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News: Moses Award For Practical Joking

The Moses Award:

Calvin's Award for Practical Joking

The Moses Award encourages the college's long tradition of intelligent and creative pranks and practical jokes. The current $30.00 endowment allows for an annual cash prize of $1.80, though it is hoped that contributions to the endowment will in future years allow for more generous awards. The winner will also receive an elegant reproduction of a gargoyle like one of these:Gargoyle

The award is given to members of the Calvin College community responsible for outstanding contributions to campus levity. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are eligible.

The award began in 1993. There have been several previous Moses Award winners. To the considerable distress of the awards committee, few suitable pranks have been perpetrated in recent years. Two pranks received honorable mentions in 1997. Things were dull until 2005, when a group amusingly relocated campus signs. This required luring Campus Safety to a distant part of campus, and a well-planned system for rapidly moving signs.

GargoyleThe most recent award was an honorable mention in 2009 for a prank that hid all trays in the dining hall. Although it lacked the true elegance of a first-rate prank, it did display elements of a Reformed world and life view (redeeming the dining hall).

All pranks or practical jokes entered in the contest should meet certain basic standards:

  • They should display intelligent creativity and bring a significant amount of mirth or good cheer to the Calvin community.
  • They should cause no undue physical damage or expense to persons or property. Thirty years ago a Calvin student was electrocuted while attempting a prank. The committee will be distressed if this award encourages ill-conceived pranks. Pranksters should remember that it can be considerably more fun to cause mischief than to pay for repairing it!
  • They should avoid meanness or cruelty. Those planning pranks should consider what harm or pain their pranks might cause, and if in doubt, come up with a better idea.

Entries displaying a Reformed world and life view will receive special commendation.

Entries should consist of a description of the prank or practical joke and any available supporting evidence. The judge will welcome videos, when possible, of entries.

Prizes will be awarded as they are merited. Entries will be judged by the Moses Committee, which consists of Randy Bytwerk (CAS Department). Sure it's a small committee — but its decisions are always unanimous. If necessary, confidentiality will be maintained.

For the details on the most elaborate series of pranks in Calvin's history, see the story of the wandering cheese.

The tradition of creative pranks is well-established at Calvin, but we fall far short of the masters of the art at places like Cal Tech and MIT. Many of the best pranks at MIT are described at their web site. There is also a book on the matter, titled Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003).

Another good source is Neil Steinberg's wonderful book If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992).

And you might find a list of great April Fools Day pranks interesting.

On the other hand, a wide range of pranks that mostly would not win the Moses Award is available at the Prank Institute web site.