Wiess TraditionsThe Ubangee The Ubangee. Those unfamiliar with it can't help but sit and stare. Those who know about it run with fear. Wiessmen's hearts, however, swell with pride whenever they see one. It's truly indescribable, but let's try.
A Wiess History
In the beginning there was a man with a dream. Harry Carothers Wiess, famed oil tycoon and founder of Humble Oil (aka Exxon, Exxon-Mobil) who left Rice a big chunk of cash upon his death in 1948 for the building of Wiess Hall, the fourth residential hall on campus.
In 1949, Wiess opened for business. In its modest beginnings, Wiess had only 100 rooms and a small Commons. At Wiess, architecture truly is destiny as the unique "Motel 6" design with outdoor hallways and wrap-around balconies brought instant notoriety for its rowdy social atmosphere. The additions of wings to the original design split the college into two sections, each with their own courtyard and personality: the Acabowl, where the action was, and the Backabowl, where a quieter atmosphere prevailed for sunbathing or studying. Some insist that "Old Wiess," as it's become known, was supposed to be temporary housing after the GI bill of WWII caused an influx in enrollment. Like most Rice myths, this one sounds good enough to believe but contains no actual truth. Old Wiess was built to last, and it did, through 2002. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
In 1957, the residential college system began at Rice. The four residential halls, (South, East, West and Wiess) became Will Rice College, Hanszen College, Baker College and, well, Wiess College. Each had its own dining hall, Commons, masters and self-governing body of students. As the colleges grew stronger, each began developing its own distinctive personalities, even though freshmen were randomly assigned. Will Rice became the "un-college" and Hanszen became the "gentlemen's college" though Hanszen's reputation failed to stick. Wiess identified itself as a spirited college, and the freshmen each year embraced that identity during Orientation Week, when new Wiess students became acclimated to the ways of their fine college. This spirit is embodied in the color the college voted on in the early days to represent us: gold (which became the goldenrod we know today probably through a joke of a Wiessman of the '80s). In its early years, certain aspects of Wiess atmosphere were vastly different from today. The first master, Dr. Roy Talmage, was a conservative and strict man. He instituted mandatory Wiess blazers (complete with crests) for formal Sunday dinners, where freshmen served upperclassmen a family-style dinner (a tradition that ended soon after the move to our current home) while sporting goldenrod and navy beanies to distinguish themselves (a tradition which also, thankfuly, died out quickly).
Despite the formality of Sunday supper, Wiessmen found time to create some of their own unorthodox customs that became known as distinctly Wiess. These included the third-floor dangle and the Ubangee. Although the Ubangee is still proudly practiced, the dangle disappeared as human life became more valuable. Wiess also developed an arch nemesis during those formulative years: Hanszen. Probably because of their proximity, there arose a rivalry between Wiess and its accursed neighbor. Unfortunately, Hanszen's lameness tends to dampen the rivalry and we often turn our attention to any other college bold enough to try to mess with us. When it's worth it, Wiess always prevails.
Even though the '60s brought fewer milestones to Wiess, they did bring one of our proudest traditions. In 1964, an ambitious Wiessmen named George Grenias wrote and "composed" a complete musical, Hello, Hamlet, spoofing Shakespeare through creatively re-lyriced show tunes and put on the entire show in a matter of two weeks. Performances of Hello, Hamlet have graced the stages of Wiess every four years. Hello, Hamlet was performed in Spring 2012, but you, too, will eventually get the opportunity to take part in one of our longest traditions!
The blazer, the Sunday formal dinners and many other more formal institutions of the college started to disappear as the '70s rolled in. The Wiess we know today then started to take a shape. College rules were relaxed, and women gained unlimited visiting hours. Huge parties, which were the best on campus, became common. Then came the now-famous "Team Wiess" cheer derived from a blend of a '70s Xerox commercial with the phrase, "Team Xerox," the movie The Longest Yard (in which football fans chanted the phrase, "Mean Machine") and the TeamBank chain of banks. The glorious "Team Wiess" cheer made its debut at Beer Bike 1975 when the team celebrated its second win ever with a chant of "Wiess Team, Wiess Team!" Since then, the deep, resonating chant has become Wiess' metaphorical heartbeat and our trademark on campus.
During the '80s, Wiessmen were still party animals and cheered loudly at the dinner announcement that Wiess had the lowest grade point average on campus. On a more local but no less impressive scale was the most notorious jack ever to go down in Rice history. In 1988, a team of Wiessmen angered by the upcoming hike in tuition turned the statue of William Marsh Rice in the quad to face Fondren Library, thus turning his back on the administration. The jack is still legendary. Another highlight of the '80s was the addition of females to Wiess college, the second-to-last all-male college. Wiess women were originally brave volunteers who opted to move there. While there were a small fraction of men who continued to chant, "all male college" the vast majority of Wiessmen welcomed women to the Wiess family, and their addition only strengthened the Wiess spirit and sense of community (and allowed us to dominate on the powderpuff field). This is also the time when the term Wiessmen became unisex.
Throughout the '90s, the administration came to realize that the old Wiess building was slowly sinking into the ground and each year was becoming more structurally unsound. This prompted the planning of New Wiess, with consultations with Wiessmen, which opened in the fall of 2002 (It's our ten-year anniversary!). While many aspects of living at Wiess changed, Wiessmen have stayed the same. We now have an enormous courtyard, still called the Acabowl after the old main courtyard, and a gorgeous commons. And we kept the exterior hallways that were (and are) the pulse of the college. In 2008 the Acagrill and Acaglider found their home at Wiess thanks to donations from generous Wiess alumni and our hardworking Capital Improvements Rep and president.
Since moving into our new digs, we've maintained our personality while making welcome additions: namely Wiess Day in the spring to celebrate all things Wiess, a cornhole tournament during the Beer Bike barbecue, and a more modern version of Wiess's beloved Jamfest. We've even created our own war pig!
The greatest thing about Wiess is that, unlike most of the other colleges, the cheering, team atmosphere and open displays of college spirit continue long after O-week and graduation. Ask anybody on campus about Wiess and they'll probably say, "Wiess is loud," or, "Wiess is obnoxious," or even, "Wiess is proud." We're like the popular kids in high school: everyone else thinks we're a pain in the ass, but we're pretty crazy about ourselves. And we plan to keep it that way!
For more information see the Wiess Wikipedia page!
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