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


  • Lauren Zimmerman
    January 13, 2012

    UGH.. I don’t even go to NYU and I don’t really have anything to add but I just need to to register my annoyance with this girl. I just… can’t. How in the world can someone so close minded almost get a degree in anthropology/sociology/anything from a respected university?! (I inferred that she’s a senior and a SCA major, not sure if that’s right)

    If anything, NYU should be embarrassed that they failed to teach Ms. Ackerman the basic principles of her chosen discipline. I used to be an anthropology major and the first things I learned in my intro classes was how be culturally relative, respect other worldviews, recognize your biases and understand how they affect your research, etc.

    I mean, I hate anthropology and I’m not a huge fan of OWS but really?

  • Aliza Goldstein
    January 13, 2012

    Okay, so, the obvious fact of this girl being delusional aside (it really does not look at all like the professor behaved inappropriately), is anyone else bothered by her apparent belief that because she pays full tuition, she’s therefore entitled to special treatment? Ability to pay was not a factor in her being accepted to NYU, even if it may be a factor in the fact that she continues to attend… she has no more right to be here than any of the people who she perceives herself as “paying for.” Having a rich daddy doesn’t actually give her any clout – just a sense of entitlement that should be dismantled ASAP.

  • Elizabeth Anderson
    January 13, 2012

    This sounds like a case of “I’ve never been told “NO” before.” And, all of these emails belong on emailsfromcrazypeople.com

  • Ari Klein
    January 14, 2012

    While I really disagree with this girl and everything she writes about, the school should have given her an alternative if she was that against the assignment. However, that is still no excuse for her taking it this far! If she felt that strongly about the assignment, she should have taken the F and moved on.

  • Katya Ungerman
    January 15, 2012

    Sara Ackerman is absolutely ridiculous. I read the piece on her just a few minutes ago on my phone. You know what she sounds like? She sounds like an arrogant, spoiled little brat who didn’t get her way and now is making a fuss over *absolutely nothing*. Girls like Sara Ackerman *SHOULDN’T* go to NYU.

  • [...] NYU student raised some concerns about NYU’s own OWS class, by way of angry email. Seven of them, to be exact; bold-faced emphasis hers. (NYU [...]

  • Max Wade
    January 17, 2012

    LOL… I just wish I could read all 100+ comments

  • Audrey Brown
    January 19, 2012

    I admit that I may not completely understand what is going on but why on earth is she being forced to do something when she has expressed misgivings about her safety? Pulling the mental wellness card and threats of disciplinary action are way below the belt. NYU should apologize to this girl for having to go to this length, just for an alternative assignment.

  • ron kelly
    January 24, 2012

    I admire the girls fight but both her and the university administrator’s involved are behaving inappropriately. Pulling a mental health card on her, c’mon, and this girl making a big deal out of ows. She shouldn’t be forced to do it but she’s acting as if it’s the end of the world, it’s people practicing the 1st amendment just as she is or wants to, except there are some crazy people at ows, nypd. Some nyu students, participated in the protest, no one died. chill.

  • Khujeci Tomai
    March 2, 2012

    Stay strong NYULocal. Don’t let “psychiatrist” blog bully you about what photo you choose to put up.

  • Samantha Macaffee
    March 20, 2012

    Three words for this girl: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Entitlement, grandiosity, rudeness without any idea how she comes across to others, always feeling disrespected and not treated as she feels she deserves, and on and on. I’ve seen so many like her before.

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