Kool-Aid colored fountain: Harmless high jinks or costly prank?

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red fountain
Gilman Fountain died red as an April Fool's prank. Los Angeles, CA. April 1, 2022. Angela Guglielmino/The Occidental

With the dusk of March comes the dawn of pranks. Associate Director of Facilities Chris Reyes said he awoke around 5 a.m. April 1 to a phone call from Campus Safety, alerting him to a situation — Gilman Fountain was filled with dye that painted the existing water a deep crimson. This prank costed Occidental $1,600, according to Reyes, and the identity of the prankster(s) is currently unknown.

Alongside the fountain was a chalk message that read, “Happy April Fools (it’s pool dye).”

After arriving on the scene, Reyes said he decided to immediately take action instead of leaving the dye in over the weekend.

“We didn’t know what the impact would be for any mechanical issues or permanent staining,” Reyes said. “So we just really needed to get on that right away.”

Reyes said he then called in other members of Facilities Management to drain, clean and refill the fountain.

“It was determined that the only way to get the dye out of there would be to drain the water,” Reyes said. “It was very sticky, and the bottom of the fountain is a coarse rock, so the only way to get that out of there would be to use a pressure washer.”

Reyes said they estimate the incident occurred sometime the night before April 1. According to Reyes, the facilities team began working at 7 a.m., drained the dyed water by approximately 9 a.m. and had the fountain up and running by 1 p.m. In the end, there was no known permanent damage to the Gilman Fountain. However, according to Reyes, the labor it took for the Facilities department to clean the fountain took resources away from other tasks.

“We had five technicians over there that we had to pull from other jobs on campus,” Reyes said.

According to Reyes, the prank was costly because of the amount of water that was used to refill the fountain and power wash the bottom, as well as the labor that went into fixing the issue.

“I understand April Fools’ jokes,” Reyes said. “But this actually cost the campus money to get this cleaned up.”

Students had varying reactions to the prank. Ludo Brown (first year) said in the future, students could shift to practical jokes that do not put as much work on the facilities team, whereas Dominic Sassone (first year) said he believes the joke was pretty harmless.

“I mean, maybe the [person] could use a little bit of a bollocking,” Sassone said. “But pranks like that really don’t have any dire consequences.”

Sassone said because it was only a material object impacted rather than wildlife or other living things, the joke does not seem very severe.

“I’m assuming there are no fish living in [the Gilman Fountain],” Sassone said.

Brown said some people probably got a lot of enjoyment from the fountain’s transformation.

“A lot of effort has obviously gone into [pulling the prank],” Brown said. “But someone’s always going to end up either paying for it or clearing it up.”