A Warm Welcome for the 'Worst Class Ever'

by Liz Ellison | 9/28/07 1:56am

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A Prankster's Guide to Dartmouth
by Tilman Dette / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth students have long enjoyed showing each Worst Class Ever how, uh, excited and happy we are to welcome them to our college by aiming pranks at them. Some pranks have even become hallowed Dartmouth traditions -- rites of passage, if you will.

DOC trip raids are perhaps the most beloved form of freshman prank at Dartmouth. Sarah Laeuchli '11 said her trip was raided twice -- first by a group of DOCers in bunny suits bearing cupcakes, and then again that night by a second group who had searched in the rain for Laeuchli's trip for an hour before finding where they had camped. Laeuchli and her trippees loved being bombarded with candy by singing, dancing upperclassmen.

"I remember everybody's reaction as being 'I can't wait until next year so we can do this stuff!'" Laeuchli said.

Trip leader Elise Krieger '08 recalled one group of raiders secretly invading her trip's cabin one night. One of her quieter trippees was the first to notice a strange figure inside the cabin, blocking the window.

"I heard her scream, 'Who the [expletive] is in front of me?' Krieger said. "She never even swore on the trip once."

Harrison Davies '09, who led a DOC trip last year, was pranked right along with his trippees when Climbing Crew targeted his trip.

"We were up at the Skiway and we were sitting around a campfire," Davies recalled. "My trip leader from my freshman year was on Climbing Crew that year, and she got a phone call about reports of bears in the area and we were told to be careful." Davies, like the freshmen he was leading, took the warning seriously.

"I didn't know, so I was just as cautious as my trippees," he said. "The whole Climbing Crew was in on this." When the group heard rustling noises in the trees, Davies' former trip leader went to investigate. A few minutes later, she screamed.

"This guy in a full bear suit comes out walking on all fours," Davies said. In the darkness, no one could tell that they weren't looking at an actual bear. Once the bear had retreated and one of Davies' trippees had gone to call for help, a Dartmouth student, now wearing only his birthday suit, appeared from the trees.

"At that point I figured out it was probably not as serious as we thought," Davies said sheepishly. His trippees, almost all of whom were from urban areas and therefore especially skittish about the New England wilderness, were still terrified of the "bear" and needed to be told that it was all a joke.

"They were all acting like it was the end of the world," he said. "They didn't even realize it was a prank when they saw the guy. I appreciated the humor when I found out. They were still wondering why there was this naked guy walking around when there was a bear loose." In the end, Davies said, everyone was laughing. Oh, freshmen.

Homecoming weekend is another popular setting for pranks on freshmen. Some bonfire-attending upperclassmen, perhaps understandably, yawn at the prospect of just standing around yelling "Touch the fire" at face-painted freshmen running laps. Tricks like putting peanut butter (or worse) on one's hand before offering it to slap some unsuspecting freshman five as they run past are a fine alternative. Freshmen, you've been warned.

Of course, Dartmouth pranks needn't be directed exclusively at freshmen. Prospies can be great targets too.

Search for "Drinkin' time" on YouTube, and you'll find the now-famous film of a tour guide prank organized by the Jack-O-Lantern humor magazine last fall. If you haven't seen the video online, the prank was directed at a group of prospies and their families on a campus tour. While Jacko staffer Mike Trapp '08, a tour guide himself, first came up with the idea of pranking a tour, the plan soon grew to involve many other students.

Normally, tour guides talk about Greek life at Dartmouth after leading their group to the Rocky overhang, by frat row.

"I knew that particular part of the tour was always a little awkward," Trapp explained.

Questions from parents about how much students drink at Dartmouth can be uncomfortable for tour guides, whose replies about how Dartmouth doesn't party any harder than other schools may not satisfy moms and dads.

"We basically told as many people as we could about it and tried to grab friends and fraternity brothers and tried to make it a sizable group," Trapp said. A number of groups of students waited in different locations near the tour group, and when a student on a bench close by heard the tour guide talking about Greek organizations, he called Trapp's cell phone. Trapp then ran down frat row yelling, "It's drinking time!"

"Basically from there was just sort of a chain reaction kind of thing," Trapp said.

Groups of students appeared from inside and around Rocky, yelling "Drinking time!" and running past the tour group. The prank culminated with the marching band, led by Keggy, parading down Webster Avenue.

"I think most people had a sense of humor about it. You can see most people in the video are smiling," Trapp said. "I think most people saw that it was a prank and enjoyed it for that."

Owen Parsons '08, a Jack-O staffer and editor, filmed and edited the prank to post on YouTube. "Drinkin' Time" also inspired the University of Virginia's copycat prank, "Streakin' Time" -- you can see that one on YouTube, too. Needless to say, it is not as funny.

So why do we like messing with freshmen so much?

"Because they're new to the school, or because they're prospies, they don't really know what to expect," Trapp said. "The surprises are that much more surprising."

Well said.

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