Caltech was a society of subcultures. Undergraduates arrived on campus as the smartest persons (each felt) in the known universe, then had to abruptly renormalize their cosmic measuring sticks. Faculty members were godlike beings of infinite knowledge --- or so they seemed to those who attended their lectures. Between the professors and the undergrads were the postdocs and the grad students: mortals of diverse backgrounds who focused most of their energies on research projects, when they weren't worrying about paying the rent.

Although (or because?) they were under a huge amount of stress, Caltech undergrads found time to play. A major holiday was "Ditch Day" --- when seniors were obligated to leave campus and underclassmen were obligated to break into the seniors' rooms and trash them. Rooms could be protected from damage in several ways. A bribe of food left behind was designed to deter the wrath of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. But before they got the goodies, a "stack" was typically arranged to make entry a challenge. There were three major types of stacks:

As a grad student (1974-1979) I bemusedly observed Ditch Day proceedings on the way to or from my tiny subterranean office. But I never did see a senior captured and taped to a tree in punishment for not leaving campus on time that day ...

(see also FinalExams (3 May 2002), RealGenius (23 Jan 2003), ... )

TopicHumor - TopicPersonalHistory - 2003-11-21

(correlates: PresentTension, MovementForeAndAft, Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam, ...)