The annual scavenger hunts, referred to by those involved as the “scav hunt,” is a high school tradition that takes place in late May. This year’s junior scavenger hunt took place on May 26, with approximately 60 juniors participating. Like any scavenger hunt, the goal is to complete a list of tasks, but unlike typical scavenger hunts, these tasks are often illegal. From nonconsensual sexual acts to binge drinking and violence, the tasks often target younger students and encourage those involved to break the law in order to win.
The “scav list,” usually written by one of the most social groups of boys in each grade, is given to the participants at a predetermined meeting place, along with a set of rules. Each task is worth a certain number of points, the value determined by the potential consequences and difficulty of achieving the task. The more reckless or insolent the task, the more points it is worth. At the start of this tradition, these tasks were fun and creative. However, this list has taken a turn for the worse. It now targets specific people because of their physical appearance, reputation, and sometimes religion.
Currently, the more extreme tasks on the list can hurt people get participants arrested including seniors who are 18 and can be tried as adults. The risk of prosecution is exacerbated by the requirement that everything must be videotaped and sent to or shown to the creators of the list in order to prove the task was completed; a digital footprint remains after each task is completed, and it’s one that can never be erased.
Generally the lists try to “outdo” the ones created the year before. This recent trend of competition is perpetrating a system in which the list is only getting more dangerous, and not more original. This is caused by an influx of students caring more about “going hard” and being more extreme instead of being creative. The violent atmosphere caused by this list in part provoked a concerning incident that night. A group who had been participating in the scavenger hunt got into an altercation with a younger student, a fight ensued, and the younger student was injured so severely that he ended up in an ambulance. Since when was sending a kid to the hospital a fun, unifying night with your grade?
Another recurring theme among “scav lists” over the years involves blatantly sexual activities and the coercion of middle schoolers or freshman into consuming potentially copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. For example, this year’s list included, “Get your whole group to hook up with the same underclassmen.” In a situation where an underclassmen or middle schooler is approached by a group of upperclassmen practically demanding that they participate in certain tasks, they might “say yes” but due to the extreme pressure of this environment, it cannot be considered true consent. So, by definition, some of these tasks are considered sexual assault. There is a fine line between having fun and taking advantage of younger kids, and that line is too often crosses in the midst of the “scav hunt.”
The hunt doesn’t need to end, but the list needs to be changed. Take out blatant violence and tasks that are fueled by hate and bullying. Tasks such as “yelling ‘allahu akbar’ when going through a McDonald’s drive through,” are racist and simply unacceptable. Students at Tam are better than this. It is our responsibility to take this tradition and turn it into something unifying and fun. We need to pull away from hate and violence, before it’s too late and this timeless, well intended, tradition has to come to an end.
It is possible to have a scavenger hunt that remains fun and exciting without promoting hate or disrespecting other people. Other high schools in Marin have scavenger hunts, but the tasks are more clever and prank-focused than illegal. A shift back to what the scavenger hunt was created as–a fun tradition for juniors and seniors to create final memories with their class and their friends before leaving–would protect the tradition itself as well as individual students and the Tam community’s reputation as a whole.