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NOD permanently canceled, Rice strips away-decades old campus tradition

Months after alcohol-induced hospitalizations, university-funded underwear party finally finishes


By Riya Misra     6/5/24 7:37pm

After 50 years of decadence, Wiess College’s infamous underwear party is no more. 

Born in the early 1970s after a group of Wiess students poured all their alcohol into a bathtub — creating a brew “so potent it removed the varnish” — Night of Decadence has spent years in the national eye. Allegedly recognized as one of Playboy’s top college parties in the nation, NOD has also been subject to mounting scrutiny over alcohol use and an “explicitly dangerous and sexual atmosphere.”

Rice has now permanently canceled the public, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman and Wiess magister Flavio Cunha announced in a message to campus June 5.

“Our tenure has exposed us to the harsher realities of this event, compelling us to reassess its place within our college community,” Cunha and Gorman wrote. “We have observed a disturbing, reoccurring NOD phenomenon: large numbers of hospital transports due to excessive hard alcohol consumption, flouting the University's alcohol policy, jeopardizing student safety, and straining both University and city resources.”

The party’s fiftieth anniversary came to an abrupt halt Oct. 29, 2023, after two dozen students required on-site medical treatment and seven received hospital transports, “overwhelming” medical resources. In response, Gorman canceled college-wide public parties through spring break, convened an alcohol policy advisory committee and placed NOD on “probation” — during which administration and Wiess leadership would reevaluate the party’s logistics — in early November. 

“I am going to be asking [Wiess leadership] to do a pretty thorough review of everything that happened, in terms of the security plan, what was happening on the floors [and] what was happening in the party itself,” Gorman told the Thresher last November. At the time, she said she did not intend to permanently cancel the party.

When publics resumed after spring break and APAC published their final report, there was still no word on the underwear party’s future. In a March interview with the Thresher, Gorman said she anticipated an “active conversation” with Wiess leadership about NOD’s place at Rice.

“Numerous conversations with students, staff, and faculty, and our own observations have shown that students rely on alcohol to mitigate their discomfort around attending this event,” Cunha and Gorman wrote in their June 5 message. “Such dependence on alcohol has resulted in regular health and safety issues, including but not limited to excessive alcohol consumption, which cannot be overlooked … This decision was not made lightly but stems from a commitment to ensuring the welfare and safety of our students.”

“Since NOD in October, there has been a lot of discussion about student alcohol use and parties on our campus,” Gorman said in a follow-up statement to the Thresher. “The conclusion that we should permanently cancel NOD was a recommendation made to me by the Wiess College magisters, and I support that decision.”

Wiess can still host a “radically different” public party of its own design, Cunha and Gorman said, but the theme, dress code and name “Night of Decadence” will not remain. The time frame and details of Wiess’ new public has not yet been decided.

In lieu of the Greek life system, campus social life is instead housed in Rice’s eleven residential colleges. Each college hosts an annual university-funded theme party once a year, paid for by its residential college’s budget of some $50,000, allocated by the university. In 2023, Wiess spent $10,000 of its total $49,433 budget hosting NOD.

This isn’t the first time the underwear party, one of Rice’s most popular residential college functions, has come under fire — in 2012, 11 students required medical transports to local hospitals, prompting the then-dean of undergraduates to also convene an APAC and harden the alcohol policy.

“The decision was made in consideration of not only what happened at NOD last fall, but also the recurring issues we’ve faced with NOD over the years,” Gorman said in a statement to the Thresher. “Student health and safety remains a priority at Rice, and the decision was made to cancel NOD due to concerns that the problems we saw last fall, despite our efforts otherwise, could happen again.”

In 1999, college magisters penned a letter criticizing NOD’s sexual environment. In response, the Student Association formed a committee to investigate concerns about the party, recommending cautionary changes such as increased security, stricter alcohol policy enforcement and the removal of “overtly sexual decorations.”

"Night of Decadence is like Vegas,” Stephen Holmes (‘88) told the Thresher in 2011. “What happens there stays here.”

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