In November of 2014 the inboxes of a Texas Tech University student filled with frantic texts from friends, her Facebook blew up with message requests, and later, her email cluttered with threats.
Within weeks of the release of the PoliTech “Politically Challenged” video, it went viral, and currently has over two million views. Courtney Plunk, the girl interviewing the students in the video, received an onslaught of negative messages.
“I would get maybe five to ten emails a day from these random people and they were saying, ‘You need to transfer,’ death threats. Like crazy stuff and it just really hurt me,” she said.
Then a sophomore journalism major, Plunk just wanted to gain more experience when she agreed to be the public relations director for PoliTech, which was a student organization at the time. Plunk said she had no idea the video would go viral and she hated people tagging her in it because she felt like it was a disgrace to Texas Tech.
Plunk said she did not have a part in editing the video. She did not even know when the video was released. Her friends let her know when they saw it on television.
“I was literally taking a test in my class and my mind was spinning,” she said. “I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know that this was going to be such a huge deal.”
All she did was show up and ask questions, but she was the one that received the threats from Texas Tech alumni and students. The school that she loved turned on her.
The former president of the organization, Raul Cevallos, said he did not personally receive any rude feedback and that the organization did not receive near as much as Plunk individually did.
One of the biggest complaints that the organization got was that they edited the video in a way that reflected badly on Texas Tech.
“That was one of the biggest controversies that we went through,” Cevallos said. “We had a lot of people obviously saying that we edited out a bunch of correct answers and only added in the incorrect ones.”
Cevallos maintained they edited the video in a fair manner. Cevallos said they did not make the video to make fun of Texas Tech students but to encourage students to engage with politics.
“I felt great about it,” Cevallos said. “We did exactly what we were setting out to do. We sparked conversation. We released a video that represented a big problem here in our country.”
Cevallos graduated from Texas Tech and is now living in Portland, Oregon.
The former president believed students would know the answers to the questions asked in the video if they were on a test, but that students are typically more engaged in pop culture than politics. He said that being asked on the spot could affect how they answered the questions.
The Hub@TTU was the first news outlet to release the video, but when doing so, it made an effort to let readers know they were not the creators.
“We thought it would go one of two ways. We thought it would be popular and hilarious. Or, people would take offense to it because it takes fellow students of our university not in their best light,” said Alicia Keene, the graduate assistant at the time of the video’s release.
She said since the latter happened, The Hub@TTU did receive some negative feedback for releasing the video. But, no comments or posts came close to the negative response that Courtney Plunk received.
“For any of you that were hurt by it or anything I just want to say that I’m sorry, and that I didn’t mean it in a negative way,” Plunk said. “I had no idea. I didn’t partake in the editing. I had no idea.”