Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Behind the scenes with the socials

By Reed Thornburg     10/24/12 7:00pm


Who is responsible for all the decadence? While the task of creating Rice's largest and most famous party is shared by a large network of students, ultimately the responsibility of planning the event falls on the Wiess College social committee. This year, Wiess juniors Bobby Prengle and Adriana Bolivar have undertaken the daunting task of organizing and directing Night of Decadence.

"I pretty much wanted to become a social as soon as I looked at the Wikipedia page for NOD before coming to [Rice]," Prengle said. "How many people can say they planned a party for more than 1,500 people that was [once] in Playboy's top 10 parties? And it's fairly well known outside of Rice."

Since the early 1970s, the history of NOD has largely been an interwoven mix of hyperbole and truth. Getting past the hearsay legend of the event is a challenge, but what is known is that what started as a small event with a select group of Wiessmen in 1973 rapidly developed into a focal point of Rice's party culture. Starting in the mid-1970s, the party soon developed into a themed event.

In 1978, the theme chosen for the party was Animal House, in reference to the then recently released film of the same title. The Thresher reported that year that the first 200 couples to enter the party were given rubber gloves.

"[We] go to extreme measures to make sure we know what's worked in the past and what hasn't," Prengle said. "We're always looking for ways to improve, and we can't do that unless we know the history."

As the party itself continues to change and develop, so does the role of planning it. Most notably, security has come to the forefront as one of the chief concerns when planning the party. With attendance consistently growing each year, the security measures have likewise expanded.

Additionally, the socials are involving the rest of campus in order to host a safe and secure event. In addition to student security open to all colleges, the socials are levying the now more robust university caregiver program.

"There's also a lot of campus-wide involvement with caregiving that's happened thanks to the increased caregiving program we've seen in the past year or so," Prengle said.

NOD, unlike any other Rice public party, charges for admission in order to offset the greater costs associated with the party. This difference might appear inconsequential, but it affects the rules regarding the Rice University Alcohol Policy and makes the party a greater challenge to plan.

"The biggest challenge is that we need a license to provide alcohol and [need to] use a third-party vendor to serve," Prengle said. "That requires a lot of different departments coming together to fill out paperwork. But overall, it allows us to really guarantee that it's the safest party on campus. Over half our budget is spent on making sure partygoers are taken care of, whether that's through our student security force, EMS or RUPD. We really do more than any other party in that regard, and we can only handle those costs by charging admission."

Still, admission is not the only difference between NOD and other Rice public parties, and the administration first noticed this fact in the late 1990s and early 2000s. During this period, the administration realized that NOD presented its own unique challenges due to the high volume of guests. As such, they created new guidelines to help make NOD safer.

"[Wiess] had to make a lot of changes, specifically to security measures, to make sure not only is it a decadent and unique event, but that it's also a safe event," Prengle said.

While the role of social varies at each college, most colleges typically assign their socials a range of responsibilities. At Wiess, the socials run a few smaller events in the spring, but the focus is almost entirely on the Saturday before Halloween. Unsurprisingly, the planning for NOD starts early.

"[We started in] June," Prengle said. "That was a lot of looking back at past years and doing things like the party plan, which really wasn't much but made life this fall so much better. Getting the little things done over the summer makes dealing with big things a lot easier."

Then, in September, the theme was finally selected. The current ritual for selection involves a Wiess-wide retreat to discuss submissions made throughout the year. Emphasis is placed on current events, the ease of decoration and costuming.

As is the case with most large-scale events, planning NOD requires sound organization and a large amount of paperwork. The socials cite keeping organized as both essential to the party's success and the greatest challenge in planning the event. Still, they acknowledge the support of various groups and individuals as indispensable.

"I think that if lots of people come to Wiess, have a good time and are safe, it's a great NOD," Prengle said. "As long as everything we can possibly think of is in place for people to enjoy themselves in a safe and responsible manner, then we as socials have done our job. If we've done everything right, then the numbers, like attendance, will be there for other people to judge us on."

More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 5/19/24 8:57pm
Jones School breaks ground on new expansion, final project to wrap up spring 2026

The Jones Graduate School of Business will expand its building, constructing an additional 95,000 square feet around McNair Hall. Rice Business announced blueprint plans for the new $54.5 million building at its groundbreaking May 9. The new building will include multiple large classrooms, lecture halls, dining facilities, event spaces and communal areas, designed to “blend seamlessly with the campus and its surroundings.”

NEWS 5/19/24 8:45pm
Audrey’s closes in advance of Jones School expansion

After four years of operation in McNair Hall, Audrey’s closed May 10 prior to the Jones Graduate School of Business expansion. The original Audrey’s space will be cleaved by a wall during construction, Niken Prabanto, co-owner of Greenway Coffee Company, which oversees Audrey’s, said. 


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.