the editorial board. Then again, we’ll see how long all this lasts.

These are some of the people who put up with me.

The Jurist was also where I made my law school friends. Despite my vocal volume, I’m not really that outgoing, and it usually takes some time for people to get used to me. The forced interactions of the closet that was the newspaper office helped me build some actual relationships. Maybe if I had joined my 1L year, I wouldn’t be so quick to leave NYC. (Then again, maybe I would have gotten some advice about classes and journals, and actually have a job opportunity.)

I'm making love to the camera. So is Rachel's foot.

Like the Thresher before it, the Jurist wrote a very nice parting farewell to alumni. Of course, as a departing alumnus, I was mentioned. The Thresher farewell was a bit tongue-in-cheek, jabbing at my habit of riling up campus and getting into trouble. I understood the lack of some lovely farewell. After all, I’m sure I got on their nerves after four years of the same old routine. It was time to move on. Plus, I was used to critique and displayed a pretty thick skin, so I’m sure they thought it was totally appropriate. Which it was.

But the Thresher was very special to me and, well, I maybe would have wanted something that more honestly recognized my dedication to the paper rather than framing me as some cartoonish troublemaker. Then again, I didn’t do much to dispel that image.

When I started to read the Jurist’s farewell, I expected the same thing. Imagine my pleasant surprise to find a column that spoke without irony or hesitation about my work for the paper.  Graduating in the middle of the class from a second tier law school feels like no grand accomplishment. But this letter, even if for a fleeting moment, made it all worthwhile.

Furthermore, often I have a habit of being goofy, or a joker, or feigning ignorance. To paraphrase what I’ve heard from many people, “Evan’s here for everyone else’s entertainment.” I don’t mind being the jester, and in fact I usually relish the attention. But because of this, people often see me as some buffoonish clown, unserious and dimwitted. So when I read that one descriptive phrase, “Courageous, super-intelligent and undaunted by the consequences of speaking his mind,” well… it was more than I’ve gotten in a very long time and it is a compliment that feels really important.

I really appreciate it.

Anyways, enough of my cliche yet expected self-obsession. Here is the column:

(pdf: jurist farewell mintz)

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Star Wars Day: May the 4th (be with you)

Apparently, today is Star Wars Day. This day comes from a pun on the pronunciation of the day. May 4th = May the fourth = May the force (be with you).

So clever.

Personally, I prefer to celebrate May 25th as Star Wars day, as declared by Los Angeles City Council, because Star Wars: A New Hope was first released on May 25, 1977. May 25 is also my birthday, so there you go.

Anyways, to help celebrate Star Wars Day, here is one of my earliest Backpages, one of many to use a Star Wars theme to discuss administrative policies. It was some of my earliest photoshopping work, and I was especially proud of the lacrosse lightsaber. I also think it was one of the first Backpages to get the attention of administrators. There were stories of RUPD officers having a bit of fun with stormtrooper helmets and lightsabers. And Ostdiek apparently had a good chuckle as well. Anyways, hopefully this will be a humorous little a tidbit for the day.

(pdf: star wars backpage)

The First Day Without KTRU

Who did this?

“We fought Leebron, and Leebron won.”

These were the words sung over The Clash’s cover in the waning hours of KTRU’s broadcast existence. Perhaps given the sudden interest in listening to KTRU last night, a more appropriate song would have been “Big Yellow Taxi.” Or, better known by its lyrics: “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

Of course, one can wonder just how much fighting KTRU supporters did. The opposition seemed to come in spurts, and largely failed to use the Thresher as a constant megaphone for the movement. KTRU never had a sit-in at the president’s office to force Leebron to personally address student concerns, as occurred at other schools that were eliminating their college radio stations. There was no major fundraising to try to buy the license.

On the other hand, KTRU did get well respected law firm Paul Hastings to file an actual Petition to Deny.

If anything, the opposition to the KTRU sale demonstrated that Rice isn’t prone to usual college protests. Rather, it is a place of goal-oriented pragmatism. Whether this helped or hurt the end goal is arguable. After all, if the current political atmosphere demonstrates anything, it is that demonizing and lies can often get one much further than actual arguments.

But either way, it is finished.

After a night of Twitter domination, 40 years of KTRU memories, and the most eclectic playlist anywhere, Station Manager Joey Yang signed off with a replay of Jesse Jackson’s speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention (I think they mean the 1988 convention), and an appropriate “Fuck School,” by The Replacements.  Luckily, Houston Press’ Rocks Off posted these final recordings.

Joey\’s KTRU signoff

Final KTRU transmission

Rice got $10 million for its troubles. What did we get? One final moment of glory at 91.7, KTRU-FM Rice Radio.

Flashback Friday: Rice Athletics Finally Takes My Advice

Over the past week, four Rice University football players have been arrested for various crimes ranging from theft, to felony possession of a firearm, to possession of marijuana.

Finally!

I’ve been saying for years that what Rice really needs to bring its athletics program up to national par is some grand controversy or scandal. As I wrote back in 2007, “Drugs, violence, sex: there are the signs of true champions. After all, a win is temporary, but a criminal record is forever… ish.” (pdf: Mintz Rice Athletics)

Sure, having a shotgun on campus isn’t raping a stripper, and you can probably find hundreds of students at Rice with a few ounces of pot in their rooms. But at least these football players are on the right path.

Then again, as the Houston Press points out, these crimes may soon be no crime at all:

In Rice’s defense, it should be noted that the crimes the players were arrested for may soon be obsolete, come the success of two political movements: a) the decriminalization of pot, and b) Allowing guns on campus.

These young men should be lauded as personally sacrificing to expose a government gone amuck. Shouldn’t the Second Amendment protect having a shotgun on a college campus? (Spoiler alert: No)

But the funniest part of the whole story is definitely the comments on the Houston Chronicle article. Notably, the comments implying that the football players were all thugs (black)!

Yup, these guys certainly were “thugs” from “the neighborhood.” For example, Cody Bauer, who was arrested for having a shotgun on campus, grew up in the tiny Pottsboro, TX, where he had perfect scores for five consecutive years on the standardized TAKS tests.

Or how about Cade Shaw, who attended Calallen High School, known for its strong Advanced Placement program and being the Alma Mater of former House Majority Leader Tom Delay. I mean, I won’t hesitate to call Tom Delay a thug, but I don’t think undermining Texas fundraising laws is what the Chron commenters had in mind.

And Phillip Gaines, who was arrested on a misdemeanor possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, is from Converse, TX, a San Antonio suburb that is 70 percent white. There he attended Judson High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society. Everyone knows that all the thugs join the National Honor Society.

Finally is Kevin Gaddis, who was charged with theft of property valued between $50 and $500 and possession of two ounces or less of marijuana. He is from Midwest City, Oklahoma. I’m pretty sure that by definition any place called Midwest City, Oklahoma cannot qualify as “the neighborhood.”

These four guys may have screwed up on campus. But a cursory search reveals anything but stereotypical “thugs.” These guys had academic qualifications and attended schools known not just for their football programs but educational credentials as well. These creme de la creme of the Chronicle commenters may tend to the Obama-blaming, race-baiting that makes Chron.com so great, but I still feel the need to assert that Rice is anything but a “bigger school” and has certainly not “lost sight of [its] principles.”

Admittedly, I have never been the biggest fan of the Rice athletics program, viewing it as an underutilized resource that is a financial drain on the university. (pdf: mckinsey report) But there is certainly a degree of pride that a school as small as Rice can make showings in Bowl Games or the College Baseball World Series.

Given a cursory look at the situation, these guys were not thugs. I don’t know them personally, so they may be jerks, asshats, clowns, or any other sort of Rice-centric insult. But that just means they are like every other idiot at Rice who does something stupid. These guys are obviously from “the neighborhood,” that neighborhood just happens to be West University.

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Bluffs Again on Rice University

The hosts and panelists of "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!," from left: Carl Kasell, Roxanne Roberts, Peter Sagal, Adam Felber and P. J. O'Rourke.I want their job so much.

I love Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the sometimes informative and often entertaining weekend morning news quiz. Sure, the show may have almost killed me as I chuckled while working out at the gym and then nearly dropped a weight on my head. But I’m sure the risk is worth it.

One of my favorite parts of the show is playing along, notably during the Bluff the Listener segment. I’m usually pretty good, given that my insane obsession with keeping up on current events often leads me to hear about the actual event before one of the panelists talks about it. However, sometimes it is easy to exclude options because the facts stated are sheerly wrong. This happens occasionally when they reference Rice University. And it happened again in last week’s show.

Ms. ROXANNE ROBERTS (Columnist, Reliable Source): Like so many basketball fans, Toby Stevens’ March Madness bracket was busted, badly, by the second round, and he lost his bet to best friend Jack Kane, which is why the Rice University business major was wearing boxer shorts on his head to Monday’s final game in Houston.

Was he embarrassed? Well sure. Did the CBS cameras love it? You bet. They showed Stevens at least four times during the broadcast. Is he now a budding internet entrepreneur? Well, yes. By the time he got home from the game, Stevens’ inbox had more than 1,000 fan emails, including an offer from a venture capitalist to launch a, quote, “head boxers” business.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ROBERTS: In the last three days, Stevens has created a website and sold more than 5,000 units at ten dollars each, available in 100 percent cotton or comfy poly blend. His motto? Think outside the boxer.

That actually sounds pretty believable. Rice student have done much stupider thing than wear boxers on one’s head on national television. However, Rice doesn’t have a Business major. Alas, only a Business minor. It passed the undergraduate curriculum committee in a 6-3 vote back in 2007. I would know, I was on the committee, and was one of the three votes against (as the Thresher editorial at the time would hint).

Sorry, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, but my habit of attempting (and usually failing) to turn small microcosms of institutional authority into private fiefdoms wins again.

On an additional note, I tried to find the transcript for a recent Prairie Home Companion, but I don’t think they exist for free. So instead, I wrote down the segment that I thought was really good. Here it is:

Sheep we are. We’re herd animals. We’re terrified of loneliness. Except for at this time of year. We feel blessed. It warms up. The sun shines. The lilacs are almost in bloom. And we feel the great antidote to loneliness, which is each other. Suddenly you wake up in the morning and you’ve moved from Outer Mongolia to the Caribbean and you have fruit and vegetables, and suddenly you forgive all the women whom you used to know. You have no grudge against them whatsoever, anymore. You’re grateful for their affection, you remember them in their very best moments, going back to when you were in high school. You forget all of the jagged things they might have said to you at bad times. You feel grateful for all the people you’ve ever loved. All who’ve loved, there is no mistake in it, they go on forever. You think about yourself when you were 17, the first time you ever lay next to a girl, you lay on the grass, it was in the evening on her parents lawn. Her parents could see you, from the porch, but you didn’t mind that because you lay your two bodies curved together, your face pressed against her hair, your left arm was under her head, your right arm was over her hip, you lay there and you just breathed together, looking up at the stars. And the suddenly she said, “Say something,” she said. It was for just that moment that you had memorized that poem, in English:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,

You said as your arm tightened around her waist on that spring night years ago in Lake Woebegone.

   I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

That’s the news from Lake Woebegone, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average. 

I’m Not the Only One Criticizing David Brooks as a Commencement Speaker

David Brooks is this year’s commencement speaker for Rice University. As I’ve written before, Brooks’ contradictions and constant rhetoric about how grades don’t matter may not be the perfect fit for a campus of awkward nerds. However, Brooks isn’t just speaking at Rice, but at Brandeis University as well.

In that context, other bloggers have taken issue with some of Brooks’ writings. Notably, Student Activism addressed a Brooks’ column titled “Virtues and Victims,” which Brooks wrote in the wake of the Duke lacrosse rape scandal and the publication of the no longer relevant Tom Wolfe’s exaggerated piece of FICTION, I am Charlotte Simmons. In that column, Brooks laments the decline of social order and character building in universities.

[E]ducators [from] several decades ago understood that when you concentrate young men, they have a tropism toward barbarism. That’s why these educators cared less about academics than about instilling a formula for character building. The formula, then called chivalry, consisted first of manners, habits and self-imposed restraints to prevent the downward slide.

As Student Activism points out, there is a good deal with which to disagree in Brooks’ yearning for this wonderful past.

There’s a lot to object to in this, starting with the suggestion that all men have the impulse to rape, and that the best of us are merely taught to restrain it.

Yes, college guys can be idiots. And alcohol-fueled, hormone-surging late-teenagers don’t always make the smartest decisions. (Perhaps this is a reason to not let people carry guns on campus). But to refer to rules as “self-restraints” as Brooks does is a sheer fallacy.

Student Activism points to the Berry College Handbook for Women, published by the college’s women’s student government in 1956, as evidence that these restrictions were anything but self-imposed:

DATES — Girls may have dates on Sunday afternoons from 2:45 to 5:00 PM, at parties, movies, and other social events and also at the college store between classes. When girls are coming from the college campus, boys do not escort them farther than the ‘parting of the ways’ which is on the road between the Recitation Hall and Mother’s Building. There must be no dating in out of the way places. Petting is not permitted.

This isn’t self-imposed manners, this is gender segregation. And this isn’t merely a relic of the past. Many current schools, usually ones with religious affiliations, impose strict regulations about men-women interactions. These sorts of rules don’t merely prevent students from learning and growing in an atmosphere of social freedom, but also create a campus potentially hazardous to women. As Student Activism argues:

On the typical American campus of the fifties, students were not taught self-restraint — they were restrained, and they were punished when they were caught circumventing those restraints. If they learned anything about how to behave behind closed doors, it was at great risk, and in defiance of the mechanisms employed to keep them apart. If a female student at Berry College in 1956 consented to be alone with a guy in circumstances that made sex possible, she was in violation of school rules. She was in danger of expulsion. Every man on campus knew this, and that knowledge gave the worst of them great power.

If a woman was treated badly in such circumstances — if  she was raped, if she was coerced, if she was abused, if she was humiliated — she was vanishingly unlikely to speak out. And there wasn’t even any way to have an open discussion about what it meant to be “treated badly” — the campus rules permitted no public dialogue about sexual ethics, no opportunity to arrive at communal understanding about how to behave and how to expect your partner to behave, no space in which to forthrightly compare expectations and experiences.

Indeed, without open discussion, there is no way to learn how to act when one finally does leave the imposed rules of a college campus.

One of the purposes of college is to provide a safe zone to learn how to act in the greater world. Imposing strict rules on students merely moves that learning time down the road until after graduation, perhaps until it is too late.

Rice University allows this sort of freedom not just in its student interactions, but in its drinking culture as well. As a wet campus, Rice allows open discussion of and engagement with alcohol related issues. A recent survey by the Rice Drinking Culture Task Force indicated that transfer students feel that the wet campus increases safety. These students, who have seen what other campuses are like, recognize that policies of openness create a campus of knowledge and safety, rather than ones where potentially dangerous activities have to be hidden.

To conclude, there is a reason that campuses don’t have strictly imposed rules anymore. And it is a reason that Brooks should consider.

This world that Brooks pines for is a world of stifling rules and unequal punishments. It’s a world of shame and exploitation. It’s a world of ignorance and silence.

It is a world that generations of students heroically fought to be freed from.

Houston City Council Redistricting and Ellen Cohen

As required (well, almost required) under the city charter, Houston is adding two new city council districts due to population growth. After a few months of planning and debate, Mayor Annise Parker has released a proposed map. Public hearings start April 13.

This is the old city council map.

This is the proposed city council map.

It is difficult to get a sense of where exactly some of these boundaries fall. I spent a few minutes trying to do an overlay of the new districts on a city map.

I guess it isn't very good. But I didn't try very hard.

[Edit: Here is a great map overlay]

The two big changes, beyond merely adding two new districts, are the changes to District C, and the J District.

First, District C undergoes a major reshaping. Originally, C was the area around West University and Bellaire, following along that southwest Houston circle of 610 and 59, extending from that into Meyerland and that general area. Under the new map, C loses its northeast corner and southwest extremities, instead following along 610 south, up to Westpark, and following along the area between Westpark and Westheimer (I think) and out to the city boundary near Highway 6.

Looking at a racial breakdown of Houston in this somewhat confusing map by data king Eric Fischer, C probably won’t change too much racially. Some red dots are being trades for other red dots.

Each red dot represents 25 White people, each blue dot 25 African Americans, each green one 25 Asians, each orange one 25 people identifying themselves as Hispanic. “Others” are rendered in gray.

However, not all politics is race. District C is shifting from the more original suburbs to Houston’s new suburbs along the appropriately new Westpark Tollroad. The oldschool Jewish Meyerland suburbs are being taken from the inner loop communities and being attached to distant suburbs. Furthermore, I think a good deal of this area is medium density apartments interrupted by strip malls. It would be interesting to see a real breakdown along election results, comparing what is being taken from C and what is being added. To throw out a guess, Democrats are being taken and Republican votes are being added. The former District C city councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck was a moderate Republican. However, she is term limited out from running again, justifying such a notable district shift. The apparent shoe-in to replace her was former state representative Ellen Cohen. However, this change to the district has apparently drawn her out of the District C race.

Hypothetically, would Representative Cohen even be a good fit for the new District C? During her time in Austin, Rep. Cohen had an image of being that somewhat liberal Jewish grandmother. This would have been a great face for the old District C, with its combo of Meyerland, inner-loop lower-upper class, and parts of the Museum District and Rice University. The new District C, with its slice of tollroad Richmond strip suburbia, may be better suited for a business-y Republican type. Even Clutterbuck, with her commonsense Christian soccer-mom schtick, may not be perfect for this new district in which C is apparently for Commuter.

However, as Cohen indicated, while she cannot run for C, she can run for District J, which brings us to big change number two: District J!

District J will be, as the joke goes, the Jay district. (Wait, is it pronounced Jay or Gay? Its a hard G, right? He’s a Jay!)

http://i.adultswim.com/adultswim/video2/tools/swf/viralplayer.swf

The new District J will be “an almost painfully hip, edgy, so-cool-it-hurts” combo of the Heights, Montrose, Museum District, and Rice University.

During the redistricting planning stages, there were rumors of the creation of a “Gay Council Seat.” While it was dismissed at the time, this is basically it. The Houston gay community is one of the most politically organized Democratic demographics in the city, and there is little doubt that it could successfully run someone for City Council in J. However, Ellen Cohen’s political experience and hip grandmotherly appeal to J’s youthful community definitely make her an appealing candidate.

Furthermore, it isn’t as if Houston’s gay community has had trouble running candidates for city council in other districts.

We’ll have to wait and see if this new city council map is even approved. And while I am not glad that my family’s home is going to be part of the new District C….

My family is now on the bad side of the tracks...

I am really anticipating to see how District J will reshape the debate inside City Hall.