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 Gmail.com 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.'"