UI Memes exemplifies students' misplaced priorities


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The University of Iowa Memes page was apparently shut down by Facebook administrators last week for violating the site's terms of use. Before the shutdown, though, the page attracted more than 6,000 users and hundreds of submissions.

"It just completely dominated people's news feeds … I didn't think it was going to grow past like my friends and a maybe a couple other people," page creator Matt Starns said in an interview with KRUI.

And while I joined 6,000 of my classmates in subscribing to the page and laughing out loud, the wild popularity of UI Memes demonstrates a terribly misplaced priorities of the student body here.

To demonstrate, consider how many Facebook "likes" a few other UI-related pages have.

Fewer than 400 users like the UI College Republicans, and only around 200 like the UI Democrats.

Phil Was Here, the UI Foundation's student philanthropy campaign, has just over 600 likes.

The biggest news organization in eastern Iowa, The Daily Iowan, has garnered about 1,500 likes.

UITV, which provides real-world broadcast experience to dozens of students each year and provides 'round-the-clock programming, has approximately 150 likes.

And only around 100 people like the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, which hosts educational programs and offers support to victims of sexual misconduct.

That's right: Internet jokes are 60 times more popular among UI students on Facebook than support for rape victims.

And it's frustrating that the KRUI news team, for example, thought the page and its shutdown was so important that it posted its interview with Starns as the top story on its news page. Absent is any recent coverage of Occupy Iowa City's permit denial, the slew of education bills on the line in the Iowa Legislature, or the university's re-evaluation of its policies protecting kids from sexual assault.

That's right: UI Memes getting shutdown has garnered more campus media coverage than the UI's child rape-prevention push.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with the page itself (save for at least a handful of racist and sexist jabs) and the creator is a friend (on Facebook and in real life) and former employee of mine. The issue isn't the jokes — the issue is that those jokes are more important to the student body than dozens of other things that ought to be a lot more important.

Consider that not quite 7,000 people (13.6 percent of registered voters) voted in last year's City Council elections, when there were two UI students on the ballot. Looking at the turnout breakdown by precinct, my liberal estimate is that about 300 of those voters were students.

And while a number of Facebook fans isn't absolutely indicative of support, it does say something about how UI students spend their time. We can produce hundreds of funny pictures and post thousands of comments to them in just a few days, but we can't pick who we want to run Iowa City.

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