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Tree protest is all just a ruse

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Updated: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 09:10

As it turns out, the organizers of last week's tree protest were not misinformed, but rather misinformants.

The protest drew about 30 students to the President's Lawn to protest the removal of a tree that the administration never actually planned on cutting down. The event's planners, however, designed the operation as a prank, inventing the identity of Michael Canton, the man whom they claimed was behind the protest.

"We didn't have that much of a higher purpose in doing this. I'd like to say we did, but I mean, really it was just kind of a product of boredom more than anything," said one sophomore who was involved in the planning and requested anonymity.

The protest became a way to poke fun at another student who is taking a course on social movements with some of the pranksters, and who hoped to study the protest for a major class project, according to the sophomore.

"We're in, like, a social movements class," the sophomore said. "They were planning on doing a whole study, like, semester-long, on this whole movement to save the tree. I think one of the people in the class caught on and told them [that the protest was a joke]. They got let down there."

Using the name Michael Canton, the architects of the rally created a account that they used to invite select students to the rally.

The Daily, under the impression that Canton was a real person, sought to contact him via e-mail for its Wednesday article on the rally. Posing as Canton, the students responded past press time. "I originally heard about the tree being removed from someone who works inside tufts admin, however, I cannot give you the person's name," [sic] they wrote.

The students wrote in a separate e-mail from Canton that he was "an intern in farm management on the Grafton campus/ take occasional classes as well" [sic].

The sophomore recalled that the pranksters had fun concocting Canton's job description. "We'd had a few drinks," the sophomore said. "We went though a bunch of options. We were thinking of a OneSource worker."

The sophomore said the rally incited more widespread enthusiasm than the group had expected. "It was definitely interesting what it revealed, because it's obvious that Tufts students really care about things, but we never thought they were ones to do much about it."

The administration expressed dismay last week, when the origins of the farcical protest were still a mystery. "I would love to find out who the person is who started this terrible rumor," Pamela Dill, an administrative assistant in the Office of the Executive Vice President, told the Daily on Wednesday.

The sophomore admitted that the rally's organizers had drawn some heat for the fake protest, mentioning socially conscious students who worried that the ruse could have a boy-who-cried-wolf effect on future environmental activism. "Some people were not too happy about it," the sophomore said, "because if something like this does happen then [people will] say, ‘Oh right.'"

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10 comments Log in to Comment

Wed Oct 29 2008 12:33
i have a sneaking suspicion that the Daily would have been printed regardles of the tree story.
Your name
Wed Oct 29 2008 08:18
does anyone find it ironic that they were protesting the cutting down of a tree but had their article in a newspaper for 2 days? they might as well have cut down that tree to turn into newspaper for all the paper they wasted in their stupid prank. losers
Your name
Wed Oct 29 2008 02:32
Give the protesters a break. If it weren't for this prank, they'd be protesting something else anyway.
Tue Oct 28 2008 23:05
@Tullius: To be fair, most every Daily news story is page 1. I'm glad they covered it, partly because they showed how just a little bit of fact-checking can make a lot of difference -- and the rest was just great comedy. (As "Your name" the post before you notes, it's also a good reality check.)
Tue Oct 28 2008 18:57
Although it's apparent that the authors of the scheme put some time and energy into this prank, I fail to see how it considerably wasted other people's time and energy. The protest lasted less than an hour during an open block. I showed up and I'm not pissed; it was actually a good time. I suppose the Daily did waste their time chasing the story- two front page articles for some stupid prank?
Your name
Tue Oct 28 2008 17:48
To complain about a social experiment and yet take video games, drinking, partying, etc. as acceptable forms of entertainment is somewhat hypocritical. I say "acceptable" because I assume there are fewer complaints about Tufts students using their free time for those activities. This protest reveals quite a bit about students at Tufts and protest movements in general, exposing a "follow the leader" effect. Many people, and this can be seen all around the world, latch onto a cause because they need something to do, including people who complain about things that are accepted as wrong. So instead of blindly following a causes, let's do a little independent thinking and come to conclusions separately.
pooh bear
Tue Oct 28 2008 16:54
I agree that students should have fun, free time and obviously enjoy their years at Tufts- however, to waste other people's time, energy and resources for one's personal gain is immature and irresponsible. If putting together a fake protest makes the Tufts students "mobilize" then college students really are much more narcissistic than i think
Tue Oct 28 2008 11:55
To the parent who commented above, I have to say: get over it.
I really don't see how this story is a good excuse for you to grumble over your tuition bills. Student mobilization at Tufts has been lackluster for years, and if its a fake event that awakens activists, thats good news to me. If the Tufts experience was all coursework and no amusement, our University would be a miserable place. As we head out into the "real world", its important to keep a bit of humor, no?
Stinkographer 1
Tue Oct 28 2008 11:47
Although I didn't partake in this event, a friend and I became somewhat known for our involvement in a semi-controversial prank that took place on campus last year. This, too, was secretly part of a social experiment for a class at Tufts. Indeed, your point is a good one 'angie'. There's no reason for anybody to be bored at Tufts. However, I wish to provide an alternative point of view: all students (hopefully) have at least some free time which they set aside for fun. Many choose to spend this time drinking, going to parties, playing video games, etc. Others choose to play pranks on each other. All are equally unproductive in the grand scheme of things, so is one really any worse than the others?
Tue Oct 28 2008 10:09
As a parent spending $50,000 a year at Tufts, it is pathetic to hear that these students had nothing better to do than think up and actually spend time on such a stupid prank. How sad for their parents that they are "bored"- wake up kids, appreciate all that you are offered and use your time at Tufts wisely....the real world awaits you!

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