On the Housing Eligibility Exam Prank

On Friday, October 13, 2023, all freshmen received an email from “ughousing@caltech.edu” with the subject “ACTION REQUIRED: UG Housing Eligibility Assessment for 2024-25 School Year.” This email led students to believe that there would be a merit-based assessment to decide what proportion of the freshmen class would live on campus and what proportion would need to search for off-campus options next year.

This was a prank and we take full responsibility for it. We intended it to be a harmless prank that would propagate prank culture. However, we can see how this prank can be interpreted as targeting housing or targeting freshmen. We didn’t do this prank to intentionally target anyone. Hazing culture is bad and this prank does not support it. Pretending to be the housing office, an important group in Caltech administration that does so much for this institution, was also wrong.

We want to underscore that this prank was poorly executed. It was poorly executed not only because it didn’t follow prank protocol but also because of how it possibly made the housing office or freshmen feel distressed. For those respective groups, we extend a genuine apology.

We really want fellow readers of the Tech to realize that while prank culture is dying, we must not get carried away with any spontaneous prank idea that comes across our minds (which is what we did). It is very important to search up the proper Caltech prank protocols, inform yourselves of the many guidelines that exist regarding registering pranks, and most importantly think of the consequences of your actions before acting. We are deeply embarrassed that we failed to do these things and we acknowledge our mistakes.

We know for those that were most negatively impacted by our actions, this apology may be too little or too late. If you want to talk to us directly about how our actions impacted you, we want to hear from you and please reach out to us. We hope that every student in this school knows that we are willing to do anything to repair the damage, distress, or trauma caused by our actions.

The beloved author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis said, “Every uncorrected error and unrepented sin is, in its own right, a fountain of fresh error and fresh sin flowing on to the end of time”. Let those words sink in. We want to make sure we correct our errors. The last thing we want is for there to be a chain reaction of similar poorly executed pranks following ours. This chain reaction is what Lewis warns would be the “fountain of fresh error and fresh sin flowing on to the end of time”. This is not the legacy we intend to leave behind at Caltech.

Does this article mean that we don’t support prank culture? Yes and no. We support prank culture if it is properly registered. In order to properly register a prank, you must reach out to the prank committee, the group of undergraduates that leads the Prank Club. The prank committee will approve the prank and communicate with Caltech admin and/or security on a need-to-know basis to ensure the prank runs smoothly. However, there is no way currently to register a prank as the submission form is outdated. Thus, if you want to participate in pranks, we highly encourage you to become a member of the Prank Club. As a member of the Prank Club, you can spend time planning pranks that are yet to be executed (and also enjoy some free pizza!). It would also be best to plan such pranks in the Prank Club because this would align with the collaborative culture of this institution and also because the Prank Club will ensure that 1) no prank protocols are being violated and 2) administration is well aware of the prank that will happen. Going through this regulated process is very important to make sure that unlike our poorly executed prank, a prank you may participate in has been approved by faculty, administration, and students in positions of power so that enough people know the prank will happen before it happens.

With these remarks, we hope to have conveyed our deep regret regarding what we thought was a prank (but it was so poorly executed that we cannot label it as a prank). We also hope we have successfully conveyed the necessity of properly registering a prank and the repercussions of not doing so.

Go Beavers and Happy Holidays!

Warmest regards,

Sanvi Pal & Sam Foxman