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Friday, December 01, 2023 — Houston, TX

Unconventional wisdom, unconventional purchases

Francesca Nemati / Thresher The $800 “Harry Femur Hanszen” overlooks Hanszen commons.

By Rohan Palavali     9/26/23 11:52pm

Whether it’s College Night, Beer Bike or just another quad event, Rice’s residential colleges often shop for some unique items. From inflatable gorillas to 188 individual Squishmallows, the Thresher took a look at some of the colleges’ silliest acquisitions.

Baker College

As the oldest college at Rice, Baker has a storied history of dignified and … not so dignified purchases. Jonah Wagner, the president of Baker, said that many such purchases revolved around Beer Bike, a week known for strange antics.

This includes a trackless train for Bakerites to ride, zombie doll heads to throw around Sid Richardson commons and the “humerus” addition of a strategically placed bone(r) on Harry Femur Hanszen. 

Perhaps the largest purchase in Baker’s illustrious past was 188 Squishmallows in preparation for Orientation Week. Lynn-Chi Nguyen, Baker’s external vice president and 2023 O-Week Coordinator, said it was difficult to obtain so many of the popular stuffed toys.

“We were forced to physically go to Five Below [locations] around the Houston area and wipe out their inventory,” Nguyen, a Baker junior, said. “Our receipt was at least 10 feet long and all the employees gathered around the front of the store and made us take a picture with it.”

Brown College

One of Brown’s more eccentric purchases was an assortment of Orbeez guns. Sara Davidson, Brown’s internal vice president, said that these guns were to be used for various events in the quad.

“They could be used for years to come and are cooler than Nerf Guns,” Davidson, a Brown junior, said.

Watch out when walking through Brown, as an Orbeez battle might be taking place — no prisoners taken.

Duncan College

Duncan’s treasurers, Daniel Li and Akshay Shyam, said they dedicated a lot of effort to ensure that Duncan had fun activities to promote college culture — and some of them are pretty unconventional.

“Recently, we purchased a 30x50 ft tarp and bottles of dish soap to play slip ‘n slide hockey in our quad,” Li, a junior, said. “Now that we have the tarp, nothing would stop us from running slip ‘n slide hockey regularly.”

One of their recent purchases didn’t work out as well as they thought it would. As it turns out, ball pits are often made for children.

“Last year, we purchased a ball pit for our sophomore-junior slumber party in commons,” Shyam, also a junior, said. “We thought it’d be fun, until we found out that maybe it wasn’t big enough for the average college student. Still worth it.”

Hanszen College

Anyone that walks into Hanszen commons can see perhaps one of the tallest purchases of any college: a 12-foot tall, $800 plastic skeleton appropriately named “Harry Femur Hanszen.” 

Emery Engling, Hanszen’s IVP, said that Harry has been the centerpiece of many college events.

“This skeleton is the center of things like jacks during Beer Bike, decorations during our public and more,” Engling, a Hanszen junior, said. “Three different colleges all put a penis on the skeleton last year for jacks.”

Hanszen hosts an event every semester called “Float the Keg,” in which they decide something silly to spend their money on. There are two brackets, one for a $250 purchase and one for a $500 purchase. For each bracket, Hanszenites propose ideas on which to spend this money and a winner is chosen. The secondary objective of the night is to empty a keg that has been placed in a bucket of water so that it floats, which can lead to some interesting financial decisions.

“We bought a Barbie Jeep, like a kid’s electric car, last year that we can drive around,” Engling said. “Last semester I won Float the Keg in the spring semester with the idea of building a trebuchet so that we could launch water balloons and eggs at other colleges. Unfortunately, this was shut down by the administration rather quickly after the event.”

Will Rice College

While other colleges spend their money on more material objects, Will Rice chose Hank from “Breaking Bad.” Will Rice President Gazi Fuad said last year the college set aside $500 to fund a Shark Tank-esque program called Whale Tank. The winning bid was a video from Dean Norris, the actor who played Hank Schrader in “Breaking Bad.”

“We got [Norris] to say a script that some of our secretaries had prepared, just basically as a hype video for Beer Bike,” Fuad, a senior, said. “We released it on Instagram and played it in commons and it was pretty fun.”

Lovett  College

While Lovett is somewhat affectionately known as a toaster due to its riot-proof dorm, their purchases have shown that they’ve become the very thing they’re built to withstand.

Lovett’s president, Mehek Jain, said that the college has a certain affinity for all things filled with air.

“We’re a big inflatable college. We have the inflatable tube man, the inflatable purple gorilla, we got the inflatable reindeer. I really like inflatables,” Jain, a Lovett senior said. 

COVID was also a time for many purchases. Thousands of dollars, a lack of events and a surplus of time yielded some wild results.

“One of the freshmen requested a foam sparring sword … I got this inflatable pig costume [for college night],” Jain said. “It’s been auctioned off every year. We also got an air raid siren … to protect Lovett from the bomb and to annoy Sid because their music is too damn loud.”

McMurtry College

McMurtry is the only college with two mascots: a lion and a banana. No matter the item or event, they are nothing if not committed to their brand. Adeel Sumar, McMurtry’s IVP, said that one of their planned purchases is an actual school bus — banana-themed, of course.

“We [plan to order] a bus … like a really run-down one, but it works. We got it for around $4,500 or $5,000,” Sumar, a junior, said. “We’re planning on calling it, I don’t know, the ‘Banana Mobile’ or something. I don’t know what it’s going to be called but it’s going to be yellow.”

Other McMurtry-themed purchases under consideration are a banana-shaped canoe to be placed in their quad and an actual living lion.

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