By Ariel Steinsaltz
On April 1, the TCNJ Today website announced that the English department would become the Department of Imaginary Languages and Cultures and would begin teaching classes on subjects including Klingon and magic spells.
The transition was an elaborate April Fools’ joke, a long time coming and first of its kind, organized by English professor Jess Row.
“We (English Professor Felicia Steele) talked about it for a number of years, and I just decided that this would be a good year to do it,” said Row. “It just seemed to naturally fit in… lots of faculty in the English Department are interested in magic and fantasy and Harry Potter and things like that, and of course lots of our students are as well.”
The entire department was involved, with all of the professors contributing suggestions for the report, including many submitting names of classes that they would be interested in teaching. They dressed in fantasy-related costumes for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 13, which College President Kathryn Foster attended. Dave Muha, the College’s spokesperson was also involved, so it could be published on the College’s website.
The article listed new classes such as “Vulcan Literature and Philosophy,” “Vibranium, Kryptonite, and Mithril: Fantasy Metallurgies” and “Intensive Mermish” offered in the College’s swimming pool. There were also new names for the professors. Glenn Steinberg, the department chair, stated that his new title would be Arthur Weasley, Muggle Professor of Imaginary Literary Studies. Row was set to become Hrothgar, Master of Dwarvish Studies.
Some students were both fooled and thrilled by the news. Members of the Society for the Creative Endeavors, the College’s anime club, were amused by the mention of a class called “Otakus and Otherness.”
Nina Brossa, a freshman psychology major and member of the club, responded with enthusiasm, asking when the course will be offered and that she intended to take it in the spring. Freshman math major Cassie Oleniacz said the changes were “really cool” before realizing they were an April Fools joke.
“They should have an actual class focusing on imaginary languages,” said Sean Downing, a junior English major.
Students were not the only ones being fooled. Word of the prank avoided being leaked, even to official offices at the College.
“(The prank) certainly seem(s) to have fooled some adults,” Row said. “The English department got a call from Records and Registration this morning asking if they should start registering students for the new department, so obviously, the joke has worked on some people.”
College students expressed their enjoyment over having members of the faculty take the time and effort to produce such a convincing prank, as well as bring to light the culture that surrounds the imaginary languages.
“It was a good one,” said Sam Shaw, a junior communication studies major. “(I’m) glad our college is finally recognizing weeb culture.”
The prank was successful, but Row explained that he does not know if anything like it will happen in the future.
“You’d have to come up with a completely unrelated concept in order to fool people a second time,” he said.