Volume 90, Issue 98

Wednesday, April 02, 1997



April Fool's gold

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

Western students listening to the radio early yesterday morning rejoiced as they heard their tuition will be frozen next year in order to recruit more students to the school – only to later learn they were victims of an April Fool's Day practical joke.

At 5:40 a.m. yesterday, an anonymous group of students entered Kinko's Copies on Western road and faxed a press release to several media outlets in London.

Two London radio stations, CJBK 1290 AM and Q 97.5 FM, received the press release and aired it as one of their top stories on their 7 a.m. news broadcasts. Much to their embarrassment, news directors from both stations found out a couple hours later the press release was a hoax.

"We were had," said George Gordon, director of news for Q97.5 FM. "It looked official, it was written on official letterhead. We found out a couple hours later that it wasn't true."

Gordon said his station has acquired a description of the students who sent out the press release and have forwarded it to the appropriate authorities.

While the hoax caused a number of problems for London's media, Western's VP-academic Greg Moran did not take the press release seriously.

"We provide a certain license on April 1 to play pranks," Moran said. "We have more important things to worry about than this."

There was some speculation yesterday the University Students' Council was somehow involved with the prank.

After saying "no comment," USC president Dave Tompkins said "Part of the appeal of this particular prank is the anonymity of it.

"I think it's best suited to leave it in the shadows."

CJBK news director Ed Wilmott said he was amused by the prank after finding out his station had run faulty information on the radio.

However, he disapproved of any potential involvement by Tompkins. "There's someone who represents the students," Wilmott said. "If it's him he has some serious explaining to do."

At about the same time that the faulty press release was being sent out, another prank was taking place, this one orchestrated by a group of Western engineering students.

The steel sailboat sculpture which usually resides on the concrete beach was transported some time early yesterday morning into the University Community Centre's atrium. It is presently unknown how the large sculpture was brought into the building or how it will be taken back out.

"I thought it was a creative idea and it was done with a lot of respect for the materials and the environment involved," said Arlene Kennedy, director of the McIntosh Gallery, which originally paid $15,000 for the sculpture through a contest held last year.

Kennedy said the gallery is currently responsible for taking care of the sculpture and is in the process of planning on how to get it back out onto the concrete beach.

Put in the sculpture's place was an assortment of creatively stacked picnic tables with a sign attached, which read: "Payment Due. Customer: USC. Balance: $15,000. Payable to Western Engineering Science." Kennedy said the sign drew attention to their point.

Everyone including USC general manager Jim Walden was in the April Fool's Day spirit, as he did not see any harm in the sculpture switch.

"As long as it returns to its proper place," Walden said. "It's not a safety hazard, it's roped off and it's not unstable."

Because safety was not compromised by the prank, no action will be taken against any members involved, which should be undone sometime today.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997