Lampoon Recycles Already Lame Hoax

’Poon’s e-prank announcing ‘once and future president’ fails to fool most students

Not everyone can be funny.

Two prank e-mails sent Saturday night appearing to be sent by the puerile minds of The Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, claimed to announce Harvard’s next president. The paltry rehash of a former hoax sparked momentary confusion in the student body.

The first e-mail, sent at 7:20 p.m. from “The Presidential Search Committee,” was immediately recognizable to some as a hoax when it alluded to a 1958 King Arthur novel by announcing “the reinstatement of Lawrence H. Summers as Harvard’s once and future president.”

The announcement listed a phone number for students who wished to enter a lottery for tickets to an open forum discussion with “Dr. Summers” on Monday. Two versions of the e-mail were sent: In one, the number was that of The Crimson’s newsroom. The other version ingeniously instructed students to call the cell phone of former Crimson President William C. Marra ’07.

Despite the deluge of more than 50 phone calls during thesis season, Marra was surprisingly understanding of the Lampoon staff’s desperate cry for attention.

“I can see why they did it. I mean, trying to remain relevant is tough,” he said. “The problem is that they pulled an identical prank less than a year ago.”

Marra referred to last March’s fake housing announcement e-mail which informed all freshmen that they had been placed in Pforzheimer House, providing his cell phone number as the number to call to apply for a housing reassignment.

A subsequent e-mail on Saturday night, purportedly sent by Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 at 8:01 p.m., asked students to disregard the first e-mail and announced the selection of “former” Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan.

Students were quickly made aware of its fraudulence through e-mails over House and extracurricular lists that explained that the address from which the e-mail was sent did not match Gross’s actual e-mail address. Furthermore, the IP (Internet Protocol) address of both prank e-mails were the same, indicating that the two e-mails were sent from the same computer.

Kagan declined to comment in an e-mail sent Saturday night, and Summers was unavailable for comment.

“The Lampoon staff just has a lot of time on their hands,” current Crimson President Kristina M. Moore ’08 wrote in an e-mail. “If The Crimson didn’t have to put out eight papers a week, maybe we could spend our time bcc’ing the entire school too.”

Newly elected Lampoon President Ross E. Arbes ’08 was unavailable for comment.

—Javier C. Hernandez contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer William M. Goldsmith can be reached at wgoldsm@fas.harvard.edu.