IU professor’s dance challenge in Harreld goes viral

Professor Kembrew McLeod wanted to make engaging lecture videos to brighten up his students’ day. This led him to film a dance video that went viral on TikTok, challenging Harreld to dance.

Ryan adams

Communication studies professor and department head Kembrew McLeod dances in a viral TikTok video that garnered over 730,000 likes, showing the professor challenging University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld in a battle of dance. President Harreld has yet to comment on or accept Professor McLeod’s dance battle.


Engaging with students through pre-recorded lectures is no easy task, but when University of Iowa communication professor Kembrew McLeod challenged IU President Bruce Harreld to dancing, it captured the attention of its students and 2.5 million TikTok users.

UI sophomore Chloe Weidl said she was sitting in her friend’s dorm watching the fourth week lecture intro for her music and social change class. The video began with McLeod dancing to “Planet Rock,” showing a series of rolls, a split jump, and a backspin.

Out of breath, he told the camera he had just practiced a few moves because he was planning on challenging Harreld to a dance.

“I warn you Bruce, if you watch this you better check yourself out before you destroy yourself, because I will definitely destroy you on the dance floor,” McLeod said in the video.

Weidl said she took out her headphones and turned to the friends she was studying with to show them the video. They all laughed at it and a few days later Weidl said she decided to share it on TikTok.

Within hours, the dance video received 150,000 views.

“I think during this pandemic it’s really hard for a lot of teachers to adapt to the online format, and it’s hard for kids to find the same kind of comfort and joy that they could in a in-person lessons, ”Weidl said. “And so, I think one of the main reasons it blew up was that people kind of saw it as an example that online lessons can be fun and that teachers can be really original and imaginative.”

Emerson Peaslee, a second-year UI student, a friend of Weidl’s, said she believed the challenge to Harreld specifically contributed to the video’s success.

“As soon as she showed me the TikTok, I knew it was going to explode because it was so perfect and so funny,” Peaslee said.

Currently, the original video has 2.5 million views and over 730,000 likes. Weidl also posted follow-up videos as McLeod got more into the bit.

It wasn’t the first creative introductory video McLeod released for his students, he said.

“When I was shifting this to an online format because of the pandemic, I was working with some online education specialists, and they told me I had to present each class with some kind of personal introduction, so that students can put a face to a name, ”he said. “And that’s basically what I did, so I started coming up with some wacky things.”

RELATED: Harreld retires and opens search for new University of Iowa president

When planning his Week 4 introduction, he said he thought it would be funny if instead of starting the video sitting at his desk, the video started with him dancing.

“I had already prepared talking points on… the general topic that we are covering,” said McLeod. “And I just thought it would be funny too if I delivered it when I was out of breath because I was dancing.”

Although he didn’t expect the video to end up on social media, he said he thought it was hilarious when Weidl informed him of his internet fame, and his nine-year-old son was proud to see his father go viral.

McLeod has been pulling pranks over the years, he said, and while he didn’t intend the dance challenge to reach a wider audience, he still did achieve the goal of his other pranks.

“It wasn’t a joke as I didn’t see the ripple effects it would have,” he said. “But that falls under the specter of a farce in that yes, I was sort of trying to pull the rug off of what the students expected from what they expected when they logged in to see this lecture. . “

Weidl said watching people interact with the TikTok dance video was uplifting and allowed him to make virtual connections with other students.

“[The TikTok] making online courses look more positive not only for my subscribers, but for me as well, ”Weidl said. “It made me look forward to the online classes and seeing how the teachers cope and everything, so yeah, it just made the whole experience better.”

Regarding the dance battle, McLeod said he had not heard from Harreld.

“Basically, if I don’t hear back from Bruce by the end of the month, I’m going to fall as a next-level promo video that will probably make people smile,” he said. “So there is another thing looming on the horizon. I can’t get into the timing, that by the end of the month or November 1, say. So I gave him until that point to respond.