The college-sponsored performances, which have grown to feature coordinated costumes and appearances by tweedy officials, sometimes suggest the dance equivalent of the school fight song, a far cry from the roots of the genre — informal gatherings hastily called via social media. Nonetheless, their popularity is growing.
“There’s definitely a cool factor to flash mobs,” said Kevin Kruger, associate executive director of Naspa, a national association of student affairs administrators. “It’s something students will talk about, and it can help colleges brand and market themselves. It’s a way to hook students, and build community and pride in place. It gets new students superconnected, right from the start, which is one of the goals of orientation. For students, I think part of the appeal is that it goes on YouTube, and you get to watch yourself, which is a kind of self-promotion this generation likes.”