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Letter to the Editor: What should we call “Willy Week”?

By Rob LaVohn     4/13/21 10:59pm

Editor’s Note: This is a letter to the editor 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. Letters to the editor are edited for grammar and spelling by Thresher editors. 

To Whom It May Concern,

As the parade to Beer Bike 1992 devolved into a water balloon melee, I picked up a pink water balloon and flung it in the general direction of a group of Sidizens who had been pelting me and my fellow Wiessmen with them.  As I did so, I felt my Rice ring slip from my finger.  A moment later, in the distance, I heard the metallic ping as my ring fell to the pavement.  “My ring!  My ring came off!”  I don’t know how I was heard over the din of laughter and yelling, but in a few moments, Rice students from three or four colleges paused their good-natured rivalry and helped me recover it, only a little worse for wear.  I wore that slightly dented ring up until replacing it for my 25th reunion a few years ago.  That incident, for me, represented one of the best things about Rice: the residential colleges pushed and teased each other like merciless siblings but set aside those distinctions when it mattered.



In 1957, the residential college system had just begun, and its popularity was hardly universal.  The shift from organizing the campus structure by class years and centering it on the untried system faced a lot of opposition.  One success from that inaugural year, though, has had long-lasting results: The bike race that would become Beer Bike started that year and established the benefits of competition between the residential colleges.  It became something uniquely Rice, and rare is the Rice alum who does not have at least one Beer Bike shirt in the bottom of a drawer or decorating a quilt.

Now — almost thirty years after my ring flew off in a water balloon fight and over five decades since the first Beer Bike — the Rice community faces a different challenge: What do we call the week surrounding Beer Bike?  More recent alums call it “Willy Week,” but that term only originated in 1997. As the university struggles with the legacy of its founder, the call to distance the week from WMR was the topic of a recent Thresher editorial.  Indeed, some residential colleges have come up with their own names — though those names are understandably inadequate for a university-wide celebration.  If any residential college had claim to naming the week after themselves, it would be Lovett College, since President Edgar Odell Lovett was the prime mover of the college system which he suggested in his inaugural address on Oct. 12, 1912.  But Lovett, for all the good he did, was just a man, and we understand how time may reveal unpleasant truths about even the best men; naming the week after any person might create a similar dilemma down the line.

It seems, in this case, the simplest solution is the best: Since Beer Bike is and always has been linked to the residential college system, why not call the celebration College Week?  Individual colleges can celebrate “Maggie Week” or “Sid Week” or whatever — but when we all come together, it should be College Week, celebrating the success of something uniquely Rice.  It is that spirit of competition and camaraderie that I saw first-hand (if you’ll pardon the pun) in 1992, and it is something worth celebrating as Rice goes on.

Rob LaVohn

Wiess ’92 



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