After over two decades ofcontinuous operation, Caltech Administration has banned the firing of the potato cannon as part of Blacker Hovse’s rotation events. Built in 2002 as part of a Ditch Day stack, firing it has been a Blacker Hovse tradition ever since. “The potato cannon was my favorite rotation event last year. I’m disappointed that this year’s frosh [weren’t] able to have the same experience as I did,” says Ethan Labelson (EE ‘26, Blacker/Dabney).
This rotation, Techers missed out on hearing the periodic blasts of compressed air, followed by the thud of potato slamming into plywood, splattering into a beautiful chunky mess. The potato cannon was an event that prefrosh enjoyed and upperclassmen looked forward to. “It sucks that it got banned considering it’s been around or over two decades,” says Jabri Garcia-Jimenez (ME ‘25, Blacker). “Some stuff being removed is upsetting but makes some sense, but smaller things like the potato cannon just feels nitpicky and unfun.”
The sudden cancellation has not only left members of the Hovse disappointed, but also in a time crunch. Blacker was notified that they would not be allowed to fire the cannon less than a week before rotation actually started. “This change was super unexpected as we found out the Friday before rotation,” says Jade Millan (ME ‘25, Blacker), a Blacker Social Team Chair. “We had to submit NEW event proposals for a backup event, but it was the weekend so admin wouldn’t even see it until Monday at the earliest.” For context, rotation started on the following Wednesday.
Blacker Hovse ExComm had attempted to arrange alternative rotation event, but only one of them was approved, and for that event there was not enough time to properly set it up in time for rotation. “Admin shot down using bottle rockets (like the ones elementary schoolers build) because of them being projectiles or something… We got next to no support for getting a new event that was just as good,” says Millan. “It added so much pressure to an already stressful situation and Admin seemed apathetic at best, and trying to make my job harder at worst.”
VPSA Kevin Gilmartin allegedly stated that the reasoning behind the restriction was because “the cannon would make students who come from war-torn countries, or who have experienced school shootings, uncomfortable,” according to Blacker Hovse’s president, Aditee Prabhutendolkar (CNS ‘24, Blacker).
“I feel that if the concern really was that students will be traumatized to see something that resembles a weapon, then the same treatment should be applied to the literal war instrument every student walks past on the Olive Walk every day,” says Prabhutendolkar. As Moles mourned the loss of this valued tradition, they also feared the loss of more events in the future. The potato cannon has become another casualty of the worrying trend of Admin removing more and more traditions.
“It’s infuriating,” says David Melisso (EE ‘23, Blacker), who helped organize much of Blacker’s Rotation. “When I was a freshman many years ago, the seniors told stories about how more and more events were being prohibited. Now, having seen this trend continue, I can’t imagine what will be left four years from now.“