Back When I Was a Freshman

Dear Rice,

Now that I finally possess the right to designate myself a “concerned alumna”, I would like to address the topic of tradition. More specifically, I would like to comment upon a certain practice, pleading for a return to the values, customs, and doctrines that characterize our community and our university.

My most treasured memory of Orientation Week (familiar to Rice students as “O-Week”), (besides, of course, playing Sardines in Sewall Hall, ubangeeing co-advisors at other colleges, screaming at other colleges at the top of my lungs, losing my voice, and [of course] Austin Bratton) is engaging in the time-gilded ritual of hedge-jumping. After a thorough primer by our illustrious fellow, who was determined to see us initiated as quickly as possible into the ranks of Real Rice Students, my entire O-Week group lined up for our first attempts. I am proud to note that I rapidly mastered the correct technique: the gently curving approach run, the headfirst launch with the quarter-twist over the hedge itself, and the assertive shoulder landing and roll on the soft lawn. The fact that I emerged with the cuts and scars of warfare upon my arms is further evidence of my dedication and complete hardcoreness.

Why, you may ask, is such a valuable part of a Rice student’s education now excluded from the curriculum? I give you: Facilities Engineering and Planning (FE&P).

We have done battle with them before. We have dealt with the hideous Green Fences of Construction and Isolation, the Limitations upon Jacks, and the Closure of the Gymnasium. But in cutting down the iconic Academic Quadrangle Hedges (symbol of all that is Good and Right about Rice) in late 2005, FE&P launched an assault upon our tradition and honor. (Sing with me: All for Rice’s honor … oh, wait. Nobody knows the words. Never mind.)

FE&P justified this heinous act by claiming that the hordes of students who,over the years, had engaged in hedgejumping, left large, irreparable holes in those bastions of culture. The hedges were therefore ravaged, reduced to mere stumps which not only detracted from the aesthetics of the Academic Quad … but also refused to grow back. Commencement 2006 featured a Quad filled with tiny bushes, some of which had been newly planted to cover the stains on FE&P’s escutcheon.

Over the last three years, as the hedges have slowly grown back to mere shadows of their former selves, the practice of hedgejumping has died out. There is no pride in dominating a six-inch bush, and institutional memory is tragically short. But I have a dream – a dream that one day this university will rise up and live out the true meaning of its traditions; that one day from the red halls of Sewall and Herzstein, we will look out and once more see students flying over those hedges in complete freedom and loss of dignity.

With Hope,

A Concerned Alumna

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