MU TikTok star becomes student activist

MU student Connor Clary speaks on using TikTok as an awareness platform while attending school during a pandemic.

MU junior Connor Clary uses his popularity on the social media app TikTok, where he goes by the username @dinonuggets.jpg, to bring awareness to both MU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about racism. His ongoing popular series called “An open letter to my university that has been open during a pandemic” has garnered attention from hundreds of thousands of viewers. Clary had several videos go viral earlier in the year, such as a video about his sister which has over 1.5 million views.

Clary is studying social work. He began gaining TikTok popularity toward the beginning of the summer with his commentary on pop culture and now has over 162,000 followers and over 9 million likes.

Outside of MU related content, Clary’s TikTok account revolves around politics, LGBTQ issues, pop culture and miscellaneous original content.

Clary said he decided to speak about MU students’ concerns regarding COVID-19 and the Thomas Jefferson statue due to his significant audience in Columbia. His videos soon gained popularity on a much larger scale.

@dinonuggets.jpg

RANKING THE ITEMS PROVIDED TO ME IN MY UNIVERSITY’S COVID CARE PACKAGE: thx ##mizzou! none of these are useful❤️❤️ go tigerz?

♬ Bach Concerto in a Minor for Violin - Classical Music

“People seemed surprised by the lack of effort put in by the university to stop the spread of COVID,” Clary said. “I get a lot of comments from people that are shocked, but I also get a lot of messages from people literally worried for my safety at this university.”

Clary himself has expressed concerns about MU’s pandemic management. After having close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, he recently revealed in a TikTok Live that he had trouble getting his own test due to Boone County’s doctor order mandate.

“My view of the university has become substantially more negative … before I assumed that the university would take precautions to help protect students … like testing,” Clary said. “So, it’s been shocking to me to return to this university with so little precautions being taken or so little effort being put into even just testing students that were positive.”

MU has continued to refine the Show Me Renewal Dashboard throughout the school year by adding more detailed statistics, as well as more strictly enforcing social distancing on campus by removing seating at various locations around campus. At the time of publication, MU has begun to enforce the Campus Clear app, which tracks symptoms and clears students for access to campus buildings.

Clary criticized the university for putting the greater city of Columbia at risk.

“We live in a community that extends outside of just the university students … if we’re spreading out to the community, it indicates that the university never cared about the community and they just care about controlling it,” Clary said.

When asked what MU could do to better handle the pandemic, Clary said if MU was determined to stay open it would need to follow what other universities are doing and test students regularly. At the time of publication, MU offers tests to students who show symptoms, but has not adopted campus-wide testing for every student on campus.

This practice differs from that of a nearby university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has tested their students twice a week since the academic year began. The university reported a positivity rate of 2.8% in late August, a vast difference from MU’s peak of nearly 45% at the same time.

Clary also made a TikTok about the Thomas Jefferson statue and the surrounding controversy about removing it, which has almost 38,000 views to date.

Clary said that an anonymous MU employee asked him to share a presentation given to faculty and administration following the decision to not remove the Thomas Jefferson statue from campus. Chancellor and UM System President Mun Choi has faced backlash over the decision. Clary’s video pointed out that Chancellor Choi had told staff who disagreed that “it’s time to look for another job.”

@dinonuggets.jpg

Hey @mizzou this you?

♬ original sound - connor

“The statue was put up in 2001 and the idea that it’s protecting history is ridiculous because it’s so new. Their handling of it is disregarding the way students are speaking about it,” Clary said. “The rhetoric seems to be that they are preventing a repeat of 2015 and that doesn’t make sense because the protests in 2015 could have been handled differently.”

The 2015 protests sparked massive outrage over issues of racial discrimination on MU’s campus. The result of the months-long protests were the resignations of UM System President Tim Wolfe and MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

Clary said he was contacted by MU alumni to discuss the 2015 protests. He said numerous alumni claimed they are “disappointed the university hasn’t learned [its] lesson other than to show face.”

Clary continues to gain a following from his viral TikToks about politics, the LGBT community and other topics. As long as MU students have concerns, dinonuggets.jpg will make sure they have a platform.

_Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com_

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