- Wiess College
Harry Carothers Wiess College is one of nine
residential colleges at Rice Universityin Houston, Texas. Male and female members of Wiess College are known equally as Wiessmen.
History and Architecture
Harry Carothers Wiess was a famed oil tycoon who founded
Humble Oil, later Exxon. He died in 1948 and left money for the construction of a new dorm. The donor pronounced his name "wise," but at Rice the name is said as rhyming with Rice.
Wiess Hall (1949-1957)
Wiess Hall opened in 1949 as the first dormitory at Rice to be named after a person (the other three dormitories at the time were North, South, and West Halls). Wiess Hall was laid out in the shape of the letter E, or (as Wiessmen preferred to say) the letter W. It had three north-south wings, joined on the north end by a long east-west spine, thus forming two open quadrangles. The building was two stories high except for the three-story center wing. The east wing contained contained mostly single rooms, while all the other rooms were doubles. Every two rooms were joined by a connecting bathroom.
As in a roadside motel, each room at Wiess opened directly to an exterior walkway. Although its design was ridiculed by later students as "Motel 6" architecture, Wiess Hall actually incorporated two important innovations: (1) every room had a semi-private bathroom; and (2) every room (except room 228, which was reserved for freshmen) had windows on at least two sides -- an important adaptation in the years before air conditioning. Nonetheless, the spartan design and subsequent deterioration of the building led to a persistent myth that Wiess Hall (notwithstanding such telltale features as brick veneer walls and a tile roof) was built as temporary housing for war veterans.
Wiess College (1957-2002)
Rice Universityimplemented a residential collegesystem, as proposed by the university's first president, Edgar Odell Lovett. Wiess Hall became Wiess College, one of the four original colleges, along with Baker, (the former North Hall), Will Rice (South), and Hanszen (West).
Converting the dormitory into a college included the creation of two Resident Associate suites; construction of Wiess House, which would be the home of the Master and his family; and construction of the Wiess Commons, the eating hall and round-the-clock gathering space for college members.
Because of Wiess's outward-facing architecture, life at Wiess centered on the outdoors. The main quadrangle (between the center and west wings) became known as the
Acabowland was the busy front yard of the College. It featured volleyball, frisbee throwing, four-square games on the patio, and beer team practices. Lacrosse balls were a frequent threat to first-floor windows. At various times students installed a trampoline ("Aca-tramp") or above-ground pool ("Aca-pool"), although none of these amenities survived for long. After a hard rain, Wiessmen would run and slide down a muddy track, a practice called "zip sledding". Periodically a few residents would use rubber tubing and a couple of strong bodies to create a "gazilcher" catapult for launching water balloons or other projectiles at nearby Hanszen College. At one time, Wiessmen punished students for real or imagined infractions by dangling them upside-down from the balconies.
The quadrangle on the east side of the center wing was known, by analogy, as the "Backabowl". Not facing the center wing balconies, the Backabowl was much more sedate.
In the mid-1970s, Wiess College renovated and expanded the commons area. Wiess undergraduate architecture students Tim "Frog" Barry and Dan Canty designed the new commons for a class project.
The physical deterioration of Wiess accelerated rapidly during the 1990s. After many delays, the university finally began construction of new facilities for the College. The original Wiess Hall and its adjoining commons were razed during the winter break between
Fall2002 and Spring 2003.
Wiess College (2002-present)
Wiess's long-awaited new building opened in the fall of 2002. The college now encloses a single large quadrangle (which retains the name Acabowl), with a glass-walled Commons on the north side and four-story residence wings forming the other three sides. The part of the
Acabowladjoining the Commons is a sunny terrace (inevitably dubbed the "'Acaterrace"'). The kitchen or "'servery"' which serves the Commons is shared with Hanszen College.
Student rooms at Wiess are primarily grouped into four-person suites, which include either four singles or two doubles, a common room, and a bathroom. The west side (twenties wing) features three three-person rooms ("three-mans") which include larger singles, but no common room. The east side (forties wing) features three five-person rooms ("five-mans") which include three singles and a double. The West side also includes one two-person room ("two-man") on the first floor, which contains a common room, bathroom, and one bedroom for two people.
Other special rooms include a game room, movie room, second- and third-floor kitchens, resident associate suites, visiting professor suite, computer lab, dance room, Campus Police satellite office, and O/C (off campus) lounge.
College Traditions & Annual Events
A period of orientation for new students, O-Week is one of many Wiessmen's favored rites of passage. Before fall semester classes begin, the new Wiess class is divided into groups of seven to ten incoming students (freshmen and transfers) for the week. Each group of is lead by two upperclassmen known as Fellows. Typically the Fellows pairs consist of one male and one female upperclassman, one from Wiess and one from a different college. Two Head Fellows are also chosen to organize and supervise the orientation week of the college, which includes presentations on diversity, Rice's Honor Council, Rice University Police Department, Rice EMS services, academic advising from faculty and students, a faculty address and the matriculation ceremony. Between these official presentations, there are many ice-breaker activities, broom ball (similar to field hockey on ice), an outreach day, and the planning and execution of 'jacks' or pranks on other colleges. One recent Wiess jack of note was during O-Week 2006 when Wiess successfully hosted a high school prom in the |Hanszen Commons complete with dj, streamers, and a life-size get-your-picture-with-the-warrior. O-Week is also a completely dry week on campus, meaning that alcohol is prohibited, but ends with the Dis-O (disorientation) party when the returning students arrive back on campus.
residential collegeat Rice holds an event each semester called College Night, historically a formal or semiformal dinner. By tradition Wiess College Night is held on the last day of classes of each semester. College Nights were originally intended as festive occasions that brought the entire college together, including faculty and community associates. By the 1980s, most of them (including Wiess College Night) had degenerated into drunken debacles at which associates were neither comfortable nor welcome. Considering Wiess's reputation as the rowdiest college, it is ironic but telling that Wiess took the lead in restoring civility to College Night in the 1990s. Wiess is currently the only college whose associates regularly attend College Night.
Night of Decadence
Every year around Halloween, Wiess throws a party called
Night of Decadence(commonly referred to simply as NOD). The party started in the 1970s and quickly became a legendary event at Rice and in Houston, drawing young alumni and students from other universities in addition to Rice students. It was also named to the Top 10 College Parties in America by Playboymagazine in the 1970s. After a few years as simply Night of Decadence, the College began adopting a theme for each year's party. In the 1970s and 1980s, many of the themes were historical and/or apocalyptic in nature (e.g. The Fall of Rome, Caligula, Armageddon, Animal Farm, The Trojan War). By the 1990s the themes were generally sexual puns, often based on movie titles (e.g. James Bondage, Lust in Space), with sexually themed decorations. [ [http://teamwiess.com/nod/ Night of Decadence - www.RiceNOD.com ] ] From 1997, the preference has been for lengthier titles incorporating a pun on the word NOD.
Instead of traditional costumes, students at NOD dress as degenerately (or as minimally) as possible. Pregnant nuns and drag dress are some of the tamer outfits. Although there are always several people creatively attired in Saran Wrap or fishnet stockings and pasties, a typical costume is boxer shorts for men, and bra and panties for women.
Because of its overtly sexual context, NOD eventually became a polarizing event on the Rice campus. Alternative events on campus included Night of Innocence (offered since at least the 1980s) and Night of Praise. NOD remains one of the most popular parties on campus, though the decorations have become more conservative in recent years.
NOD Themes: partial list
* [http://www.teamwiess.com/ Wiess College Website]
* [http://www.teamwiess.com/index.php?r=history Wiess College History]
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