Students in Rochester’s general chemistry course, Chemistry 131, got quite a lecture on the first day of class this September: they learned the disturbing news that most of them would likely fail the course and that using laptops and cell phones in class would have “severe repercussions” on their grades.
But the mostly freshman audience wasn’t hearing the dire description from the course’s professor.
The tough talk was a deadpan performance by a fellow student, Patrick Adelman, a senior who’s known among more seasoned Rochester undergraduates as one of the five pranksters who make up the Chamber Boys.
A National Hoax
A video by the Chamber Boys earned attention from several national and local media outlets, as well as several social media–driven outlets. Sites that shared the joke included Inside Higher Ed, MSN.com, the Huffington Post, Business Insider, Gawker, CNET, and YNN.
The Chamber Boys—Adelman, Sharath Koorathota ’14, Nicholas LeClaire ’14, Benjamin Levy ’14, and Joseph Prosack ’14—have a weekly Friday afternoon talk show on WRUR’s online-only radio station, The Sting. But throughout the week, the five engage in reality-show-style public pranks intended to place unwitting bystanders in a momentary spotlight.
The encounters are filmed and broadcast on YouTube, as well as social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.
With the help of the course’s instructor, chemistry lecturer Ben Hafensteiner ’03, they arranged to have Adelman spend the first several minutes of Chemistry 131 posing as the instructor, while Koorathota, LeClaire, Levy, and Prosack filmed the students’ reactions, from four separate angles.
“It’s easy to mess with freshmen,” admits Adelman. The performance, however, was quite a feat.
“I was freaking out,” he says, of the moments before his grand entry to the lecture hall. He was eventually ejected from the room by Hafensteiner during the performance.
The Chamber Boys have garnered a few hundred YouTube hits for a handful of pranks, and that’s what they expected with their recent endeavor.
But within hours of posting the video on YouTube, it had received nearly 500,000 hits.
By the end of the day, they and Hafensteiner were fielding inquiries from national as well as local media.