The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Ysabel Cordova-Elias

NKU Barstool helps students meme their way through college

January 30, 2023

Barstool NKU is NKU’s very own branch of the pop culture and sports media outlet Barstool Sports. At a university that produces what can be at times meek and aloof student experience because of a commuter-dominant student body, Barstool NKU is perhaps the strongest open-access online space for students to share and connect with college-related content.

Colleges around the country harbor student-run Barstool Sports accounts that are not directly affiliated with university administrations, mostly serving audiences on Instagram and Twitter. 

NKU Barstool is like a window into the lifestyles and mindsets of NKU students, with posts that appeal through humorously portraying the difficulties of life as a college student and audience-specific content joking about NKU athletic rivalries, celebrating wins or acknowledging campus news and burdens. 

The Instagram account is currently run by psychology major Camryn Chesnut, who succeeded her brother and NKU alum Blake Chesnut when he graduated in spring 2022.

They agreed that the account aims to post content that resonates with NKU students through relatability and amusement. This is mostly done through memes and video content that depicts struggles in academics, flippant social antics and random things happening around campus to create a low-pressure, casual space for students to connect.

“Every college student can see themselves in some of these things,” said Blake. 

Camryn feels that lighthearted and whimsical portrayals of college culture and NKU-specific matters appeal to a modern college audience because of the digital era we live in. With a target audience naturalized by silly and edgy memes that surged into normality in the past decade, Barstool NKU seems to meld the worlds of internet culture and NKU student life into one.

While some universities have more deliberate and text-based online communities on platforms like Reddit, few open-access online spaces exist for NKU students with the activeness of NKU Barstool. 

“The comment section: that’s our subreddit,” said Blake.

NKU student and baseball player Ben Gerl pointed out that NKU Barstool is one of the only places where students can find random depictions of happenings around campus, and while it is not an entirely comprehensive and detailed documentation at student-life at NKU, it is likely the best available place for this form of online content. 

Camryn recognizes the demand for NKU-tailored content that simultaneously entertains the audience while keeping them in touch with student concerns and happenings, but also notices a lack of available content that directly relates to NKU. While she receives submissions from students through the account’s direct messages, she would like to see more content sent in to keep the account teeming with student life straight from the source. 

Content that is directly submitted to the account can be supplemented with content relevant to general college audiences, shared in communication channels that include operators of other colleges’ Barstool accounts and a representative of the Barstool Sports brand who oversees accounts in that region, according to Blake.

“People are kind of looking for that sense of community,” said Camryn. “It’s just a good way to see what other students are thinking and feeling and what their concerns are.”

But last semester’s flood of significant news—President Vaidya’s departure, NKU’s $18.7 million deficit and prominent construction on campus—has given Barstool NKU a heavy dose of news matters to inspire content and generate discussion.

And the account has a unique approach to sharing campus-wide news. 

For instance, when former NKU President Ashish Vaidya announced his departure, the account posted a photo of Vaidya playing tennis with the caption, “Ashish is done finished cooked. He is leaving us”—a succinct and slang-laden way to communicate the news. The Northerner’s Instagram handle was tagged in the caption, which Camryn said was an effort to direct followers to credible reporting of the news.

In a follow-up post, NKU Barstool posted a series of memes poking fun at the announcement. 

Although both the Chesnuts agreed the account should be a space where thoughts can be aired out casually to an amiable crowd, in-depth, factual reporting is not really Barstool NKU’s style or purpose. 

“The NKU Barstool account allows students to know they are not alone in their feelings about college and that everyone is struggling in their own way,” said freshman Mallory Bane.

Some of the perceptions that circulate on the account come across as cynical and biased, colored by the challenges and fears NKU students face.

For instance, in a Pawn Stars themed meme the account posted poking fun at the incessant construction occurring on campus, users’ comments boded to mutual annoyance.

“This is 100% felt,” said one user. “This is too relatable to be funny,” commented another. 

The series of memes about Vaidya’s departure was fraught with these partly worried, partly entertained takes.

Captioned “Who’s ready for tuition to go up,” by Camryn, people responded with remarks like “Glad I graduate this semester” and “WHO IS GONNA SEND THE EMAILS NOW?!”

Such freedom is one of the beauties of this type of online space. These sorts of claims may be baseless at times, but they represent the student body in a way that is unique to the current generation of college students.

“Students are free to comment whatever they want to,” said Camryn. “We are all going through kind of the same things. We’re all paying so much money to go to NKU … I think it’s valid if people want to complain about that.”

Posting content relevant to the student body—like Vaidya’s departure—sometimes puts the account in the position of a news breaker and places the impact of issues into the context for students. On the same series of memes, one student commented, “Y is this the reason I’m finding out about this lmao.”

“The memes made me realize how severe it was. Although they were funny, I was still able to see how heavy NKU was in debt, and I was shocked by that,” said Bane, who was implicitly featured in this bunch of memes—as the winner of the President for a Day Fundraiser, she was humored by one meme that featured an evidently pleased and eager man peeking out from behind a tree, as if ready to step into office. 

Director of University Communications Thomas Ramstetter encourages students to take advantage of the space to hear about current events, meet new people and take notice of athletics on campus, but to do so with awareness of the space’s ripeness for incomplete and misinformation. 

The account faces backlash at times, particularly when students are featured in videos they feel could harm their reputation. Camryn has encountered a circumstance like this and was asked to delete the video from the feed, which she obliged, saying she didn’t want the potential threat and discomfort it posed to the subject to rest on her conscience. 

As a self-policed representation of student-life, NKU Barstool wields murky responsibilities and powers. The account can inspire a sense of belonging and inclusion, but it can at times be an endangerment to reputations and a source of blatant misinformation. Like most things on the internet, the good and bad that comes with the account can be balanced by followers engaging with it wisely. 

“Is it okay for conversation and entertainment? Most of them, sure. But it is not a reliable source for information,” said Ramstetter.

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