by Erica Price
Psychology professor Edgar Stevens is a popular topic of conversation at Farmington College today as he has become the center of an unusual campus debate. Stevens, a recent recipient of the Farmington Innovative Teaching Citation, inspired heated conversation at the recent Student Government Association (SGA) meeting as a result of an assignment in his second-tier psychology course.
Stevens assigned an online exam last week with the intent, as he told his students, to give them another major exam that counted for double the points in response to what he told them were dismal scores on the first two exams.
Weeks of preparation allowed students to prepare, and when the big exam day came the stress was palpable. Awash with fear of the difficult exam, students visited the link for the test and they instead found a link to a Rick Astley video of the song “Never Gonna Give You Up” and an explanation that they had just been “Rick Rolled.”
“The ‘Rick Roll’ is a bait and switch in which a person provides a web link that they claim is relevant to the topic at hand, but the link actually takes the user to the Astley video,” explained Jonathan Sperling, a sociologist at Waverly State University.
The Rick Roll has made appearances across a variety of news sources and websites since the first known Rick Roll in 2007, but this is the first known Rick Roll in an academic setting.
At the Farmington College Student Government Meeting last night, a group of twenty students impacted by this recent incident spoke before the Academic Concerns committee.
“I can’t decide what made me more angry,” said Jennifer Sweeney, a student in Stevens’ class. “I’m annoyed at the fact that I had to freak out over a test that didn’t exist, but even more upset at the fact that Dr. Stevens is hung up on a joke that stopped being funny two years ago. Come on. There was no good reason for what happened on that exam.”
In a statement issued the morning after the SGA meeting, Stevens stated, “I’m known on campus for my innovative teaching methods, but this was something more than just an attempt to capture their attention. I am legitimately concerned over their stress level this time of year. I just wanted to give them a laugh. What’s the big deal?”
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Henry Kim was unavailable for comment due to an emergency meeting of the Academic Standards Board that was called following Stevens’ announcement. Robert Jessup, Director of Public Affairs at Farmington said, “We maintain that Farmington faculty represent the highest of standards for teaching and scholarship. Use of the Rick Roll during an exam is an approach we have never heard of before, but we will be actively discussing this teaching approach with Dr. Stevens.”
Allison Schafer, state director of the Ethics Commission for the American Psychological Association (ECAPA) has already launched an inquiry into Stevens’ allegedly unethical practices at Farmington College. Her public statement is available on ECAPA’s website.