Student creates ‘Ferris Bueller’-style dummy to trick professor on Zoom

Even for students currently on-campus, many classes are taught virtually. It’s safer for groups to meet over Zoom than in person, but the strangeness of video chatting makes class exhausting for students and professors alike. Sometimes students just do not have the bandwidth to attend class, and figuring out how to skip without accruing unexcused absences is a fine line to walk.

One student believes he has the key to taking necessary rest days without being marked absent. Drawing inspiration from the cinematic masterpiece “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Terrence Williams ’23 built a semi-realistic dummy he puts in front of the camera to make it look as if he’s simply fallen asleep rather than skipped class entirely.

Williams shared, “I had the idea when I was re-re-rewatching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I thought, ‘oh please, I could make a dummy like that,’ and then I realized, ‘I could make a dummy like that.’”

Williams explained that with this great power comes great responsibility: “I only use it when it’s an emergency. I care about school a lot and I don’t mean to skip classes, just sometimes I can’t stare at zoom.” He continued, “So, I only use it when I need to skip class for my mental health, which these days is roughly twice a week per class.”

The sleeping dummy has not gone unnoticed by Williams’s professors.

“It’s a little bit rude,” Introduction to Cognitive Science Professor Elric Piaget (no relation to Jean Piaget) said, “but at least the dummy is wearing a shirt. I had one student show up shirtless with the camera angled down so the frame was mostly just his nipples. Is this really what I get for asking people to turn on their cameras?”

When asked about how he thinks his professors react to the sleeping dummy, Williams said, “Well, it’s nicer than what Ferris did. I leave my mic on mute, so I don’t interrupt the class with snoring sounds. Although I do have them playing in the background in case my professor unmutes me to try to wake me up.”

Certain professors have reached out to Williams to ask about his constant sleeping.

“One professor described in an email he sent me after one class how he had screamed at me for 30 minutes trying to get me to wake up. After that, I was sure to make it look like my earbuds had fallen out so that it seems like I couldn’t hear them,” Williams shared. 

Williams has run into other problems using the dummy.

“I can’t be in the picture when I log onto Zoom otherwise everyone notices the difference, but if it’s just the dummy in the frame when I log on then everyone is like ‘how did this dude log on while he was sleeping?’”

When pressed for more detail on what exactly Williams gets out of letting everyone think he’s asleep in class, he offered this:

“OK, it definitely started as just a way to avoid unexcused absences when I was feeling burnt out, but honestly it’s become more about the power. It feels good to fool my professors like that—like they think I’m there but I’m really not at all. It’s a trip.”

The Misc also managed to contact Introduction to Sociology Professor Merle Eills, who shared his take on the student’s incessant sleeping:

“Williams? Who is that? Oh, he’s in my Intro to Soc class? That explains it—I haven’t been on that Zoom call since the second class. I made a pre-recorded video of the first five minutes of each lecture but then I made it look like I freeze every few frames as if my WiFi’s spotty so no one really notices when I just end the Zoom call entirely and tell them to read the Moodle.”

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