25 Aug 2010
Games, Parties, Pranks, and CelebrationsTopics:
(sent in by class-notes secretaries)
1972J. Section A started our bingo game in the second term of our first year (1971). Cards had the names of roughly a third of the class (24 of 75) on them (5 each for B, I, G, and O and 4 plus the “free” spot for N). When someone spoke, you covered his or her name on the card, and if you got five in a row, you had “bingo.” Variations ensued (“X”, four corners, whole card, etc.). At first, the “free” spot was free. As it evolved (degenerated?), I believe someone used the computer lab’s random-number generator to print cards, and a name went into the “free” spot. But if you got the name of someone who never spoke, you felt screwed. To resolve this obvious unfairness, the rules were changed so that your own name went into the “free” spot, and you had to speak to cover it. After that, whenever a professor would ask who wanted to start, nearly every hand in the class went up. Needless to say, the faculty had never seen such eagerness to participate before. Some people began playing multiple cards. To rectify this unfairness, we brought market discipline to the fore and started charging for each card. Eventually, to win the pot, you had to call out “bingo.” The faculty frowned on this disruption. To meet this challenge, the rules were again changed, and you had to be called on and work the word “bingo” into your participation in the classroom discussion. Some efforts were a real stretch. For example, one contribution for a hospital case on record-keeping suggested that “bingo therapy” would be good for patieints. Professors Shapiro and Piper told us to knock it off. The two behavior profs were too touchy-feely and could bring themselves only to look the other way. (While one was clearly agitated, he uttered nary a peep.) The best faculty response was by John Russell, our Ops professor, who walked in, cold-called five of our sectionmates (which he had never done before), wrote “bingo” on the blackboard, and asked who had the pot. The guy with the pot sheepishly walked up to him. John showed him a bingo card with the five names that he had called on, got the student to verify it, and asked for the pot. Peter Jones then asked if it meant that we had his tacit permission to play, and John’s response was that we were welcome to play as long as we did not mind losing consistently. End of the game!
1974I played classroom Bingo, using cards with each square filled out with a sectionmate's name. When that person spoke in class, the square was checked off. Once someone got “bingo,” they had to be called on by the professor and, in their comments, utter the day's “bingo” word. In one class, a sectionmate won, raised her hand, and, in her comments on an ITT case, described how she would look down CEO Harold Geneen’s “deep throat” when he berated her. The section gave her a standing ovation.
1975B. We played Section Bingo. A Bingo card with classmates’ names was passed out to everyone and if that person spoke or contributed to the case discussion, their name was x'ed out. If you got "Bingo," you let the section know by incorporating a nonsense pre-arranged phrase into your verbal contribution, e.g. “This case reminds me of when Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall.” I think many sections played this.
1976B. I vividly remember the Bingo game we played during our first year. There were 15 student names on the ticket that could be ticked when they participated in class. I thought it was a good way to encourage class participation. But besides ticking off the names, one also had to say the day's password. When I finished my ticket, the password was “I haven't read the case.” In the normal course of things, this would be a disastrous statement to make. I finagled my way around the problem by saying, “I haven't read the case for tomorrow.” The game went undetected for a few days. But then one day in Dennis Frolin’s class, there was a big dispute about the numbers in a case. Those who got the wrong answer had rounded off a number and then multiplied it by a large number That explained the discrepancy. I carefully elucidated the nature of the problem and concluded by saying, “And if you do so and so, you get the right answer.” Dennis coolly came back with, “But you don't get Bingo, do you?” Nothing else was ever said. The Bingo game was terminated, but the memory is very fresh.
1977H played Section Bingo.
1980F played Turkey Bingo. We issued Bingo cards with boxes that contained people’s names instead of numbers. As individuals spoke in class, players “filled in” their boxes. When someone got “Bingo,” the rule was for them to get called on and say the secret phrase. A historic episode of Turkey Bingo that featured the secret phrase “Family Fruit” resulted in the retirement of the game. I believe other sections may have played it as well.
1986H. Just regular games of Turkey Bingo
1990H did the “Wave” and played Section Bingo, based on commonly used words and nonwords such as “incentivize.”
1991G had a sectionmate do a Top Ten list every Friday at the end of the last class. The topics varied, just like David Letterman's Top Ten, often making fun of somebody in the news. He would sometimses compile the ten from comments made in class.
1993I had an antibingo game. In this version, my neighbor and I used to hold a draft of those least likely to talk. We would select 10-20 each and assign points based on their selection round. We would cross them off when they talked and, at the end of the class, add up the points of those who remained silent. There were some funny moments and some not so funny, as when my neighbor was cold-called in the middle of the draft and was caught cheating by sending notes to folks begging them to speak.
1999I. Bingo was still going on in our section. We still had some of the cards at the reunion last year, and of course you won when you said the phrase that pays, usually based on something ridiculous someone had said in earnest during an earlier class. Top 10 lists were also still popular, but I remember that those tended to be a little dicier in content and got people into trouble sometimes. We also did the “Wave.”
PMD 70 would pick a word, and the first person to use it “constructively” in that day’s class would “win.” For example, one time we picked the word “zipper,” and one of the guys from England made up this elaborate business theory that intertwined something or other (I can still picture him intertwining his fingers as he spoke) that in the end he claimed was called the “zipper” theory. It was hilarious. We were very immature.
1973I’s last class mutated into an unruly morning cocktail party, which was followed by threats to withhold diplomas.
1978I threw the infamous “over the hump” party at the midpoint of our first year. It involved interrupting the second class of the day at its midpoint, pouring 96 bottles of champagne in Aldrich 109, our faculty almost getting fired, and the section almost getting expelled en masse. We brought the champagne in by the case. We wanted a bottle per sectionmate (80-ish) plus one per faculty member (6-ish), so 84 bottles just didn’t quite make it! We invited all our professors, and all but one showed up, resulting in them all getting into trouble.
2004B used to have dance parties in our classroom in between classes. We always tried to get professors to join in, but they rarely did. One of our sectionmates, who went on to work at MTV before launching his own media company, used to bring his laptop to class with his music downloaded on it. He would plug it into the AV system, we'd dim the lights, and voilà, the Bham midweek, mid-day dance party was born!
1999I. We might have been the only section that tried to make the classroom homier with a small rug in the pit (added, I think, by Ly Tran). Marc Pascarella was also possibly the only student to employ a massaging seat cover during class. We did an auction fundraiser for cancer research in the second term in honor of a sectionmate’s mother, and part of the money was raised by auctioning things various people were to do in the section, from smoking a cigar in Finance class to borrowing that massaging seat cover for a day. I believe that our BGIE professor, Willis Emmons, who attended the event, even offered as an auction item the performance of an opera aria during classtime, which he did during the last week of school.
1977H had a group of us who wrote “risqué chain stories” during Accounting; something about a mink posing strap and a Viking helmet springs to mind. Each person would write perhaps three or four sentences, the last ending with some sort of cliffhanger that would get the next scribe started. Bob was really bad at keeping his laughter under control (he sat to my right, so I was flattered).
1981A’s Rick Johansen orchestrated a prank one day in the first semester (late 1979) on all the professors we had that day. At the beginning of each class, Rick hid behind the blackboard wearing a Groucho Marx mask and started smoking. Each professor finally noticed the smoke and moved the board, only to discover Rick. The rest of the section donned our masks while the professor’s attention was on Rick, so the professor received another surprise after turning around to the class again and seeing rows of students in Groucho Marx masks. For a photo, see here.
1983G. Our beloved ME prof, Bruce Greenwald, came to class every day wearing: a blue-and-red rep tie, khaki pants, and a light blue oxford shirt. (He still does, but now at Columbia Business School.) One day the entire class dressed like him.
1984-86A. Professor Ben Shapiro recollected classroom hijinks in his first-year Marketing classes for these three years, which were held at the end of the day. He negotiated with the sections that they could do whatever they were going to do at the beginning of the class, so long as they remained in class when it ran overtime. He recalls skits from 1984A and 1985A, one titled “Benaway” and another an advertising pitch for an ad for HBS featuring Dean McArthur. He also remembers Halloween costume classes, for which he, too, wore a costume: his academic DBA cap and gown.
1985A. In January 1984 in Ben Shapiro’s Marketing class, we had a weeklong module on the motorcycle industry, and the day we had a case dealing specifically with Harley Davidson was the day I drove my Harley Sportster into the classroom with Leslie in black leather pants on the back. The classroom was on the second floor, so for stealth purposes, I brought it up in the service elevator. After Leslie and I made a few comments about the HD Americana lure and mystique, we gave out some T-shirts I had made up with the HD Eagle Wings holding the HBS crest and the words “Harley Davidson and Harvard Business School: We Mean Business.” After class, I drove the bike out of the classroom and down the stairs, which was captured on film by a photographer from the Harbus (check the Harbus archives for the first or second week of January 1984 for the photo and caption). Leslie got an award for marketing, and I ended up Looping the course.
1985F put brown paper bags over our heads during a Friday-afternoon class. The idea was to mess with the professor, who styled himself a partier and lady’s man. Namecards were removed and bags put over our heads so he wouldn’t be able to call on anyone to open or take part in class discussions. One of our sectionmates was smoking a cigarette through a small hole in his bag. We kept up the gag for 15 minutes or so.
1988I. We played many pranks, including bingo, but one of the most unique was during BGIE class. The case for the day was on France, and since the prof always managed to call on a student from the country involved, we figured that our French sectionmate was bound to weigh in at some point. In preparation, we tape-recorded a brief version of the Marseillaise and handed out miniature French flags (made of appropriately red-and-blue magic-marker-striped index cards and toothpicks) to each sectionmate covertly before class, with instructions. When our French sectionmate was inevitably called upon, the tape recorder button was pushed and everyone waved the "flags" as the music played. I seem to remember that the lights also dimmed briefly in honor of the moment. Our instructor seemed nonplussed but stayed focused on the case, likewise our surprised but always unflappable French compatriot!
1989A had a “white-shirt-and-tie” day when the whole section came in wearing the same wardrobe as our esteemed Marketing professor, Tom Bonoma.
1989F. We had a Finance professor in first year (to remain nameless) whom we really liked, but he had a habit of talking to the chalkboard. We had a very funny guy in our section, Eric Hinkle, and every Friday all of us would stay in the classroom for lunch as he awarded the “honors” of the week. (They were funny in themselves, and I still have some phrases I use every week that were coined in those hours.) So one day Eric made mention of how, when the professor was talking to the board, he noted how much he sounded like the teacher in the old Charlie Brown TV shows: “wah wah, wah wah wah wah.” We were rolling on the floor, it was so ridiculously funny (and accurate).
So one day, the professor comes in to teach his class. He starts out normal; all is fine. But back in those days, we had chalkboards that he could move up and down electrically, which all of the professors did. And he had a very clear pattern. So, about 20 minutes into the class, he moves the board, revealing a board that up until then had been hidden. And what was written on the board? “Wah wah, wah wah wah wah.” We never laughed so hard, and the poor professor had no clue. So that has become part of our lore: we all know to this day what those words mean and still get a good laugh!
1989G used to have days celebrating our sectionmates’ quirks. There was Rita earring day when everyone wore crazy earrings to tease me, hanging floppy discs and even pumpkins from their ears (with maybe a little help from heads and necks). For the day celebrating a sectionmate with a hyphenated compound name, everyone replaced their namecards with ones with hyphenated names.
1990H. Besides all the things I think a lot of sections have done (“the wave,” the quote of the week chosen by applause with a human applause-meter up front, and Section Bingo based on commonly used words and nonwords such as “incentivize”), the funniest day for our section had to be when we had “come as your opposite sectionmate” day. For our first class in the morning one day late in the year, everyone was challenged to impersonate the person who sat in their mirror position on the other side of the room. This included dress, hairstyle, mannerisms, voice, and style of comment typical of the person in question, and, of course, we traded namecards. Our professor rolled with it quite well, despite the fact that humor ruled over quality of comment for that class.
1992C had a professor who called on the same guy every single class. We never knew why. But it happened every day, even when he didn't have his hand up and everyone else did. So finally we all (except him) put paper bags over our heads for the entire class.
1992D was involved in two interesting first-year experiences. 1.One day was picked as mirror-opposite day. Everyone had to dress and act like the person sitting in their mirror-opposite seat for the day. You had to work in their mannerisms and quirks of speech as you answered the professor's questions. The pictures from that day are priceless. One guy dressed up as his opposite female sectionmate, complete with her ever-present headband. As he responded to a question in POM, he pressed the sides of the headband and said, “Wait, I need to get better reception before I can answer that.” 2. Our classroom, Aldrich 109, was directly under Section C, who were always raising a ruckus in one of their classes, so much so that we could hear it. One day, armed with water pistols, we stormed up to their classroom and let the water fly. The next week, we arrived to class to find that all of our chairs had been removed from their bolted poles. Our two sections were requested to have a joint social event to patch things up. The joint section party was so joyously raucous that the police had to disperse the partiers. This incident was recounted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, noting the competitive nature of HBS!
2000D had three students who looked very similar to the uninitiated: brown-haired, glasses-wearing men with similar haircuts. One day we had them all dress the same and switch seats to see if we could catch any of the professors. It half worked: there was one professor we felt was paying very little attention in class. During his class, the three musketeers made a concerted effort to get airtime. The first time he called on one of them, he did a quick double take, smiled a small smile, and asked, “And what do you think?” omitting any mention of a name.
2008J had costume or dress-up days. When we read the Marvel comics case, sectionmates came to class dressed as superheroes. And on several occasions the section dressed up like our TEM professor, Paul Gompers, in patterned shirts with blazers.
2009J’s video of a surprise song in the classroom is here.
AMP 178. Professor Mike Tushman showed a video in class of a group of people passing a ball back and forth, and our job was to count the number of passes. In the video, a gorilla walked across the screen, and many people did not see it, for they were concentrating on counting the passes. So during Professor Tushman’s last lecture, one of our students dressed up in a full gorilla suit and walked through the classroom. Mike was so stunned that he couldn’t compose himself for about five minutes. Really funny!
1992C wrote a song and serenaded each of our first-year professors on the last day of class. A different song for each, of course.
2008J As end-of-term gifts for Marketing Prof. Das Naryandas and TEM Prof. Paul Gompers, we made music videos. The songs we used were rewritten to express our love for those professors. For Das, we used Sam Cooke's “Wonderful World” lyrics and wrote “What a wonderful class this has been” (see here for the video). And for Paul, we used “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls and sang “Help Me Understand” (see here for the video). Making those videos was tons of fun.
TGMP 5 has a motto that bonds us. It's “Keep Smiling.” On the final morning of class, when Professor Bower entered the classroom, we all stood and sang the song “That's What Friends Are For,”.which starts with the phrase “Keep Smiling.” This serenade was planned during our final-night party (I mean study group), which included karaoke and, well, you can figure out the rest.
AMP 178. Professor Vietor was one of our favorites. He used to describe the state of the world economy as “in the toilet,” a phrase he used many times. It caught on with us. During the last week of the program, our class taped a large photo of a toilet behind one of the chalkboards, so when Dick lifted it up to write on the board, it was there, causing quite a bit of laughter. At his last lecture, we presented a toilet seat signed by all of us to him as a thank-you gift, and you’ve never seen a happier man! Dick was very, very happy to get this as a present and said he would be keeping it on his office desk.