NYU Student's Emails

Upset with a class assignment to write an ethnography about the Occupy Wall Street protestors in Zuccotti Park, NYU senior Sara Ackerman wrote several emails to her professors and university administrators. The emails show frustration on both sides-a student wanting a different assignment and a college struggling with how to respond to complaints.Besides the drama and voyeuristic appeal of the situation, the story is rather sad. Ackerman follows through on her threat to publicize the controversy, but does she get what she needs? And university officials are embarrassed and can't satisfy the student.


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

One of Ackerman's goals is to get her professor fired. She claims that she was offered an A in the course to be quiet about the situation, but university officials deny this. Instead, the VP of public affairs said, "We looked into the complaint and found the accusations were unwarranted."

A look at NYU's Student Email Policy is no help, of course, particularly with a 2003 "effective date," and the Guidelines for Student Email Use offers little guidance other than how to forward email and expectations for regular email-checking-another throw-back to 2003. The confidentiality statement is getting closer, but students needs more help to determine effective use of university email.

Then again, what would help in this situation?

Discussion Starters:

  • What is the student trying to achieve with her emails? To what extent is she successful?
  • What alternative communication channels and avenues might be helpful to a student in a similar situation?
  • If you were the head of communications for NYU, what, if anything, would you say to the press?