The case for a pranking tradition

Pranking can be a valuable part of campus life; let’s embrace it here

The dictionary defines a prank as “a practical joke or mischievous act.” It is indeed both a joke and an act but also something more: it is a release, directed against authority, of stifled creativity in a regimented environment.

 Given this fact, it’s not at all surprising that it appeals so much to young people, especially college students. 

In college, young people know they are in the most intellectually stimulating environment they will ever inhabit. 

This brings a greater measure of freedom than they have ever known, but it also brings greater responsibilities and, ultimately, more demands to subordinate themselves to authority. 

This sets up a kind of contradiction because this subordination is being asked of students at the same moment they are afforded more control over their lives. 

Pranks are a form of expressing this contradiction because pranks require teamwork, planning and discretion towards a goal that is outside what most figures authority would have students do. 

In short, it is an expression of freedom.

Although anyone can practice pranks, college students are in a unique position to do so. Perhaps the best example of this is the pranking tradition at Carleton College in Minnesota. 

The students of that college have long kept up a tradition of publicly-displayed pranks on their campus. 

Seeking to prank a lecturer who often spoke beyond the allotted time, students hid several alarm clocks around the lecture hall, set to go off when the speaker was supposed to stop talking. 

In 1989, unidentified Carleton students left a horse in Musser, a much-reviled on-campus residence hall. 

For April Fool’s Day 2010, students inflated approximately 4,000 balloons and placed them in the presidential suite, including his private office. 

To their credit, some students did return the following day to clean up the office. 

One aspect of all these escapades is that they manage to be funny without being unsafe or overtly offensive. 

Furthermore, they do no damage to university facilities — on the contrary, they enliven those facilities into something new and interesting. 

The creative aspect is also important; aside from its humorous content, the value of a prank comes from the sense that it took substantive creative energy to conceive and execute. 

Nothing about this kind of creativity is exclusive to any single person or group on any campus. It’s in this way that pranks are a bonding experience for the executor and the observer. 

Carleton College and others like it have clearly benefited from a pranking tradition that stands outside of regimented campus life. 

CNU, in turn, claims to always seek a tradition of excellence. 

However, defining what that means is always — and always will be — up to the students of this university. 

Therefore, a lively tradition of public, creative and non-destructive pranking is a positive development. 

A well-executed prank is a sign of good humor, but it’s also a sign of great intelligence, cleverness and excellence on the part of the student body. 

It is not itself a revolutionary act, but an act of creativity. It’s something that brings the entire campus together; it’s a tradition worth starting.

~Duncan Hoag, Staff Writer~


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