What started out as a joke turned into a squirrel getting elected as a senator to UC Berkeley’s student government body.
"Furry Boi," created by UC Berkeley sophomore Stephen Boyle caused a bit of chaos among students during a month-long campaign. It also drew comparisons to "The Waldo Moment" — an episode from the British sci-fi hit "Black Mirror" in which a cartoon bear named Waldo runs for local government.
"A lot of people have actually likened me to the show 'Black Mirror,'" said Boyle. "Right when I thought about this idea I knew it was going to be exactly like that episode."
But Boyle, an electrical engineering student, says it all began as a meme to poke fun at other students running for senate.
"Me and my friend saw this as something very easy to poke fun at," said Boyle. "We were tossing around this idea of running a squirrel for ASUC Senate and making a meme of that. One thing led to another, I made the meme, filed for candidacy under the name ‘Furry Boi’ and bought a squirrel suit on Amazon."
Boyle spent much of the candidacy walking around campus in a squirrel suit and campaigning as "Furry Boi." He even made stickers from the original meme and created a public Facebook page.
Although Boyle ran "Furry Boi" as a satirical candidate, after being elected, he detailed in more than 5000 words his plan and policy platform while in the student senate on "Furry Boi’s" Facebook page. In his lengthy post, he expressed the importance of focusing on issues beyond squirrel advocacy such as environmentalism, disabilities, mental illness and a better campus community.
Boyle also explained that "Furry Boi" was a way for him to get his foot in the door for ASUC Senate and his decision on selecting a squirrel as the face of his campaign was simply that they are adorable.
"There are a lot of squirrels on campus and they are adorable. It just seemed right to have an animal that kind of represented Cal as a whole," said Boyle.
Despite Boyle’s good intentions, the campaign disappointed many students, included a few ASUC officers who believed many students on campus weren’t taking the elections seriously. After "Furry Boi" was elected, the Daily Cal published an editorial criticizing students on campus for voting in a squirrel.
"It’s a shocking display of privilege to vote for a squirrel over candidates who have actual plans to help students who need," the editorial board wrote. "Clearly, most students aren’t aware of the essential work that the ASUC does."
But the campaign didn’t just have haters, "Furry Boi" had a strong following among students who feel serious frustration with the school's student body.
"The backlash I felt was totally funny," said Boyle. "I knew people would be upset, and I feel sympathetic to their upsetness."
Students can continue to expect to see "Furry Boi" on campus and Boyle will, in fact, be joining ASUC but instead of "Furry Boi" his name will be on the plaque as student senator.