ANN ARBOR, MI — University of Michigan economics professor Adam Stevenson posts videos of all his lectures to his course website, presenting a unique opportunity for a student who noticed something mildly amusing during one particular class last month.
The professor was using the word “beef” — a lot.
In a one-minute video posted to TikTok, a short-form video-sharing platform, the student clipped together all 125 times Stevenson said “beef” in an introduction to macroeconomics class.
Since being posted on Dec. 23, 2019, the video has been viewed more than 731,000 times, gathering more than 195,000 likes and 3,200 comments.
Stevenson said the experience has been strange, but he has embraced the video.
“It was a shock the first time, but after seeing it a few times, it was funny,” Stevenson said. “I laughed and showed my kids — they thought it was hilarious.”
Stevenson said he was lecturing about international trade, and used Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia as examples. He asked students what those countries are known for, and someone said Argentina produces high-quality beef.
Over the 80-minute lecture, Stevenson explained how the three countries would trade with one another. It wasn’t until the video was edited that students realized how “beefy” the lecture was.
“The reason why it’s funny is that it’s devoid of any context,” Stevenson said. “You can see my actual lectures, my graphs and opportunity costs and piece it together, but it trends because it doesn’t have any context.”
He added he probably said “peppers” about 100 times, too.
The response from students and faculty has been fine, Stevenson said, and people have embraced the video. In one of his lectures this semester, he used an example involving fast food and beef on the second day of class.
“A quarter of the class started giggling,” he said.
Stevenson doesn’t plan to making any changes to his lectures or teaching style, but the attention has given his pause, because “when the video is on the internet, it’s going to live its own life, and it’s hard to predict.”
The video is an examples of the hazards of posting lecture videos online.
“The reason the video is great is it’s cut in a great way,” Stevenson said. “I don’t think it’s my life goal to make videos about saying ‘beef,’ and I say it a bunch in my trade examples, but I don’t say it that much.”