That NYU Girl Everyone is Talking About …

You know the one right? Sara Ackerman has been called everything from privileged to lazy and downright crazy. If you aren’t familiar with the saga, the original emails can be found at nyulocal.com

(Briefly, Ackerman was enraged by being given an assignment whereby she had to attend OWS in NYC and gave her reasons as being a fear of being attakced and/or raped. When her professor refused to back down from the set assignment, Ackerman responded with an outpouring of barely sane emails that she CC’s to the entire of NYU).

I came across the story initially a day or so after the original emails and I was instantly hooked – anger, betrayal, blackmail, threats, extortion – what’s not to love? I spent 4 days following the story and watching Ackerman’s FB page – transfixed by the fact that this girl seemed completely clueless to the fact that everyone was ridiculing her. Ok, so the odd post or comment sent out some solidarity but the majority of the general commenting public and media were having the time of their lives dissecting the extremely long (one email was over 2.5k), bizarrely formated, angry diatribe/s that Sara herself sent into cyberspace. As Ackerman had pushed the button to publish, there was a wholesale, free-for-all response from a wide range of e-media (I don’t think she made in into print, but I could be wrong) and almost everyone concluded that the emails were coming from an entitled and spoilt young woman who was having a massive cyber-tantrum because she wasn’t getting her own way. 

NYU remained silent throughout although Ackerman published some responses she had received to her original emails which showed the staff involved in this cyber-theatre of strange to be supportive, calm, articulate and .. substantiated and this seemed to push Ackerman even further into a rage. NYU finally responded to Ackerman’s claims that NYU had offered to buy her silence with an A but it seemed no matter how many people tried to explain to her the rationale behind the assignment she was refusing to do the more she saw conspiracy. Ackerman’s lack of personal awareness, constant threats to ‘expose’ NYU to the print media (where she apparently has close family contacts), tendency to invoke the US constitution (incorrectly) and sweeping, offensive statements regarding the personal social and political make-up of the citizens of OWS won her no supporters. A quick glance at her FB page showed that she ‘likes’ her own posts repeatedly and ‘tags’ her own posts to celebrities and Mass Media in an attempt to either garner support or publicity, or both, cementing her growing reputation. 


The initial emails were widely published online, had a growing and highly critical commentary which overwhelmingly decried Ackerman but she continued to rally against her perceived oppressors, comparing her situation and the players with both Harry Potter and 9/11:



She also threatened to go to the offending professor’s house:

QUOTE: Anyway, I won’t pretend I know where Zaloom and Klinenberg live, but since they are both NYU professors, I’m going to take a shot in the dark here, and guess that they live in faculty housing (http://www.nyu.edu/life/living-at-n…ty-housing.html)—luckily, it’s winter break, so I’ve got plenty of free time to spare and I am ready to picket, and protest outside of her house, just like her OWS cronies (http://www.observer.com/2011/10/upt…pper-east-side/).


When a friend on FB intervened and tried to suggest that Sara consider how she was coming across and to seek some help for the anger she was experiencing, Ackerman responded by calling the friend a ‘psycho liberal’ and warning her “not to push me”.  


It has been about 3 days since Ackerman published anything on her FB account, commentary has slowed down and she is losing currency on e-magazines everywhere. According to Ackerman she has been suspended from NYU (after she published an entry on FB where she asserts that NYU tried to buy her silence by offering an ‘A’ for the class), and I (and those like me who had front row seats for the past week) are left wondering – “What has happened to Sara Ackerman?” I sincerely doubt that she had an epiphany so I speculate that her parents finally became involved, but where does someone who has so spectacularly become the butt of every cyber-joke of the past week hide? What will happen to the ‘3 graduate jobs’ she claims to have had lined up in her original emails – in fact, she won’t be graduating at all now so that is compounded further – is there a potential employer who hasn’t by chance seen or heard about Sara’s meltdown? (and if they haven’t, any google search is going to be very revealing). 


Spoiledrichkids was relentlessly chronicling the entire episode but has been shut down as of this morning (this smacks of legal wrangling and supports the theory that Sara’s parents have finally intervened) and while this may limit the number of people who will now see every single email and FB post made by Sara, there are many screenshots already out there in forums and on blogs as well as in the mainstream e-media. This is not going to simply disappear however much Sara’s family may like it to. I wait with interest to see if this is the end or, if there is a chapter 2 in the wings. 

I guess the lesson we all need to take from this is to be aware of our potential cyber identity – it doesn’t take much for things to spiral and before you know it, you could end up  a digital punchline. Grad students in particular are prone to keeping manic hours fueled by caffeine and spending far too much time with their own thoughts. So, if you find yourself composing an angry email at 3am (especially to your supervisor or worse, the Dean of PG Studies), the best decision you can make is DON’T HIT SEND! In the morning, if you wake up and still feel totally justified with what you have written (and you have removed any erroneous formatting) then by all means, send the email, just don’t CC to more than 2 people.





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