Let’s give hazing a second chance, Rice style
Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.
In prep school:
President of the class.
Valedictorian. Captain of football team.
Baseball star. President of dramatic club.
Editor of School newspaper.
In college: One of the Slimes.
— Anonymous poem printed in the Jan. 9, 1925 issue of the Rice Thresher
Hazing gets a bad rap. And with the associated deaths, alcohol poisonings and homoeroticism, it is quite understandable that hazing at Rice has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. But there used to be a time when hazing was a grand and glorious tradition on campus.
Back in Rice's formative years before World War II, sophomores spent orientation week beating slimes, as freshmen were known, while forcing them to climb a greased pole. After the slimes accomplished this goal, or at least attempted it, the extravaganza of greased-up boys was followed by a forced semi-nude run down Main, where Rice girls would wait to give the slimes their first collegiate kiss.
The hazing didn't end there. While physical hazing was banned during the year, a general attitude of slime subordination dominated campus. Freshmen were treated like pathetic animals, subservient to the demands of anyone else. Professors were the worst, humiliating the once best and brightest of Texas high schools with academic rigors that they had never before experienced, forcing them to disregard their notions of self-worth. And it is about time Rice brought hazing back.
No, Rice shouldn't reinstitute physical humiliation, like those Owls of yore or our dear alumnus Al Gonzales. Nor should we turn to frat-esque challenges of spankings, eating disgusting foods or whatever else Lacoste-bearing brahs do to pledges. We should even turn away from that Rice tradition of forcing freshmen to drink. Instead, let's bring back the 90-year-old Rice tradition of academic hazing.
Back in the roaring '20s, the greatest challenge to freshmen wasn't the constant name-calling, greased-pole-climbing or buying on margin. It was classwork. Failing was the rule, not the exception, and the pain from a failed test was much worse than any "crossing the desert," "unblinking eye" or "paddling of the swollen ass with paddles"—and we need to reclaim that pain.
Facebook forums and Orientation Week lunch tables are fraught with braggartly claims of math awards, SAT scores and overfull honors schedules. So after the "rah-rah" cult rituals and hug circles of O-Week, cynical upperclassmen should find those freshmen who tout their petty, high school accomplishments and spank them with the paddle of "Shut up. I don't care. What have you done lately?"
"Guess how much AP credit I have."
"Should I be a triple or quadruple major?"
I don't care.
"I was a national merit scholar my senior year."
What have you done lately?
We all got into Rice. We're all smart — or at least know a member of the board of trustees. No one cares.
These slimes are too big for their britches, and the first week of classes is the best time to help freshmen face the facts. After all, the point of hazing is to break down new members so an organization can build them up.
Campus is already filled with over-inflated egos, and the last thing we need is another batch of spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-childs who think they're special just for being here. Well, you're not special until you do something here, for Rice. So do it already.
Most professors are already on the right track, especially in Orgo, which seems to have the motto, "Please, sir. may I have another!"
Besides, it's for freshmen's own good. Awards, GPAs and uninformed ambition will not help all the freshmen pre-meds whose medical experience is limited to reruns of "St. Elsewhere." And a little academic hazing will help them recognize that inconvenient truth.
So while hazing may be on the down and out at most campuses, it is time for Rice to reclaim its tradition of academic hazing.
More from The Rice Thresher
Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.
This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.
In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.