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A History of Decadence



By Jessica Wilder     10/26/11 7:00pm

This year's theme of "Harry NODder: Slytherin to My Chamber of Secrets" has generated a considerable amount of buzz since it was first announced. In the weeks leading up to NOD, Rice University girls have been searching for the perfect garters to match their Gryffindor ties, Rice boys have been Googling things like "Hufflepuff boxers" and everyone has been working on that "NOD bod." In honor of this year's theme, it seems appropriate to look into Dumbledore's pensieve and review the origins of NOD.

According to Rice legend, the Night of Decadence began in 1972 when a group of Wiess College students filled a tub with all of the alcohol they had on hand.

"The resulting punch was so potent it removed the varnish," said past Wiess President Ethan Schultz in a 1999 article from the Houston Press. A night of drunken debauchery ensued, and thus NOD was born.

Current Wiess President Charlie Dai, a senior, said, "Rice students would gather and bring their own mattresses and drinks to a designated spot," adding, "At the time, Wiess was an all-male college. I'm sure that contributed to the particular culture of the event."

The tradition of an annual theme was not adopted until 1976 with "The Fall of Rome." Many of the earliest themes referenced historical periods of depravity, such as "Caligula." In 1978, NOD paid homage to the guide for all collegiate bad behavior with its theme of "Animal House."

It was not until the late ‘80s that Wiess turned double entendre into an art form and began to use themes that matched the blatantly sexual decorations of NOD. The most iconic decoration and trademark of NOD was "Sparky," a large papier-mâché phallus suspended from the ceiling of the Wiess commons.

A high point in the history of NOD was when it was named among the Top 10 College Parties in America according to Playboy magazine in the late 1970s. As such, it became a distinctive element of Rice culture and an unforgettable experience for Rice alumni.

"I remember everyone getting really ‘creative' with their costumes and antics," said Stephen Holmes (Wiess ‘88). When asked for specific details about his NOD experience, Holmes, who is now the Commissioner of Galveston County, was hesitant.

"Night of Decadence is like Vegas. What happens there stays there," said Holmes.

In 1999, 10 college masters wrote a letter criticizing NOD as having an explicitly dangerous and sexual atmosphere.

In response to the letter, the Student Association formed a presidential committee to examine concerns about NOD. Ultimately, the committee determined that NOD should continue to exist, but out of caution recommended changes such as the elimination of overtly sexual decorations and increased enforcement of the alcohol policy.

Since 1999, significant efforts have been made to make NOD a more comfortable event for all students. Security has also become a major priority at the event. Last year, more than 120 students from around campus volunteered to work security throughout the night.

Wiess' efforts to make NOD a friendlier environment have resulted in its popularity increasing every year. Last year, a record-setting 1,500 students were in attendance.


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