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/ January 6, 2012
NYU Student Weaves Elaborate Email-Drama, Beefs With Administration Over OWS And Student Ethics

Mass emails sent out to departmental listservs are mostly servicey and rarely very interesting. But at 3 AM Wednesday morning, NYU senior Sara Ackerman mailed out a group of emails very worth opening.

Ackerman sent seven lengthy emails, which NYU Local has obtained, to students in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis that elaborately chronicled a situation in which she fought with NYU professors, mental health experts, and university deans.

Sara Ackerman’s beef with NYU started over an assignment that involved going down to Zuccotti Park and writing an ethnography on the Occupy Wall Street protestors. Sara says she refused to go down because of ethical disagreements and concerns about “the criminals, drug addicts, mentally ill people” that were there. She requested an alternative assignment, but wasn’t granted one by CAS Dean Kalb until, she had already gone down to OWS “with two other young girls, who are quite attractive and thin, and don’t look particularly physically fit enough to take on a potential predator, rapist, paranoid schizophrenic, etc” and felt like she “escaped an extremely dangerous — and even, life threatening — situation.” Sara still hasn’t completed her alternative OWS assignment.

The full emails and NYU’s response after the jump.Her emails continue to explain her dealings with the course’s “rude” graduate student that wouldn’t call on her to answer questions — “Other times, I kept my hand up for about 75 seconds—a long time to keep one’s arm raised, by the way—and Jen still did not call on me, or she dismissed my questions, thoughts, and opinions.”

Ackerman says that after her email blasts, she was offered a deal for her silence on the matter. She says that NYU offered her an A in the course as long as she stopped talking about the situation.

When reached for comment about the situation, NYU Vice President of Public Affairs John Beckman replied, “Federal law prohibits the University from talking about an individual student’s academic or disciplinary record, so this is all a bit difficult to discuss because I cannot comment with regard to any specific student. But let me say this: when a student raises a complaint, we look into it, and we take it very seriously. We received a complaint from a student about a particular fall class in the College of Arts and Science; we looked into the complaint and found the accusations were unwarranted. With all complaints, we try to come to some sort of common-sense resolution, but that does not involve offering ‘A’s, and we do not give grades or credit for work not completed. Most of the time, complaints can be resolved amicably and sensibly, but sometimes that’s just not how it works.”

Here are the emails in full, they’re certainly worth a read. Emphasis and underlining is from Sara:

Sara Ackerman Emails: “An Open Letter to John Sexton regarding Professor Caitlin Zaloom”

Sara Ackerman Emails: Dean Kalb’s Response

Sara Ackerman Emails: “Derrick Bell, Cornel West, Caitlin Zaloom, Eric Klinenberg, and Lawrence Summers”

Sara Ackerman Emails: “That time I speculated that Professor Zaloom was a spousal hire…this has basically…

Sara Ackerman Emails: Professor Zaloom: “Your personal positions on OWS have begun to make conceptual progr…

Sara Ackerman Emails: “My response to Dean Kalb”

Sara Ackerman Emails: “NYU has given me no choice”

Photograph by Zoë Schlanger