If you go to class during the Campus MovieFest filming period, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the Lecture Crashers. They “crash” lectures by running into classrooms and performing various silly acts to surprise and entertain the professors and students. The Lecture Crashers are indeed becoming a tradition on Tech’s campus.
The crashes began with Evan Wimpey ME ‘08 and Ed Bolian PUBP ‘08 three years ago. They created “Lecture Crashers” as a short film for Tech’s Campus MovieFest and enjoyed it so much that they used the idea again for the next two years.
When Wimpey and Bolian graduated last year, they didn’t want the lecture crashes to leave with them. That’s where Zach Luna, second-year PHYS, Zack Taylor, first-year PHYS, and Bert Nash, first-year MGT, come in.
“Evan Wimpey and Ed Bolian went to North Gwinett High School with Bert and I. I ran cross country with Evan and swam with Ed. I was actually in the “Lecture Crashers 3” video as an extra, so when they graduated, they knew that I was here and that I had the same type of spirit in me, so they asked if I would like to continue the legacy,” Luna said.
Luna teamed up with co-crasher Taylor and cameraman/video editor Nash to create the new lecture crashers. Wimpey and Bolian contributed to the video as well, even participating in some of the crashes.
All of the filming took place on Thursday, Jan. 15th, and after a late night of editing for Nash, the entire movie was completed in a 24-hour time period. Unfortunately for the crashers, though, the ordeal was far from over.
“About two weeks after we made the video, we each got emails about it. We all had to go in and start the OSI [Office of Student Integrity] process, meeting with Sarah Graham [Tech’s Judicial Coordinator] individually. A month after that, she contacted us and gave us our punishments,” Luna said.
Although they said that they had been assured by Wimpey and Bolian that there would be no disciplinary repercussions, Luna, Taylor and Nash had been prepared to deal with a minor reprimand. They had all read the Student Code of Conduct and realized that interrupting classes on tape could mean trouble.
“Obviously there was the potential for us to get in trouble. We had read the Code of Conduct, and it just didn’t seem likely that this would result in disciplinary probation. After our first meeting with Sarah Graham, we were under the impression that we were going to get a slap on the wrist,” Taylor said.
Dean of Students John Stein emphasized that in taking disciplinary action against the lecture crashers, the school is in no way condemning Campus MovieFest or even trying to eliminate lecture crashing for good.
“There is a way to still potentially do this. In advance, ask permission of the faculty member. Those who don’t agree, you have to abide by that. Otherwise you’re in violation, but some may [agree]. The interesting thing about this is that the reaction of faculty varies with this,” Stein said.
Lecture crashers, by their very definition, go against Tech’s Code of Conduct. The Code holds any student accused of committing “disorderly conduct including, but not limited to … obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration or other Institute activities, including its public service functions or other authorized activities” subject to conduct procedures.
Clearly, the OSI has the right to put current students who “crash” a faculty member’s class through the Student Code of Conduct procedures.
“We hold them responsible for the violation of the Code of Conduct, and then we appropriately offer a sanction for it. It may be a warning for some students, or it may be probation. It really would depend on if there’s any previous history that the student has been involved in,” Stein said.
Luna, Taylor and Nash were surprised when they found out what kind of disciplinary action OSI chose to take against them.
“The punishment that OSI gave us was to write an apology letter [to one of the professors whose lecture was crashed], 35 hours of community service to do before the end of school, and one year of disciplinary probation,” Luna said.
“All of us have clean records. It’s something that’s very out of character for us. We were all told that more than likely it would be a disciplinary warning, and then we found out that we were given disciplinary probation for an entire year,” Luna said.
“It felt very ‘guilty until proven innocent’ rather than ‘innocent until proven guilty’,” Nash said.
All three students were upset with being given probation rather than just a warning, but they chose not to appeal because OSI reserves the right to increase the punishment in such a case, and none of them wanted to risk suspension.
“It’s pretty rough because I’m hoping to be applying to grad school during the beginning of the spring semester next year, and so the year of disciplinary probation will not yet be up,” Luna said.
He is afraid that being under disciplinary probation will reflect poorly on him and cast him in an unfair light.
In fact, the probation will stay on each student’s record for five years after they graduate from Tech. That means that Taylor and Nash, both freshmen, will be dealing with this for another eight years (assuming they graduate on time).
The students hope that, in spite of their negative experience in dealing with the consequences, the lecture crashers will find an appropriate way to establish themselves as a long-standing part of Tech’s traditions.
“It’s something that’s starting to be associated with Tech, and I’d love to see it continue throughout the years,” Nash said.
“I think that lecture crashers do well to embody the spirit of Tech,” Luna said.