"Risley Hall, Cornell's Raging Id"

From The Ivy Gate,NOV 14, 2006

More irrefutable proof that stuff happens at Cornell

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Tucked into the north corner of Cornell's sprawling campus is Risley Hall, a special programs dorm dedicated to the arts. It's basically a frat, but with easels: Risleyites have their own building (a castle, really), they throw decadent theme parties, and they have shloads of sex, usually with each other. As with any fraternal organizaiton, there's an undisputed hierarchy, but this one has little to do with seniority. Rather, it's all determined by the Risley Purity Test.

Anyone can take the test. But to score well -- i.e., to have an extremely low purity level -- one must explore the building's every orifice, get nekkid in a kiddie pool, sleep with other Risleyites (here the algorithm gets complex), and, if you aspire to mythical status, push the boundaries of the test itself (see the stunning "Extraordinary Historical Events" section, most of it inappropriate for a family blog). Your score on the test determines your rank, be it plain old Risleyite, RisMilitiaman, RisNinja, Rear Admiral of Risley, Starchild of the Kommittee Funkadelic Allstars, RisDeity, or (the highest possible honor) Godot!.

Ultimately, the Purity Test isn't just a promiscuity scale. It's a measure of one's commitment to the Risley experience. Of course, what's a Risley experience without a good ol' triple-fisting in the building's dungeon-like bowels?


Stuck in Philthy says:
Heh, well isn't my face red. When I had previously made fun of Cornell for being a state school where nothing interesting happens, I would have never thought in a million years that they have Internet quizzes. Is there a link on there so I can post the results on my livejournal?

Rootbeer says:
"It's basically a frat"
Risley, like all the other program houses on campus, is basically a dormitory. Not a frat. It's more akin to a residential college at Yale than to an eating club at Princeton, though neither comparison is all that accurate.

Harvard Alum says:
Well, if you are bored to err...death (ooh, ouch, bad taste--apologies), acting out masturbatory fantasies seems like a perfectly legitimate use of time. That, and taking online Internet quizzes to see how one's masturbatory fantasies compare with others is also sensible. Well done!

Dude says:
How embarassing. Cornell actually managed to make sex as dorky as Dungeons & Dragons.

no name necessary says:
my only memories of Risley are the artist's sub basement so low that even my 4'11" friend had to duck (it's located below the normal artist basement) and the orgy, my senior year (I was not there but everyone knew about it). Oh and the Medeival reenactments on Sunday Morning (my dorm was across from theirs) The more I think about the more I realize that stuff does happen...we're just really good at keeping quiet about it.

Renee says:
While I enjoy this particular aspect of Risley, it's certainly not all there is. A number of people I know aren't really part of this at all, but participate in other ways- like the pottery shop, sewing shop, stained glass shop, print shop, Lost coffee, lego balcony- producing and acting in plays in RisTheatre- the annual production of Handel's Messiah- etc. The sex is a bonus.

Local fraternity brother says:
It's a beautiful building with a long history. The wild sex has calmed down as of late, but as with all coed dormitories, the web of Riscest is wide and expansive. Do read the quiz, however, and realize that most of the points can be gained without ever losing your virginity. The Risley Purity Test isn't even a true sense of standing; it just shows how Risleyite you are. You won't get kicked out if you don't gain any points; it's more likely you'll just leave.
Also, it is like a fraternity in that few people who apply to live there actually get in; the entire populace of Risley votes on all of the incoming applicants to make sure that Risley is filled with interesting people.

Me says:
Quite the contrary, I think the sex is worse than ever, and there's a lot of pressure to be promiscuous in order to fit in. A lot of people are pretty uncomfortable with it, but hey, what can you do?

Me 2. says:
I realize some of you are sick enough to think this is good publicity for Risley, but in actuality it alienates potential future Risleyites who could bring a lot to the building, but would not feel welcome because they're not sluts.

A says:
The sense of community in Risley is more what you might expect from a fraternity than a typical dormitory. It's much more than just a bed and walls to the residents. Many former Risleyites are still involved with the building and active on the affiliated mailing lists, because their time in "the castle" and the friendships forged there were just that awesome.
(I'll agree that I'm not thrilled with the sexual focus of the purity test, but hey.. it's just for fun)

John says:
Just so we're clear, Cornell still sucks, right?

Risley alum says:
sucks AND fucks, my friend.

DataShade says:
It's actually a lot easier to become a RisLegend by doing things OTHER than sex. But, put simply, if you stepped out of a boring high school where only 5% of your classmates were as smart as you, and stepped into a big castle next to a waterfall filled with smart, creative, attractive people why WOULDN'T you try to have sex with at least one of them? If you have a reason you actually believe is a good one, well, now you know why you didn't get in.

A says:
Gee, I dunno, DS.. maybe some people are in monogamous relationships or maybe they're not into casual sex without a relationship. Or maybe they'd prefer not to sleep with someone whom they're going to have to live near for at least the rest of the year, if not several more years. There are a number of GOOD reasons for not being interested in RisCest.
That said, most of the points can be gained by just kissing someone, which is mostly harmless, and/or by engaging in activities with one monogamous partner who may or may not also be a Risleyite.
But I have heard from several current Risleyites who are really awesome members of the community but who are uncomfortable with the purity test.

Rev. Andrew says:
I am a RisLegend, and I didn't have sex with ANY Risleyites while I was there.

CPhysics says:
The test is mostly just one big inside joke of Risley history. Getting higher and higher scores becomes exponentially more difficult, but its mostly a measure of how infamous you might be, as there are some pretty infamous Risleyites now and in the past. You don't need to have a high score on this test to be accepted/welcomed into Risley, and this incarnation of the test tries to reflect that with the substantial RisCulture section which is just how much of the day-to-day life of the building you take part in. Most good Risleyites score as "Risleyite" on this test, which corresponds to checking relatively few questions, and that's how its designed. The bar on the test for having a really really low score has essentially been historically set by past RisLegends, so it kinda has to be able to accommodate all the most infamous things that have happened in the castle already. Finally, your purity score has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on how accepted you are in the building - anyone who has this impression is deeply misguided.

raboof says:
As an ex-Risleyite (admittedly years and years ago) I would say that (1) the dorm is probably no different from one found at any of the more "elite" Ivies and (2) the residents there really need to transfer out of fratland Cornell to places more encouraging of creative and intellectual work. I wish I had.

CU says:
it's clear that you were never a 'risleyite' - I have many friends there currently and the general agreement has always been that it's like no other dorm on campus.

raboof says:
You aren't reading carefully, and have just proven my point. Examine (1) again. Do I mention other Cornell dorms?
BTW - four years there.

CU says:
ahh, I see.
You spent 4 years at the place where at least 95% of the student body laughs at. Congratulations! I didn't even know that was possible in the first place, nor knew that was even desireable for anybody. Way to ruin a Cornell experience...

dr jay says:
To John, CU, and other detractors, I give the age-old response to taunts of "Risley sucks": "Better than anyone else!"
To zaboof, I say, not quite. I'm sure all sorts of things have changed in 30 years, but in the days when I lived in both, Risley was sort of like a Harvard House, but a *lot* more so! (And neither was anything at all like a frat, or at least the common stereotype thereof.)
And to anyone who still doubts that such a place could exist at "fratland Cornell," go read "Fool on the Hill," by someone who lived there and lived to tell about it (albeit fictionally). And then read Matt Ruff's other stuff, which is even better. His "creative and intellectual work" certainly didn't suffer because of Cornell. Nor did mine, for that matter. I did all sorts of things there that I never would have dreamed of at Harvard, and still others that I did dream of but never had the guts to try at Harvard. There's a lot to be said for non-threatening acceptance.
It's also true that I was at Harvard in the days when the Faculty refused to give academic credit for creation / performance of "the arts" as opposed to their academic study (while at the same time wanting to bring back ROTC, which insisted on receiving academic credit for comparably non-academic activities, as somehow an essential part of a college education). But academic credit was actually part of the problem at Cornell, where as in many or most theater, art, etc., departments the emphasis was on professional development, primarily for grad students. Risley in fact was a refuge for many undergrad theater majors and the like, who (a) were mostly overlooked by their "home" departments, and (b) even if they wanted to be artists when they grew up, also wanted to go to a real college and have real friends in the meantime. It was also a welcoming home for "amateurs in the best sense of the word" (like me), in fields ranging from English to Engineering to Theoretical Physics.
I would not be half the person I am today were it not for Risley, the community and home I found there, and the many individuals whom I still count among my best friends. (And in case you're wondering, I haven't taken the purity test yet, but I didn't even have a whole lot of sex there.)

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