Caltech Students Pull Part of a Hack at MIT

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California Institute of Technology “hackers” eat at Sunny’s Diner on Landsdowne St. after failing to deploy banners with phrases such as “SOLD” and “Caltech East” Monday morning.
Michael Y. McCanna—The Tech

Caltech Students Pull Part of a Hack at MIT

Walking back to East Campus from the Student Center at around 6:30 yesterday morning, I stumbled across a banner crumpled on the steps outside 77 Massachusetts Avenue that looked like it was meant to be stretched across the pillars there. It looked at first glance like part of your average failed hack, but I quickly realized this failed hack was a little more Californian than average.

The banner, I discovered, would have labeled MIT as a new east coast campus of the California Institute of Technology. Other parts of their multi-piece plan would have expanded on that theme.

Further signage just inside Lobby 7 was still hanging; it read “Caltech East”. A large red banner being lowered in Killian Court read like a property sign: “SOLD.”

I asked someone nearby what was happening and, as it turned out, he was a Caltech student, Anthony Chong, involved in organizing the failed hack.

He told me someone in his group had dropped something while putting the hack up, which caused a sound that led a facilities worker to discover their deeds.

He said the facilities worker had reported the hack to the MIT Police, who then came to the scene and ordered that the hack be taken down that morning.

Unfortunately, I had interrupted Chong while a campus police officer was asking him questions about his “prank” (Caltech students don’t call them hacks), so we exchanged information, and I set off to find someone less busy to talk to.

I caught up with a few Caltech girls standing in Lobby 7, now holding the banners that had previously hung from the railing, off of the third floor. One of the girls told me that about ten of them had flown into Boston on Friday and had been staying with Caltech alumni living in the area to put the final touches on their prank. Apparently, alumni had paid to print the banners as well as 5,000 copies of a fake edition of The Tech. These fake papers eventually made it to newspaper stands on campus.

A floor mat in Lobby 10 was to have put a finishing touch on their welcoming decorations, but there was no time to deploy that part of the operation.

I, along with several other residents of East Campus — the dorm, not the branch of Caltech — met up with several of the Caltech “pranksters” for breakfast at Sunny’s Diner.

We talked about the prank, and the Caltech students told us they had come ready to herald the new change of ownership with bright orange shirts labeled with a blend of the Caltech torch and MIT seal.

They had set up a phone tree at Caltech, which would take any inquiries and redirect them ad infinitum. Further details about MIT’s “acquisition” were posted on their website (, including such comments as “Ditch Day is tomorrow”, referencing a Caltech tradition.

As it turns out, the Caltech students hadn’t planned to stick around their new campus for very long: They headed back to Pasadena on a plane that left Boston at 6 p.m. last night.

—Vicki Crosson