It started as an idea among a few friends to pull a prank on a rival school for rivalry week. Then, after a 110-mile trip south to Tucson on Oct. 21 and some creative video editing, the prank began to go viral just weeks later.
Ben Kaufman, a senior at Arizona State, was the main man behind the prank to get University of Arizona students to sign a proposition, creatively named Prop 200 (for reasons you can find below), that they marketed as a way for Mexican citizens to get in-state tuition at U of A. But the real ramifications would include annexing the university across the border, about 70 miles south.
The group collected about 40 signatures on Arizona's campus before returning north to Tempe, where they edited together the footage and posted the prank to YouTube.
Campus Rush spoke with Kaufman about the motivation behind the prank and the positive and negative outcomes from it.
Campus Rush: What was the thinking behind this prank?
Ben Kaufman: Oh, man, a lot. So there's a joke at Arizona State — it's a pretty multigenerational joke — that like we just want to give U of A back to Mexico and just get rid of them. So it came about like, 'If we were to do that, how would we do that legally?' Well, you can do anything with a proposition, and then Prop 200, we actually called it that because that was the proposition that Arizona voted on that changed Arizona State College to Arizona State University and U of A was a big opponent of it. So it was a joke within a joke that we got U of A students to vote yes on 200 and they're giving their school back to Mexico, so it's a big double whammy.
CR: So how many U of A students did you actually fool?
BK: Let's see, we handed out about 200 of those pamphlets and we got about 40 student and faculty signatures and then for the poll, we got like 33, 34 students. So for a slow Wednesday on campus, it wasn't bad.
CR: And you made the sacrifice of actually going to Tucson.
BK: You have no idea how hard it is to breathe that air. We basically just got up super early and drove down there. We pretended to be students for a couple of hours, then we left and I made it back in time for my 4 p.m. class.
CR: How many of you made the trip?
BK: It was me, my friend Cody Trimmell, Dan Miller and David Peña. We all went down together and we also had a photographer from the school newspaper, The State Press, Michael Close and JoJo Huckeba.
CR: So how did the Daily Wildcat find out about this?
BK: Oh, you're gonna like this. So I called the Daily Wildcat and they jumped on the story. They ran it no problem. Today, actually, about an hour ago, the Daily Wildcat editor called me and was yelling at me because he was so upset I took up his time and that I owed him an explanation. So I told him The State Press could answer all his questions in a couple of hours. They actually deleted the article, but we have it archived on their servers as a backup, so they can't delete the article if they want to.
CR: Did you ever anticipate the steam this would pick up?
BK: This sounds like a real d-----bag thing to say, but yes. I was really hoping that it would get a response, but my phone literally hasn't stopped vibrating from tweets, comments and stuff. It's really awesome. I'm a stand-up comedian and a writer, so this is really cool to see a big project go over well.
CR: What kind of attention have you gotten from it?
BK: Well it's still kind of early in the day. I just got off the phone with channels three and five, so that was really cool. The 942 Crew, who's the student section at basketball games, wants to talk to me about stuff, and we're going to try and plan some Curtain of Distraction ideas together. And people are following me on Twitter and saying more or less nice things about it. The nice part about this project is that I know the only negative comments I'm going to get are from U of A people, so I can just ignore them. I don't care.
CR: Any other pranks in the works?
BK: Well I have another semester left in me, so I wouldn't rule it out. The whole idea behind this was to start—you know, the whole history back and forth between ASU and UofA. so it was kind of the idea of trying to start a more creative prank war. You know, sort of next-level type of prank than just defacing something. What I'm really hoping is that they try to come back and hit us with something, so we can go back and hit them again.
CR: Awesome. Thanks, Ben.
BK: No, thank you.
Evan Webeck is SI's campus correspondent for Arizona State University. Follow him on Twitter.