Over the summer, some students get internships. Some take classes. Others hang out with friends.
And others pretend to be the university president.
An anonymous student has been posting comments on Twitter under the username @FakeNeil_Kerwin, making jokes as if he was AU President Neil Kerwin.
However, @FakeNeil_Kerwin is not a carbon copy of the University’s president. The student who manages the account hopes students can relate to the jokes of the alter-ego of President Kerwin.
“I started to imagine the account being ran by Neil Kerwin when he was a student who just turned 21, but also has a part time job as American University’s president,” he said in an email. The student would only tell The Eagle that he is a male student enrolled in the School of Communications and plans to graduate in 2013.
This younger President Kerwin seems to be a pretty popular persona in the Twitterverse. Over 600 people have followed the account since its creation on June 10.
“I think it’s pretty incredible,” he said. “It’s kind of sad that this fake account has more followers than my real account.”
But it’s not easy to get that many people to pay attention. The student who manages the account regularly answers people who tweet at him and follows those who follow him.
“Social media isn’t a one way path, if you want to have people engage with you, you need to engage with them,” he said.
@FakeNeil_Kerwin regularly tweets jokes about alcohol or partying, such as “Just pregamed with the board of trustees. #totalpresidentmove.” Plenty of other tweets show a president of a university enjoying his power: “I’ve decided that whoever has their Twitter private I’m just going to follow your GPA instead. Don’t suck.”
The student also regularly references the WONK campaign with remarks like: “Am I the only one who wishes AU had hot yoga classes? It’s bikini season and my wonk keeps showing!”
Plenty of people have asked @FakeNeil_Kerwin who he really is, wanting to know more about the funny-man behind the account. But it seems unlikely that people will find out as soon as they hope.
“It’s kind of like the Wizard of Oz, once you see the man behind the Twitter, you generally don’t think of it the same way,” the student said.
However, he does not intend for the Twitter account to be too secretive. In fact, he regularly tweets with his iPhone on the bus ride commute to work.
“Originally I started reading books or the paper every morning, and then I realized I could use that time to be far less productive,” he said.
The student has had some problems with the University, which urged Twitter to have the student change the name of the account, originally @Neil_Kerwin. AU cited the name as a violation of Twitter’s prohibition of “impersonation,” Associate Director of Media Relations Maralee Csellar said in an email.
The name of the Twitter account was changed to include “Fake” to clarify it was not the real Dr. Kerwin speaking through the account.
“I wouldn’t want something silly I say to come back and hurt President Kerwin in any way,” the student said.
The original profile picture of account, which was copyrighted by the University, was changed to a picture that had been taken by another student at AU at the administration’s request, the account manager said.
Though the purpose of @FakeNeil_Kerwin is to entertain, the man behind the curtain also wants to unify the student body.
“You have students who are in Greek life, students who aren’t, students who want to scream at every basketball game, and then students who don’t even know where Reeves Field is,” he said. “If there is some way that I can make one joke that gets all these people to come together and share it with their friends then in some way I think that will make the student body a little more cohesive.”
If that doesn’t work, there’s always an alternative.
“Everyone loves poop jokes,” he said.