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University Culture Essay

There are universities all over the world with their own unique cultures which include their own customs among other things. Rice University is a great example of a college with its very own unique culture compared to other universities. E. B. Tyler defined culture as “…that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Howe “Culture” lecture 2011). This is only one of many definitions of culture that have been thrown around by numerous individuals throughout the course of history.

This definition in particular fits Rice University extremely well. No one of the before mentioned qualities such as knowledge, morals, or customs make Rice University what it culturally is, but it is when all of these aspects are brought together that Rice really becomes what the university is today. When one matriculates at Rice University they all of a sudden become a part of something much larger than they were before. They become part of a grand family. One of the first things that Rice University drilled into my head when I first arrived was the idea of the honor code, which is really a set of laws that govern the student body.

In this system the student is granted a great deal of trust from their professors and the university in as a whole. Things such as take home exams are commonplace thanks to the commitment from the students to respect the honor code. Since such a high focus is placed on the honor code it is in fact a major piece of the culture here at Rice. I feel like this practice works at Rice so well because the students at Rice tend to have shown a great deal of commitment to get into such a great school that they are able to be trusted to be more responsible than the average college student.

In different cultures across the planet there are an abundant amount of rituals practiced. Things such as holidays and religion are specific to certain cultures. Rice University has a few rituals of its own. The one that comes to mind most often for people is the running of Baker 13. This is a taboo ritual in the sense that it is prohibited to just anyone (Howe “Rituals” lecture 2011). This practice would actually be illegal outside of Rice actually. A brief overview of what Baker 13 entails is a bunch of naked college students running around campus at night covered in shaving cream.

They attempt to attack any other students unlucky enough to get in their path with a naked, shaving cream covered hug. This practice is unique to Rice University and thus is a way to help establish Rice’s own culture. When it comes to Rice’s ethnic culture things are quite different from the average run of the mill culture. While cultures usually have a specific ethnic group that is prevalent, Rice University prides itself by having so many students with such a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.

Rice actually draws from a plethora of ethnic groups, in which “members share certain beliefs, values, customs, and norms because of their common background” (Howe “Ethnicity” lecture 2011). This ability to draw from so many different cultures and their ethnic groups is a major part of Rice University’s own culture. Much the same as American culture is borrowed culture from other areas in the world, Rice can be seen as being multicultural. Rice is definitely not only composed of many other cultures coming together.

Rice’s culture has many other aspects unique to itself such as the before mentioned rituals and life here in general. Rice University even has its own language exclusive to Rice. This can be seen in the different cheers of each of the eleven different residential colleges here on campus. These cheers tend to be somewhat more vulgar than the average language seen outside of Rice University with some even referring to sexual acts with another’s parents. Language here at Rice is not restricted to merely vocalizations. We, much like gangs in the streets, have a few hand gestures and symbols that are commonly used here.

One such gesture is when one makes an owl with his or her hands. This is commonly seen at sporting events when students are cheering on for the Rice University owls. This is one way in which all of the students come together in show support for their fellow students. In some ways people might think of Rice University as not really having a unifying culture. This can be attributed to the eleven different residential colleges here on campus. Each college does in fact have its own culture, so Rice University is actually made up of eleven sub-cultures.

These sub-cultures actively compete amongst one another in events such as powder-puff, basketball, and other sporting venues. This competition can come across as counterproductive in keeping a university wide culture intact. Many might wonder how a culture that has almost a dozen sub-cultures that compete against each other so often and even have anti-cheers for one another could still be called a culture. Culture is in fact seen as something that unifies groups and individuals so it is understandable when people do not see Rice University as really having a university wide culture.

To me this idea of Rice University not having a culture is totally ungrounded. The many sub-cultures of Rice actually add to the overall campus wide community in my opinion. Rice University has the culture it does because of the ability to have so many different sub-cultures coexist with one another and form such a unified student body. This unification is not always noticeable on the surface, but rest assured Rice people love other Rice people. Like I mentioned above, the whole university comes together at college-level sporting events to cheer on the team against other universities.

Another example of members of the different residential colleges coming together is during classes. Since attending class plays such a major role when one is at a university they can be great opportunities for cooperation among the eleven residential colleges. Students from all the residential colleges work together in class on group projects and discussing the topics of the class. Like all universities, Rice has numerous clubs and organizations that one can become a part of. The clubs and organizations welcome anyone to join in and become a member.

Even cultural clubs that represent specific foreign cultures welcome individuals from any other cultural background to join in their activities. A few weeks ago I attended a production put on by Rice’s own Southeast Asian dance organization. There were an abundant amount of individuals participating in the production that were obviously not of Southeast Asian heritage. To me this proves just how many different cultures can coexist within Rice University’s very own culture. In other words I believe that Rice University has a special and unique culture thanks to the university’s ability to bring so many diverse cultures together.

Not many other places or organizations could have such a strong presence in my opinion. In my short time at Rice so far I have already been affected by the culture of this place. I remember when applying to colleges I would think of how it would be when I actually started attending a university. I would think of all the college cliches from movies and friends’ experiences that had already began their collegiate career. I began to form my thoughts of how I thought college would be when I finally got there.

After I got to Rice I soon realized that how I thought the culture would be was completely off. Rice is a place where one has to really be a part of and experience its culture for that culture to be really understood and appreciated. Works Cited Howe, Cymene 2011 “Culture” lecture. Rice University, Introduction to Social/Cultural Anthropology, Fall. Howe, Cymene 2011 “Rituals” lecture. Rice University, Introduction to Social/Cultural Anthropology, Fall. Howe, Cymene 2011 “Ethnicity” lecture. Rice University, Introduction to Social/Cultural Anthropology, Fall.


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