The spring semester promises a period of renewal for students hoping to change for the better and improve their GPAs.
Spring also offers the necessary nuisance of student government elections. While some students planned routes across campus to avoid being mobbed by overzealous campaigners, two students in particular had other plans.
Phi Kappa Tau fraternity brothers Patrick Ferlise and Patrick McDermott put an almost year- long plan into motion. With the slogan “We Just Wanted A Sign” emblazoned across the bottom of a stack of satirical campaign signs, team “Better Than You” had a finished product on its hands and were ready to unleash the signs upon the public.
On the night of the SGA election, the duo strategically placed their five campaign signs around campus.
“We wanted to make sure that they stayed up and nobody stole them,” Ferlise said. “If we’d put them up for the main election, people would have taken them down.”
At first glance, the signs do not look out of place from others seen on election day. Upon closer inspection, however, the signs’ listed qualifications reveal their humorous intent. Qualifications like “Halfway decent in use of Microsoft Word,” “Will bring Panera Bread to Hattiesburg” and “Willing to build a snowman” are a far cry from what the real SGA candidates claimed as attributes.
“We ended up using VistaPrint for the signs,” Ferlise said. “We printed eight total. Five to go around campus, one for each of us, and one for our campus adviser.”
The benign prank cost the pair just $150, about an hour of work and months of waiting. According to the pair, the price was worth it.
“We wanted to do something that we hadn’t seen before, but obviously we had to wait until spring,” McDermott said. “We didn’t tell anyone about it ahead of time just to keep it under wraps — even the fraternity didn’t know.”
The popular website Total Frat Move, the self-described No. 1 college comedy website, posted pictures of the signs to its Twitter and Facebook on March 3. The two posts combined have been liked over 1000 times and shared almost 400 times, with the caption “Making a Mockery of Student Government Elections.”
“It’s been mostly a bunch of Southern Miss people sharing it, but it’s still a lot of exposure,” Ferlise said.
Charles Childress, Director of Greek Life, said he hopes nobody would be discouraged from running for an elected position due to the joke.
“You do have to have some fun in life, but some people really take a chance by running for an elected position,” Childress said. “Hopefully by trying to add some levity to the situation nobody is alienated.”
People responded positively to the prank on Twitter and Facebook.
“Every time I check my phone I have a new message about it,” McDermot said. “After we put it up that night, we got our first Snapchat at 1 a.m., and it’s been nonstop texts and calls ever since. We didn’t know it was going to take off like this, but we’re glad it did.”
Unfortunately for the pair, the SGA received a record turnout of voters for the first election, which led to their canceling the scheduled run-off. The signs, along with others left over from the election, were likely picked up by the USM Physical Plant.
“I went to class at 12:30 p.m., and by 1 p.m. they were already taken down, but they were up long enough,” Ferlise said.
“Everyone’s been telling us, ‘wow, we’re going to do that next year,’ and all I can say is ‘you’re just ripping us off now,’” McDermott said. “But imitation is the highest form of flattery.”