April Fools Day is a day for pranks and tricks, both of which are College of Engineering traditions. These pranks were almost all aimed at the Law Students (often called “Laws”), with whom the Engineering Students had a long-running rivalry. The pranks usually took place during MECCA Week (the week of St. Patrick’s Day). Here are some details on some of the most famous pranks.
As the story goes, the the Engineering Students found an old manure wagon and thought it would be a very funny joke for it to appear on the top floor of the Law Building. They took it apart and took the pieces to the law building where they reassembled it. They then thought that a wagon was useless without a horse, so they found a horse and brought it up to join the wagon! When the Law Students arrived in the morning, they were able to take the wagon apart, but those who have spent any time on a farm would know that the horse would be the bigger of the two problems. While horses will willingly be led up stairs, they are unable to walk down stairs. As the story goes, the horse was lifted out the window with a crane. Perhaps the most famous of these pranks, the horse and wagon has become a legend. Because of this, it has several different versions, but we can confirm that at one point there was a wagon in the building, thanks to this image from an Iowa City Press Citizen Photographer.
The same night that the wagon appeared in the Law Center, the Engineering Students left behind some additional guests for the Law Students to welcome – a group of about 50 white mice that were dyed green. According Jim Huff (BS 1962, MS 1964, electrical engineering), “I was the one who dyed the white mice green so they could be let loose in the law building. I still have the old leather gloves with green fingers that I wore to let them swim around in a wastebasket filled with water and green Rit dye.” The Law Students were able to catch most of them and deposit them outside. Frustrated about what he thought was an excessive number f pranks, Mason Ladd, Dean of the College of Law, confronted Arthur Melloh, the Dean of the College of Engineering about his students’ behavior. Melloh responded “I don’t know anything about it. For all I know, some green mice put a manure wagon in your Courtroom!”
MECCA Week pranks were not always supported by the Engineering Faculty. One year, the campus woke up to a green dome on the Old Capitol! The Dean of the College of Engineering, thinking it had been painted, expelled the students responsible. Later that day, the wind picked up and blew off the green fabric that had been draped over the dome. The students were reinstated and there are rumors that one of them later became faculty himself.
The Law Students did not take all these pranks lying down. They retaliated in several ways, including stealing the Blarney Stone, the MECCA Queen Trophy, and even the MECCA Queen herself on a couple of occasions! One memorable year, the Law Students presented the Engineers with their candidates for MECCA Queen: two 150-pound hogs. With the decline of MECCA, pranks have also declined. We do not recommend pulling any pranks here on campus, but hope you enjoy the joyful spirit of April Fools Day!