Pranks: Quality vs. Quantity

Senior week has been a tradition at Hawken for many years.  Originally just one day, seniors had free reign to pull pranks in order to celebrate their final weeks on campus. The senior scavenger hunt was also an integral part of the tradition, but was banned almost ten years ago.

The Hawken scavenger hunt was eliminated around 2006 at the start of the Looney administration. According to Mr. Harris, “The scavenger hunt tradition had become so destructive and dangerous and so antithetical to our professed values that it was like going down the rabbit hole.” What was Scavenger Hunt? Every year the juniors made a list of tasks for the seniors to complete. While some were completely harmless, others were either illegal or intended to humiliate underclassmen. Some of the more concerning items on the list included: cutting a piece of turf from Gilmore’s field, tying an underclassmen to a tree, stealing the University School sign, stealing mailboxes, bringing nude or topless photos of seniors’ younger female siblings and bringing a freshman to school  in a sack.  According to Mr. Cleminshaw the tradition also included “underage alcohol consumption and driving”

Soon after eliminating the scavenger hunt in around 2008-2009, the one day, one prank tradition evolved into an entire week of pranks, now known as senior week. According to Mr. Harris, “Because we pushed so hard to get rid of the scavenger hunt, we eased up restrictions on seniors who were then able to cross a lot of other boundaries and then ended up creating the mess we have now”.  Mr. Cleminshaw explains, “There are the regular features of Senior Week: lots of food of different kinds in the pronto room including waffles, omelets, etc., video games in the Pronto room, a water gun ambush in the auditorium, ‘dog day’ where seniors bring their dogs, and the fairly common prank involving taking furniture out of rooms and moving it around the school to impede community movement.” Another recurring prank, unpopular with underclassmen, faculty and parents is the blocking of parking lots and the charging of students to park.

In addition, there have creative and memorable pranks over the years.  For example, one year the seniors came in early in the morning before school started and made the AC lobby look like they had an all-night drinking party. Bras were hanging from the ceiling and there were red solo cups scattered everywhere. Mr. Cleminshaw described another memorable prank, “the time the seniors built an actual wall in the hall…by the Pronto Room so students had to detour into the Pronto room…”  About six to ten years ago, the seniors brought a camel into school and a student dressed in a Turkish costume lead him around throughout the day. One year, seniors took chairs out of auditorium and arranged them to spell their class year. The teachers then reversed the prank on the students by pulling the fire alarm so that morning meeting could be held outside.  Multiple cars have been used in senior pranks over the years, one was once parked on the sidewalk outside of the Ireland hall door and another was placed in the Ireland hall lobby. A favorite prank among several of the faculty was the changing of the “fair play” signs to “foreplay,” especially when one changed sign was missed for several weeks. Another year, photos of former members of the class were placed in the frames over pictures of retired teachers.

Rarely, pranks have been so extreme that they have angered the faculty and administration.  In the 1980s, two students wearing ski masks came out from behind the stage and smashed the headmaster in the face with a shaving cream pie.  The headmaster was so angry that the students were not allowed to attend commencement.  Doc Smith describes another prank that was unpopular with faculty, “seniors brought in a great big pile of horse manure and dumped it…where the old parking lot used to be… and put a big sign in it saying ‘this is what we learned’… it was rather insulting” Another year, students xeroxed hundreds of fake dollar bills with risqué photos in place of George Washington’s face. They hid them all over the school including inside books, so that five years later students and faculty were still finding them. They have also placed alarm clocks in locked lockers, thereby disrupting classes. Another old senior week tradition was the “drive around” during which seniors would drive around the school for 5-10 minutes during the first class honking and beeping. Although initially  it was not that disruptive, it escalated when, in later years students did their drive around at  US Gilmore and drive around and the police were called. Overall, senior week has been around for a long time and recently there has been increasingly more destructive pranks than clever ones. The senate has been discussing ways to improve this week in order to make it more fun and less demeaning to younger students. Future senate discussions will determine the future of senior week.