Early Campus Pranks

1 04 2010

It is April Fools’ Day and I don’t know what pranks students have planned for this year, but students in the early years on this campus were constantly playing pranks upon each other and the faculty.  Many of the pranks evolved around hazing freshmen.  Typically, upperclassmen, especially sophomores, would grab freshmen from their beds, drench them with water and make them run about campus blindfolded.  Other times the freshmen had their hands tied behind their backs, were again blindfolded, and had soap shoved in their mouths.  One incident in 1906 involving a freshman

Example of a stacked dormitory room

was particularly bad.  The freshman was grabbed by several upperclassmen, had broken eggs rubbed into his scalp, then had his hair chopped off.  They tied a sack over his head and held him in the river until he was able to swim away.  It’s no wonder that hazing was banned on the Michigan Agricultural College campus in 1908.

A lot of pranks evolved around the dormitories.  Students would jam doors imprisoning their classmates in rooms.  Another frequent joke was to dump water out of the window onto the head of a passerby.  The ash pail was thrown down the stairs in another prank.  Probably the most common prank played in the dorms was to stack the furniture.  All the furniture and belongings in a room were piled up in a corner and the room was essentially trashed.  The dormitories had such a bad reputation that there was actually a recommendation at one point in time to close them down and have all students live off campus.

Faculty were not exempt from student pranks.  Students would conduct a Night

Samuel Johson

MAC Professor Samuel Johnson

Shirt Parade.  They would dress up in their pajamas and serenade the faculty members who lived in Faculty Row.  This was considered a benign prank and usually played on faculty who were friendly with the students.  However, students did play pranks on faculty they did not like.  In the 1880s, students were not happy with the way Professor Samuel Johnson conducted his practical agriculture classes.  To express their displeasure, students stacked the furniture in Johnson’s classroom, they locked the door and sealed the keyhole with plaster of Paris, and they tied a Shropshire lamb to his podium.  Johnson did eventually leave MAC, but it was infighting amongst the faculty that led to his leaving, not the pranks of the students.

What do you think of these early campus pranks?  Are you surprised the early students were so rowdy?