Who ripped the Pitzer banner? Harvey Mudd dorm scavenger hunt leads to $5000 in damages

Multiple chairs are configured in a pyramidal shape outside of a Pitzer classroom building.
The Atwood Dorm’s annual scavenger hunt lists tasks for students to complete in teams, including risky activities across the colleges. (Courtesy: Toby Frank)

From flirting with grand theft auto to holding chickens captive, Harvey Mudd College’s annual Atwood Dorm Scavenger Hunt is sure to bring the house down — and maybe Pitzer College’s banner with it. This year’s Sept. 13 endeavor also left Mudders with a fee of $5,000 for damages along with a side of community service to pay back Pitzer. 

The scavenger hunt commenced at 10 p.m. and lasted until midnight, according to Atwood Dorm proctor Albany Blackburn HM ’23. Scavenger hunt tasks included taking a shot with one or more of the dorm presidents, relocating one’s roommate’s stuff to dorm storage and temporarily stealing a chicken from the Pitzer chicken coop.

“We split up initially. Some of my teammates went to a tattoo parlor so they could get their ears pierced, while the rest of us went around drinking water from fountains, because we wanted to do it before anyone else got to the fountains,” Blackburn said.

Things took a more serious turn when a few Atwood residents attempted to steal a banner outside of Pitzer’s McConnell Dining Hall. The metal bolts that held the banner in place caused it to rip when a few Atwood residents tried to get ahold of the banner, requiring Pitzer to completely replace it, according to Atwood Dorm President Lucas Ewing HM ’23.

“Pitzer said it was about $5,000 in damages,” Ewing said. “Atwood has to do community service to Pitzer to repay those damages.”

To Toby Frank HM ’23, the damages caused during the scavenger hunt aren’t representative of how most Atwood residents behaved during the night.

“Things escalated when individual people completed a challenge, but not in the spirit of how that challenge was supposed to be completed,” Frank said.

Stealing a banner was part of the scavenger hunt, according to Frank, but most banners across the 5Cs are considerably easier to steal than McConnell’s.

Overall, Frank feels that the presidents of the Atwood Dorm do a good job of keeping risky activities under control. 

Among the items on the scavenger hunt list was temporarily stealing the Pitzer chickens, and Frank said there were protocols in place to make sure the animals were safe through the night.

“The things on the Scavenger Hunt that are more serious tend to be heavily regulated,” Frank said. “This year, no one was allowed to go to the chicken coop until a specific time, and then people took the chickens in a way that was very careful and considerate of not harming them.”

Even with the regulations, some Mudders were close to committing grand theft auto on top of potential property theft. 

When one group was caught attempting to move a golf cart owned by Campus Security across Claremont McKenna College’s campus, most of the younger participants fled the scene — protected by security’s “no-chase” policy, according to Ewing.

“One of the craziest things that happened was people attempting to push a Camp Sec golf cart. I was walking by when I saw a bunch of people running away from the golf cart,” Blackburn said.

Seniors stayed behind and were asked to give their student ID numbers and names, but there was no follow-up on the situation, according to Blackburn and Ewing.

TSL reached out to Associate Dean of Students Christopher Sundberg about the college’s response to the damages, but he declined to comment due to the ongoing investigation of students.

Despite guidelines laid out by dorm presidents to keep the scavenger hunt lighthearted each year, property damage is not entirely new for the Atwood Dorm Scavenger Hunt — and neither is stolen property. 

“[Several years ago] Atwood students stole a sculpture from Scripps that had a $100,000 commission, and Harvey Mudd had to pay for someone to reinstall the statue,” Frank added. “Scripps said that next time this happens, [they’re] going to press charges.”

Mudd still allows the yearly scavenger hunts to take place though, which Ewing attributes to the relationship between students and Mudd’s honor board.

Ewing said that because most students self-report to the Mudd honor board after committing violations during the night, Atwood Dorm has managed to maintain a strong relationship with both the honor board and Mudd’s deans. 

“Our deans do a pretty good job of protecting us,” Ewing said. “There are some things they can’t protect us from, like grand theft auto, so they discourage us from stealing vehicles like golf carts.”

Despite the risk of damage fees, Mudd students hope to carry on this cherished tradition in future years, seeing it as a quintessential component of dorm culture.

“It is a good introduction to prank culture, especially [to] underclassmen,” Blackburn said.

Ewing, one of the four Atwood Dorm presidents, noted that the guidelines surrounding the Scavenger Hunt promote bonding within the Atwood community.

“Three different class years have to be on each team, so it encourages you to get to know your classmates,” Ewing said.

Many Atwood residents see it as a good way of staying in touch with the dorm community and traditions.

“I’m thinking of participating in the Atwood Scavenger Hunt for the next two years. It’s a great way to stay connected with the Atwood community. That means a lot to me,” said Atwood mentor Marina Ring HM ’25.

First-year Stewart Kerr HM ’26 enjoyed his experience being part of the scavenger hunt, and felt it was an important part of releasing early-semester anxiety and getting to know his peers.

“It was a cool suite bonding experience,” Kerr said. “I’ll definitely do it again next year.”

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