The Backstreet Boys Are No Barry Manilow

Good news! Listening to the Backstreet Boys ad nauseum might not be torture after all. Backstreeter Kevin Richardson Reports that a group of student protesters staging a nearly week-long sit-in at the University of Toronto are getting an earful of Backstreet tunes as a form of punishment are leaving out one key detail: The kids might be taking offense, but the adults are just trying to keep themselves awake.

In one corner, you’ve got the students, who are demanding that the university adopt a policy prohibiting the on-campus sale of clothing made in overseas sweat shops. They’ve parked themselves in the president’s office and refused to budge.

In the other corner, you’ve got the security guards. They’re watching the building round-the-clock and cranking up their boomboxes to blasting those uppity students with “I Want It That Way” and other hits from the boyband.

“This is probably the first time the Backstreet Boys have been deliberately used as a form of sleep deprivation torture,” Sonia Singh, a member of Students Against Sweatshops, told the campus newspaper, the Varsity. “Despite the music playing all night, we’re doing all right. The earplugs work pretty well.”

But perhaps it’s all a big misunderstanding. According to administrators, the music isn’t meant to torture the students, it’s meant to keep the bored and overworked security guards awake.

“They have to basically stay alert for their shifts, which can be as long as 12 hours,” Susan Bloch-Nevitte, a university spokeswoman, told today. “Whatever they were playing, they were playing it to stay awake, not to drive people out of the building.”

According to a report in the student newspaper, “Lights are kept on at all times, and the campus police have been blasting tunes into the occupied office almost nonstop over the weekend — pop songs during the night, heavy metal and thrash during the day.”

Bloch-Nevitte said the three security guards working the case likely “raided” their kids’ CD collections for material, and they also have been playing the radio.

“If you play the radio, you’re bound to hear the Backstreet Boys,” she said. “If I were trying to drive people out, I probably wouldn’t play the Backstreet Boys.

“I happen to like Barry Manilow, and I think if we played that loudly, we’d probably drive half the people on this campus out. It’s all a matter of taste.”