“Don’t mess with the pool tables”: College pranks maintain morale

By in Culture
The Sheaf Publishing Society newspapers hang from the ceiling in the U of S Ag Lounge on March 22, 2019.

After having spent the previous night at their favourite watering hole, agriculture students shuffled into their student lounge looking for refuge and instead found themselves wading through a sea of crumpled newsprint.

This prank wasn’t unanticipated — in fact, it has a longstanding tradition.

Thousands of pages from the Sheaf were torn apart — some were shredded and tucked into the glass casing of trophies while others were hung neatly from the ceiling panels. The culprits were known yet nowhere in sight.

Spanning at least a decade, the Sheafing happens once every year to the Agriculture Students’ Association — also known as the Agros — and their student lounge, courtesy of the Saskatoon Engineering Students’ Society.

It’s traditionally executed while the Agros are busy with their weekly ritual of Ag Night at the Longbranch, leaving the lounge empty. The next day, the Agros — the ones who suffer through their hangovers to attend Friday morning classes — open the main door and are welcomed back with mangled newsprint piled almost to the roof.

Throughout the year, the engineering students collect extra issues of the Sheaf, waiting until the perfect moment to rally together and tear them apart, page by page. The Agros are aware that the prank will take place, letting it happen anyway. It’s alright, really, because the element of surprise isn’t what the engineering students strive for.

The Sheafing is one of the many morale stunts throughout the year that are meant to foster a sense of community among students in the same college. Morale is such a staple of these student groups that both organizations have an executive member responsible for morale-building and a budget line to accommodate the projects.

The Agros and engineers have a long history of pranks going back and forth. Some were so elaborate that the university administration stepped in and established a morale contract — “controlled chaos” as Connor Jorgensen, external vicepresident of the ASA, refers to it.

Each year, the ASA tests a new prank while the SESS sticks to the tried-and-true Sheafing. The morale contract outlines what the groups are permitted to do and what is off limits, says Greg Cooper, internal vice-president of the ASA.

“It just outlines … the pranks you can do. It outlines the things you can’t — like nothing living, you can’t mess with the pool tables or physical things in the lounge, like you can’t steal anything,” Cooper said.

“You can’t use manure — because that’s happened, too,” Jorgensen added.

Both groups see the rivalry — and the morale stunts that go along with it — as a way to break up the pressure of academics and encourage first-year students to balance work and play. The priority is to “have fun and be respectful,” says SESS president Shanleigh McKeown — who has now participated in the Sheafing three times.

A group of mostly first-year engineering students passes along the stacks of papers and moves them to the final location. Once the accumulated issues are scattered across the floor of the Agro lounge, everyone starts hacking at the stacks of papers with their hands — or feet.

While engineering had a reputation of being exclusionary, the SESS prides itself on making its morale events welcoming for anyone to join — even the Sheaf.

“In the past few years, we’ve taken the time to re-evaluate our traditions and what it means to … be an engineering student and end that culture,” McKeown said. “The Sheafing is still one of those traditions that is still such a great way to build community, which is something we really strive for here.”

Being ankle-deep in a year’s worth of my work with the student paper made me realize that it’s important to take time from your academics and enjoy yourself while you’re in university.

Although I’m not from either college, this was easily the most college-like experience that I have ever had. And I’m not ashamed to say that I also tore into a few pages, too.

Nykole King / Editor-In-Chief

Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor