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All These Pranksters Just Aren't Funny!

Campus Editorialists Discuss the Issues That Will Define the Spring Semester

By John Aboud

The list is long one. Lorena Bobbitt to speak at Radcliffe. WAC interviewed by fake reporters. Dean Nathans mocked in angry letters. Netwomen's Secret Santa gets rowdy. And, of course, the most infamous of all: giant inflatable penis disrupts Ec 10 lecture. Make no mistake dear readers, a specter is haunting our campus, the specter of Pranks.

The specter of pranks is haunting the campus, and University Hall may step in.

That collegiate imp of the perverse, that smirking, deceitful trickster the Prank has emerged numerous times in the past year. Apparently, Harvard has caught prank fever, and no one is eating their chicken soup.

For instance, look at the Final Clubs. Generally hesitant to draw too much attention, they have increasingly decided to take it to the streets. College officials admit a marked increase in "public nuisance" incidents this fall related to punch season. Most students couldn't avoid seeing lads in tuxedos or long johns, singing, pirouetting and beating on kegs or drums. And of course the murky "Big WAC Attack" is still making headlines.

Many other pranks are untractable, though. Mass mailings apologizing for housing lottery gaffes or blanket postering for fake events are nearly impossible to definitively identify as anyone's handiwork. Especially now, when sports teams are getting press for their activities behind computers and Xerox machines as opposed to simply on the court.

It didn't used to be this way. Once, every prank could be traced to one pair of doors: one a dank red and the other proudly sporting purple and gold. The Crimson and Lampoon waged war on each other with fiery zeal. Thefts, kidnappings and public embarrassment were their tools in a bloody, century-old feud. The raw hate hovering in the atmosphere between Bow and Plympton streets made dogs howl and plants wither.

And from this hatred grew innumerable advances in prank technology. More elaborate and ambitious stunts to ruin the opponent were needed to win the day. Two such contrasting ideologies had to come to conflict: one side fought for humor, the other for humorously bad journalism.

But just as the Cold War ended, so too did the Publication War: burdened by crippling financial planning and ruthless party chairmen, the Crimson crumbled and has been content to print articles about security guards which no one understands. And, just as every Third World nation is trying to build an atomic bomb out of Sterno and radon testers, so too is there a proliferation of pranking on campus. These events are not unrelated.

It is unlikely that the coming semester will see Harvard define a grand New Joke Order. Likely the campus will wallow in a hellish Armageddon of humor gone wrong. How far out of control will this epidemic of pranks spiral? How many must die, or at least get really annoyed, before University Hall steps in? Pranks have been taken out of the hands of professionals and taken up by an unpredictable mob. Beware, Harvard, the minute hand on the Doomsday clock is ticking. Oh, yes, it is ticking.

John Aboud is President of The Lampoon.

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