Conn on Fox: Is Viral News Really News?

For a college that’s mainly on the left, but not by any means the most radical, we sure get picked up by the right wing a lot. There was the fame/infamy of the “Sean Sphincter” nickname. There was the dubbing of Conn “Hamas West” by conservative think tank Frontpage Magazine. And now, there’s a syllabus disclaimer gone viral.

When I heard that the College was featured on Tucker Carlson Tonight, my first instinct was to seize the opportunity of Conn in the spotlight. The news reached me via screenshot from Max, the Voice’s Creative Director, who also sent along the Instagram post from @oldrowofficial that helped a note from one Conn syllabus spread all over the Internet. Most readers have probably already seen the note, but for anyone who hasn’t, it reads:

Trigger alert: I will try to present the various competing economic theories as well and fairly as I can. However, I must admit that I find conservative classical theories to be pretty inadequate in explaining the economic events of the past decade. Moreover, I think our current President is mentally ill, a pathological liar, and a very dangerous aspiring dictator; a pathetic racist too. Some teachers think it is best to hide how they really think about these sorts of issues. I do not; I think it is best to let students know where I am coming from. Students who are upset with my views may want to consider taking Introductory Macroeconomics from another professor.

To anyone familiar with Carlson and his politics, it’s clear why he’d take issue with this statement, written by Professor of Economics Spencer Pack. (To anyone who isn’t familiar with Carlson: he’s on Fox News.) And regarding what Pack expresses in the note, I’m generally in agreement: I don’t like Trump either; I’m not crazy about conservative classical economic theories, based on the vague understanding I have of them; and I believe that professors can and should be honest about their opinions, as long as they present them in a productive way. The only reason I was and am reluctant to write about the note is due to the nature of the attention it received, which leads me to question whether it’s responsible or worthwhile to spend our time on it.

Like I mentioned earlier, Pack’s syllabus went viral because of an Instagram post by “Old Row Official,” an account supposedly dedicated to comedy and leisure but mostly consisting of misogyny, racism, and other unpleasant aspects of frat culture. As my friend and Voice cruciverbalist Eleanor succinctly put it, the content on Old Row’s Instagram page is “primarily butts.”

After Old Row publicized Pack’s syllabus, Conn’s Instagram suffered. Most of the recent posts by @conncollege are now riddled with comments that start with “MAGA” and get worse from there. In terms of public image, this isn’t great for the College. Social media accounts serve as all-but essential PR, and if a video of Katherine Bergeron and her comically large scissors gets taken over by bigoted comments, it kind of detracts from the point.

While usually I’m one of the people trying to dig up information the College doesn’t want exposed, in this case, the controversy seems like a cheap shot. I would definitely be interested in hearing Professor Pack’s thoughts on the matter, as well as the reactions from some of his students—I would even run an article about it. But to focus only on Old Row and its “jokes, hot takes, [and] babes” or Tucker Carlson’s always-yelling style of coverage would give credence to a side that, in my opinion, deserves none. I’ll acknowledge it here because it is interesting, but it sure isn’t intellectual debate.

More to come, maybe,




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