|Freshman "Guidance" took place
on a wide range of subjects
|Rice students traditionally have been
second-to-none in finding creative rites of initiation and letting off steam.
|In these days of Political
Correctness on American college campuses, when, at some venues, Diversity is sought after
as the Holy Grail, and any insolicitude is likely to be condemned as Insensitivity--the
Cardinal Sin, the behavioral antics of Institute days seem outlandish by comparison.
But there always was a pattern. In most fraternal groups, traditions and rites of
passage exist to facilitate entry into the group and convey a common world-view. At
Rice, even the relatively silly hazing of the 50s tended to celebrate the
Individual. One measured success at Rice much more by academic accomplishment than
by group affiliation and popularity. A person could be quite successful, by external
standards, while remaining outside any "In" group. Individuality
historically was respected--not considered "weird". (Therein, perhaps, lay
the gulf which always seemed to separate, and cause irritation, between the student bodies
of Rice and Texas A&M--an irritation which history shows occasionally boiled over.)
group affiliation rites of Rice, as they have evolved over the years, have focused on
three major facts of life at the Institute: one, the population of men drastically
outnumbered the women; two, the amount of time required, and pressure imposed, by even an
average academic courseload was immense, and, three, the average Rice freshman typically
had tended to focus on academics in high school to the detriment of his social life.
Socialization, fraternization, and letting off steam-- particularly letting off steam--
were of paramount importance. The system typically was highly imperfect in getting
the sexes together in any relaxed, comfortable way-- before the institution of co-ed
residential colleges, the men's and women's quads seemed as two armed camps on opposite
sides of the campus. Things are drastically improved on that front, nowadays, but
the entering freshman weanie typically remains a couple social eggs short of a dozen, and
the workload is as pressure-filled as ever.
|Some of the traditions at Rice which can be recalled
by alumni of a certain age, include:
For many years, the sidelines at football games were occupied by Rice freshman,
furiously making obeisance to a graven image consisting of a papier-mache, later plastic
Owl, "Sammy" by name. The greater the need on the field, the more furious
the bowing became. Owl- bowing was synonymous with the on-field success of the
Institute years. In recent decades, the practice fell out of use, as results on the
field declined. Fine. We old grads shall overlook the faux pas for
the time. But, if, this fall, we're 9 and 0, and playing for a conference
championship and a bowl game, we'll damn sure be expecting some freshman fannies out there
on the field, giving it the old, "Whooooa, Sammy!"
Weanies of every Rice generation have put their physics and engineering lessons
to work in the construction of ever- more sophisticated water balloon launching
devices, some capable of sending out missles hundreds of yards. It continues to be a
regular after-dinner pastime as students in one college tower pelt another tower in the
distance. Even the MOB has worked water-ballooning into its halftime shows.
|For decades, the freshmen were
required to wear beanies--each college sporting a different color--until the successful
accomplishment of certain milestones. Primary among them was the Greased-Pole
Climb, or Slime Pit. A freshman beanie was placed atop a telephone pole in the
middle of a pit of drilling mud. The task of the freshmen was to retrieve the
beanie; that of the sophomores was to keep them from getting it. Alas, the event
came to an end in 1967 when a Wiess freshman cut his foot in the melee. Drilling
mud is nasty stuff; the fellow almost lost his foot and missed a full semester of
school. End of tradition. Nowadays, one could imagine injury lawyers with
clip-boards standing around watching the event in anticipation of a client.
Rice freshmen were referred to as "Slimes," as in Primordial Ooze.
"Slime Parades" were organized in a variety of situations: to amuse
the upperclassmen, conduct public celebration, and to remind the freshman that, while they
may be individuals, they remain low-life-form individuals. After a major football
victory, Slime could be seen parading down South Main or in front of the Rice Hotel, or,
later, the Shamrock. The Rice freshman athletic teams were nicknamed unofficially
Rice students back
athletic teams enthusiastically (but they don't get there early)
Although not, strictly speaking, a tradition, it must
be said the the Rice student body, despite being small in number, historically has backed
its intercollegiate athletic teams to the hilt. Most of the student body show up for
home football games, and typically around one-half, for basketball games in Autry
Court. What the Rice student section lacks in size, it makes up in enthusiasm and
creative cheering. Occasionally cheers directed at the opposing teams fall
flat because they don't "get it." But the Owlies' propensity for
strong backing is not in any way reflected by their showing up early. Five minutes
before the start of any football or basketball game, the Rice student section will be
nearly empty. Ten minutes later will find it almost full.