An assignment for a Rutgers University writing class led hundreds of Cornell students on Monday to mistakenly believe that Eminem would be performing at Alice Statler Auditorium.
Eminem does not have any events scheduled at Cornell or in Ithaca, but more than 1,000 people have indicated interest in a Facebook event page that falsely claims the famous Detroit rapper will visit Cornell in May.
The event page was created by Oliver Kaczor, a senior at the school’s New Brunswick campus, as part of a graded assignment for a class in Rutgers’ writing program, Writing for Business and the Professions. Kaczor said he never meant to trick anyone.
“I don’t know how this even reached Cornell,” he told The Sun in a phone interview early on Tuesday. “It’s a nightmare.”
A major component of the class is a semester-long project in which students write proposals to solve a specific problem. Kaczor chose to focus on suicide among college students because of his friend’s recent experience, he said, and eventually narrowed the project down to focus on Cornell.
Part of the assignment — worth 15 percent of the project grade — requires students to create a social media presence, he said. The pages are supposed to appear as real as possible.
Some students in the class made pages about issues such as the effects of global warming in New Jersey, raising awareness for athletes who suffer concussions, or efforts to lower obesity rates, Kaczor said.
The New Jersey native made a page called “Cornell Cares” in late March, representing a fictional organization that says it is run by students for students who feel sad or left out of college life.
He posted some relevant news clips on the Facebook page and also created a few fictional events, including one at which Eminem, one of Kaczor’s favorite artists, would supposedly host a conversation about suicide before performing at Cornell.
Almost no one interacted with the page for about three weeks, Kaczor said, except for a couple of his friends whom he asked to “like” the page to make it look more real.
Then, late on Monday night, his phone began buzzing as he was studying in an academic building at Rutgers.
“I see a notification from Facebook, then another notification from Facebook,” he said. “It just happened so quick.”
By 1 a.m. on Tuesday, more than 1,000 people — many of them Cornell students — said they were either interested in or going to the fake event.
Some students began to complain that the link for tickets wasn’t working, while others quickly suspected the page was not real. One Cornellian, after some internet sleuthing, posted a screenshot of the syllabus from Kaczor’s class on the event page.
The fictional event has reached more than 20,000 people, according to Facebook analytics, and some people assumed Kaczor had intentionally created the page to fool students 200 miles away. But the page, Kaczor said, was solely for his class.
“It’s not bashing Cornell or anything,” he told The Sun. “I’m just doing this for my school project. It kind of sucked, I’ve never dealt with trolls and Facebook haters.”
Kaczor, who is studying sports management, said he had originally planned to attach the social media page as an appendix to his final proposal, but now plans to contact his professor and ask if he can delete the page without his grade plummeting.
“This is kind of blowing up, so I might have to delete it because this is getting out of hand,” he said.
“Next thing you know, I’m going to have Eminem’s agent call me tomorrow and say, ‘What the hell is this?’”
Kaczor deleted the page shortly before 2 a.m. on Tuesday.