Alumnus gets his last laugh as fake University president

GW’s favorite sharp-tongued Twitter jester has gone on an indefinite hiatus.

The 2010 alumnus notorious for sniping at administrators in 140-character bursts as @fakeStevenknapp announced Friday that his tweeting days are over.

Hunter Patterson, who spent three years pulling the strings behind the parody Twitter account @fakeStevenknapp, which boasts more than 3,700 followers, said he wants to take a break to focus on his career as a media consultant for DC London – a campaign consulting firm for politicians and issue activists.

“I think I’ve done everything I can do with this,” Patterson, who holds a degree in international affairs, said. “I’ve been a part of the conversation, and it has been fun.”

Patterson sometimes tweeted dozens of times a day, offering edgy – and at times sexist or otherwise offensive – commentary on administrators and University happenings.

The 24-year-old launched the account in 2010 and has posted almost 2,500 tweets since then, interacting with students, campus leaders and even officials like Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski.

Patterson kept his identity a secret until the Washington Post interviewed him in March 2012. He considered dropping the account then, but decided to hold off because he could not resist the opportunity to continue barraging the University with criticism.

But over the last few months, he said he’s seen the number of retweets on his account decline.

He inspired copycats, with hoax accounts popping up parodying Konwerski, a frequent tweeter, and the University Police Department, among others.

Fake Twitter handles have appeared for officials at more than a dozen schools across the country, including American University, the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia.

Patterson said during his senior year, he was inspired by other parody accounts of public personalities, such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He said he expected to attract “maybe a few hundred followers.”

Patterson kept up by searching for #GWU on Twitter, as well as following The Hatchet, The GW Patriot and WRGW. Hesitant to claim he made an impact on the University, he said he thinks he at least kept students interested in University decisions.

“I’ve been able to keep people plugged in,” Patterson said. “I think people enjoy me, but I don’t think I have that much sway.”

@fakeStevenKnapp endorsed senior Hugo Scheckter’s satirical campaign for Student Association president this year. Scheckter said Patterson’s persona engaged the student body more than the real Knapp.

“I think that in the minds of most recent GW students, @fakeStevenknapp is the president of our university,” Scheckter said. “He will be missed.”

Patterson said neither the University nor its actual president ever contacted him, but Knapp responded in another letter shortly after, defending his efforts to reach out the student body, highlighting walks around campus with his dog Ruffles, snowball fights with students and drum solos at University events.

The real Knapp, who has headed GW since 2007, has faced criticism for his lack of face-to-face interaction with students beyond semesterly office hours.

He defended his relationship with the student body in a letter published in The Hatchet in November 2011.

“Even if I held office hours all day every day, seeing a different student every 10 minutes, this would leave me with time for (quite literally) nothing else!” Knapp, who does not have an official Twitter account, wrote in the letter.

In his blog, Patterson asked readers to preserve his legacy, saying, “I don’t want anyone to steal the handle,” but another account called @FakeSteveKnapp launched just minutes after his announcement. He said his next – and final – tweet will come when Knapp retires.

“Then, the account can pass on into Internet oblivion,” Patterson said about his masterpiece. “It’s been a hell of an experience.”

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