Thursday, November 11, 2010
College is a time for making your mark. Sometimes that's in the form of social justice, other times its making a mark on the carpet by spilling an alcoholic drink — made with mayonnaise for some horrifying reason — during your house party. And with both results, there comes the morning after.
Here are three recent stories, from WSU, Gonzaga and Whitworth, to illustrate how big — for good or bad — the impact of one prank, one night, or one Facebook post can be.
To truly understand the new media landscape, you must realize one truth: Nerds go crazy at the mention for anything involving V for Vendetta masks. And so when Inlander writer Dan Herman blogged about a WSU prank (programmers had hacked several classrooms to automatically lower projector screens and play a message from a guy dressed as the masked Guy Fawkes terrorist in V for Vendetta for five minutes at the start of every hour, using the visage of a famed historical and pop cultural terrorist to encourage "soft-spoken words" and condemn campus squirrels, totally freaking out administrators), within a few days, it had garnered enough hits to absolutely smash the previous Inlander blog record.
Then, as every prankster dreams, the story splashed across the nation. Wired Magazine. The Chronicle of Higher Education. And the Huffington Freakin' Post. To our knowledge, the culprit has not been caught. And if he (or she?) keeps quiet, they probably won't be. That, my friend, is the ideal prank: to have everyone know what you did, but nobody know who you are.
Not all Gonzaga seniors went to the "Senior Rewind" dance. Not all of them got crazy-drunk and not all of them danced in the scandalous way kids are dancing these days. Not all of them mocked the power of the campus security officers, nor tore through the bathrooms of Cataldo, ripping off paper towel dispensers like monsters. Nor caused $6,000 worth of damage to Senior Events Adviser Whitney Brooks' car. But all of them, now, are affected by the total elimination of every single remaining senior event.
That means no boat cruise, no Senior Ball (basically college prom) and no David's Pizza night.
"That’s classic law-making, rule-making, policy-making," says Director of Student Activities David Lindsay, who decided to cancel the events. "It’s rare that you make a rule or a law because 100 percent of the citizenry are [causing problems.]"
But Lindsay says student leaders are currently in discussions with administration. They may get their senior events back -- but they'll have to come up with a pretty compelling reason why.
"Sometimes you have to shake the machine to really get everybody’s attention," Lindsay says.
The Cultural Events Coordinator for Associated Students of Whitworth University landed in a heap o' trouble after using an N-word (which will hereby be referred to as "the N-word" ) on Facebook to refer to a professor. (The noun "bitch" and the adjective "crazy-ass" were also used.) He was asked to leave the student newspaper class and, says Whitworthian Editor-in-Chief Jerod Jarvis, he voluntarily resigned from the cultural events coordinator position.
The Cultural Events Coordinator position was created in 2006 as a response to racial challenges on campus, but the position has been fraught with controversies and resignations.
The comment thread at the Whitworthian is filled with questions about whether this truly deserved to be a news story, or whether it was just a personal matter.
"If it just had been a student, it wouldn’t have been a story," Jarvis says. But since he was on leadership — particularly in his position — Jarvis says it needed to be reported.
The larger takeaway: Even in college, Facebook is dangerous. You never know who might be browsing.