Images of people with horse masks have been popping up on the Internet for several years. (www.creepyhorsemasks.com)
A recent prank involving four students and a horse mask sparked safety concerns among Irvine Valley College’s faculty and led to an administrative review of campus security response.
In February, two IVC students decided to conduct a psychology experiment by loitering for brief moments in three random classrooms while ignoring all interactions to observe their audience’s reaction. One student donned a horse mask while the other recorded the prank with a cellphone.
According to Know Your Memes, a website dedicated to researching and documenting Internet memes and viral phenomena, the horse mask meme gained popularity in 2005 when it was featured as one of the alternative tourism experiments listed by Lonely Planet, a popular travel guide series.
An unnamed instructor whose classroom was disrupted reported the intrusion to the college, but according to a post by IVC philosophy instructor Roy Bauer on Dissent the Blog, was dissatisfied with the apparent lack of response from the administration at the time.
“The college has a history of potentially dangerous incidents handled badly,” said Bauer, creator of Dissent the Blog, referring to an incident that occurred in the fall of 2010, when a disturbed student sought after his writing instructor with a pair of scissors in his hand. “Generally speaking, faculty have been unimpressed with administrative efforts in [ensuring campus security]. As in so many other regards, in this [incident], we worry that they’re all talk and no action.”
In the administration’s defense, Vice President of Student Services Gwendolyn Plano cited the confidentiality of the investigation and the lack of names as the reasons for the administration’s seeming idleness.
“A lot of times when something like this occur, people outside would not know that each of us [in the administration] are looking at it,” said Plano. “I think the dissatisfaction was that [the faculty] were hoping it could be resolved quickly. Unfortunately, there were no names initially. It took about two weeks before there were any students named to be able to do something. The only way you can invoke emergency preparedness process is if the police were called and they were not. They weren’t called until the day after.”
The investigation was further delayed because the students provided false information after they were identified, Plano said. They initially said that they were UCI students, leading administrators to pursue the matter with UCI officials, she said. After their lie was discovered, they put the blame on the IVC sociology and psychology departments respectively, claiming the prank was a class assignment, Plano said.
“I met [again] with the two students this week, which included a police officer and a dean, and my questions were very clear to them. For the first time, they gave a different story,” said Plano, referring to her conference with the students in the last week of March. “Because you need to have the truth when you’re doing these kind of cases, it had not ended until this week.”
Faculty Association President and IVC literary instructor Lewis Long, who presented their concerns to the college, now consider the matter concluded and well-handled.
“The administration, including the president, both vice presidents, and the chief of campus police, conducted a thorough, exhaustive investigation of the matter,” said Long. “I am satisfied that the administration took this situation seriously, no less seriously than I did, and responded appropriately.”
As a result of the incident, steps are currently being taken to address and correct shortcomings in the campus’s emergency preparedness.
The students have been disciplined but their names were not released.