On Sunday, the Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed that "a member of the Arizona State University community" has been diagnosed with the 2019 novel coronavirus, a deadly disease that has prompted a worldwide panic, infecting nearly 10,000 people, killing over 200, and led the Trump administration to temporarily bar foreigners who visited China from entering the U.S.
The infected person from ASU resides in Tempe and had recently returned from traveling to Wuhan, China, which is where the viral outbreak began. The administration at ASU has refrained from canceling classes, urging students to simply continue taking normal flu-season precautions (for perspective, the flu has killed over 10,000 Americans since October), but still enacted a temporary ban on all university-related travel to China.
Upon learning that a case of coronavirus had hit the ASU community, many ASU students shared memes online and joked about the predicament. Among them: Liv Cowherd, an ASU sophomore and daughter of FOX Sports Radio commentator Colin Cowherd. The younger Cowherd, who's a business management major, has a significant social media presence of her own, with over 115,000 followers on Twitter.
First, Cowherd joked about ASU being "#1 in innovation," an oft-used brag of the university, for being the first university in the country to have coronavirus on the campus.
Shortly after, she shared another tweet with a mock-Twitter conversation between her and ASU president Michael Crow. "Uh oh," Cowherd wrote alongside a series of photoshopped images depicting Crow direct messaging Cowherd and telling her to delete the tweet, then blocking her.
The tweet quickly took off and was shared and liked nearly 60,000 times. But some mistook Cowherd's fictional conversation with Crow for the real thing and tweeted at Crow, demanding he unblock her. The tweets, Cowherd clarified to her followers, were Photoshopped with the help of Rudy Mustang, who is known for creating fake tweets. "Michael Crow would never actually block a student!!" Cowherd wrote on Twitter on January 29.
On Tuesday, the ASU President's Office tweeted its own message, stating that fabricating university communications is a serious matter and that the messages between Crow and Cowherd never occurred. By Wednesday, Cowherd had been contacted by ASU's Office of the Senior Vice President, according to a video she shared on TikTok containing screenshots of the email.
"I'm writing on behalf of Dr. Jim Rund, Senior Vice President for Educational Outreach and Student Services. Dr. Rund has requested a meeting with you tomorrow at our office," someone from the office told Cowherd, according to the screenshots.
Another email, purportedly from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at ASU, stated that ASU had been made aware that "yourself or someone else had posted on Twitter messages that are representing themselves as President Crow. If truthful and you are misrepresenting yourself as President Crow or anyone else this may be a violation of the student code of conduct."
The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities representative allegedly told Cowherd they would discuss ASU's student code of conduct and procedures for investigating alleged violations at the meeting.
On Wednesday evening, Cowherd said on Twitter that she attended the meetings and "everything went fine."
"Just don't make the mistake I did and photoshop tweets about the president of your university or you will not be able to sleep for the night before your meeting with the senior Vice President of student relations!!!" Cowherd quipped.
ASU's spokesperson, Katie Paquet, did not respond to emails seeking comment for this story.
(UPDATE: As of Sunday, February 2, Cowherd had still not responded to a request for comment. Paquet later got back to New Times with the following statement: "I can confirm that the original message posted on Jan. 28 was fabricated and did not originate from @michaelcrow and that @liv_cowherd has never been blocked from President Crow’s Twitter account. Beyond that, it would not be appropriate to comment on any matters related to student conduct due to federal privacy rights.")