GRE EXAM SCRUTINIZED FOR FLAWS

by Naruth Phadungchai

Contributing Writer

Two test-preparation companies earlier this month criticized Educational Testing Services, the maker of the Graduate Review Exam, on its allegedly flawed computerized testing.

Both the Princeton Review and the Kaplan Educational Centers charged that the computerized version of the general test portion of the GRE did not offer enough different questions to prevent students from memorizing the exam.

Because the computerized exam came out a year ago, there have not been any reported cases of cheating by students. However, Kaplan charged that in a test conducted by its staff, it was able to construct an exam from memory that was close to the original test given by ETS.

According to Patrick Daniel, associate director of the UH Counseling and Testing Service, the computerized test is no more flawed than the traditional versions of tests offered. "Even if you're taking a paper-and-pencil test, you can still memorize the questions," Daniel said.

The GRE exam is divided into two sections. Students can take the general test either on paper or on the computer. The subject tests are available only on paper. Both types of tests are offered on specific dates. The computerized test had been offered every day until ETS cut down on the number of test dates after the allegations came out.

The flaw isn't all that serious, though, Daniel said. He attributed the problem with the computerized test to its relative newness. "All ETS needs to do is increase the pool of (questions)" to counter the possibility of students memorizing the questions, he said.

Moreover, the company's decision to cut back on the number of testing dates helps to ensure that students won't be able to easily recall the questions. The exam can only be taken once every six months.

Daniel said the computerized version of the general test is a better test than the paper-and-pencil version because it is an adaptive test. That means the computer changes the difficulty of the questions based on how the student did on the previous questions.

"If you got an item right, it gives you a more difficult item," Daniel explained. Conversely, if a student got the question wrong, the next one will be easier. With such a test, "you're getting a better measure" of a student's aptitude, he said.

Like any other test, the unspoken expectation of students, said Daniel, is that they will keep the questions on the test confidential.

 

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UH ADMINISTRATOR NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSIES, CHALLENGES

by Kevin Patton

Daily Cougar Staff

Elwyn Lee, vice president for Student Affairs and special assistant to the president, hasn't gone very far. He's only moved a few blocks.

From Wheeler Street to Calhoun Road, Lee still calls his childhood neighborhood the back yard, but the view is a little different.

When Lee came to UH as a sort of homecoming, he took a 33 percent pay cut in 1978 from the fourth-largest law firm in Washington, D.C. – Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering – to come here, he said.

Prior to that, Lee graduated from Yale in 1972 with a bachelor of arts in urban studies and quickly followed it with a Yale law degree in 1975.

But his October appointment as special assistant to the president for public affairs, which garnered him a $12,000 raise, caused controversy at a university that has seen no faculty raises in more than six years.

However, raises are expected by Sept. 1, according to President James Pickering, who promised the Faculty Senate in October and reiterated that promise Thursday.

"I have done my share of dialoguing with the members of the Legislature on UH and its importance to the city," Lee said.

But more importantly, he said, is the amount of experience he brings to the position.

Lee has been involved in several election campaigns – like his wife's, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, not the least among them as she unseated Craig Washington.

He also has an extensive educational background as he worked on New York State's commission on Attica after the infamous riots and worked with the Newark city mayor's office in addition to his experience at the D.C. law firm.

"My background and involvement in government is longstanding; I helped secure line items," he said.

Pushing for special line-item funding is a legislative tactic that was used to save UH last biennium and bring the amount cut from UH's budget to only $8.5 million.

Since his appointment, Lee also has been involved on the governmental relations committee, headed by Grover Campbell, UH vice chancellor for Governmental Relations.

The other side of public affairs is the work he does interacting with different community organizations, from the Third Ward Redevelopment Council to the East End Chapter of Commerce.

"If you have to be involved in the Legislature or the public, you've got to be in a position to know what's going on," Lee said.

Lee has also faced particular scrutiny this semester after a UH student and Moody Towers resident was kidnapped.

The man arrested and charged with the kidnapping was also a Towers resident, a felon who was not barred from residency despite his past criminal record.

The Towers, which fall under Lee's Office of Student Affairs, did not have a policy able to deal with such a contingency.

Controversy is never far from Lee's doorsteps, it seems; however, Lee is undaunted – all in a day's work.

 

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UH ARTS LEADERS QUIVER AS NEA FACES GOP AX

by Samaria Jones

News Reporter

University of Houston arts leaders predict lean times ahead if House Republicans are successful in abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts. Established 30 years ago, the NEA has proven to be helpful, if not crucial in supporting artists.

Sidney Berger, director of the School of Theatre, said, "Cutting of the NEA program is totally shameful." Berger cites the School of Theatre's hosting of the Children's Theater Festival as an example of how NEA funding impacts the UH campus. Funding for the festival also comes indirectly from the NEA, through the Cultural Arts Council of Houston.

"A country that does not support its arts and looks toward ... the bottom line (economically) has one half of a civilization," Berger said.

NEA support of an artist has traditionally been seen as a stamp of approval because of the stringent criteria that must be met. Well over half of UH's art faculty has received NEA grants, some in the form of fellowships, said Professor David Jacobs, chairman of the Art Department.

"Any NEA support that the art faculty receive for their own individual projects in turn means enriched learning opportunities for UH students," he said, adding that organizations and programs also benefit from NEA grants. The Blaffer Gallery has received institutional support from the NEA for its exhibitions.

Campus art and architecture leaders agree that the Republican move to cut the NEA is purely political. The NEA's 1995 budget is $167 million, while the total federal budget is $1.5 trillion. "The city of Berlin (in Germany) endows more to its artists and arts programs than the U.S. does nationwide through the NEA," Jacobs added.

Another NEA-funded program, Project Rowhouses, has also had an impact on the UH campus. Project Rowhouses, a revitalization program taking place in nearby Third Ward, was started with a $25,000 grant from the NEA, said Sheryl Tucker, a UH assistant professor of architecture, who serves as an adviser to the project.

Tucker has incorporated Project Rowhouses into class exercises for her senior students. The architecture students have worked on landscape designs and a two-story house that are a part of the site.

Tucker said the project has not only been educational for students, but for the community as well. If the NEA were cut, programs like Project Rowhouses would be totally dependent on private and corporate donations, she added.

The UH arts community, as well as the arts community at large, are concerned that a majority Republican Congress understand that the arts are not frivolous pursuits.

 

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GOLDEN DRAGON ACROBATS PERFORM TONIGHT

by Jessica Ellis

Daily Cougar Staff

Celebrate the new year at UH Cullen Performance Hall tonight, for an extravaganza of acrobatics and magic of the East.

The Lunar year of the pig begins Tuesday, but the UH Chinese New Year celebration will start today at 7:30 p.m. Currently traveling as a part of the Southwest leg of its U.S. tour, the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats and Magicians of Taipei will perform on campus. In addition, they perform comedy and balancing feats of Kung-Fu, as well as traditional dances in costume.

Chinese acrobatics are more than a series of stunts. Most of the acts were created and performed in China as far back as 200 B.C., and have always been an integral part of the Chinese culture and arts.

"The performance is a great opportunity to expose everyone to our culture and traditions," Chinese Student Association (CSA) President Brad Eu said.

Many of these acts clearly demonstrate the achievement of perfection through finding harmony between the mind and body.

With a cast of 18, including acrobats, dancers and magicians who tour internationally, the team has earned many favorable reviews from various media.

"There is a precision and beauty about everything these performers do," wrote a reporter from the Washington Post.

The troupe has appeared on the Merv Griffin Show, The Dinah Shore Show, That's Incredible and Wide World of Sports. More recently, the company appeared in a preview of the movie Uncle Buck. In addition, they performed at more than 30 state and regional fairs and at several Six Flags theme parks, including Houston's Astroworld.

The event is sponsored by the CSA, Council of Ethnic Organizations and the Activities Funding Board.

For ticket information call Ticketmaster at 629-3700. The show is likely to be sold out, Eu said.

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SOLVING CONFLICTS WITH WORDS, NOT FISTS.

by Blanca Hernandez-Blanco

Contributing Writer

Have you had a campus organization dispute lately? Or, maybe a dispute with your roommate, you can't solve.

Don't fret, help is on the way.

The University of Houston's A.A. White Dispute Resolution Institute is looking for a way to help campus organizations, faculty and students resolve their campus disputes.

"We help lots of people and student organizations in resolving their problems. However, we usually find volunteer mediators," E. Wendy Trachte, executive director of the institute, said.

"We hope that in 12 to 18 months, we will have a formal process in place in order to help the campus organizations. However, we are working with the dean of students on that," Trachte said.

The Institute, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1988 by Judge Frank Evans. The institute was named after the founding Dean Emeritus of the campus's Law School, A.A. White, for the purpose of teaching and researching in the field of dispute resolutions.

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a way to reduce the costly fees and delays in resolving litigation disputes.

The mediation course is taught to those students enrolled at the UH Law School and as a graduate course at the School of Business Administration, Trachte said.

However, any student interested may enroll in the course at a discounted rate on a space availability basis. Financial assistance through a scholarship is available for those who qualify.

According to Trachte, the state of Texas requires 40 classroom hours of mediation training, which translates into a three-hour course that satisfies the requirement.

"We believe that mediation is a life skill. It teaches us a way to solve problems. It involves communication skills and problem-solving skills, and those skills, no matter what profession you are in, a bio-chemist to a lawyer, are skills you need or would like to have," Trachte said.

"It was a great course," Judy Garlow, who works as a law clerk and will graduate from the UH Law School this May, said. "It teaches you a lot about negotiations and reaching an alternative resolution. It also teaches you good communication skills." Garlow took the mediation course last summer and finished with what she felt were additional skills.

The success of this program has already begun to show. Recently, the Institute's research project was implemented at the City of Houston's Public Works and Engineering Department in order to help employees resolve their grievances. Twenty cases so far have been mediated out of this department.

"The city employees were very satisfied," Trachte said. "The employees said this is the way problems should be solved."

ADR allowed both parties involved in the dispute to air their grievances and negotiate a solution with the aid of a mediator.

However, not all problems are resolved through mediation.

"A lot depends on the parties and their attitudes, the dispute itself and the mediator as well," Garlow said, who is qualified to serve as a mediator.

Garlow said the trend at the moment is that a judge will order the case into mediation. "This is happening more now than before. And then, sometimes an attorney may feel he can settle it through mediation."

The program is housed at the College of Business Administration, where it recently relocated from South Texas College of Law.

"We really think that the future of ADR lies in the business field because we try to resolve matters before they get to the litigation process," Trachte said.

 

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COUGARS HEADING TO BIG D

Both men's and women's teams play SMU Saturday

by William German

Daily Cougar Staff

The Houston Cougars men's and women's basketball teams may be finding Southwest Conference play a bit more to their liking.

After dropping the SWC opener at home to Rice by 11 points, coming up 14 short at Texas Christian and 18 against Texas Tech, the Cougars (4-13 overall, 1-4 in the SWC) seem to have reached a rallying point.

Saturday's five-point loss to A&M at College Station could easily have gone the other way, while Wednesday's four-point victory over Baylor broke an eight-game losing streak.

Next up is Southern Methodist (2 p.m., at Moody Coliseum), tied with both UH and Baylor for last in the conference at 1-4. The Mustangs sport a 4-12 overall mark.

The Cougars have assembled a consistent five starters and bench rotation since conference play began, going with Jessie Drain and Kirk Ford in the frontcourt to support Tim Moore. True freshmen Tommie Davis and Damon Jones have remained in the starting backcourt since the opener against Rice.

The Lady Cougars (7-9, 2-3 SWC) may be poised for a late-season run through the conference.

Pat Luckey made a true return against Baylor Wednesday, with 22 points and seven rebounds, leading Houston to a 76-63 victory. Coming back from fall ineligibility, the 6-1 sophomore should now be ready to roll.

Though Luckey (12.5 points, .410 from the floor so far) may once again become the go-to player for the Cougars, transfer guard Stacy Johnson has made most of the noise for Houston.

Though she hasn't played enough games yet to show up on the SWC leader boards, she would be first in scoring at 20.9 a game if her stats counted. Johnson has led the Cougars in scoring in seven of her 11 games.

Southern Methodist (11-6, 2-3) has had a disappointing conference season so far after being one of four SWC teams to make a trip to the NCAA Tournament last year.

The Lady Mustangs are led by transfer forward Kim Brandl (16.2 points) and guard Jennifer McLaughlin (16.1, .468 field-goal percentage). Junior forward Kerri Delaney's scoring (14.2) hasn't improved from last year, and her rebounding has fallen off as well.

The Cougars will have their own inside contingent to deal with SMU's. Freshman forward Jennifer Jones (9.3 rebounds) and junior transfer center Rosheda Hopson (7.9) will combat the Mustangs for control of the boards.

Ahead, Houston can look to a road game against Prairie View A&M, followed by a home game vs. Texas, which has lost to UH once in team history.

 

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BACK-TO-BACK MEETS IN METROPLEX FOR UH

by Jonathan Golenko and

M. S. Ameen

Daily Cougar Staff

Houston swimming and diving head coach Phill Hansel will lead his team into Fort Worth to match up against Texas Christian at 7 p.m. today in the Rickel Center Pool, before heading down Interstate 20 to Dallas Saturday to take on Southern Methodist at 1 p.m. in the Perkins Natatorium.

"SMU has a powerhouse, like they've had in the past. They'll be one of the top five teams in the nation," Hansell said. "TCU has some good girls, but doesn't have our balance.

"We should win that one."

Coming off an outstanding performance against Texas A&M,

senior diver Olivia Clark is looking for her fourth consecutive sweep in the one-meter and three-meter diving events.

"She's on track to be in the NCAAs again in the one and three meters this year," Hansel said of Clark. "Hopefully she can even win if she has a good day."

Junior swimmer Alex Heyns has has yet to lose the 1000-meter freestyle in all five dual meets this season.

Track heads back to Baton Rouge

The men's and women's track team will return to Baton Rouge Saturday to compete in the LSU Purple Tiger Classic.

In the Jan. 21 LSU Opener, junior Sheddric Fields automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in the long jump. This weekend he will attempt to gain an automatic bid in the 55-meters, in which he provisionally qualified for at the Opener.

There are two ways to qualify for the NCAAs. In each event there are two standards for qualifying, a provisional and automatic.

If an athlete meets the automatic standard, he or she automatically qualifies for the Championships. An athlete can also qualify provisionally, which means they will compete in the Championships if there fails to be an adequate amount of automatic qualifiers.

In addition to Fields, strong performances are expected from freshman sprinter Eric Frempong in the 55-meters and junior Ubeja Anderson in the 55-meter hurdles.

From the women's team, senior Dawn Burrell, who provisionally qualified for the long jump last week, will try to improve upon her performance in the 55-meter hurdles.

 

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AUSTIN GROUP JUST WANNA RECORD

by Deanna Koshkin

Daily Cougar Staff

The Wannabes, Austin's hot new guitar pop band, will be performing at 11 p.m. today at Rudyard's. With its irresistible melodies and explosive vocals, the group should take Rudyard's by storm.

The band's second and latest release, <I>Mod Flower Cake<P> is steadily rising in popularity. The name of the cd was formed when Jennings Crawford, The Wannabes' lead singer, saw a collage photograph in his mom's cookbook featuring a cake with wine bottles and ashtrays spread over it. He simply felt that he must have it so he ripped out the page and saved it, calling it "mod flower cake." The band later elected to use the photo on the album cover, and was never able to come up with a better title, so it stuck.

Jennings said the name of the band, "...was originally The Madonna Wannabes; the Madonna part just got dropped after a while...it was because the first incarnation, The Madonna Wannabes, did a lot of Madonna covers."

Jennings said, "The bass player and I, we've known each other since sixth grade, and we started playing in a rock band together and decided to form one. It was called Humans from Toledo."

Along with the bass player, Hunter Darby, the band later picked up guitarist, Kevin Carney, and Thud Swiderski, on drums, who ended up joining in order to get in free to a Soul Asylum show. "They said they didn't have room on the guest (list), but if I agreed to play with them I could get into the show," Carney said. They had no idea the band would stick together.

The Wannabes hope to start earnestly recording its new album in February or March. "We're kind of in the mist of recording. We just head on into the studio whenever we have a couple more songs we feel are ready, and we record them," Jennings said.

Be sure to come and check out The Wannabes tonight at Rudyard's. Make sure you get there by 10 p.m. to hear the opening band, Spoon.

 

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ARTIST TAKES CLUB TO TOWNES

by Sean Fitzpatrick

Daily Cougar Staff

During one of the many breaks between his songs, Townes Van Zandt smiled wearily at the audience collected Wednesday night at Rockefeller's. "There's a memory on every corner here," he said. "And half of them are still alive and standing there."

Van Zandt, certainly the most esteemed of the Texas singer-songwriters, sounded tired from a recent illness but vowed to "play as late as the law allows" for the standing-room-only crowd at the newly reopened club. He reached deep into others' songbooks as well as his own to do just that.

He opened with "Dollar Bill Blues" - "the only song my mother hates." Unlike most of his contemporaries (Bob Dylan comes to mind), Townes is completely comfortable and giving onstage, although he seems genuinely befuddled by the attention. Several times he stopped songs after the audience applauded in recognition of the first few lines, his concentration gone. Each time he laughed, and started again.

His between-song ramblings took much of his time. Some were directly illuminating, others a little stale, but always leavened with self-deprecating humor - "my mother always said, 'Don't talk, just play, Townes.' "

While he dug out plenty of old chestnuts for the die-hard fans, nearly half of the set was from other songwriters' catalogs. "Short Haired Woman Blues," an old Lightning Hopkins song, was prefaced by a story of talking with Hopkins in Houston. Others, such as Bo Diddly's "Who Do You Love" and a breathtaking reading of Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Street" were woven quietly into his own material.

Van Zandt sang with the cracked, sometimes faltering voice of experience, and his lack of technical skill only served to make the music feel more lived-in. His lack of rhythmic consistency, although fine when he accompanied himself, became a problem later in the evening when Rocky Hill, a local guitarist and friend, joined Townes for three songs. Hill's polished playing tromped all over Townes' songs, and was the most regrettable step of the evening.

 

 

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