I'm Shmacked: Inside the Controversial Campus Antics of Jeffrie Ray
Did Ray really set out to be the scourge of college and university campuses nationwide? Or is he just some arty Narberth kid who’d rather be part of the action? Probably a little of both.
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The 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix was lying on its side. Many of us saw it on television, online, in the papers. As for the car’s owner, he’d paid his $15 to get into a party that had obviously gotten way out of control. When West Chester police arrived to stifle the melee, two arrests were made.
This is what can happen when Jeffrie “Yofray” Ray comes to town in search of full-frontal bacchanalia. Property is destroyed; people end up in jail; reputations are upended. (Never mind those tender, young livers.) Parents are forking over tens of thousands of dollars each year to put their kids through college, and Ray is more than happy to show them where some of that money is going. Go to imshmacked.com, and you’ll see a student immortalized for rip-cording a beer in three seconds. You’ll see another passed out as his buddies redesign his facial features with a Sharpie. And there’s oh-so-much more where that came from.
This fall, the Lower Merion High School alum is traveling the country yet again, video camera in hand, ready for anything. He’ll throw a party, rake in a pile of cash, post the highlights on his website, and move on down the line. “I’m just documenting it. It’s going to happen either way,” says Ray. “But I don’t encourage people to do dumb things.”
He doesn’t have to. On the I’m Shmacked site, you’ll find a series of clips chronicling Ray’s take on a particular school—shots of campus buildings and sports venues, college towns, and those aforementioned enthusiastic partygoers showing off for the camera. A budding filmmaker who hopes to someday be the toast of Hollywood, Ray stands to make $20,000 per college visit this fall, and he’s planning 30 of them. Not a bad way to make a living—if you’re 20.
Slang for an advanced state of inebriation, “I’m schmacked” was uttered all too frequently by a brother of Ray’s friend. “We started saying it, and it stuck,” says Ray of the not-so-subtle moniker for his budding online enterprise.
Ray and his cohort, Arya Toufanian, have become notorious almost by accident. Their website has been featured in the New York Times, alternately celebrated and derided in the college press, and covered by ABC News. More recently, one of their cameramen was briefly incarcerated after a Sept. 9 I'm Shmacked party at the University of Delaware, where up to 4,000 students rampaged through Newark, taking to rooftops and climbing on passing cars.
Still, Ray says the goal has always been to offer prospective students an inside look at a school’s social life to aid in the decision-making process. Toufanian is more philosophical. “It’s a time in history that we won’t get back,” he says. “We’re archiving it.”
Presumably, kids already know that the University of Michigan is a Top 25 school with excellent engineering and business programs. But do they know how wild things get at Welcome Week? “You can find out that a school has a great business program, but the social stuff isn’t there,” says Ray. “A friend of mine went to [the University of] Alabama, but he discovered that it was too Southern and too Greek for him. You can see that in my videos.”
Born in Lancaster, Jeffrie Ray eventually settled in Narberth with his divorced mother, Nicole. He maintains a good relationship with his father, Steven Humphrey, a graphic designer.
“He’s always marched to the beat of a different drummer. He doesn’t put any limits on himself,” says Nikki Ray. “What I admire most is that he’s living his life. I don’t know anyone his age who’s traveled as much as he has. I wish I’d experienced that—not in the particular way he has, but I didn’t get to travel like him.”
At Lower Merion, Ray was a bit of an AV geek and a solid student, gaining admittance to New York City’s School of Visual Arts for the 2011-12 school year. As a high school senior, he spent his weekends going to parties and making Jackass-like videos with friends. “I got a better camera and filmed everything—drinking, smoking, our pranks,” says Ray. “We didn’t have to do a lot in school; they take it pretty easy on seniors.”