BACK IN 1973, THE NOZE BROTHERHOOD welcomed Leon Jaworski into its membership when the new Watergate Special Prosecutor came to town to be the Homecoming grand marshal. As he rode down the streets of Waco to cheers from the crowd, the NoZe brotherhood marched behind him holding signs that urged alumni to “clap if he’s guilty” in reference to President Richard Nixon.
While we assume the NoZe Brotherhood needs no introduction to Bears everywhere, surely there are a few Aggies out there who don’t know that the Brotherhood was founded in Brooks Hall in 1924 as a joke regarding Leonard Shoaf, a freshman with a large nose. The Brotherhood historically poked fun at a range of people and organizations, including the rival Baylor Chamber of Commerce, The Lariat, faculty, administrators, the Southern Baptist Convention, various student organizations, and even themselves. Members were open about their participation through the early 1960s, before deciding to keep their identities secret.
Unable to resist the allure of their masked bravado and sarcasm, we reached out to NoZe leadership by e-mail and asked if they’d answer a few questions. We edited with a light hand (mainly because their answers were generally terrific, but we are a family publication).
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about the role you play? What’s that process like?
We consider role play to be a kinky component to our lives in the brotherhood. We’re constantly trying to navigate the thin line between satire and polarization. Obviously these seem to become muddled quite often on certain topics, namely the ongoing sexual assault incidents. While it’d be easy to regard us as a ‘liberal voice’, we detest that title and try to separate ourselves from it. We view ourselves as a gadfly, sitting on the wall observing all of Baylor. Sometimes a story pops up or a comment gets traction, and like flies to honey (or honeys to someone’s fly), we go straight at it, making a fuss, drawing attention, and starting a conversation. We don’t always have solutions, and we don’t think that’s our role either. Simply put, we seek to be a loud, obnoxious voice among many on campus. Often we consider our opinions and views to be the best ones and many times that isn’t the case, but so long as we maintain this outlet of nonsense and satire we will continue spouting off and spurning the administration.
How has the NoZe Brotherhood’s approach changed over the past 30-40 years?
The view that current Brothers have of the past is shaped by the legends, folklore, and police reports that have been passed down from generation to generation from Exiles (alumni).
Every Homecoming we’ll have a couple trickle in, having escaped the confines of their hospice care, and they’ll regale us all night about “the good ol’ days.” Since we started our underground resurgence following the alleged bridge burning back in the 60s, our approach has roughly stayed the same: get kicked off, hide for a while, come back quietly, build up our confidence, become arrogant, and get kicked off again. We imagine this cycle will continue for quite a while, at least until the icecaps melt and the oceans die.
Our methods are meant to be crass, over-the-top, in your face, unapologetic, and downright obnoxious, but if we weren’t the ones doing it, some other disorganized, self-righteous, pompous, arrogant, loud-mouthed group would or even worse the issue would never receive the attention it deserves. And we all know how much we love attention.
Is it “easier” today to be the NoZe Brotherhood than it’s been in the past? Why or why not?
Yes, you could say the current campus culture makes it “easier,” in that we find ourselves in one of those rare moments where a significant share of campus supports our paper, finds joy in our pranks, and overall finds humor in the appearances we make. Or at least we like to assume so. Previous generations, students and faculty alike would accost suspected Brothers due to general disdain for their NoZes. Our public relationship with the student body has definitely improved exponentially.
We also feel that our mission of satire is more important than ever, especially on a campus and in a country that increasingly becomes more divided. People need a non-partisan and humorous perspective in order to see through the nonsense that makes its way into the news cycle. We feel that this need for humor has augmented our approval on campus, and we hope to continue to perform this duty in the future (haha duty).
As for our faculty and administration, it’s really hit-or-miss. Some love us; some hate us, some throw entire stacks of our paper right into the trash bin without even recycling. Either way it’s best for both parties for Brothers to keep their identities anonymous.
It seems like the Brotherhood was pretty quiet from 2010-2016. Was that intentional, and were the 2016 float and the banner on Waco Hall efforts to re-energize the visibility of the organization?
If you want an honest answer, I’d tell you it was a dark time for the Brothers. But if there’s anything the NoZe knows it’s that sometimes you have to pick your battles. And at that time we were picking our NoZes very carefully. We have been very fortunate to have some new neo classes in these last year that have breathed new life into this group. They brought new ideas, perspectives, and funky dance moves that have only made us stronger as a unit.
The float and prank were brought to life out of sheer frustration with our university’s current situation. We wanted to talk about it and we wanted other people to recognize our stance as well. So we sat around with a couple bottles of inspiration, and Hot Damn! We did the only thing we knew how, prank and make people laugh.
How did you come up with the “sweeping it under the rug” float?
Like any super-secret society we have to have super-secret society meetings. The Noble NoZe Brotherhood Mansion not only houses all 1,500 of our members, it also is the home to some of our greatest and funniest ideas. I’d say it was a combination of inspiration, relaxation, and probation that allowed us to have the time and energy to put together such a half-hearted effort of a float.
Given the sensitive nature of the recent revelations, has it been difficult for an organization whose native tongue is satire to discuss Baylor’s handling of the situation in a compassionate way?
This sounds like gotcha journalism. We would never make a mockery of anything so disgraceful and hurtful to so many people. We are ashamed at what has happened here and that is our entire opinion on it. In the coming semester, we hope to facilitate on-campus efforts to benefit victims of sexual assaults and make it clear that the Noble Noze Brotherhood, along with the Baylor Student Body, stand with the victims and fight against the aggressors. We also encourage the readers of your publication to show a level of compassion and understanding for those who have suffered from this shortcoming. There are times for satire, and then there are times to be serious. This is one of them.
Is there ANY topic you consider to be “off -limits?”
It isn’t so much the topic but the way it is represented. Some topics are impossible to address in a satirical manner without being insulting. At the same time, you have to be able to laugh at yourself, which is a closely-held value within our organization. Some people just don’t get it.