Traditions and Pranks
Traditions abound at most colleges and universities, but at Caltech, they don't center around the typical fight songs and mascots. Common to many of the student houses is the tradition of sit-down dinners served by student waiters. The houses also each host an "interhouse" party during the year. Each house also has unique customs. The Flems, for instance, fire their cannon several times a year; every Halloween, Dabney House stages a pumpkin drop from the top of Millikan Library, the highest point on campus; and before winter break, Lloyd House constructs a "light tree" on Millikan Library.
Pranks are common practice at Caltech, often involving rivalries between student houses. Techers have been known to take their hijinks off campus, as well. Here are some of their better-known pranks:
- 1961: Caltech students altered the University of Washington's card stunts during the Rose Bowl Game to display "Caltech."
- 1984: Students rewired the scoreboard during the Rose Bowl Game to show that Caltech was trouncing MIT (actually, UCLA was playing the University of Illinois).
- 1987: Our students changed the Hollywood sign to read "Caltech."
- 2005: Caltech students handed out over 400 prank T-shirts at MIT's preview weekend.
- 2012: Upperclassmen pranked the frosh Physics 1a class, as is tradition. This year, they converted a small closet to a TARDIS.
- 2014: The Prank Club erected a "PASADENA" sign in the hills overlooking the Rose Bowl; at halftime during the BCS Championship game, the sign changed to read "CALTECH" in bright orange lettering.
- 2014: The Prank Club distributed heat-sensitive coffee mugs to MIT's admitted students.
- 2016: The Physics 1a pranksters strike again, this time recreating Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
- 2017: Our students helpfully delivered the new "MIT Transfer Application Form" to MIT's Admissions Office.
It's Senior Skip Day meets The Amazing Race,
brute force versus finesse, seniors versus underclassmen. Welcome to
Ditch Day, Caltech's annual undergraduate challenge and one of our
oldest traditions. On an agreed-upon date, seniors leave campus for a
day of fun and frolicking. Underclassmen, annoyed at being left behind,
try to get into seniors' rooms and wreak havoc. In order to discourage
this behavior, seniors leave theme-based scavenger hunts ("Stacks") for
the underclassmen. These Stacks are complex, imaginative puzzles that
are carefully planned for months or even years in advance in order to
occupy the underclassmen throughout the day. Did we mention that the
seniors don't share the date in advance? That makes sure other students
are all prepared for it to happen at any time. After all, "Ditch Day is