News Story

Here Comes the Scum

By Hannah Covington, Class of 2014

They call themselves Am Herratz, Hebrew for "scum of the earth."

It all started with a group of male misfits and mischief-makers.

They found a Scripture that reads, "When we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world."

Bingo. Equal parts anomaly and sarcasm -- perfect for the new name of this push-the-envelope wing at ORU.

Today, the initial group of guys is known ceremoniously as the "founding fathers." First Corinthians 4:13 stands as their holy verse.

From 1982 to 1991, this bunch of ORU misfits made a name for themselves as intramural royalty, earning a certain reputation in the process.

On April 20, almost 30 years after their first class moved onto E. M. Roberts 3-South, "Ratzer" alumni will reunite on the campus that brought them together decades ago.*

Wing alumnus Curtis Stoddard (1984-88) said people knew them as "fun, good-looking" guys. Sometimes the descriptor "cocky" was also thrown in.

"People generally loved or hated us," Stoddard said. "Sometimes both."

This year's reunion marks the twelfth time that Ratzers have traveled from across the country to get together. Richard "A.C." Griffith (1982-86) said it's an ongoing joke that Am Herratz reunions have been in existence longer than the wing itself.

Over their nine-year stint as one of the most infamous wings on campus, Am Herratz claimed the intramural championship title five times. This is also the subject of another group joke.

"It probably doesn't seem like we ever played intramurals, looking at us now," Griffith said.

During its brief existence, the wing strove to carve out memories by doing the unexpected.

Griffith referred to their good-natured antics as "ways to have fun within the rules." Stoddard called it their "silliness" coming out.

By 1991, this creative silliness had added up to repeated Honor Code violations and failures to adhere to policy and procedure. That year, the wing was disbanded by administrators.

Call it creativity. Maybe even call it the inevitable product when charisma and cockiness collide. Whatever "it" was, it sure made for some good stories.

Take the time during Griffith's years on Am Herratz when he and his wingmates gave late-night furniture shoppers more than they bargained for.

That night, a bevy of Ratzers lounged languidly on sofas, watching some late-night television. A furniture store ad came on, announcing a sale beginning at 11:30 p.m. They laughed.

"Who would go shopping at 11:30 at night? That's silly," Griffith remembers them saying.

Then they looked at each other.

"Well . . . we would."

Sporting their bathrobes, 20 guys proceeded to amble out of EMR. Sister wingers threw down stuffed animals from Claudius Roberts Hall. The guys went to that sale, tried out the beds.

Then, all 20 Ratzers fell asleep in a bed while customers walked around them. Thankfully, the salesman thought they added a nice touch to the floor display.

Or take the time during Stoddard's years on the wing when they used Saga for a purpose that was -- well, original.

It was pouring rain outside. Water fell in torrents off the slopes and edges of Hamill Student Center.

What to do with this rainwater? Take a shower, of course. Wrapped in towels and bathing suits, Stoddard and company grabbed soap and showered in view of students eating in Saga.

"The water was so cold. It was like your whole body had a frozen drink headache just from showering under it," Stoddard said.

Then there's the time they set up a wrestling ring of mattresses during open dorms, boasting 200-300 in attendance. Or when all the freshmen went through initiation during the first week of classes by being assigned two upperclassmen that dressed them and told them what to do. Think plaid and pinstripes.

After a week of wardrobe humiliation, the newbies could pick any girl on campus to accompany them on Am Herratz date night. It was the upperclassmen's responsibility to make sure the girls said "yes."

"They were the best four years of my life," Stoddard said.

After nearly three decades, they may not play football much anymore, or take showers in Saga rain runoff. That's okay. Time has left some things unaltered. A sense of belonging and brotherhood immediately come to mind.

"On the floor, you had a responsibility to care for the guys and pray for them," Griffith said. "It was an easy transition from being young men to older men to keep caring for each other."

They still get together, relive the glory days, and catch up on life -- both inside and outside the planned reunions.

Several years ago, Griffith had to make the difficult decision to close a restaurant he owned and operated in Bellingham, Wash. It had been a lifelong dream of his to open his own business. On the day of the closing, he had some unexpected visitors.

"I had two Ratzers unannounced show up just to help," Griffith said. "Those kinds of friendships make all the difference in life."

Daniel Guajardo, dean of Student Development, said that Am Herratz sets the example for current students who wish to stay in touch after graduation.

"We're so happy they're back and have remained such close friends," Guajardo said. "Making lifelong connections like that is the vision of ORU for living in the residence halls."

While on campus, the Ratzers plan on touring their old floor. They may be surprised to find that Narnia, an old rival formerly known as Shekinah, now lives on EMR 3-South.

As for their pranks and antics, Guajardo said he isn't expecting much. But just know, Ratzers, there will be consequences for any misconduct. Not that they'll actually do anything.

"But if they do, they'll clean it up," Guajardo said, laughing.

Maybe it's fitting that after all these years, the Am Herratz reunion should have its largest turnout at their first gathering back in Tulsa. Kind of full circle.

"I get to come back and see this band of brothers that I ran with all those years," Stoddard said. "I feel very honored to be part of the scum of the earth."

*About 27 Ratzers came back for campus tours, meals in Saga, workouts in the Aerobics Center, a footrace in the Indoor Practice Facility, a movie in Zoppelt Auditorium, and an ORU baseball game.

Hannah Covington won the "Student Writer of the Year" award at the 2012 Great Plains Journalism Conference. She is the managing editor of The Oracle for 2012-13.