NORTHAMPTON, Mass. - Smith College students held protests and counter-protests, wrote chalk slogans pro and con on campus walkways, and heaped personal criticism on the manager of dining services over rumors that the school was going vegetarian and would start buying only local produce.
No meat? No coffee?
It turns out it was all a hoax.
Two professors at the prestigious women's college in Northampton cooked up the prank as part of their introductory class in logic.
Logic can be dry, and the hoax was a way to liven up the class, professor Jay Garfield told The Boston Globe. About 100 students were told to convince the campus that it was real by whatever means they thought would be most effective.
They may have been too effective.
Dining services manager Kathleen Zieja came under fire at the student senate meeting last week, even though she assured students the rumor was not true. Fortunately she had been tipped off on the joke. Students debated the issue on the campus television station.
Garfield and professor Jim Henle have started false rumors in the past. One year they suggested Smith was merging with another nearby women's college, Mount Holyoke. Another time they planted the notion that Smith would fire all its male professors.
Smith President Carol Christ even played her part, showing up in class on Monday outraged and announcing that Garfield and Henle had been fired for prematurely releasing news that campus was about to go vegetarian. She also said they had a conflict of interest because they owned a share of a local farm, holding up a bag of rutabagas to make her point.
That too, was a hoax.