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NoZe gives Baylor much-needed laugh

Sept. 18, 2003

By Brother NoZe Better, guest columnist

In my more than 20 years as a Baylor faculty member, I have had the occasion to watch the Noble NoZe Brotherhood at a distance and more recently as the official faculty hostage. This role would be characterized as 'faculty adviser' or 'faculty sponsor' in many other student organizations.

With the NoZe, all pretense is dropped and I have understood what I did not understand when I was a faculty sponsor for a national fraternity. When agreeing to 'advise' a student organization we, as faculty, are embarking upon taking a rhinoceros for a walk on a leash.

I have experienced the illusion of 'advising,' much in the way I enjoyed 'driving' with my father when I was 5 years old and had a second, small steering wheel on the right side of the front seat. (Mine was red plastic. His worked.)

That being bad enough, I know when I lay down to sleep at night that somewhere out there five or six extremely intelligent young people are thinking up something entirely outrageous. I also can sleep soundly in the knowledge that regardless of whether those people are actually members of the Noble NoZe or not, that by noon of the following day I will have received a call asking whether the NoZe is to blame.

Alright, so maybe it usually is the NoZe. Just not always. Alright, so maybe nearly always.

Why would a swell, tenured, full-professorial type such as myself associate with a crowd of smart-alecky, vandalistic and smug young people such as the NoZe? I have several reasons. First, a place such as Baylor is in great danger of taking itself too seriously. This place needs an institutional laugh so badly that it is frightening.

It has been said that laughter is the best medicine (although when my appendix burst, I found hospitalization useful as well) and Baylor has a chronic case of self-importance. The NoZe has a way of pointing out obvious inconsistencies of institutional life.

Second, they make me laugh. I had the privilege to go to Boston with ten of the brothers last year to visit the Harvard Lampoon, The Hasty Pudding Society, and the producers of 'Car Talk' of NPR fame. We had a great time, and nobody got into trouble. While at Walden Pond (water temperature 45 degrees), there were a few near misses, but ultimately we left the woods for pretty much the same reason as Thoreau, if he was asked to do so by a park ranger.

Third, they are a great tradition at Baylor. I have met numerous Exiles (Old NoZes) who still relate to Baylor largely because of the great fun they had while in the NoZe. Many of Baylor's most prominent alumni were members. Some of the early NoZe Brothers also were in the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. Fortunately these organizations developed a healthy rivalry about 75 years ago. You did not think Chamber Pot was a contemporary bit of disparagement, did you?

Fourth, it gives me a chance to get to know young men and women who are like my wife and I when we were college students.

Sure they are edgy. Sure they are going to skate near the boundaries from time to time. Beneath the veneer of parody, satire and sarcasm is a thoughtful mind that truly cares for other people and Baylor. I am proud of the individuals in the Noble NoZe Brotherhood. As a group, they are trouble.

Last, they make each other better by their interaction. They are friends who count on each other every day. Maybe 'the funny' binds them together but as a campus community they are among the healthiest I have seen. They are young adults on their way to lives of service and leadership.

The next group will compete to wear the tribute to Bro. Long NoZe Shoaf at 11:17 p.m. today at Seventh and James Baptist Church. Even if your aspirations do not include wanting to be a NoZe Brother, come to Unrush anyway.

There will be pirates. Probably. I never really know.