Campus Pranks: How Far Is Too Far?

Not every prank is all fun and games.  While these types of practical jokes have long played an entertaining role in OKWU dorm life, can they be taken too far?

They say it’s not college without pranks.  Silly string, ransacked rooms, water fights, you name it.  For whatever reason, campuses are exactly the sort of environments that cunning students thrive in to create outlandish jokes—sometimes with lasting consequences.

OKWU has had its own fair share of pranking over the years.  The colorful history began long before many current students could remember, but Assistant Resident Director and former Resident Assistant (RA) Andrew Blain (’13) said that two of the best pranks he has heard of happened when “every bike on campus mysteriously showed up on the roof of Scott hall late on night.  The other one was when a student in Scott hall woke up in the morning and walked out to find a solid brick wall right outside their [door].”

Scott and Wesley RAs
Scott RA Josh Herrera (center) stands between former Wesley RAs Allie Antrim (left) and Katie Kelley (right) after fall 2012’s first confrontation in the Scott-Wesley prank war. Photo courtesy of Katie Kelley.

Scott Hall, traditionally a residence hall for freshman guys, has apparently seen its fair share of pranking. Currently a Scott RA, junior Josh Herrera has seen everything from unhinging doors to stealing shower towels.  “But the prank that stood out from the rest took place fall semester of 2012,” he said.  After complicated planning to attack the freshmen girls of Susanna Wesley Hall with water guns and silly string, Herrera and his contingent of freshman Scott dwellers were ambushed shortly after crossing into the women’s residence courtyard.  “Our water guns and silly string were no match for the ladies’ flour, eggs, mayonnaise, oil, soda-pop, peanut butter, and a water hose,” he said, “but the memories and relationships that the prank built were worth the mess and defeat.” 

“The memories and relationships that the prank built were worth the mess and defeat.”

– Resident Assistant Josh Herrera, junior

Other pranks have not been received with such good humor, however.  In late February, for example, several unknown pranksters dumped trash cans full of water into a Wert lobby.  Disgruntled RAs and residents were left to clean up the mess.  Surely their annoyance was justified.  Or maybe they were overreacting; it’s just water, right?  No harm meant, just fun and games.  Ultimately, how do pranksters draw the line between innocent fun and going too far?

Men’s Resident Director and 2010 OKWU graduate Chris Breiland said he doesn’t “see pranks as positive or negative; I see them as harmless or harmful.”  He pointed out that the OKWU handbook clearly addresses pranking, warning pranksters to take care in their creativity:

“At OKWU we understand that jokes and pranks can be a part of the university atmosphere. However, pranks that cause property damage, show disregard for OKWU standards, degrade other students, or cause ill will among students are prohibited. Students responsible for improper jokes and pranks are subject to disciplinary action.” 

Scott-Wesley Prank war
After Wesley ambushed Scott pranksters in fall 2012, the group posed for a celebratory picture proving some pranks are fun and harmless. Photo courtesy of Katie Kelley.

Breiland said disciplinary action can be avoided by recognizing that “a harmless prank is mindful of relationship and context…A harmful prank, whether intentionally or unintentionally, does damage to relationships and property.”  He gave guidelines for making tactful pranks, urging students to ask themselves, “Is what I’m about to do potentially harmful to a relationship or personal property?  If the answer is “no”, then you might be setting someone up for a good prank.  If the answer is “yes”, just forget that prank altogether and go back to the drawing board.”

“I don’t see pranks as positive or negative; I see them as harmless or harmful.”

– Resident Director Chris Breiland

Blain and Herrera agreed with Breiland.  In general, OKWU students should be tactful and proactive in considering the feelings and possible consequences that their targets may or may not deal with when pranked.  “A good prank doesn’t do damage to anything and is done in fun toward a friend,” said Blain, “It’s a fine line that if walked correctly can really bolster campus fun and community!”

 “The trick is knowing who to prank and on what level,” said Herrera.  “If that person is going to react poorly then it’s probably best not to prank them.”  Whatever the prank—bikes on roofs, brick walls, silly string or even water works in Wert—students should take care to respect the OKWU community, its people and property.  Like Josh Herrera said, “Over all, pranks add life and entertainment to campus.  Prank on!”

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