The first “I’m Shmacked” college video appeared a year ago. Featuring Temple University students bubbling up a bong, throwing back shots and eating pizza before a hip-hop concert in Philadelphia, it gave viewers a rare glimpse inside at least one part of that school’s social life, a college culture that obviously includes, not too surprisingly, drugs, drinking and dancing.
Since then, Jeffrie Ray, 19, who is on leave from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and his partner, Arya Toufanian, a 20-year-old junior at George Washington University, have produced 23 more “I’m Shmacked” YouTube college party videos from campuses as varied as Tulane, Syracuse and NYU to Penn State and Ithaca College. The latest, released this past Tuesday, features students at the University of South Carolina drinking copious amounts of liquor, partying with the Confederate flag and setting the Clemson flag on fire.
The videos’ popularity is evident from the stats on their “I’m Shmacked” Facebook page — more than 46,000 likes — and on YouTube — more than 500,000 views alone on the West Virginia University video (which highlights among other antics, students smashing car windows, in between beer bongs, as part of a St. Patrick’s Day charity party).
A lot is packed into these three- to four-minute clips set to a wide variety of music. And it is not just girls making out (there is a lot of that), guys pouring booze over one another’s heads (and balconies), and students doing flattering albeit somewhat profane shoutouts for their college or university. Woven into the scenes of debauchery are bucolic shots of the campus with flags waving in the breeze, the football stadiums or hockey arenas filled with athletes and cheerleaders, and the local university swag shops.
“I think we are doing something positive for the schools: I have had about 30 kids say they ended up at a school because of my video,” said Ray, who is known as Yofray and who plans to finish filming “parties” at the end of this school year (he is recording video of a different campus each week), when he will move onto other campus scenes. “I want to gather videos of the sports and academic life to make them into a longer film. The students at these schools also work hard, and I want to show that, too,” he said, adding that he plans to interview professors and students about their institution’s more serious sides.
“Kids don’t want to read anymore,” said Toufanian, referring to college brochures. “Seeing a video is a much more fun way to learn about a school.” Toufanian, the business side of the duo (Ray is the videographer), has secured a two-year contract with DGI Management in New York that he hopes will help the “I’m Shmacked” brand move into other platforms, with books being one.
But not everyone sees these college videos as slightly wacky promotional tools. Just ask students and administrators at the University of Michigan, which early this month was “Shmacked” (a contrived word from Ray’s high school in Pennsylvania) for the second time (the first being last November), during “Welcome Week.”
“I was horrified when I saw it,” said Melanie Kruvelis, a junior who wrote an opinion article in The Michigan Daily student newspaper that went on to say the word “shmacked” must be “Yiddish for getting drunk and throwing away the futures we don’t have.”
To Kruvelis, who has seen students desperately take down Facebook images before their first job interview, getting caught on a video “for 30 seconds you might not even remember after shotgunning a beer” seems stupid. “It’s not my parents’ age when you could hide the party photos in a drawer,” she added. “To do this on a video that can go viral, you must have a train-wreck mentality.”
Mary Jo Desprez, the administrator at the collegiate recovery program at Michigan, which helps students who have alcohol and substance issues stay sober, agrees. “These kinds of images of partying in college limit students’ imagination of what fun can be without drugs and drinking,” she said. “It glorifies alcohol, especially as they are not just sitting casually around a keg but pouring bottles of vodka down their throat. We need to have a more complicated conversation about this on campuses, even though this is only about 1,000 of our 27,000 students partying like this, because it can resonate.”
But as one student claimed in a comment about a video, “You can’t be considered an alcoholic until after you graduate.” And then there is the ubiquitous phrase “I’m Shmacked,” shouted by students on almost every video, usually with a glass or bottle feebly in hand. As Kruvelis wrote in her newspaper piece, they are hardly referring to enjoying some “bagel toppings.”
The Sun News contributed to this report.