my employer shared a fake email from me on Facebook, volunteer admin has disappeared, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My employer shared a fake email from me on Facebook

I rarely do this, but I’ve removed this letter at the request of the letter-writer.

2. Volunteer admin has disappeared, and we’re worried

I’m one of a handful of volunteer administrators for a social network with a few hundred thousand users. It’s hard work, but it’s experience in my field and something I’m interested in.

One of our administrators, who is usually on every day, has not checked in for a month, and now many of her social media accounts have been deactivated. Because this job is online only, the six of us know the city we each live in but not addresses, etc. Not that age makes one inherently more responsible, but she is in her 40s and has a family; it’s unlikely she would just disappear. Other administrators do not have her phone number, but do know her place of employment and want to call reception just to allay our fears and verify that she is alive and well.

I’m torn. I don’t think it’s appropriate to call her place of business to track her down. On the other hand, this is so unlike her; I’m incredibly concerned for her safety. We don’t mind if she has decided to go off the grid and stop volunteering, I just want to know she is okay. I’ve cautioned them not to call, but am growing increasingly worried about someone I consider a friend. What are your thoughts?

I think whichever one of you knew her best could call and ask for her. If you reach her, you could say that you want to respect her privacy and she doesn’t need to share anything she doesn’t want to share, but that you were worried about her and just wanted to make sure that she was okay.

However, assuming you have an email address for her, if you haven’t tried sending an email like that, do that first. She may not realize how worried you are, and asking her to just let you know that she’s okay might get a response.

3. I think my coworker might be fudging his timesheet

I have a coworker (let’s say “Pat”) who I have a very strong suspicion is falsifying his timesheet. I have no hardcore proof (and I doubt that I ever will) but based on a conversation Pat had on the phone in front of me, I strongly suspect that he is having someone else clock in for him on occasion. All non-exempt employees recently (less than a month ago) started having to actually clock in and clock out. Previously we could just fill out our timesheets manually.

This morning Pat was helping me remove paper from a jammed copier. His cell phone rang and he answered it. The conversation went something like this: “No, everything is okay. I thought I would be late for work, but I made it in time. It’s nothing, never mind. I thought that I was going to be late for work and I would have to ask you to (pause) but I made it into work on time. Bye.”

Now, of course I have no proof that the pause was “clock in for me,” but from the tone of the conversation I am fairly sure that is what it was. I also do not know who Pat was speaking to.

How should I proceed? Should I mind my own business, speak to his boss (who is my boss’s boss), his timesheet approver (whom I don’t trust), or go to HR? To clarify, even though there is an extra level of management on my end, Pat and I are essentially equals. I am more senior and have a slight higher title than he does.

Let it go. That’s not enough evidence to stir anything up. Pat’s pause could have meant “I thought I was going to have to ask you to take notes in the meeting for me” or “let Jane know I was running late” or all sorts of other things. It’s possibly that your interpretation is the right one, but there’s nothing conclusive here.

4. “We were literally about to hire you, but…”

I recently interviewed at a company where the work would be interesting, the pay would be great, and the commute would be a vast improvement over my current situation. I did really well in my first interview and then did even better in my second; I felt like I made real connections with the CEO and the senior managers who I spoke with.

After three impossibly long weeks, I got a response via a phone call from the hiring manager saying, “We were literally about to hire you, but unfortunately we lost the project that you were meant to work on. We will find out if we got a different project in January, so please contact me if you haven’t found anything else by then.” I told her I would.

So of course I am disappointed and a little confused. How should I take this news? Should I act like I flat-out didn’t get the job and move on? I really don’t know what the likelihood is of them getting that other project in January, so would it be okay for me to email her and ask? I honestly doubt I’ll get any other offers before then because it’s about to be Christmas, so I want more than anything to continue to hope there’s still a chance with this company. Also, I’m probably going to have to control myself from emailing her straight away on January 1st, but how long do you think I should wait so as not to seem over-eager?

Yep, act like you didn’t get the job and move on. Make a note to contact the hiring manager again in late January — around the third week of the month — but otherwise put it out of your head. There’s just too much chance that nothing will come of it, and so you don’t to be counting on it or waiting around for it. (And don’t ask her now how likely it is, because she’s probably not able to tell you anything meaningful. For your purposes, a “maybe” has to be a “no,” and you also don’t want to make her feel like you’re putting all your eggs in that basket.)

5. Can I give kudos to an HR person at a company I don’t work for?

I recently started a new job after an intensive job search. At the end, I had multiple offers and eventually went with the one I think is the best fit. My main contact for one of the companies I turned down was amazing. She was personable, professional, made a long and stressful process easy to understand, made it easy for me to negotiate, and is the exact kind of person you’d want as a coworker.

I’d really like to reach out to someone over there and let them know how positive my experience was, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or even who to speak with. A vendor once called my boss to compliment my work and it helped me get a promotion, so I’d very much like to pay it forward. But who do I contact? Most of my interactions were with the hiring manager and she was not in HR. I did meet and have contact info for one of the higher-ups who may be in a position to want this information but I don’t know them well.

Is this a fool’s errand? Am I missing someone obvious to reach out to?

Do it! Since you’re not sure who her boss is, write an email to the HR person herself, being specific and detailed about why she was so great. And then add, “I initially wanted to send this to your boss but I’m not sure who that is, so I’d be grateful if you’d share this with them.”

Alternately, you could send the email to the hiring manager who you were talking with, framing it as “I want to let you know how fantastic your HR person was to work with,” and then adding “I’d appreciate if you’d share this with Jane’s boss as well.”

{ 411 comments… read them below }

  1. Former Teacher*

    Mmmm, I think you’re off base in your response to #1. In academia, reputation can be and often is a big deal, and I don’t think this adjunct is wrong to be concerned about how this fake viral news is going to impact her career. As her name is attached to the document, this is what future students will see when they google their professor, which means she will have to be explaining that, no, she doesn’t do that and it’s a fake. It’s a problem her employer should take seriously.

    What’s more is that the university should be talking to the student about making up this story. Just because it’s a supposedly positive story doesn’t make it right, and the university is wrong to just sort of go “whoopsie!” and dismiss it. If this student had made up a story about a professor lambasting him for such a request, they’d hopefully act on it, so they should act on it now, too. The response seems so lukewarm and basically, “Well, it’s GOOD fake news, so whatever!” That’s disturbing.

    I’d go back to your boss and explain that you’re concerned about the Uni administration not doing anything to speak to the student involved. The student needs to absolutely know this is not okay.

    1. Artemesia*

      I agree with this. Unfortunately the horse is out of the barn, but there should be consequences for the student. And of course since the OP teaches about using the internet for information, she will have a good example of what goes wrong (not that at this time we lack for good examples.)

      1. Boo*

        Yeah I was thinking maybe OP could use this in her lesson plan going forward for her section on fake news – it’s a good example and lets her students know ahead of time that cutesie emails won’t get them extra points.

        1. NoLongerMsCleo*

          A good example that shows not all fake news has to malicious. Some of these “feel good” stories are just as fake and can cause problems just as much as the bad ones.

      2. k*

        That’s a great idea. Making the personal connection to the lesson and showing that even their own school got duped by fake news is a great way to show the students how easily fake news can spread. And then if/when future students stumble upon it, they’ll know its not real.

      3. Bang on the Drum All Day*

        OP, maybe you could write a brief article about this experience and pitch it to a place like the Chronicle of Higher Ed. This is a really interesting and timely topic and if you wrote about it, anyone Googling you would find your article before the fake news. Would be a nice line on your CV as well!

        1. Tuckerman*

          I work in higher ed and I think that’s a really good idea, but OP may want to look into whether the university has policies on writing articles (not that they would prohibit it, rather they might have a review process).

    2. Rey*

      And reputation is even more important when you’re an adjunct. If OP#1’s university is anything like mine, they’re hired on a semester-by-semester basis, so something like this could effect their employment status in the very near future.

      At the very least, this should be addressed in the classroom. The last thing OP#1 needs is a bunch of student complaints about not receiving this supposed extra credit on top of being involved in a fake news story. A lot of adjuncts live or die on student evaluations. It can be done in a humorous way: “Hopefully any of you who saw the extra credit story realized immediately that it was either fake or I had been replaced by a Pod Person. Just in case, though, I wanted to let you know that your grades will not be receiving a 20-point bump, so study for that exam!” Funny or not, though, it needs to be done.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Yes. Given how life-and-death student evaluations are for adjuncts, this needs careful handling by the instructor, but also hopefully from the department/university, too, on behalf of the adjunct. There should be consequences for that student.

      2. Midge*

        This is a great point! The other students in the class need to know not to expect the extra credit. I hope the student who created the post gets a very stern talking to, and any applicable disciplinary action. I could kind of understand if he was trying to create a very obvious-looking meme or something and it spread further than intended. But a convincing fake email is just strange. Was he hoping that once the fake email got out there, the OP would throw up her hands and say, ‘I guess everyone gets extra credit’?

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, it’s kind of weird that he left a visible email address in there to begin with (nevermind that it turned out to be fake). I’m really wondering what his goal here was; not that it helps the OP any seeing how it’s already happened.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          In some states impersonating someone on line is a criminal offense. It’s a risky move at best. And the student actually pinned it to their Twitter account.
          At a minimum, a lack of judgement.

      1. Christine*

        I like the idea of using it in the lesson plan. Please do not push back, etc. The administration is taking the lazy route in managing the situation. It’s also possible the the individual that check out if was true or not might be receiving a written or verbal warning. The OP wouldn’t be made aware of that.

        Adjuncts are paid by class per semester and the department chair is the one that does the class scheduling. If you had my department chair, and went back to her about it, you would be on her black list and find yourself teaching less classes the next semester. I have seen her favorites get the full teaching load and if you call her on something, you’ll have less classes the next semester.

        1. Artemesia*

          Professors are generally fully informed of disciplinary matters with students that concern them; they have a legitimate right to know. I doubt discipline is occurring that she isn’t aware of. Unfortunately people who cause problems even when they are victims of something like this are very vulnerable in Universities when they are adjuncts. ANd unfortunately there is often no justice in student evaluations. Getting a low mark because she disappointed students who expected better grades for nothing will hurt her. Adjuncts don’t have contracts and are at the whim of whomever hires them. She risks being ‘too much trouble’ ‘has trouble with students’ etc etc regardless of the merit of the criticism.

          1. Christine*

            I meant the individual who posted it on FB before contacting the adjunct to confirm it. I’m assuming that is a staff member. She can hope that is the department chair is lazy about dealing with the issue, they might be lazy about reviewing the student evals. The dept chair, could just be laid back. She is aware of the situation, and will most likely take it consideration when reviewing that semester evaluations.

            I think it’s a mild infraction considering some of the things I have seen over there years. It doesn’t appear to be done in malice. The student should be required to submit a letter to the instructor in apology, and the PR person should issue a retraction. I’m wondering though, some departmental and college FB pages are managed by graduate students and even the secretary.

            OP — who manages your department, or colleges FB & twitter feed? Is there a PR person? Does your departmental secretary do it. More and more college departments have passed this responsibility onto the admin assistants or office managers. They may have someone that is doing the entries that isn’t trained in public relations, etc.

      2. Beagle*

        Legally, it’s not defamation by any stretch of imagination.

        not all lies are defamation

        Particularly, if it’s a “positive” lie

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, interesting. I welcome the counter view. I may have been putting too much emphasis in my thinking on the fact that she’s an adjunct and presumably has really limited power to push back if her course director isn’t supporting her.

      1. Meagain*

        Therein lies the problem. Adjuncts are contracted usually on semester basis and while we don’t have visible power, we are still expected to behave as a faculty member with regards to standards. This isn’t a course director issue. It’s a department head issue.

      2. OP*

        I think Allison is right and I took the part of the email about going to them first too personally. I was upset about the whole thing, and being a little reactionary. At this point there is at least a page full of articles about the email exchange from a lot of different websites so it has gotten way out of hand. I’m sure the student had no intention of this happening. It is a great example of how fake news spreads so quickly. All of the people writing little stories about it took a tweet as actual fact, with no verification at all. When I saw another article I sent it to ,y course director and the reaction was the same. I was told to put it in a file and that it would blow over.

        1. Michele*

          Are any steps being taken to make sure that the university doesn’t share “news” about faculty without confirming it with that faculty member? It seems like if they are going to call something news, they should have to follow some basic journalism standards. (Idealistic, I know).

          1. Beagle*

            I doubt OP really knows that. There could have been action taken internally against the person who shared this without checking this. It would be an HR matter and OP may not be aware of what was done.

        2. AD*

          OP, frankly I don’t think your course/program director handled this at all well. I agree with others – this shouldn’t just be allowed to blow over, the student’s original tweet should be removed, and consequences should be faced by that student.

          1. AD*

            Not to out the OP, but a quick google search shows that this story is being spread far and wide (and at this point, by big names in the journalism/magazine industries).
            I am flabbergasted that her manager’s response is “just let it blow over”. That is the exact opposite reaction that this incident would have received at most other colleges/universities.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              And, it looks like the student in question is still retweeting/promoting this story.

            2. Troutwaxer*

              Unfortunately, its one of those things that make great clickbait, but it’s also one of those things that blow over quickly. I think the really important thing here is for the OP to communicate carefully with his/her students and make it clear that this is not true and that whatever is written in the syllabus about scoring and finals is still the OP’s contract with his/her students. I would even suggest that the OP print up a notice that the grading system has not changed and have all his/her students sign the notice.

              Also, the OP do some further ass-covering with higher ups. He/she should email the department head with the “additional information” that this fake news has gone viral in a big way, and include a list of the places where it has been reported. Express a polite concern that it might be time to re-evaluate the importance of the issue and how it should be handled. Don’t be panicky or angry, use calm phrases like, “I just wanted to bring you up to date on this issue.”

              Lastly, and I don’t know anything about what the OP teaches, this may be an exploitable moment – the OP should write about it and see if someone will publish them. Fake News is a big deal these days.

              1. SouthernLadybug*

                I like that idea – maybe the Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed would pick it up at least.

                LW – do you have friends who are communications professors (or others that work in communications)? They may be able to help with strategy as well.

              2. Swizzler*

                It’s in the Daily Mail now.

                I think she should tell them it’s “blow up” and not “blown over”

            3. Tuxedo Cat*

              Even if this does blow over quickly, pages and info on the Internet should be treated as though they’re available forever. Who knows how others might use this info on the OP.

        3. Rainy Day*

          My sympathies, OP. If you push back too much, your reputation will be harmed, and if you hadn’t done anything, you ran the same risk as well. I don’t think tenure/permanent faculty understand how much this could hurt you. What if another potential future hire searches your name and finds this?

          Does the Office of Student Affairs (or equivalent) have any jurisdiction over this? It seems like they would be the best to deal with the student’s behavior. At my institution, this office handles more than just academic integrity.

          Given how your course director has already reacted, you might not be able to approach him/her for a third time. But, if you could, point out that this isn’t blowing over and that now would be a good time to come up with a response protocol for similar future scenarios. Ask about jurisdiction over the students’ behavior. What if the fake news post had been negative/accusatory? Reaction and protocol should be the same, regardless. Also, perhaps your Faculty Senate (or office that supports faculty in their teaching) needs to know this is happening. Maybe approach it by addressing the general underlying problem (fake news spreading lies about faculty/courses) without mentioning your specific situation.

      3. Ellen*

        I think you may have misread what the OP said in #1…

        “I texted a professor I’m friends with saying isn’t this insane and she called the communications office, so the Facebook share was removed.”

        Your response was: “The tweet was removed, and I don’t think expressing further concerns to the course director will really accomplish anything.”

        From what the OP said, it doesn’t sound like the student’s original post was removed — just the share on the university account. That means the post with the faked email could still be getting spread around (just not with the university’s implicit endorsement) and other students in the class could still see it. At the very least, it seems like someone needs to tell the student this isn’t cool, and have them take the original post down.

        1. Emi.*

          You’re right, and the original tweet is still getting around. Cosmo picked it up and is treating it like it’s real, ugh.

        2. LesleyC*

          And from a Communications Office standpoint, I’m really surprised this hasn’t been made a bigger deal. It’s so weird that the university’s official account would have shared something like this without touching base, because it doesn’t really seem to pass the smell test. It kinda makes me feel like they’ve handed their social media over to student employees who know how to tweet but not how to responsibly manage a university brand.

          1. AD*

            Exactly. Hellfire would have been raining down on the Communications Office of any other college where I can picture this happening. Especially after major news outlets pick up this fake non-story!!

          2. Michele*

            I posted something to that effect above. Why doesn’t the communications office know not to run stories about faculty without verifying with the faculty member? People are coming down hard of the student, but whoever is running the FB page for the university should be the one in trouble.

      4. Bend & Snap*

        The Facebook post was removed, but it doesn’t say the tweet was.

        Absolutely the student should be disciplined, but the OP or ideally the OP’s employer should also tweet debunking that news. You can’t just let it stand…it’ll be out there forever and come back to bite you. It has to be publicly refuted.

        1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

          Could the OP respond on Twitter with a comment about how if the student had paid attention in class, they a) wouldn’t need extra credit and b) would have known the dangers of posting fake news? My other thought was to give everyone in the class except that student extra credit. But I am a spiteful type of person so those are probably not helpful suggestions.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            It needs to be cut and dried, stating that the information is false and students should feel free to reach out with questions. That’s it, no editorializing.

          2. Koko*

            It would most likely just get lost in the noise. Sometimes I read the comments on viral videos on Facebook, and there will be a couple of people posting a correction to something the video is showing/saying, but there are 100x more comments from people who believe the original video at face value, share and comment without reading other comments, and their comments get hundreds of likes and become Top Comments and the correction gets 3 likes and falls to off the screen.

            As Churchill said, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

            1. Bend & Snap*

              That’s why the tweet should be in direct response to the original tweet.

              I do this for a living :) and this is a pretty standard “crisis comms” response.

              1. Koko*

                Even in that context, the original tweet will almost always still continue to get retweeted by people who don’t read the response.

      5. Bang on the Drum All Day*

        Yes, as an adjunct, she’s in a very hard spot. After over a decade of adjuncting, I finally left for the private sector, namely because my dean was very dismissive of any issues I had with students (like when a student threw a glass bottle at me because I wouldn’t add his cousin (!!!) to my class) or issues I had on campus (like having no interior locks on one of my classroom doors because the “classroom” he placed me in was actually an unused waiting room(!!!)) When I knew I was quitting, I started escalating things up and learned my dean was in major trouble with his higher-ups because he wasn’t doing his job, especially in regards to health and safety.

        OP, I hope there is someone else you can go to with this issue. I’d look into any Dean of Student Affairs, Human Resources, and anyone in charge of student conduct at the frat the student is a member of. But it’s also understandable if you’re unwilling to rock the boat because you need job security. I’m sorry you’re in the spot but you’re not overreacting.

        1. SouthernLadybug*

          A faculty welfare committee may be interested. I know adjuncts aren’t part of the faculty senate most places….but this type of thing could easily happen to any faculty member. I could see them being interested in shutting it down.

        2. HYDR*

          There has to be a student honor code, or something similar that this student broke. RIGHT? This is insane, and any Communications Office would shut. it. down. in a friendly, but stern way. They can still have fun with this, be playful back, but it needs to be addressed ASAP.

    4. Emmie*

      I wonder if this presents an issue of academic integrity, or poor conduct for the student conduct board.

      1. sstabeler*

        academic integrity no- that’s generally more about cheating in exams or faking research- poor conduct probably – at a minimum, it’s far too likely to be taken seriously- the initial joke wasn’t unreasonable, but not making clear it WAS a joke makes it unreasonable.

        1. Emi.*

          But there might not be any applicable student conduct policy. When I was in college, I don’t there there was anything in the community standards that would cover something like this, just because it’s so weird.

      2. Emmie*

        Blackcat below talks about the honor code below, which is what I was trying to get at without remembering the policy name! What the student did was really boundary pushing.

      3. Cassandra*

        Another name for this sort of thing at some institutions is “non-academic misconduct.”

        As others have suggested, the Dean of Students office, or an ombuds office if available, is the likeliest source of what-to-do-next information.

        If the OP can handle it, though, a private conversation with the original student, aimed at a meeting of the minds rather than a strictly punitive approach, might bear fruit. Most undergraduates don’t understand how universities-as-organizations function. They don’t know TAs from adjuncts from tenure-track from tenured. This student may honestly not know that their momentary stress-blowoff stunt did real harm, and if told, may be willing to help mitigate the consequences.

        (The same media that are spreading the lie might also spread an apology…)

        I’ve had success with this approach, in situations where I might legitimately have gone straight up the discipline decision tree. I’ve also been on the other side of it as a student long ago — nearly got hauled up on misconduct charges when a conversation would have more than sufficed.

    5. blackcat*

      Yeah, I’d directly contact the dean of students, particularly if the university has a broad honor code (many do have honor codes that have disciplinary consequences for lying/misrepresenting things outside of the classroom). I’d loop your supervisor in if you did this (sending an email like “This appears to violate the honor code. Per the faculty handbook, I am going to refer to to X person for further investigation. Even if the dean’s office chooses not to implement official consequences, this student needs to hear from the administration that it isn’t acceptable to post false things about instructors online.”)

      If the university doesn’t have a broad honor code, then I don’t think there is much you can do. I *do* suggest talking to the student to make it clear why this can hurt you professionally. I’m sure the student had no idea, and thought they were making a joke.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        I’d totally agree with this, it really sounds like it could be skirting the edge of honor code violation depending on the university. I know that at the college I attended it would certainly be grounds for an investigation.

        1. blackcat*

          It really depends. Something like this could have resulted in a suspension where I went to college, and it would certainly cause a stern warning where I teach now (and possibly result in disciplinary action if the student already had warnings for other behavior). But at the school my husband once worked at, they claimed they could not punish students for “non-academic” actions that were not illegal (and even some that were). They deemed anything outside of plagiarism/cheating to be “legal matters” that they stayed out of.

          I think that basically any action that could get you fired from a job is fair game for a college to punish. If you punch a coworker, you can get fired. If you write false things about a coworker online, you can get fired. Colleges can and should punish such things, but a surprising number don’t.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yes, although given that OP’s email was faked, it is possible that the name attached to the student email is not the creator of the meme either. It possibly/probably is, but the student also has room to be given the benefit of the doubt if they were not the originator of this and that someone else attached their name to this meme.

          But I do agree with everyone else that OP can use this as an example to her students of how fake news can be spread by legitimate sources, and talk to the department head or person in charge of the course about the best way to let students know that, no, in fact, they are NOT all getting 20 extra credit points, despite what they have heard.

          Does this class have some kind of final project regarding fake news? Because I could also see this as a student’s attempt to see how far a fake meme could spread as a final project, only to have it completely backfire on them when it really did go crazy.

          1. Artemesia*

            Now that it is this widespread (which stuns me as it doesn’t seem that ‘interesting ‘ to me) it is a particularly good example of fake news and it is possible that the professor could actually get the fake news lesson to also go viral. That is the only way I can see it not damaging her. The internet allows deeply unjust things to happen and ruin people.

            1. Myrin*

              “(which stuns me as it doesn’t seem that ‘interesting‘ to me)”

              That is the most astounding part of all of this to me. I’m not at all understanding how that email or the OP’s alleged answer was in any way news-worthy. There was nothing funny, witty, dramatic, groundbreaking, or in any way extraordinary about it.

      2. Emi.*

        Is there anyone else in a position of authority over the student who could give them a stern talking-to? At my school, hall rectors might be a resource. They have pretty broad disciplinary discretion (usually used to wink at drinking, ahem) and while I don’t think they could actually write you up for something like this, they could seriously impress upon you the inappropriateness of your actions.

        1. irritable vowel*

          As someone above mentioned, the details of this story are easy to find online, and it looks like the student is a fraternity brother. THAT is definitely an organization with an honor code that could deal with this, if the university isn’t willing to.

      3. Sam*

        I work in university administration, and while I would agree that this should be reported to the dean of students’ office, I think OP should speak with the student first. OP may find that there’s a plausible explanation in the context of the course (unlikely, but possible), and if nothing else, explaining to the student how their actions could negatively impact others will carry more weight coming from the OP since they’re the one affected.

        And I would definitely address this with the class. I might not email them specifically about this, but if you’re already sending the class an email with last minute reminders about the final or something along those lines, I’d include it. (Something like, “You may have seen this post. To be clear, no additional points will be granted and the opportunities outlined in the syllabus remain the only options for extra credit.”)

    6. Green Tea Pot*

      Yes, agree on all counts. The university needs to put someone with brains and ethics in charge of social media.

    7. The Strand*

      A friend of mine who adjuncts is, in fact, in a pickle at the end of this semester precisely because one student who had some sort of issue cajoled an extra credit opportunity… and she told another student without an issue who is now demanding the same right. I can’t imagine the nightmare if all of your classes saw a viral post that was BS, and demanded special rights.

      The dean of students (DOS) absolutely needs to be clued in.

      Also: your course director sounds like an idiot, for being far more focused on the proper “channels” (and that you know your place as an adjunct) than on the mess this may cause you in all your classes, and the obvious question for the honor code.

      Whenever possible (e.g. now) do not pass go, just go to the department head. If she is a decent person I would ask to meet, and then to meet with the DOS.

    8. Lilian Field*

      Yes, exactly. I’m a professor, and if this happened to me I would be furious. Allison, what if an employee falsified an employer’s address, then posted a fraudulent email exchange in which s/he asked for a raise and then the employer supposedly increased the salaries of everyone in the department? You can see how this could be a serious issue from the perspective of the department director, right? It would undermine the integrity of the compensation process and weaken the authority of the manager. It would also seem to be an ill-considered attempt to inflate salaries without consideration for performance. It creates the illusion that raises/grades are tied to silliness. It’s the same in the classroom. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with classroom silliness…but it’s not going to get you credit in my course, FFS, any more than it would get you a raise at work.
      But to me the most serious issue is that the student created a fraudulent email to publicly impersonate a school authority. That’s bizarre, and if someone created a fake email for me, emailed him/herself AS me, and then posted a screenshot of the exchange to twitter, I’d be furious regardless of the content of the exchange. It could be about the student’s favorite holiday beverage, and I would still find it super-creepy.
      Not to say anything of the fact that this exchange would lead to an exponential increase in BS requests for extra credit, end-of-semester whining about grades, and attempts to wheedle or cajole me into giving students higher grades…and while all of that stuff comes with the territory in higher ed, it is a huge time suck and waste of energy, and I resent like hell anything that increases the volume of it coming across my desk.
      OP #1, if this happened to me I would treat it as an academic dishonesty issue–WHICH IT IS–and I’d report it as such to the same office that deals with plagiarism, and I’d also send a report to the Dean of Students. I’d also call the student into the classroom and tell him in no uncertain terms that he was never to impersonate me again by any means. I don’t know if you feel you have these options available, but maybe by reframing this as a problem of academic integrity you can open up other lines of approach.
      And I wouldn’t hesitate to mention this anecdote to future classes, by way of telling them that it’s completely false! You could offer it wryly, as an object lesson in the untrustworthiness of internet sources, as also by way of telling them that jokes are welcome in your class but will not be rewarded with credit.

      1. Green Tea Pot*

        You make some good points. I’m a former adjunct, happy I left before social media became so pervasive.

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree that this is more serious because of the OP’s industry (higher ed/academia) and status (adjunct). I also agree that OP should consider speaking to the student (if that’s possible), in person, possibly with an ombuds rep there, and also refer the case to the student conduct board. And I also think this would be a great example to incorporate into OP’s future lesson plans in light of what she teaches.

      But the immediate thing the University could do is put out a statement/email that the story is false/fake. It’s one thing to delete a referring tweet, but given how much the story has now spiraled, it’s in their interest to protect the University’s reputation (as well as the adjunct’s) by stating that this was a bad joke by the student. They don’t need to go overkill on it, but a quick note saying that this was a student’s idea of a joke and that it is not accurate could go a long way to deflating the hype.

    10. super anon*

      This! OP, does your university have academic misconduct and non-academic misconduct rules? At my institution, this would be investigated and the student would most likely get a misconduct notation on their transcript, as well potential time away from the university.

      1. Audiophile*

        This has been liked and shared a ton across Twitter. While I don’t know that anyone can force the student to take it off Twitter, there should be some kind of consequence. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting this publicity and expected it to just be a good joke for his friends, but it’s really blown up.

        Since most of the articles show the beginning part of this professor’s email address and it’s not to hard to figure out the rest of it, it definitely needs to be addressed in some way. I definitely think there’s a teachable moment here for the professor, but waiting for the story to die down isn’t an adequate response.

  2. Dan*


    When in doubt, mind your own business. Simple rule to live by.

    When you shouldn’t mind your own business? You’ll have no doubt.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah, the idea that everybody has the same ingrained instinct about when to interfere and speak up and when not to doesn’t match my experience. I have seen people say “I had to do something!” about situations that to me were not a case where I would say something and I didn’t feel it was the right thing to do at all, and the opposite also happens (staying silent where another person would feel that’s wrong.)

        Not only does not everyone have an understanding of ethics, but not everyone who does understand can agree!

          1. Artemesia*

            My younger self ‘had to do something’ a few times that I now shudder at as deeply none of my business and I hope I don’t err in that direction again — but at 19 I was full of passion about right and wrong and stepping up when I observed wrong.

      2. Czhorat*

        Yeah, and different people personally draw the light differently.

        For me? If a co-worker was doing something that could hurt the company’s reputation, that could cost significant money, or was breaking a law or ethical business standard then I’d say something. If I suspect them of getting into work a bit late and having summertime else clock them in? That’s not my place to speak up.

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        Then the person should ask themselves “What purpose would it serve if I told?”

        If the only purpose is to get someone else in trouble, then keep your mouth shut. In this case, that would be the only purpose. The company wouldn’t be harmed by not knowing Pat came in 5 minutes late. I’d view Pat in a different light from then on, however, and look for other ethics breaches, but it’s the job of Pat’s supervisor to supervise him, not the OP.

        If the purpose is to stop some kind of real harm- to a human or the company- then tell.

        1. Temperance*

          Arguably, the company *is* harmed by Pat coming in late, because he’s stealing and inducing another coworker in his fraud. That’s a huge deal.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            The person he asked could go to the supervisor to report it, then. But the OP is not involved in any way.

            1. Czhorat*

              It depends; if they are coming in 10 minutes late, they aren’t stealing anything worth mentioning.

              This is at the point in which the drama caused by employees reporting on eachother likely outweighs the cost of the time taken.

              It also seems, to me, odd that the OP jumped to the conclusion that they’re clocking in late; there are a ton of other and more innocent explanations. I wonder if there are other issues between these two employees.

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                Well, if someone asked to falsify his time, I might or might not report them (I wouldn’t do it, either!), but I wouldn’t say that the person reporting them was making excess trouble over it. I’d judge that asking someone do something that could get them fired is sufficient harm for that person to turn him in.

                If the OP turned him in, I’d say the OP was just trying to make trouble. And yeah- it’s strange that the OP jumped to that conclusion immediately.

                1. Czhorat*

                  If someone asked me to clock them in, I’d decline and explain it could get us both fired. If they dropped it reporting may or may not seem like a step too far.

                  If I just casually suspect because of an overheard and ambiguous conversation? That’s not my place, and it makes the workplace more difficult overall.

                2. Artemesia*

                  Yeah but in this case the OP does not know that the person is having someone else clock them in. She just suspects it based on what she knows about the guy and a fragment of conversation that MIGHT indicate that. She heard ‘I got her on time’ and she assumed the rest of the sentence was ‘so you don’t need to clock me in this time.’ more or less.

              2. Purest Green*

                I agree and wondered the same thing. The phone call alone seems like pretty weak evidence, else OP has other suspicions or is in BEC mode with this guy.

                1. Purest Green*

                  It stands for “Bitch Eating Crackers” and if you aren’t familiar with the concept, it means you’re already so frustrated with someone that every little innocuous thing they do is annoying and terrible.

              3. JB (not in Houston)*

                I wouldn’t be concerned about an employee who reports to me coming in late. But I would be *very* concerned about that employee having another employee clock in for him.

                I don’t think the OP has enough information to say anything, though.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            But we actually have no idea if Pat is stealing time or coming in late. His coworker took a very oblique comment that s/he overheard and has now spun it out into an elaborate scheme to defraud the company. I’m with Alison—unless you know for sure (or have a strong reason to suspect) that something bad is happening, don’t imperil your coworker’s job because of speculation.

          3. Anna*

            Except the OP doesn’t know or even have a sufficient amount of evidence to viably suspect that this happened at all. Especially since it seems from the overheard conversation that Pat was in fact not late and whatever possible misdeed the OP assumed would happen did not actually happen.

        2. OP #3*

          Jessesgirl72 – Excellent points. Believe me, I will view Pat in a different light from now on. However, I do think that one day, Pat will mess up big and will get caught. Maybe not at this job but maybe at another one. Pat’s work ethic is not that great.

          However, I have to add, that Pat is very young and I made some stupid mistakes when I was young.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      I’ve had plenty of times when, in the moment, everything seemed very shades-of-gray and confusing and I held back, and then later when I looked back on that moment, it was glaringly obvious I should’ve acted.

      #3 is definitely a MYOB case, but “Are you in doubt?” is a bad test of that.

      1. paul*

        I’ve almost never had a situation where there wasn’t at least some shade of doubt, but maybe that’s my personality (which would further your point).

    2. OP #3*

      Thanks to everyone for replying. The thing is, this is par for the course for “Pat”. I am really tired of Pat getting away with things. Pat is just very good at covering Pat’s tracks. In any case, as others pointed out, the evidence is weak, so I will drop it.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP#3, could it be that Pat has burned so many bridges with you that your frustration re: his conduct in other parts of his job is now spilling over onto this situation? Or is there more information that we’re missing that would lead you to believe he’s misreporting his time?

        1. OP #3*

          Excellent point. Again, there is no hard-core evidence but why would Pat pause if Pat meant, “stop the mail”, “take notes for a meeting”, “let Fergus know I will be a few minutes late”, etc.. The pause was not just a pause, it was obviously “not saying something”.

          Yes, my past experience with Pat, may be clouding my judgment. I am not above admitting to that.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It could have been because the other person interrupted, or because what the OP was about to say was something she didn’t want others to hear (but not about time card fraud — more like “clean up the rug where I vomited last night” — who knows).

            1. OP #3*

              I will admit you could be right. However, given the context and this person, I would be surprised if I was wrong. However, as you and others have stated, I won’t act on this because I have no proof.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thanks so much for following up, OP. I think Roscoe and Purest Green, down thread, have a really helpful framework/reaction for how to categorize Pat’s behaviors, especially since it seems like a long jump from what you overheard to Pat stealing time (not saying it’s impossible, but saying that it takes a lot of inferences and assumptions to come to that conclusion):

      2. TheBeetsMotel*

        I’m in a similar situation with a “law-unto-themselves” coworker who gets to speak and act unprofessionally with little to no consequences. I have to hold my tongue, as making a big deal would make me look petty and unprofessional too.

      3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        For what it’s worth, I know how you feel as I’ve been in similar situations. You know something’s not right, you know you need to do something, but there’s little evidence or people don’t believe you. You’re doing the right thing in leaving it all alone and focusing on protecting yourself by not covering for him.

        If he is up to something shady, he’s got away with it for long enough that he’s likely get cocky and not bother to cover his tracks. When that happens, a piece of advice: if you’re asked whether you knew he was doing shady things, say no. Don’t say, ‘well, he seemed weird but I had no proof’, because there are people who will hold that against you (and they’re the same people who won’t listen to you without proof). Remember to be as shocked as anyone else.

  3. Reb*

    At #1, I wonder if it’s no coincidence that you’re teaching about fake news. Maybe the student thought it’d be fun to make some fake news up and see who picked it up. I don’t know if that’d change the uni’s response – I can’t think of any actions that wouldn’t make the uni look sillier – but could be worth thinking about.

      1. Julia*

        Same here. Maybe it was supposed to be an Experiment – albeit one not thought through all that well.

        1. Mookie*

          Also agree that it could be an elaborate piss-take, but it’s also just as likely that, if this blows up in the student’s face, he’ll pull your bogstandard Social Experiment explanation whether it’s true or not (and, lard willing, he won’t claim to have been haxx0red).

          I feel I should add that I teach a chapter about evaluating sources and even have a spot-the-fake news activity for my classes.

          This is an interesting idea, LW, provided the lesson, readings, and activity tie very, very well into the course requirements, particularly if the course is in communications, philosophy, media studies, introduction to persuasive writing, et al. However, I’d advise doing this very carefully, with the approval and backing of your director, and without making any mention whatsoever about this experience. Otherwise, you might be accused of persecuting or publicly embarrassing this student in front of his peers or of abusing your position as an adjunct faculty member to air your grievances. It’d have to be done delicately and you probably shouldn’t attempt it at all in this term.

          1. Critical Reader*

            The OP is saying that this is ALREADY a part of the course, not that they would do so in response to this event.

    1. Artemesia*

      This makes it even worse in some ways for the OP because the experiment (and I think that is a plausible guess — I would have done something like this at that age) has made fools of the university. Part of their unwillingness to act is that THEY did the stupidest thing here — they thoughtless spread fake news. The more attention it gets the worse their own communication people look. Making the administration look bad is always bad news for the faculty especially the adjunct faculty.

  4. Katherine*

    LW1 says that the Facebook share from her university was removed, not the tweet itself.

    OP, have you talked to the student about this? And, this might be cold comfort, but this would be an EXCELLENT case study for your class going forward.

    1. OP*

      I haven’t since I was told to just let it blow over. Which it isn’t. I realize it isn’t life altering or something that makes me look like a villain(although I do not find it flattering) but it is disturbing to see a lie about me spread so quickly and far.

      1. Big10Professor*

        Hi, OP! I did my turn as an adjunct when I was working on my PhD. and am now a tenure-track professor who has been in on hiring/retention decisions. I just want to reassure you that the dismissive nature of the response from your department head is because this doesn’t look like a big deal to them. I googled the whole thing, and my first thought was “oh, she is giving everyone extra credit, that’s her way of saying that nobody gets extra credit.”

        I know how much it sucks to feel powerless as an adjunct; I have BEEN THERE. But I really do think this will blow over and nobody is going to think much of it in a week or two.

        1. Jess*

          Just coming to comment the same thing – I saw the tweet on a Buzzfeed list and was like, waaaiiiit a minute…..

    2. Ellsbells*

      Was thinking this too! The tweet is still out there even if the news story is off the university fb page.

      1. SouthernLadybug*

        If I am right about the story – not only is the tweet not deleted, it’s pinned to the top of the profile of the student.

    3. New Bee*

      The only difficult thing about using this as a case study is that it’s more like a false rumor (aka a lie) than news. IMO, if not for Twitter this would just be something silly on the student’s part; begging for EC is not uncommon, and it’s not like he made a coordinated effort to convince other students it was true. I think of fake news as “X celebrity died”, “Fire destroyed Y”, etc., stuff that can be verified by multiple sources. In this case verification would be asking the professor directly; I guess you could incorporate evaluating the validity of sources, but (insert rant against sites–ahem, Fuzzbead–sharing random people’s tweets for pageviews) I don’t see a way to do it that doesn’t just look like putting the student on blast for lying.

      (Sidenote: Maybe the student’s motivation was a misguided attempt at satire? I feel like 8 times out of 10 when someone writes something dumb that goes viral, that’s the excuse.)

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        The trouble with this, though, is that it could also be an attempt to pressure the instructor into doing what the email “says” she’ll do (extra credit for everyone!), as Midge mentions above. I’m not sure that “asking the professor and the professor saying she doesn’t do this” is going to count as verification (sadly) because the point of the story is that the cutesy question changed the instructor’s mind about giving extra-credit points. So even if the instructor points to where it says on the syllabus “No extra-credit points ever,” that might not hold up. I mean, we talk here about email being a paper trail. This student has created a fake paper trail and gotten it publicized.

        1. New Bee*

          I agree. I think her best course of action is to get the student to retract (and find out why he did this, because it’s really bizarre and inappropriate), though I doubt an “I made it up” tweet will go as far as the original, sadly.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Not in academics so this goes with a grain of salt. But my (tilted) world view might consider that in an odd way this email was “my property” since it impacts me and I would be tempted to use it to show how something can go viral very fast. (I guess I would frame it as the impact of what happened is mine to bear.) This might even work into a FB post if I felt strongly enough.

      Even though it is a “positive lie” it’s still a lie. How many times in history have we seen this? Hollywood has a long history of publishing “good PR” stories about actors and actresses. Some of those stories were true and some… no. Likewise, lies of omission where an actor could not admit that s/he got divorced/married/etc because it would “ruin” their image. Then we can move on to major historical events that were “spin doctored” (lied about) in some manner and entire sections of the story were left out.

      It’s probably not much consolation, OP, but there are jobs out there where you have to look at actions and let people’s words take a back seat. The actions here were to remove the post. On that part you won. I think that is a big win. You will have to weigh out if you want to keep pursuing this or let it go. In some cases, where the actions were right, I have been able to let go of the rest, this is sometimes but not always.

      I had a friend who was a teacher. He was involved in an accident where a person died. (Not his fault, it was just a terrible, terrible accident.) His approach to handling this was to discuss it in classes. He offered a limited time where students could ask him questions about what happened. His willingness to discuss it openly diluted the rumor mill, dis-empowered the back stabbers and so on. I think it also helped him to process what happened in some way.

      My punchline is: Crap happens. And sometimes crap happens to good people doing a good job. Take the high road, of course. And be open about it in a manner that is professional and informative.

      1. Artemesia*

        It isn’t a ‘positive story’ — thought, it makes the instructor look like an easily manipulated suck up. I fully understand why she is so upset with it.

  5. Fellow adjunct*

    #1, you may not have success pressing the issue with the university communications office, but this absolutely need to be addressed with the student. Could you spend 5 minutes in class (if you meet with the students again) to bring this up as a personal example of fake news? Or incorporate it into a question on the final exam?

    As far as addressing it with the individual student, a stern conversation at the very least is in order. This may also be actionable under the university’s honor code (something to at least point out to the student, if not to act upon).

    As an adjunct I have been left to my own devices to the extent that I have never met the department chair who hired me, I am slightly envious of your course director stepping in, if crankily. Good luck!

    1. Emmie*

      I agree in discussing this with the communications office. I’d want to know how this happened, how to avoid a post like this in the future, if they’d issue an official retraction via social media post, and if there was any punishment to the employee who posted that it on school social media without substantiation that the email was authentic.

  6. fishy*

    I’m not sure if I agree for #2. LW, I know you’re worried about her, and I get it. But, I have to be honest – I’ve withdrawn from online social groups for personal reasons in the past and it would have freaked me the hell out if someone from one of those groups contacted my workplace looking for me. But maybe I’m letting my own biases cloud my judgement. You know her better than I do; maybe she really would appreciate a call letting you know that you’re still thinking about her and there are no hard feelings.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I really grappled with this one. Ultimately I decided that if you take on administrative responsibilities like that to a group, it’s reasonable for someone to try to make sure you’re okay if you completely disappear. If she were just a member of the group and not an admin, I’d feel differently.

      1. Dan*

        This is one of those things that begs the question about what you actually do with the information if something’s not on the level. If something is really wrong, then the work place already knows and has presumably already notified the emergency contact, no?

        I’m not trying to be pedantic here… I live a rather independent lifestyle, and my employer is going to be the first to know if something is wrong, and even then it will take a few days if not a week for them to figure something’s up. They won’t know what’s wrong — they’ll just know I haven’t been to work and not answering emails for a few days when I’m supposed to.

        I guess my point is that there’s nothing to be gained by reaching out to this person — at worst, they could see it as some sort of boundary violation. I wouldn’t want someone checking up on me if I hadn’t given out direct contact info. You can use to check in whatever info you’ve been given, but I wouldn’t even call the central switchboard if I had nothing else.

        1. VintageLydia*

          You wouldn’t be worried if you had a friend you talked to almost daily suddenly disappeared? I’m a part of an online group and we absolutely do get worried when someone suddenly disappears. I’ve had at least 2 online friends who died, one unexpectedly. They both had friends or family members who knew to let us know when it was convenient for them, but it’s possible others who disappeared didn’t.

          The point isn’t letting work or family know they left an internet group and if the person did die or go through some other crisis, those people would know already. It’s so that the online group would know and can send their own condolences, donate to medical funds, or send well wishes or whatever else is appropriate.

          And again, this applies primarily to the people who were super active. Casual members come and go and is usually nothing to be concerned about. But in my experience very active folks in internet groups will let other members know if they’re just going on hiatus or leaving the group entirely.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right, exactly. If I suddenly stopped posting here with absolutely no warning or explanation, I’d expect at least some folks would be worried enough to try to find out what happened. It’s even more true when it’s a fellow volunteer who you’ve been working with on a project day in and day out. People worry when people they know disappear, and they want to find out what happened.

            1. Dan*

              Well yeah… this is a very visible part of your job, and you post very regularly. If you still had your previous job, and your posts started tapering off before complete silence, people would just assume that life got in the way.

              The blog serves as a public front for some of the work that you would do, and if you just stopped posting tomorrow with no indication that you were getting bored or didn’t have time anymore, odds are that something probably did happen to you. Would I wonder? Yup. Would I worry? Probably. Is it my business? That’s where things start getting fuzzy.

        2. Michele*

          I think that considering the admin has a family, it is highly unlikely that something has happened to them without the authorities being notified. However, most people like to know that someone is thinking about them and that they are missed, so a single phone call just to make sure would probably be well received. Unless the person is a huge jerk, the worst that will happen is they have a story to tell later.

          I would be more concerned if the admin lived alone. For example, I know someone who lived alone and fell down the stairs and knocked herself out for several hours. I know of other situations like that, so sometimes it can be good to have someone just check.

          1. Artemesia*

            Friends or employer yes — on line group where the person may want to keep a bright line between ‘real life’ and on line persona — tricky. I have a relative and a friend who were both found dead at home when someone became concerned they weren’t at work when expected. An on line group person can’t really do anything positive without crossing the line. What happens if the person can’t be contacted? Do you then start contacting their employer or husband or? And what if she didn’t want her comments on line crossing into her ‘real life’? I don’t see a scenario where there is a problem and this goes well.

            1. Dan*

              That’s where I’m at. If I haven’t shown up to work and answered emails for a week, I’d hope that my employer would call my landlord and have them check on me. I’ve been posting here for a long time, and a couple of posters know where I work. If I stopped posting here, I really wouldn’t want someone calling around looking for me.

              I realize things are different for those who may not have a job or where online is otherwise their only real social outlet.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  That was my thinking–I would at least try to email to see if she still wanted to be the admin, and if I got no response, I might call.

                  I live alone and though I have extended family here, I’m not close to them. The only people who would notice if I died in my sleep, etc. are in my chat room, possibly here, and my online group. Maybe some people on Facebook. I could lie here for a couple of days before anybody realized it. :(

                2. Windchime*

                  We would definitely notice if you were gone, Elizabeth.

                  There is a long-time poster of this site who was gone for a long time, and people *did* worry and wonder about why he/she had gone off the grid. Fortunately, we got word that our poster was OK. I’ve been involved in several online communities over the years, and people do become close friends. It seems very natural and normal (to me) to be concerned when someone suddenly and uncharacteristically drops off the radar.

          2. LW #2*

            While the admin is married, her spouse is in the armed forces. He is frequently gone on long deployments with no communication. I’m unsure if he is home at the moment. Because of how much she works, I’m unsure if there is anyone other than work who would know.

            1. Michele*

              Then I do think some sort of contact is in order. It stinks that there isn’t an easier way to get ahold of her.

        3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Years ago, a teammate was out on Friday and again on Monday. It was unlike here. No one had heard from her. The office was divided – call or don’t. We decided not to; we figured we’d call the next day if she needed help.

          A work friend of hers, Pam, stopped at the missing coworker’s house on the way home Monday. The missing woman had ordered food Thursday night and dropped dead of a heart attack in her kitchen shortly after delivery. Her door was unlocked and her food was untouched. She lived alone. Pam was gone for weeks dealing with the trauma of finding our coworker after that amount of time.

          Any time someone doesn’t show, we call. Crossing boundaries or not, we call.

      2. Annie Moose*

        I think it also matters how you reach out to the person. I’ve been a mod and admin in several online communities, and I think it’d be quite reasonable for a fellow mod/admin to send me an email to check up on me if I suddenly went from high activity to no activity. One or two emails max, from someone who knew me pretty well, at any rate.

        Now, these were small communities and not really a formal position, but a phone call would seem excessive unless others had specific urgent reasons to believe my life was in danger (i.e. that I was suicidal) or something very serious was going on.

        1. Emma*

          Yeah. If you feel like reaching out – and in response to those asking why you should, I think concern for a fellow person is a legit reason – reach out in the manner they’ve usually communicated with you. If you don’t get a response, and you’re not in a position to actually do anything (like, you’re not their family, or somesuch), then let it go.

        2. Aurion*

          Yeah. How the inquiry is done matters.

          I’ve done something similar when the mod of a Tumblr RP group suddenly disappeared without warning for a month (this was after daily activity on the RP chat, etc). She had mentioned a while ago that she was real life friends with another Tumblr user (who was not part of our group), and after a lot of deliberation I sent a very polite message to this friend wondering if they knew whether our admin was okay. (She was fine.)

          But my method was significantly less invasive (I messaged another anonymous internet user, not her place of work), and we literally didn’t have any other contact information for our admin (not even an email. Though it turns out she had no internet activity during that time, so email would’ve have helped). None of us even knew which state she lived in, never mind anything else more specific.

          In retrospect none of us could’ve done anything if the answer had been “she isn’t fine”, but even in that case we know she had support in real life and we’d have some idea of whether she was alive or not.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          I’ve been really touched when a fellow mod has reached out to me, when I went quiet – a nice email would be a sweet gesture. Definitely think they shouldn’t call the workplace, but an email is a different thing…

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I know how we worry if a regular poster disappears here. So I think this is a tough call. I guess it boils down to how to word the inquiry to emphasis concern and also stress respect for privacy.

    2. Uyulala*

      I think it depends on the type of group. Definitely try to find a non-work workplace contact first.

      But, I’ve been a member of an eating disorder support group before and we had to get creative sometimes with checking up on an active member if they vanish from the site without warning. Members have helped to get other members to treatment centers if things get bad, and even just the contact that “people care and are worried about you” can be enough to help people get on a safer path again.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      Yeah, I hate people who Flame Out when they leave a group. When I’ve had enough, I just disappear without all the drama.

      But, if I had decided I’d have enough while an Admin or Moderator, I’d have sent a message to someone, telling them. In fact, I did do it once- I deleted my Admin privileges behind me, but let the owner know.

      1. LW #2*

        Hi all!
        Thanks for the additional insights. A couple responses to clarify:
        – Unfortunately, all of our scheduling and collaborating is done through apps, so I don’t have an email for her. I wouldn’t have written in at all if we had a way to contact her other than her employer – I would insist we not call and try that way. This seems to be our only option. Definitely going to suggest we create a document with some basic contact info from now on.
        – If this were just an online friend, I’d let it go. I’d worry, but things happen. However, this is a well-known site in certain communities and, while we talk and are friendly, being an admin is treated seriously. We receive thousands of applications and only choose a handful of people. We have publication deadlines we have to meet and other duties. There’s no stigma if you need to take a break; admins will let us know and put a note in our shared calendar when they need a break. This admin has not done so.
        – I forgot to mention that some of the profiles that disappeared are her source of income. I don’t know if that changes things; it does for me.
        Thank you for your advice, Alison. I think one of our admins will call and check in this week; honestly just verifying she is not hospitalized or otherwise is more than enough.

        1. Milla*

          If you know her real name and her employer, you may be able to guess her email since it’s usually some combination of
          I’m not sure if that would be more or less creepy than a call. On the one hand, she never provided that info, unlike her business number, making it more creepy, but on the other, email is less invasive in general, and therefore less creepy.
          This could be a last-ditch effort if reception refuses to give out information to strangers or transfer you.

          1. orchidsandtea*

            You can find out by using MailTester or a similar site, or by looking at email-formats dot com.

            Also, morbid, but have you thought about googling obituaries?

            1. LW #2*

              Tried that, scared the crap out of ourselves before realizing it was from last year. Turns out her name is quite common in the country where she lives.

        2. SassyFrassy*

          I don’t think this is exactly on the right side of moral, but I would probably call her, and once she answered say “Whoops! Wrong number!” or something. You find out if she’s alive and you don’t potentially freak her out by bringing her online life into her real life with no warning.

    4. Artemesia*

      I know of a social group where someone became ‘concerned’ about a member and essentially outed them as members of this group to their office and family in the guise of checking to see if they were okay. It nearly destroyed the on-line group and was very upsetting to the person ‘outed’. If any overture is made it needs to be very delicate along the lines Alison suggested — no asking if the person is okay to any other person.

      1. LW #2*

        I agree! It would be a “Is xxx available?”, that’s it.
        This is not a group that one would really be “outed” from, luckily. It’s a network for people with a certain hobby; think knitting, something her whole office knows she does.

    5. Broke Law Student*

      I’m sure she’s probably fine, but I’ve actually known two people in separate incidents (both my age, in their 20s) who have died and were not found until someone got worried that they were not responding to calls/texts and checked up on them. In the vast, vast majority of cases of course, the person is fine, but given *my* biases I would definitely want to at least give someone a quick call in this situation.

  7. Brit*

    I can see why OP is concerned, because it’s scary when these things go so viral like that. Most students will probably get that it was a joke (made by the Tweeter) or at least will not actually expect credit, but some students will have unrealistic expectations for receiving the credit and that could cause frustrating problems like the OP receiving a bunch of emails begging for credit.

    1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

      That would be one of my biggest concerns—disappointed students scorching her in evals for failing to deliver on the “promised” extra credit.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        The OP’s institution might be different, but course evals were always done before students see the grades. Either they were done during the last day of class or you had to fill them out before you could see your grades. I prefer being transparent with students, but if the OP withheld the info on this being fake, it shouldn’t impact evals.

        Students could complain through the university channels after grades are released, however. And that’s a terrible, long process even if you’re innocent.

    2. Emmie*

      I am really concerned that you may have outed the OP, and s/he May wished to remain anonymous. Perhaps this particular article references another individual. I am really sure that you meant well here.

        1. N.J.*

          There is an Anon further down the thread at 4:00 am or so who mentions seeing the tweet and retweeting it. It would seem this person was able to figure out the story related to LW1 or a similar story. Is there any other information to be removed to keep this more private?

          1. Myrin*

            I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding you but the Anon you mention retweeted the story “just recently”, so, some time ago and before this letter came out, not after it, they just recognised it because they’d heard about it before (which has happened several times in the past already). With the information given in the letter, you can recognise the situation if you already know about it, but I don’t believe you can find it other than with some severe digging (in fact, I just googled some variations on the theme of the letter and I found a vast array of student emails from the last couple of years but nothing that is even remotely like the OP’s letter).

            1. Myrin*

              Okay, I need to retract that. The “20 extra credits” did the trick. I’m not sure how the letter could be re-worded in a way that would make it completely unsearchable, though.
              (Alison, please feel free to delete this if you fear it might inspire people to go searching on their own in the first place. Just wanted to give you a heads-up, though.)

              1. SouthernLadybug*

                I’m pretty sure I found the LW, as well.

                I think on one hand it’s helpful to help let folks know it’s completely fake, but it does add to the viral aspect.

                That said – if I found it, I’m shocked the university shared it as a positive story. It undermines academic integrity. I’ve taught before as well – this would really make me upset an mad. I don’t think the LW can take a hard line as an adjunct. And they have great story to tell in class and in interviews. But I find the University’s handling of this to be lacking.

                1. SouthernLadybug*

                  LW -I’m sorry about this. I do think ultimately your reputation will be fine – but I can see you needing to proactively address it in cover letters/interviewers for other academic positions. Personally, I wouldn’t hold it against you at all!

              2. N.J.*

                That’s what I was getting at. I was able to google with that information and may or may not have found the situation we are talking about here. I took the commenter’s “recently” to mean today or this weekend but that seems to have been the wrong interpretation. Just being extra cautious I suppose.

        2. IvyGirl*

          I found it in about five seconds by Googling “fake email about 20 extra credit points”.

          The first thing that comes up is the AAM article, and about four results down is a Daily Mail link that states name details of both the student and the OP.

          OP, I’d be contacting Google about trying to scrub this from the internet. And I’d honestly be raising heck with administration.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            The first thing that comes up to me is a Cosmo article about it. I didn’t add the “fake email” part to my search.

          2. CMT*

            Google isn’t like, The Keeper of the Internet. They can’t make other sites take stuff down. And removing it from search results won’t do much if this is the type of story that gets shared and reposted on social media.

            1. IvyGirl*

              But, like, there’s this:


              “Note to Google News readers: This article describes how site owners remove content from Google News. If you find content in Google News that you believe is offensive or incorrect, please contact us. If you are not the owner of a site included in the Google News index and you feel your copyrights are being violated, please see review our policy on alleged copyright infringement. If you feel your other legal rights are being violated, please file a report here.”

              1. CMT*

                The people who see this aren’t seeing it on Google News. They’re seeing it on Facebook and Twitter. This isn’t going to do anything.

          3. OP*

            Now I feel like I’ve made a huge mistake. I would hate for my higher ups to see this if they google the story.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If there’s anything particular in the letter that you wouldn’t want them to see and that you’d rather have removed from the letter, email me and I can probably edit it.

            2. AD*

              I honestly think it’s out there now, and there’s little you can do about it. (You don’t even have to type “fake email” for it to show up).
              I would really go to your manager and tell her that this needs to be dealt with, by the Dean of Students.

            3. Manager On A Break*

              Even “anonymous” posts on a blog often aren’t anonymous when referencing very specific incidents.
              Same thing goes for those “anonymous” surveys at work. If you choose to give relevant feedback you run the risk of identifying yourself accidentally.

              Oh, and removing the post only made me want to go in search of it. I think I found everything except Alison’s response, darn it :)

        3. Beagle*

          If you Google the keyword you can see this is already went viral. There’s no outing to be done, because this is already out there

    3. Allison*

      They might, and that would be one of my bigger concerns in this situation, but the OP could also clarify on the first day of class and in the syllabus going forward that the tweet was fake and extra credit isn’t awarded that way. And then maybe make that the first lesson on why you never believe everything you see online!

    4. LawLady*

      If it’s at the university level, it’s also likely to be curved. So 20 extra points for each student doesn’t actually change who gets As, Bs, and Cs.

      1. blackcat*

        This isn’t really true–very few places in the US use actual curves in grading these days.

        I adjust student grades based on having a floor for the class average (I do not release what this floor is, because if I have the sense that I have a weak bunch of students, I want the floor lower). Basically, if I write a test where the average is lower than 50% or so, odds are high that *I* wrote a test that was too hard and the fault lies with me. That’s uncommon, but it can happen. I once had a class do worse after I had had the flu. I don’t want to punish students for things out of their control, so I’ll lower the thresholds for letter grades (eg, 50% is my normal level for a D-, but I might move it down to 45). On the other hand, students would be up in arms if I adjusted their grades *down* because I wrote a test that was too easy (in that case, I tend to just write a harder second test).

        In my experience, approaches like mine are more common. True curving makes students compete against each other, which I don’t like. I want them working together to learn, not ostracizing the student who is ruining the curve because they’re better than everyone else (I also avoid this in the way I used averages to adjust grades–I tend to throw out both the highest one or two and lowest one or two grades before checking if the average is what I want. In those cases, the lowest students would fail no matter what, and the best student would get an A no matter what. It’s the D-B spread that I worry about being reasonable).

        1. Judy*

          In my experience in college in the 80s, the only curving was during the freshman courses. The upper level courses attempted to do what you state. They would write the tests so that the average was near 75%. Most professors would show a histogram of the test scores. I can still remember how gleeful some professors would be about how well centered and bell-curve-like the scores for a test were.

          “I really wrote this test well, look at your scores!”

            1. Emi.*

              How big were these classes? I’ve never been in a class large enough that a nice-looking bell-curve would actually be a good thing.

              1. hermit crab*

                Large intro or required courses — in the 50 to 100 person range? I went to a small school but we still had big lecture sections for things like Calc III or p-chem where it was all the pre-med students and a mix of other science majors.

              2. Judy*

                I went to a Big 10 school studying Mechanical Engineering. I graduated at the December commencement, and there were more than 50 in my major graduating at that time. They graduate several hundred in May. We were not the largest in the School of Engineering.

                Most upper division classes required by all MEs had sections of 50-75 students. The largest lecture hall in our building had 75 seats, and there were 2 with 50 seats. The calculus/chemistry/physics in freshman year had sections that came close to filling the large lecture halls that seat 500. In the lower divisions, the university relied heavily on the lecture/recitation model, where there were smaller groups that met to go over problems along with the lecture with many students.

                Also, for any given semester, there was one professor for a course that was the “lead professor”, no matter how many sections, they worked under one syllabus, and wrote the tests together.

              3. blackcat*

                It’s hard to get a normal distribution (aka bell curve) with under 30 student, but relatively easy with N>100.* As you get more and more students, you get closer and closer to a true normal distribution. I always knew this, as one of those statistics facts from high school.
                And then I took a mathematical stats course in college (aka let’s prove stuff about stats) and I learned you CAN PROVE THIS.** In the limit of N-> infinity students, you are GUARANTEED a normal distribution. It’s the central limit theorem, and it’s my favorite theorem. I am not a mathematician, but if there was ever a theorem that tempted me towards being a mathematician, it is the central limit theorem. It’s amazing.

                *For some medium (50) to relatively large (~150) classes, bimodal distributions can happen when you have a significant subset of students who are simply not qualified to take the course. In that case, it’s as though you have two normal distributions, one around the B level and one somewhere in the Ds/Fs. The odds of that decrease, though, as the number of students increases.

                **For normal folks who did not take proof-based math classes in college, this means it is almost true on the level that 2+2=4 (almost, because there are certain conditions that must be met, but students on tests generally meet those). It is more true than say, saying things fall down because of gravity.

        2. Amy the Rev*

          Yeah I took a test once where I got a 64% and ended up with a B…the professor acknowledged that he probably wrote the test to be way too difficult, so basing it on a bell curve idea, he brought the highest score up to an A and gave us all the same percentage increase.

          1. the gold digger*

            The freshman physics class at my college was notorious for the low grades on the first test. Stephanie, jump in here, but I think a 37 was an A my year.

            I am pretty sure it was deliberate – the profs wanted everyone on notice that we were no longer in high school and no longer automatically the smartest kids in the class.

            1. AnonAnalyst*

              I had a professor in my junior year of college who wrote all of our tests way too hard. The highest score on all of the tests was around a 60%. He curved the tests based on the highest score so most of the class ended up with decent grades, but it was just a jerk move. He had been a professor at the school, teaching those exact same classes no less, for 30 years; it was almost like he had to prove he was smarter than all of us, which no one was contesting since he was the professor.

              (Not that I’m still annoyed or anything…)

          2. Tau*

            It took me a moment to realise why that was unusual – 60%-70% was the standard range for a B at my university!

          3. blackcat*

            As a wide-eyed, first semester freshman, I received a 45% that turned out to be a B.

            In general, I am in favor of simply moving the percentages that count as each grade. I have complicated formulas that I use to *actually* calculate student grades, but I’ve rarely encountered resistance to my relatively opaque grading scheme. It helps that I generally teach first or second semester freshman, and I just say “This is how it goes in college” and they believe me.

  8. jlv*

    #1 I’d be upset about this also. Since you’ve pursued the proper channels I’d say to just let it go since you’ll be rid of that student soon. If you do get the chance to chat with the student you should mention it – let him know that what he did was unacceptable and you’re disappointed in him. Leave it at that.

    What I would do is use this example as a case study in your class as it’s topical and it relates to you. Especially considering the current climate and fake news.

  9. Louise*

    LW1. That is not defamation (spoken word). It is libel… written word.
    It is libel because the original writer KNEW it was a lie when it was written. It is libel because it was distributed to a sizable number of people, not just a handful.
    Start taking notes, dates and times, who you speak to, what was said. And take notes on paper or on a home computer, not on your employer’s computer.
    Then find yourself a libel attorney; those who distributed the falsity can be proved they knew what they were doing and they knew it was false. That’s an easily winnable case. You very likely can say goodbye to that employment, though veiled threats that you should keep quiet might also add to a lawsuit. Cutesy or not, it was damage to your professional reputation.
    The only glitch I foresee is the state law being behind the times on technology and that they wiggle out of blame by insisting that is was just FB and not the real world.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Defamation is either written or spoken.

      But the student would be the one at fault and it’s very unlikely that a college student has the assets to pay a judgment. Moreover, these cases are expensive and time-consuming.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        And practically, if an adjunct sued a student for defamation over a joke tweet, they could kiss their job good-bye, and probably the prospect of another one. You need tenure to pull something like that.

        If the LW is not getting support from the university higher ups, it might be worth speaking to the ombudsman office for advice. She can also make an announcement to each section of her class about what has happened. If she has a twitter presence (or makes one), a twitter post with the same hashtag announcing that this was not an authentic tweet, it was done by someone pretending to be her, and the contents are false could help.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          And they would lose the case unless they could prove actual damages. You don’t win those kind of cases just because someone told a lie about you, no matter how it spreads, or because it could potentially harm you. I know someone who tried that, and no lawyer would take the case, even though it had the real potential (and eventually did) to harm her professional reputation.

      2. sstabeler*

        strictly speaking, it’s anyone who spreads it while knowing it’s false(that is, if they present it as true- which is why the university pulled the facebook share. However, a court may well rule that doesn’t go far enough- you could possibly- though it would be a stretch- get a ruling against the university. However, I would not do that unless you lose your job- if you sue the university, you certainly can kiss the job goodbye.

      1. Beagle*


        A lot of people get this wrong. It’s not simply a matter of written versus spoken.

        We spent a lot of time on this in law school because my professor was an expert in the field.

        if I say something that is slander and then you reprint it, your reprinting is not liable. It’s still slander.

        we don’t have enough information here to know what the original statement was. If it was printed, any repeat is still liable. If it was spoken, any reprint is still slander

        Plus, this may or may not be defamation. It may be some other tort.

        what is and is not defamation varies by state. Simply telling a lie about someone or about their intentions or actions it’s not necessarily defamation. It requires more.

        in any case, this is not legally actionable at this point. There’s no damages yet.

        even if there were damages and it was defamation, it would be hard to sort out because she’s an adjunct and can be fired at any time. if they had other reasons to fire her, the original source of the lie could always say the lie didn’t cause it

        In any event, the legal status of this is highly relevant to advising the OP. There simply very little chance of any legal action being taken on this matter against the student,even if she ends up getting fired over it.

        Plus, if her identity was faked, how do we know the students wasn’t also?

          1. Mabel*

            I’m so glad to see your correction! I was worried about an attorney who confused those two words. :)

            1. Beagle*

              I love these forums. But they aren’t the easiest when it comes to small screens and old eyes.

              Also, both Siri and autocorrect confuse similar words

    2. Cat*

      If I remember my bar exam prep classes correctly, you have to prove damages with defamation – they’re only assumed to have occurred in a narrow number of cases, which this wouldn’t fall into. And I think that would not be so easy for the OP at this point. Even if all the other issues with handling a student disciplinary issue via law suit didn’t come into play.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The primary damage issue for defamation is reputational harm. Given that OP has not lost her job, suffered a decrease in wages, etc., it would be hard to valuate what the harm (if any) would be.

    3. eplawyer*

      Even though it’s not true that the LW promised extra credit, this does not get anywhere near defamation territory. Just because it’s not true and is upsetting to the LW (with good reason) is not grounds for suing. Every little wrong does not a lawsuit make.

      1. Beagle*

        Thank you.

        It’s not legally actionable as any tort that I can think of. Lies are not defamation unless they fit in one of the “defamation per se “categories.

        We don’t know if this is libel or slander her, because we don’t know what the original source material was

        There don’t seem to be any damages that would be legally actionable.

        if there were, it would be very difficult to sort out causality in the situation. She’s an adjunct, and could be fired for little to no reason.

        finally, just because you can sue, doesn’t mean it’s wise to do

        If she walked into my office, my advice to her feet to go to her department had and get clarity on how the stuff is to be handled in the future. That’s really all she can do.

        Plus, she needs to shift the focus of the conversation from her damage to the integrity of the institution. she’ll get a lot farther if she frames it in a way that she’s not worried about her reputation because she thinks it speaks for itself. Plus, the institution cares about itself and not about her. She’s essentially disposable to them

        Not saying that’s right, just that it is the reality In academia

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I think you mean these kinds of lies? There are all kinds of things I could lie about that wouldn’t be defamation per se but could still form the basis of a defamation suit.

    4. Joseph*

      Then find yourself a libel attorney; those who distributed the falsity can be proved they knew what they were doing and they knew it was false. That’s an easily winnable case.
      No attorney is going to take a libel case against a college student at a public state university.
      1.) The absolute most you can win from a judgment is ‘actual damages’. Except…what are the damages involved? The university admitted it was a mistake and the course director knows it didn’t happen, so there’s no financial cost or reputation damage at her current job. Maybe you can claim some future reputation damage for future jobs…but that’s hard to prove under the best of circumstances and will be even harder here given that the post was quickly retracted by the university.
      2.) This case isn’t nearly as air-tight as you’re describing. The student and their attorney are going to claim it was just a dumb college student prank and nobody was really hurt – an argument which will probably get a lot of sympathy from a judge/jury remembering their own time in college. Also, while you say “behind the times”, there’s a legitimate argument that technology actually makes this less relevant given how fast the FB ‘news’ cycle goes – by the time the court date actually occurs, the defense attorney is going to be able to cite the fact that nobody even remembers the deleted Tweet/FB post even existed and OP hasn’t been affected.
      3.) Even IF the case actually was able to win and show damages, the damages would be due from a college student at a public university (*not* the university – they did not know it was fake). Presuming the student is over 18, it would only be his assets at risk. Not likely you can collect on that judgment.
      With all that added up, an attorney is going to give you a longer-winded and more-polite version of “sorry to hear that, but no”.

      1. Beagle*

        Not all lies are defamation.

        If I say AAM is going to pay to give everyone here a dozen chocolate chip cookies, that’s a lie. it’s not defamation.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      May I gently request that we stop telling LWs to sue when there’s clearly no actionable basis for a suit? I know folks are trying to help, but I don’t think it helps to send folks to attorneys when no credible attorney is going to take a case like this (at least, not based on these facts at this time).

      As others have noted, not all lies are defamation, and not all defamatory statements are legally actionable. It also looks a little insane to sue a student over something like this, absent a showing of significant reputational or personal harm. And the statement re: it being on Facebook only affects whether you could sue Facebook, not whether you could sue the original author (which, I repeat, you would not be able to successfully do under the scenario presented in OP#1’s letter).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree with you, but I don’t think people will ever stop suggesting it since there are so many misconceptions about how lawsuits work floating around.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Fair enough—I’ll just keep responding with obnoxious comments saying, “Noooooooo doooooon’t!” ;)

        2. Beagle*

          Not all harms have legal redress, not should they.

          Even when they do, going to court should be a last resort, not the first one.


          Also, a lot of people who wouldn’t dream of performing surgery on themselves or giving advice on how to perform surgery on the Internet will do the same thing when it comes to legal matters.

          People erroneously think just because they’re smart that they understand the law and how the system works.

          Its not not just an individual one off problem. It’s how our culture works in the US.

          1. seejay*

            I think a lot of it is also because people see the huge numbers some court cases can lead to and think it’s an easy way to get big bucks out of what seems to be a minor infraction or slight. Media glorifies the outrageously silly cases and how someone walked away with millions for what looks like a frivolous case but only when you dig deeper do you find out that a) it’s usually *not* frivolous or b) even if it was frivolous, it gets overturned later on and the plaintiff doesn’t get the huge payout in the long run.

            And for every frivolous lawsuit that might net someone lots of money, there’s thousands upon thousands that just cost the plaintiffs money, get thrown out of court, get people laughed at, and bog down the system. You need a real, valid reason to sue someone, you need to demonstrate real, valid damages and losses, that a crime has been committed. Having your feelings hurt, being inconvenienced, getting upset at someone… those aren’t valid reasons. Discrimination, loss of income due to harassment/bullying, a valid fear for your safety/life, credible threats, prolonged stalking that causes causes serious mental/physical distress, actual injuries requiring medical intervention… those are all good things to talk to a lawyer about.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Totally agreed that folks have a skewed perception of what is a good/bad case, or whether it’s a good thing to sue, based on outlier cases that are usually misrepresented in news coverage. There’s a really good documentary on how companies that have lost court cases—usually for doing something pretty egregious/bad—utilize media and legislative lobbying to overturn court cases and limit recovery for plaintiffs who do have good cases (I think it’s called “Hot Coffee”; caveat: it’s definitely presented from the pro-plaintiff perspective).

              A good lawyer will ideally tell their clients that lawsuits are the last, not first, resort. By the time you’re ready to sue someone, it should be because all other reasonable efforts have failed. Lawsuits are the emotional equivalent of going through a very nasty divorce—expensive, draining, and often relationship-destroying. We get paid more if a client sues, but our job is to minimize the risk to the client, lay out the options, and tell you whether your case will fly (and ethically, we’re not supposed to file lawsuits that we know “lack merit”).

  10. seejay*

    LW#2: I’ve had online friends that I was close to that either a) had terminal illnesses and/or b) were heavily involved in the running of websites / on line communities. In both cases, we made sure we had some way to stay in touch outside of the internet in the case of emergencies such as someone passing away or some event happening that took the person away from their responsibilities of helping with the site.

    In case b), we did have a volunteer that a group of us were close to who disappeared. We discussed it for a bit, then the group of us reached a consensus that one of us would reach out. I was the one that was chosen to do it (for multiple reasons) and was able to get in touch with him to confirm that nothing vitally drastic had happened to him. He appreciated and was really thankful and got the warm fuzzies that we cared enough to check up on him. That being said, a lot of this had to do with knowing how the person would respond to the fact that we essentially tracked him down (all we had to go on was his full name and his city, but I was a licensed PI at the time and very good at tracking people in general, so I was able to pretty much get his phone number within 10 minutes without much effort).

    Maybe start with some general google searches and see if you can find some information that might show up on the news or publicly, such as locating her Facebook or social media accounts. If there’s been some sort of death in the family, you might find something in the news that might give a hint. Search on her name, email address, etc. You don’t have to do anything with the information or publicly tell anyone, just do some casual google searching and see what pops up, you might dig up enough to get some answers. After that, try email. Barring all that, if you think she’s the type of person that *wouldn’t* have a meltdown over being contacted by someone online, pick the person that’s closest to her and I’d recommend calling at home, not the workplace. The workplace seems a bit *too* stalker-y IMO. If the receptionist is any good, they won’t tell you if she’s there or not unless you state a business reason for calling.

    That’s just my two cents on it anyway.

    1. Random Citizen*

      OT but that is so cool that you worked as a PI! I’d love to hear more about it on the open thread on Friday if you’re interested in sharing.

      1. seejay*

        It’s surprisingly not as exciting as it sounds! (that being said, I do acknowledge it sounds exciting from the outside!)

        In short, I specialized in computer forensics and Internet investigations and worked on the team that investigated piracy and intellectual property mostly. That translates to staring at a lot of data. There’s some fun stuff like going through people’s computers and emails for evidence and occasionally stumbling across the naughty things but when you’re mostly looking for evidence of software used for hacking certain types of devices, you don’t get to poke around at the more entertaining things.

        The stuff that people find interesting tends to be how I track down real names of people. For those that don’t know how much the internet can remember, it seems like magic. One of my favorites was managing to crack someone’s screenname that he’d been using for years but had been really careful to hide his real ID through… except he hadn’t remembered he’d used it on ICQ 10 years previously with his real name attached and while ICQ was pretty much dead, I thought to go combing through the database and managed to link it up. That also hooked up to a Yahoo address that had a picture of him and his mom. I chained it all up enough that I was able to confirm it was him *and* get a street address out of it eventually. Took a week to do it but I did eventually get it.

        That’s something CSI and all those crime shows don’t tell you… these types of jobs take far more hours than they show and are boring as heck most of the time.

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          This does not sound boring in the least! I love getting to the bottom of something, no matter how mundane it might be. Plus, data analysis is awesome. I may need to look into this for my next career change (I’m serious).

          1. seejay*

            I worked at a financial institute after that position as a computer forensic analyst in the fraud and securities department. One of our cases was investigating an email that had leaked out of the company and got into the hands of someone that it shouldn’t have (well in truth… the email shouldn’t have been sent in the first place but that’s neither here nor there). People I tell the story think the whole thing sounds fascinating until I tell them that I spent 8+ hours sifting through *THOUSANDS* of emails just to see where the email went. Seriously, it wasn’t fun. It sounds like it could be, but there’s a point where your eyes start to glaze over and you’re running out of search criteria to narrow down where else that damn email might have gone to.

            Lesson of the day there: don’t send bad things you’re going to do in an “confidential” email to 6 people. In 4 hours, it’s gone to 2000 people and at least one of them has handed it over to the person you’re going to do bad things to. And no, I couldn’t pinpoint who handed it over because at least 8 people sent it out of the financial institute and that’s where I lost the trail. I also could not tell you who may have printed it out and handed it over or faxed it. All I could do was tell you who emailed it within the company or emailed it out of the company servers. Suffice to say, it was more than the 6 people who were supposed to have kept it “confidential”.

        2. Chomps*

          Oh! This is exciting because I have a question: How do you get access to those databases? Are they accessible to anyone? Are they free or do you have to pay? I’ve always been curious about this.

          1. seejay*

            Some databases are only accessible to licensed professionals, such as PIs, law enforcement, etc, so you can’t get into them unless you pay membership fees and have a really good reason to be in them. So yeah, some things aren’t that easy to get into and aren’t just easily accessible public record. One database we paid good money for, which was really nice to have, was a reverse search whois database for domain names. This was really good for connecting websites up to owners. I could search by owner name, city, zip code, etc. I’m not sure if this is still available, but back when it was and I had access to it, I was able to uncover a few underground/unknown piracy sites and link them up to the owners.

            That being said, there’s still a lot of public databases and directories that are available that the common user can access as well. I’m not a PI anymore and I’ve still been able to track a lot of people down just by clever and persistent use of search engines. You can’t stop at just the first few pages of results, or rely on just the well-known search engines. Sometimes data does disappear too and it’s a matter of catching it at the right moment (eg: I’d registered a pet many years ago in a database and for some reason, the people running registry had done a data dump of it online and my phone number and address had shown up with my name, despite both of those being unlisted at the time due to a cyberstalking issue I was having. It just happened to be that I found it when I was doing an ego search on myself at that time, whereas it *wasn’t* available a few months prior. Two months later though, it was gone, not because I’d requested it either, I’d moved by that time so the information was stale so I hadn’t bothered asking for it to be deleted.)

            Essentially, searching online is a skill and with practice, you can get really good at it. It’s a matter of persistence but also fine tuning the search terms, knowing what search terms to dig down on, what pages to follow, finding some random databases and directories that people forget about and mining them when you can, and following nuggets to see what turns up. Also, compiling bits of details and using those to paint a larger picture.

            I should note: do not use this for stalking people. In no way do I condone this for being an asshole to people online. I’ve only ever done this in the context of my job (PI/some form of law enforcement) or my own safety (practice, information gathering).

      2. seejay*

        Oh and also, never trust a piracy/sketchy website that says they’ll protect your financial records no matter who comes after them. They won’t. And don’t trust them either when they say that they’ll use an offshore company instead of Paypal so that your personal payment information can’t get subpoenaed if they get busted.

        Paypal or that offshore company doesn’t need to be subpoenaed. That guy that you bought from will roll over like a dog begging for treats as soon as he’s slapped with a $5 million lawsuit and he will hand over the login/password. No one needs a subpoena when the PI company or law enforcement can just log in and print out your name/address, then you’re served with a legal letter that you better pony up $X for buying illegal software/hardware from a piracy site or you’re going to get taken to court and sued. And if you say the hardware isn’t illegal, it might not be but you bought it from a site that was dealing in illegal/sketchy stuff and you got caught up in the sweep so either pay up that money or go to court. (Hint: most people pay up because they know they got caught doing something they shouldn’t have because they knew they were buying something they shouldn’t have been and it’s cheaper than going to court).

        This is filed under: Lessons I learned while working as a PI in piracy and I.P.

    2. LW #2*

      Thank you so much for your insight. :) I’m going to talk to our other admins about creating a contact info database to avoid this situation in future. Unfortunately, as I said in the letter, her social media profiles have disappeared; despite multiple searches, this seems to be all we have.

      1. Beagle*

        Given that, I give up trying to find her.

        She’s either had a major life crisis such as an illness or death and is withdrawing or she’s purposely trying to remain anonymous.

        What if there is a violent stalker after her?

        What if she just got a terminal diagnosis?

        These actions indicate to me someone who wants to withdraw from the Internet. I think you should respect that.

        your curiosity and concern do not trump the right to be left alone and deal with whatever is going on.

        I’d let this one go but focus on building something within the group to deal with these kinds of issues in future

        I say this with all the sympathy in the world. I was an admin on one of the very early widespread global social sites. We had several people and we really cared about just disappear. ghosting is never fun for the recipient, but often there are reasons behind it

        1. Critical Reader*

          Yeah, I agree here. This isn’t just someone going quiet unexpectedly, this is someone who has deliberately deactivated their accounts and profiles. They want to be left alone.

        2. sarah*

          I tend to agree here. Whatever the reasons, it sounds like this person has deliberately chosen to “go dark” on social media and other Internet stuff. The reasons for this could vary (from went to a meditation retreat and decided to take a vow of “no more Internet!” to serious accident/illness), but regardless it’s this person’s choice to decide to withdraw from your community. I get it sucks if this is someone you felt close to — but, at the same time, keep in mind that apparently she chose NOT to ever share minimal contact information such as an email address or personal phone number, so whatever close feelings you felt may not be reciprocated, unfortunately. If this person is in serious trouble, it sounds like she has a support network in place (family members, work colleagues) who are much better placed to provide whatever support she might need.

  11. Fiona the Lurker*

    Re: #2 – I’ve been involved in a similar scenario, albeit some years ago. The main administrator went quiet for a whole month, not letting anyone know what was happening, and her colleagues got worried about her. After several e-mails had gone unanswered the colleagues made the difficult decision to take over and try to run things on their own – at which point the administrator came back in a rage, cut off their access, and eventually took the entire website and database offline in a fit of pique . Her excuse was “I’m a very private person, I don’t owe anyone an explanation.” It caused an immense brouhaha, all of which could have been avoided if she’d only dropped someone a short e-mail saying that she’d be missing for a while and could they look after things in her absence. So unfortunately this is something that could backfire on a well-meaning friend or colleague, but I’m pretty sure the correct thing to do is reach out – discreetly – to make sure everything is all right, and establish whether or not the person has any intention of ever returning to the work. It’s a tricky one to get right, however, as it might well appear intrusive from the other side.

    1. Feo Takahari*

      In that light, it sounds like OP needs to set up immediate damage control for anything an admin might screw up. Backups are your friends!

    2. sstabeler*

      that admin was an absolute moron. She disappears for a month, doesn’t answer enquiries about her return, then when people act on the assumption she might not be returning, locking hem out and taking everything offline? had they not, she’d have been equally pissed at them for not keeping things running, and the entire point of an admin team on a forum is that any of them can take over if necessary- essentially, the owner is distinguished only by being the one that actually pays the bills, and if the forum has some method of paying for it’s own hosting, then it’s arguable the admin team as a whole are the owners.

      1. Fiona the Lurker*

        Yes, it was a classic case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’! And the admin team were actually sharing the costs, too.

    3. LW #2*

      Yikes, that’s stressful and I’ve heard of it happening to so many other sites. Luckily, this admin would not have the power to do that based on the way the site is set up.

  12. Myrin*

    I love reading letters like #5 – a positive experience all around! I’m sure the HR person would really appreciate your saying something and it will be a good thing for her boss to know and have in mind as well.

    1. Lance*

      Agreed; definitely send some positive feedback, especially given that it’s (I imagine) far less common than negative feedback. People need it.

    2. Michele*

      I am not in HR, but I have had a couple of outside people that we work with contact my boss to say what I good job I have done, and it carries a lot of weight. A spontaneous reaction from someone like that can really give someone a boost.

  13. Lydia toop*

    #1 This would be considered professional misconduct (by the student) at the academic institution I work for and there would almost certainly be serious consequences. You may also want to talk to the VP Student’s Office/Ethics Office or whatever the equivalent is at your institution. Sorry this happened to you.

  14. Anonononanonononononnon*

    1. – The tweet wasn’t removed from twitter. It was taken off the facebook page, but I definitely retweeted it with a laugh just recently. I remember thinking maybe it was fake, but maybe not since the original tweeter included professor email address. Now I know it was indeed fake. But it is still making rounds on twitter, that’s for sure.

  15. Legalchef*

    Re #1 – I wonder if you can contact Twitter and tell them that this is fake, and ask them to remove the tweet?

    1. CMT*

      Twitter’s support is such a joke. They don’t even remove death threats. I doubt they’d do anything about this.

      1. Natalie*

        I wonder if this is one place an attorney could be helpful – lawyerly types correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Twitter have to comply with valid takedown notices to maintain their general protection from libel suits? A takedown letter from an attorney might get it removed even if there’s nothing specific in Twitter’s rules.

  16. babblemouth*

    LW1: I would be so angry, so kudos for staying level headed about this! A conversation with the student is in order. As other commenters have mentioned, this is defamation, and while I don’t think suing him is a great idea, pointing out that you could do that – and would win – will have an effect.

    Try again talking to your supervisor, and be very very explicit about the risk to your reputation. They need to have your back on this.

    1. Alice*

      I know you’re not the only person to mention this, but I think it’s way cover the top. I mean, it’s a good principle not to use a nuclear weapon as your first tactic, right?
      Some other people have suggested turning the episode into a case study, which seems like a great way to respond and to make sure no students expect the extra points. It also drives home what the LW is reaching – that lots of people,including ones who should know better like university PR, are taken in by fake news. If you could swing a visit from the head of PR to the class it would be a great conversation! But obviously with you uncertain about your support from your leadership (courses director, department head), it would be hard to issue the invitation.
      IMO forget about trying to punish the student – if she had really been trying to put one cover on people she wouldn’t have used the email address. And forget about trying to get the retweeter punished (mentioned by a commentor, not by you LW) – you have no capital to make that happen and it wouldn’t solve the problem anyway. If you can bring yourself to make this into a teaching moment, your students will never forget it. And it will be a great story to tell, when you want to teach somewhere else, about your teaching practice and crisis response skills.
      Good luck!

      1. babblemouth*

        I don’t think she should sue – but I do think pointing out to the student that this kind of things could have VERY serious consequences is important. She is a teacher, and it is her place to educate on these kinds of things.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          If it happened in a corporate environment I suspect the student would be out the door very quickly, so a very calm discussion might be in order.

    2. Roscoe*

      Yeah, I think no good comes of saying “I could sue you and win, but I won’t”. It just looks extra petty, especially coming from the supposedly more responsible person. Have a conversation sure, but when you start bringing up suing people, things just turn ugly very fast

  17. lilitu*

    LW1, this is a great teaching opportunity! Honestly, the course you teach sounds very important (proven by this whole situation) and I would welcome one of my students providing me with such a brilliant learning opportunity for the whole class. Have you considered that the student may have spread this intentionally, to prove a point related to the course you teach? Perhaps even as a basis for a paper or presentation?

    I think there would be two great positive steps you could take now:
    1) Speak 1-on-1 with the student and ask about their motivation for this. Make clear that it is not acceptable in academia to lie about your professors, especially not in this public a way, and that it is inappropriate to have anyone be identifiable in an online joke! But, if it was only meant as a joke and had no malice behind it, I’d also say you intend to use the story as a learning moment for the class.
    2) Take this story into class and teach about it! It’s a perfect illustration of all the issues you’re already teaching about, and I am sure a whole bunch of students fell for it. Let them use their own critical thinking and make them reflect on why they (and the communications employee at your university) didn’t.

    1. Career crisis, HELP!*

      I was wondering that as well, but he really should have discussed with her privately first.

  18. Murphy*

    OP#1: I am completely appalled at the behavior of your communications office! This is a huge failure on their part and I can’t believe they’re treating it so lightly. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

  19. Professional Sweater Folder*

    I saw the email on a few websites running it as if it’s an actual legitimate story. Someone (the school, the student, I don’t even know) needs to issue a formal statement saying this isn’t real before this ends up tarnishing your reputation. I’ve been able to figure out the letter writer from the articles printing the lines. You bet some future student is going to find it and try to pull something like that.

    1. Allison*

      I looked it up, and it’s on Cosmo. Yuck! That e-mail was super dumb too, half of it’s just song lyrics, as if that would work on anyone! It’s not even funny, let alone 20 extra points for everyone funny. No wonder the OP is worried people will think they would actually fold on such a silly tactic.

      1. OP*

        Thank you! I realize it isn’t big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I don’t find it flattering. It is not something I would ever do. Plus, will future students think I’m an easy grader and inundate me with similar requests. It could have been a lot worse given a tweet is considered fact these days, but still I’m uncomfortable with it being out there.

        1. Myrin*

          Do you have any idea what might have caused the student to make something like this up in the first place? I’m trying to get into that mindset and coming up blank. I mean, if you want to invent a funny story that will make you internet-famous, why not just use a completely fake professor persona? I’m baffled by this whole situation but I do agree that it would probably be a good teaching moment for your students.

          1. OP*

            I’m sure he had no idea this would happen, and just thought it was funny. I have no idea what the motivation was though.

              1. fposte*

                Yup. He was going for those sweet, sweet clicks and he’s not going to let go as long as he’s getting them.

                1. Allison*

                  Yup. It’s insane how many people make up ridiculous, nonsensical stories just to go viral and drive traffic to their websites or social media pages.

        2. Sas*

          “Plus, will future students think I’m an easy grader and inundate me with similar requests.” No. Just be you, how you’d be if it didn’t happen.

          1. Anne*

            The risk for us as profs though is that student feedback matters to our jobs, and having an undeserved reputation as an easy grader changes faculty and student persceptions of our work which changes our actual income

        3. Artemesia*

          I used to advise public speakers on how to deal with problem people in workshops or professional speeches. The basic advise is ‘you can’t win by getting angry or striking at the annoying person’ — rather than getting defensive and being in a tug of war, move towards the person, acknowledge the point and pivot. e.g. acknowledge the know it all’s expertise and then talk about letting others contribute (openly and if that doesn’t work, then privately between sessions). You can’t win in a pissing match with a student; you might ‘win’ by embracing this as a perfect example of fake news and how gullible people are in sharing it and how that explodes. There are lots of current political examples — the one where the guy shot off an assault rifle in a pizza joint certainly makes the point about the danger but this student has provided a perfect local example relevant to the students. Even a silly and implausible tweet about extra credit has made it around the world twice while truth is putting on its socks. ‘I mean, how many of you think I would give out grade points because of a poem emailed to me? And yet here it is in Cosmo.’ etc etc Embrace it, move towards it, instead of defending agains and pulling back.

      2. Emi.*

        Ugh, I saw that too. Someone said something about its not being the prof’s real email address, but to an outsider (me) it looks like it could very well be a legit academic email address.

      3. Awkward Interviewee*

        I looked up the cosmo article… ugh. I work in higher ed and that email is terrible and no instructor would give extra credit for that email. I can dee why OP is upset! Also, it doesn’t make mathematical sense to need a 97 on the final to keep an A. I think this student needs consequences from someone.

  20. LongTimeGradStudent*

    OP 1–I think you need to go to your department head and take it from there. If you’re trying to “make it” in academia (which presumably you are) other institutions are going to find this if you’re in contention for a post. That will not bode well. I think you’d want to have some assurance from this institution that they will take your side on this in the future.

    Also, universities are a place of learning for students, and I think it’s important for that student to know that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable. That should come from you (and should also come from the larger university).

    1. Artemesia*

      If I were this adjunct, I’d have a story about how I used this ridiculous student joke as a teaching point in my class and I’d come off looking clever rather than a ‘victim.’ It isn’t fair, but being defensive just won’t make her look powerful and competent. So unfair. But life is like that.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I’m not in academia, but I’d imagine that how you’ve previously handled problem students is a big hiring point, so the OP should definitely find a way to make it work in their favor.

  21. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP#3, if you read AAM at all, you should know that unless Pat’s timeliness is affecting your productivity you should probably just let it go and assume that your supervisor is aware of what’s going on. If you start not hearing back from Pat in a timely manner or can’t get a document from him when you need it, then you have a reason to go to your supervisor and ask if they know if Pat is in the office, since you need a critical document right away. (Don’t inflate the importance of it either, or it will be obvious you’re looking for an excuse to be nosy.)

    If Pat’s time in the office doesn’t affect your work, then learn to ignore it. Your boss may know that Pat or Pat’s immediate family has medical appointments in the morning, or whatever might be a good reason, but they would have no reason to share that with you.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. I did not see enough evidence there to move forward. As I read I thought, “Omg, I can just see ME in this spot. ”
      It would have gone something like this:” I thought I needed you to come help change mom’s diaper, but I got it taken care of and I am on time for work.” ugh, ugh. OP, please leave this one alone.
      If there is stuff going on there, that will bubble to the surface eventually. Most lies/thefts eventually become known. Let time handle this one.

    2. Michele*

      I agree. That is very little evidence, but depending on the environment at work could really damage either Pat or the LW reputation (LW can come across as a trouble maker and complainer). As long as Pat is getting his work done and not interfering with LW’s ability to do theirs, MYOB.

    3. OP #3*

      OP #3 here, “The Cosmic Avenger” you are totally right. However, it does often affect my productivity as I often have to cover for him when he is not here. This is normal operation for him, to just “disappear” or say he was “doing something” when he is gone. However, as you and others have pointed out, there is no hard evidence, so I will leave it alone and maybe one day he will slip up bad enough that his supervisor or his timekeeper (two different people oddly) will notice.

      1. self employed*

        But I don’t think you have to cover/leave it alone if it’s an instance that is impacting your work. Leave this particular overhearing-thing alone, sure– but if his absence is causing you problems, I’d report is up the chain. Something like, “Jim-Bob isn’t around, and I need X. Do you know when he will be back?”

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Exactly. Don’t cover for him, or if you’ve already been been given a standing order by your boss, tell your boss that you are having trouble getting both his tasks and yours done in a timely manner and ask for guidance on prioritizing them.

  22. AnonNurse*

    #1 – I don’t currently work in academia but I have been a part of the evaluation collection process in the past and understand how crucial it is to instructors, especially adjuncts. I have literally been asked by a decision maker what I thought of an instructor, as this person knew me and respected my opinion. I was one of the opinions that helped ensure that adjunct was invited back the following semester. That’s a very big deal and was even outside the formal evaluation process.

    I am also currently a student again and know how much my instructors emphasize getting their evaluations completed, especially adjuncts. I have respect for that process and can’t imagine a small internet tweet would have an effect on my opinion about a course but I’m sure there are people it would.

    I really feel like this should be directed to the students (although that may be too late to give a lot of detail this late in the semester) and would an excellent teaching tool regarding fake news and the consequences it can have. I also can’t imagine why administration wouldn’t want this addressed directly with students to make sure none of them are counting on this extra credit. There is a chance there are students that have seen this, are counting on it, and will be going to higher ups to debate or argue their grade when that doesn’t happen. I’ve seen that happen too many times and really feel it could be avoided by taking some pre-emotive steps.

    I hope this is able to be curtailed and doesn’t become an ongoing issue for you, OP.

  23. FD*

    #1- For better or worse, the cat’s out of the bag. What has gone viral cannot be un-viraled. However! I think you have a few things you can do as good damage-control.

    First, I agree with what others have said. The school should issue a statement saying that it’s faked. This will help protect your reputation from future schools.

    Second, I would do a little counter work yourself. If you don’t have a website, get one. It’s a good way to share your papers and other works anyway. I know you’re an adjunct, so you’re already overworked and underpaid, but you might consider doing a study of how this happened. You can be a bit tongue in cheek–make it something people want to read, but also do a genuine analysis of how it ‘went viral’. People are interested in how and why things go viral, so it could be an interesting read as well as a good way to counteract the buzz.

    Third, I would proactively address this in your current and future classes. Do it humorously–if you try to fight it too heavily, it’ll probably fan the flames–but do it.

    Fourth, remember that the internet has a rather short attention span. Memes mutate quickly and they die out. You will probably have to put up with this for a year or so, but after that, people will forget and you’ll be able to use your own website and social media to push other stories down in the rankings.

    Good luck!

    1. OP*

      Thanks the Internet having a short attention span is a welcome reminder. Luckily I also have a regular full time job. All the money I make teaching goes to my student loans. While I’m not dependent on the income I love teaching and would like to do it at other local schools in the future. Also, my current full time job is grant dependent and recent current events mean it is likely I will not have my current job much longer, so it is nice to know that if I don’t find something new quickly I have a little income coming I from teaching

      1. TL -*

        OP if you’re not aiming for a tenure-track position one day, you have more flexibility to push back (and to at least talk to the student!)

        Or at least you would in my field.

    2. fposte*

      These are really good ideas. In addition, you might reach out to somebody in the communications office and pitch a story about the teaching of fake news with this as an example.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I was thinking this too–“Professor who teaches about the dangers of fake news featured in fake viral story” seems at least as interesting as the original item.

  24. Trout 'Waver*

    OP #1, if I had the ability to score student assignments, I would go back and deduct points from that student. If source evaluation and spotting fake news is part of the curriculum, that student clearly demonstrated that they are not proficient by creating fake news.

    I get that adjuncts may not have that power or level of influence though.

    1. Roscoe*

      That’s not really ethical though to retroactively take back points because of a joke that got out of hand. If you want to tell them that you are docking points from a final because of this, I suppose that case could be made (although I don’t agree with that either). If there is discipline to be done, that needs to go through appropriate channels

    2. Mike C.*

      That would be like a math teacher going back and making me down for seeing me make side bets at the craps table. You’re seeing an arbitrary, post hoc standard for work and seeI can’t any way to justify that.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Side craps bets don’t loop back into the course itself, though. The student is specifically referencing a course and a professor who teach now to spot fake news in his fake news about the course.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            If the student was running a side casino inside the course and screwing up the probabilities, then you may have a point.

      2. LJL*

        Yeah, you have to evaluate the students based on the evidence as submitted via assignments. You can’t really go around and make arbitrary changes later on.

    3. Jessie*

      Teachers give points and grades for assignments. Going back and deducting random points from other assignments (in which the student earned a specific grade because of the actual work put in) because the teacher saw that in the real world the student did not adequately learn the subject matter is horrible (and fyi we do not know the student failed to learn anything – the student wasn’t unknowingly sharing fake news: the student invented a fake story and *others* failed to evaluate the source, etc) and would likely earn the professor an invitation to not return the following semester. Seriously, that’s not how teaching works.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Clearly the end goal is points and assignments and not demonstrated mastery of the subject.

        I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say you can’t earn in “A” in Social Media and Journalism if you use social media to falsely damage the reputation of the instructor of the course during the semester. That’s a perfectly reasonable statement, regardless of how many points you accrue.

        1. LJL*

          No, it’s about making sure that you have a level playing field and are evaluating all students according to the same criteria.

      1. CMT*

        No, I don’t think she has to be 100% sure of that to do anything. That’s a completely unreasonable standard.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, she doesn’t have to do that, but she also should not retroactively deduct points because the student posted something ridiculous that has affected her.

  25. Someone Else*

    OP1 – Oof, I feel for you. Is it worth submitting the story to Snopes and clarifying that it’s fake? It might only be a drop in the ocean but at least something truthful would be out there alongside the fake story.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yup. OP or the school may also be contacted by Snopes at some point. It seems they usually have a fact check up within a few days.

  26. deesse877*

    One further input from an academic on #1:

    Many answers here suggest indirect responses, such as making a class exercise out of it, with the assumption that students will take the point. That’s not a good assumption to make about people who are (a) often very young overall, and (b) not actually invested in the prof/student relationship the way an employee is invested in a relationship with her supervisor. They have little context, and no sense of professional give-and-take. The students I teach would be far more likely to see indirect references to the incident as mean-spirited or shaming, especially since they would probably think it was obviously a joke made by someone who feels insecure about the class.

    That sort of student perception can have consequences on things like course evaluations; more fundamentally, it means that some students will learn less, maybe even distrust that the instructor is dispassionate when she designates something as “fake news” or similar.

    If it were me, I’d speak to the student directly to make it clear that this was wrong, investigate student discipline options at the university level, and announce to all students that the “extra credit” is fake in at least three ways (mass e-mail, in-class annnouncement, persistent notice on a class website or CMS).

    1. J.B.*

      I like your points and think that a direct response is a good idea. It is still great fodder for an exercise (whether this semester or in the future), because it makes clear the real life consequences to a person in front of the students.

    2. AD*

      No, don’t speak to the student directly. The OP (or her manager) should go straight to the Dean of Students.

  27. insert pun here*

    Academia-but-not-an-academic here. OP1, regardless of what else you do, you need to get your institution to issue a retraction — something that you can keep on file. Others have mentioned legal action, which I agree is probably too far, but simply mentioning the words “defamation of character” may get you some traction. Most universities are pretty risk-averse about this stuff.
    As a very smart person I know once said, “academia is a highly reputational business, and I cannot afford to be associated with craziness that’s not my own.” Things like this don’t “go away” in academia. People (hiring committees) will remember it for decades.

    1. i want a pony*

      Other posters have mentioned that other news sources, Cosmopolitan for one that I found quickly, have posted this story. I would contact the other news sources to print a retraction as well. And if you do this, would it be too much to ask for an update so people could see how far this prank got and how many sources reported this without verification and how many retract it? And this might be a good subject to write an article about for publication since fake news is a hot topic now.

    2. Beagle*

      She shouldn’t mention defamation since it’s clearly not defamation and not legally actionable.

      that will only get her into trouble

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It’s defamation. Just not something that would win in court. Something can be wrong and still not worthy of lawyers.

        1. Jessie*

          Of course. But then why *say* “defamation of character” – it sounds legalese enough to non-lawyers that they’ll think that’s what you are talking about, and half the people will then think that’s a ridiculous path to go down. Just say straight up that you feel it is damaging to your reputation and why – don’t use “threat of legal action” words when there is no actual threat of legal action. Just use your words to say what the real problem is.

            1. insert pun here*

              Yeah, this varies from institution to institution, obviously, but in my experience, the threat of lawyers (or perhaps more accurately, the threat of increased legal risks) has been enough to get things moving.

              Obviously OP will have to calibrate for his/her own circumstances.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                It does vary, but you should generally ask nicely first before using the key words that invoke lawyers.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I mean, it’s not defamation because defamation is a legal term of art, and what we’ve been provided with doesn’t fit the elements required to bring a defamation lawsuit. There isn’t a “non-legal” meaning for that word. And the reason a bunch of law people are objecting is not because the case wouldn’t win (that’s a strategy question), it’s because the details provided don’t even meet the basic requirements for bringing a defamation lawsuit (a merits question).

          I’m with Jessie and fposte on this one—it’s not helpful to invoke law terms or legalese if what you’re really trying to do is identify a bad thing that someone did (but that the law does not protect against).

    3. memyselfandi*

      I agree. The student should be made aware that legal action could be taken against him/her but no action should be pursued. The university should look at what it can do to shut this down and not make it blow up any further. I think AAM could help, perhaps by getting the story off this website as well. I am not sure how things in the internet world work, but I think that the more references there are and the more searches, the more prominent the story becomes.

      1. SouthernLadybug*

        Perhaps – it did cause me to search. But this is also a clear sign the whole thing is fake. This is the only page with the truth on it.

        But I’d defer to AAM and the LW of course. I think if it were me, though, I’d want my letter to stay up.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        No—do not threaten a student with legal action when there’s no legal action that can be taken.

        Setting aside the ethical reasons for why this is a bad idea, the University/OP can open themselves up to a massive PR problem in addition to (likely unsuccessful) lawsuits over free speech, etc., because this is a public university.

    4. Artemesia*

      The University probably hasn’t issued a retraction because it makes the communications office look like bozos.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        They could issue a refutation without a retraction – i.e. state that the email allegedly from one of their profs is not real, without ever having to mention that they themselves shared the fake post on Facebook.

  28. Purest Green*

    For #4, you might also consider that this company lost a project and decided not to fill a position because of it, and what that could mean for the stability of that role in the future even if they do decide to hire in January.

    1. CM*

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Unless OP #4 is thinking of this as a short-term position, they should be careful about pursuing this job.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      I agree. If they get another interview in the future with this company, they should specifically reference this experience and ask how common it is. If their answer is that they won a 10-year defense contract, that speaks a bit better than if they got a 6-month grant.

  29. WhichSister*

    #1. I actually saw this on Facebook this weekend! It caught my eye as a former college instructor. (I thought wow that’s not worth 20 points.) The good news is fake news is something you cover and this is a great teaching opportunity on how fake news impacts people, even those not in the story.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think everyone who sees the story on FB should post that the story is fake, just my opinion of course.

  30. Marche*

    OP #1, it’s unfortunate that the course director advised you to not say anything. As a student, had I seen a tweet like this about my professor/class I wouldn’t have believed it at all, it sounds way too good to be true. What would have been a good response would be to mass-email your classes, tell them that you saw the email promising 20 extra credit points and telling them point-blank that the email was fake and that no one would be receiving extra credit, reiterating that, as per your syllabus, you don’t give extra credit at all. You could also mention the discussion of fake news to be held in class, to really bring it full circle.

          1. Michele*

            This is exactly why I am hesitant to compliment someone about a haircut or glasses. Sometimes, I notice when it happens, but other times it ends of being something from three weeks ago.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          Either the weekend or today. I had my browser open from Friday and when I hit reload it changed.

        2. Anon for this*

          Yep, some people noticed her avatar was out in the cold without a hat in the open thread yesterday.

  31. Jessie*

    LW, 3, how on earth do you go from that phone conversation all the way to “he’s fudging time sheets”?!

    There are a hundred other extremely reasonable conclusions you could have drawn about that conversation, and you jump to timesheets? That’s a little odd. You should absolutely not say something – not because it isn’t your business but because you have assumed the worst based on a completely benign-sounding conversation.

    “I thought I was going to be late for work so I though I would have to ask you to….” hand in that report for me; tell my boss I was late; stop at the mail for me because I would not have time; turn on the computer and send an email for me; fax a thing to the client; make a call for me; attend the meeting in my place…

    and on and on. I can’t even see why you’d jump to timesheets.

    Let it go.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’m a bit bewildered by that train of thought as well. I’ve actually said to people “Man, I thought I’d be late and you’d have to start that meeting in my stead – good thing I did make it after all!”, so something to that extent really would be the first my mind would jump to (if it would register with me at all which it probably wouldn’t tbh) because what OP did hear sounds perfectly innocuous. Unless she has other reasons to assume the coworker is manipulating time sheets – and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case since the whole assumption is “based on a conversation Pat had on the phone” – it would probably be best to re-frame your thinking on conversations like these.

    2. OP #3*

      Both of you are right, it could have been any number of things. However, this is something Pat would do. Pat’s work ethic isn’t very strong and Pat likes to look like Pat does so much, but Pat is never around whenever anyone needs Pat.

      It was not an illogical conclusion (I ask you to trust me on this), however, as others have pointed out, I have no hard evidence, so I won’t do anything. I just know that one day, Pat will screw up, and get caught by the appropriate person.

      1. Roscoe*

        You already sound like this is more of a you don’t like Pat thing than an actual work issue. Maybe he is a lousy co-worker in your opinion, but just your tone enough would be enough to say don’t do anything. It makes you sound more petty than anything

      2. Purest Green*

        I have a Pat, or I used to. I still work with him, but I had to stop caring about his shortcomings. Had to. Because it was putting me in a bad place, and I’m thinking you might be in a bad place too. If Pat is causing issues with your work then absolutely address that with your manager, but otherwise I think you’ll be happier if you accept that Pat is not your problem.

    3. hbc*

      And then the non-work related stuff. “…pick up the kids while I stay late to make up my time; make other plans for lunch since I’ll be pinched; drop off my gym bag since I won’t have time to stop home before spin class.”

      If I was rating my suspicion of this guy fudging his time on a scale of 1-10, this would maybe move it 0.1 towards more suspicious. Maybe. Definitely not “evidence” to bring to anyone else.

  32. Tuesday*

    Re: #4, why contact them in late January? It doesn’t sound like the employer was going to reach out to the applicant if the new project does come through. If I were the applicant, my inclination would be to contact them in early January to let them know that I was still available. Otherwise, it seems like there’s a risk that they get the project early in the month and hire someone else.

    Maybe that’s an overly generous view of the speed at which hiring takes place, but what’s the harm in contacting them early in the month?

    1. Leatherwings*

      It actually does sound to me like they would contact OP if the project comes through – she was the top choice before the project fell through. Contacting them the first week in January would be jumping the gun a bit for me. You have to give the employer a chance to actually get things together. They said the project might come through in January, not that they might hire in January. And the liklihood of the project coming through AND them hiring a totally new candidate seems exceedingly low to me.

    2. Almost Hired*

      OP of #4 here, yeah I was thinking the same thing, I think I’ll go against her advice and email somewhere in the second week.

  33. Christian Troy*

    LW1 – I think you really need to talk to someone else at your university (ombudsman?) . This story is getting quite a bit of circulation and your university has a responsibility to address that with the student AND write a retraction. And not to out myself here, I got “in trouble” for something significantly less harmful when I was in college so I am truly baffled no one at your university is seeking action against this student. This student is still promoting this story on his Twitter.

  34. sarah*

    OP1: Does your university have an honor code/academic conduct process? At my university, this is absolutely something student conduct would want to hear about, and they would be able to look into what happened with the student. It will be a little paperwork on your end, but they can actually sit down with the student and have a conversation about why fabricating and spreading rumors about grades is not acceptable.

    I would also be really explicit about it in class so that no one thinks those points are coming to them and gets disappointed!

    1. Rainy Day*

      Just looked at student code of conduct at my uni:

      Honesty is one of the core values and furnishing false information is a a violation. It doesn’t address where/how false info is spread. I would talk to student before talking to student affairs/dean of students office.

  35. Milla*

    It seems nuclear to threaten the student with libel charges, and bringing lawsuits that will never come to fruition will make you seem like the unreasonable one.
    But, I do think someone should take the time to pull the misguided youth into an official looking room filled with ominously serious people entrenched behind threatening, mahogany desks of great size and importance who will then explain how lying and impersonating people is Simply Not On and let the kid sweat a bit before they request he formally apologize to the LW and/or write a retraction, which may or may not be posted in the school paper. If the LW can get some deans on board to play the part of the stuffy people or donate a desk, that would be wonderful.
    If not, it would be worth it to pull the student in during office hours yourself to chastise them, explain the long term impact the prank will have on you, express your disappointment in their poor judgement and discovering they’re a liar, and request an apology.

    1. Jessie*

      I love this. Not just the actual advice, but how you presented it.

      +100 to “threatening, mahogany desks of great size and importance” :-)

    2. Chickaletta*

      This seems to be a good approach.

      I’m a little surprised that neither the LW or Alison said anything about consequences for the student. Seems to me like they learned that spreading fake news only has positive effects: gives them a lot of exposure while having a little bit of fun at the same time. No wonder the news is so full of fake stories.

      Unless there’s a negative repercussion for the student, I can only see this type of thing happening a lot more at the university once other students get wind that their friend wrote a fake story that got widely tweeted and, presumably, he received a lot of attention from it. Also, why in the world hasn’t the person who posted it on Facebook without verifying their sources not be reprimanded either? Isn’t one of the cornerstones of journalism to verify your source?? Makes me wonder what they’re teaching at this university…

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I assumed they both ignored the student because OP#1 was really asking about how to manage her communications/relationship with her employer in light of their move to retweet a bogus story.

  36. vanBOOM*

    OP #1: Ugh, I feel for you and would also be upset if this happened to me and the university responded this way. So much of what you should do depends on the culture of your specific institution, your relationship with your departmental colleagues, and your own sense of job security. However, based on the details provided (and my own experience as both a faculty member and a member of uni administration), there are a few things I can deduce here:

    1) Your university believes that it has already “handled” the communications issue and they are unlikely to do more than what they’ve already done in terms of university-wide communication about this matter. As frustrating as this may be to entertain, I suspect that they have not issued (and will not issue) a formal statement on this matter to the university-wide community because doing so would embarrass the student (or, in a worst case scenario, could lead to the student being the target of harassment from other students and online trolls while the university is depicted as the “harasser”). I’m not saying this is right; I’m just saying that students are “customers” in the 21st century university, that universities are still struggling to catch up with and anticipate the impact that social media has on university life (and what role the university plays in all of that), and that universities are typically risk-averse when it comes to making decisions that could alienate their “customers” unless they are absolutely forced (i.e., legally required) to do so. For them, simply removing the fake story from uni social media accounts was likely perceived as the best possible way to both “undo” their mistake with you while also protecting the student (and themselves).

    2) Is the student majoring in the field associated with the course you’re teaching this semester? If so, your departmental colleagues (ideally a respected senior faculty member or, if your uni is set up this way, the student’s faculty adviser in the department) should absolutely have a confidential but serious chat with the student. It should be framed as a discussion of professional ethics that, when possible, relates to your course material on fake news. Ultimately, it sounds like the course director should be approached first about this and everything that happens after that is up to them. If the student is not majoring in the field associated with the course you taught: You can have the same conversation with the course director about working with the other department to facilitate that chat, but know that it will probably be less likely to happen. Either way, the safest bet for you to take is for you to propose these ideas and leave it up to others to implement them. If they choose not to, I wouldn’t force it as doing so could threaten your job security.

    3) In terms of what YOU can do to protect yourself moving forward, I echo some of the suggestions of previous commenters. However, prior to implementing ANY of these ideas, you must consult with your course director. First, if you do not already have a website and social media accounts associated with your professional identity, you could certainly get everything set up (GoogleSites is your friend, and a free account with HootSuite can make it super easy to manage all your social media accounts). If it makes sense to have a section on your website for media coverage or media-related materials, I would insert a brief statement on the matter there (with its own individual URL for that statement alone). Do not mention the student’s name, and speak in the broadest of terms possible so that your comments will be seen as *applying* to this situation without referring to it explicitly, specifically, or directly. Second, I would next use all your social media accounts to send out a quick link to that statement, and would also track down as many of those articles featuring this story as you can find so that you can link back to the statement in the comments sections. Third, although I am not opposed to the idea of you turning this situation into a teachable moment in future iterations of your course, I think you must tread lightly because you could also be perceived as harassing the student if you call too much attention to this specific situation. It may be safest to not comment on your specific situation directly but, rather, to touch upon the broader issue of fake news, social media, and university life. Again—and I cannot emphasize this enough—you need to have *every* step, choice of words, and in-class discussion decisions here approved by your course director. This recommendation is made especially in regard to online presence because he/she will likely find out about that eventually and I don’t want you to make a misstep that leads to you losing your position at the university over this situation. If he/she doesn’t want you to do *any* of these steps, then you must let it go. To echo a previous commenter, the internet does, indeed, have a short attention span–and if you can use your website and social media accounts to overpower what’s already written out there about you online, you’ll be fine. It also goes without saying that your exact policy on extra credit should be communicated in your syllabus (and syllabi could be posted on your website as well, if you desire).

    Good luck!

  37. Mockingjay*

    #4 sounds like a typical contingent offer. The company was pursuing a contract, and sought tentative staffing for the bid. Upon award, formal offers would be sent out with start dates commensurate with the new contract.

    The company apparently did not win this particular contract, but were impressed with you/applicable skill set and want to keep you in mind for the next contract bid. (Or the award was delayed due to competitor protest, funds not in place yet, and so on.)

    It’s not an actual offer, so you are free to move on at any stage. It does give you a leg up if the company does win new work; most of the prescreening is already done and final offers are usually negotiated quickly. Touch base as Alison suggests, but don’t wait on the job.

    1. Sitting with sad salad*

      This has happened to me before in school settings and non profits. A grant doesn’t come through or is smaller than expected, or a principal has a choice between how to spend those particular dollars and goes another direction. This is very common, unfortunately. In any case, keep the relationship open but move along.

  38. One Handed Typist*

    #1 – It’s absolutely justified that an adjunct professor be worried about reputation. The University needs to respond better to this – that student needs to meet with a disciplinary committee regarding falsifying communications and using personal information from the OP for it. I can also see why the course director “scolded” OP for going to coworkers rather than the manager for a problem. Instead of reporting this to the people who can fix it, OP called a coworker to vent. Understandable, absolutely, but the coworker had time to notify University Communications and get them to respond, which suggests OP sat on the issue rather than reporting it. If the OP had notified course director or dept chair as soon as the fake images were shared, there would not have been a scolding.

    1. OP1*

      I emailed the appropriate person immediately as it is the only real way I have to contact her. The text to my friend came after, and her knowing the exact people involved in getting it removed allowed her to call right away.

  39. Dom*

    I don’t think you should be worried about the shared email. It gave everyone a good laugh for the holiday season, everyone will forget about it shortly. I even saw the “tweet” on Twitter last week. The only thing I thought was inappropriate was that your first and last name were on the “email.”

  40. Norman*

    LW1 needs to report this to the academic fraud unit. If the student is responsible for the lie, this is surely a serious violation of the school’s honor code: like the student will almost certainly get at least academic probation serious.

  41. Cassie*

    Ironically, the 2nd article listed on The Chronicle of Higher Education is titled “How Can Students Be Taught to Detect Fake News and Dubious Claims?” I didn’t read the article, but it looks like some non-students (hello people at OP1’s university) need to learn this too!

  42. Good intentions*

    1. As the creator of the tweets I have the following to say,
    I decided to create my fake “extra credit” emails to give my teacher a funny and real life example of what we learned in class throughout the semester about credible sources and verifying information. I also wanted to show how fast fake news spreads throughout social media, illustrate how gullible people on the internet are, and prove that you can’t believe everything you see on the internet as well. I hoped in doing so that my teacher would actually award me with extra credit for providing her with a great example she can use for decades to come. Yes, I should’ve cleared it with my instructor first or informed her of my intentions from the beginning. I never expect it to go viral and when it did, I started to create a list of big time publications who also believed in my emails to show along with the retweets and favorites on twitter. Publications like Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan! I purposely left several clues to show that they were fake and wanted to see if people would call me out, or not even notice and still retweet, favorite, share, etc. For starters, if you look at the tweet, you’ll see in the subject like that the c in credit isn’t capitalized and in “The response” it is. Also, I said in order to keep my A in the class that I needed to get a 97% or better on the test. If I already have an A, say a 90% for example, the best I’d need to get on the test to keep my A would be a 90%. Also If you look at the times, I “sent the email” at 8:57 and “my instructor” at 9:04. How many professors respond to students that late? Also that fast? It’s unheard of. I’m lucky to get a response within 24 hours from most of my professors, not 7 minutes. Lastly, in the response it doesn’t show who sent it or who it was sent to. I left so many red flags that showed it was fake but people were too busy laughing to notice. I planned on presenting my findings to my teacher/class during our last day, Thursday, the 15th. But I was never given that chance, before I was able to, I was sent links to an article she wrote about me and the situation on or several @’s from a women on twitter by the name of (removed by site owner), who I don’t know. I never intended for them to go viral and once they did and my teacher found out, I expected her to at least ask me about them or respond to my requests to talk to her. Instead she decided to get her own 15 minutes of fame, writing about it and appearing on a local news station, before talking to me and learning the backstory of the tweets to begin with. Could my approach have been better? Sure. But I expect from a my teacher and any educator in general to consult the issue with the student involved, not seek their own 15 minutes of fame by talking about it on the news and posting about it. Had she come to me when she first heard about it, I would’ve gladly informed her that the tweet was never meant to be malicious in any way, and were only created to provide people with a good laugh and as a good example for my teacher to use in class. But I am very disappointed how she, her department, and (removed by site owner) handled the situation.

    1. Professional Sweater Folder*

      If this was indeed some big experiment you did, why have you not made any clarifying tweets or statements to the news sources that spread your tweet that it is fake?

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      You wanted to show how fast fake news spreads, yet you didn’t expect it to go viral? Right.

      You’re placing the blame for this on your teacher, when it’s your own fault. You need to understand that you can’t just make things up. There are consequences, for you and the other people involved. You really don’t have a right to complain about the outcome.

      As for helping your teacher with an example, she didn’t ask for your help. Why on earth would you assume she would? And now you’re attacking her and claiming she wanted her own fame? It’s sounding more and more like you have an issue with this teacher and were looking for ways to cause trouble.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        * assume she would want it. It’s not as if she doesn’t have plenty of real-world examples.

    3. De*

      If this is really the student who started this: From what I can see, there were four or five days between when the story started going viral to this post. You really should have contacted her during this time. You saw publications like Cosmo and Buzzfeed picking it up and didn’t think your teacher would notice that?

      “But I expect from a my teacher and any educator in general to consult the issue with the student involved, not seek their own 15 minutes of fame by talking about it on the news and posting about it. ”

      Seriously? You think she is seeking fame? Wow.

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      You really aren’t helping your case here.

      This should be a lesson to you about unintended consequences. And that, even if your intentions were truly good (which, in this case, your intentions were to make your friends laugh and to get extra credit. Can you explain how that is good?) , that doesn’t stop the fact that your actions may have ruined this person’s career. Full stop. I know you don’t think so, but you are a very young person, with clearly a very limited perspective and no clue on how tenuous this adjunct jobs are, and you have absolutely ruined her professional reputation. Full stop. You may notice that no one here, especially among those who have or had jobs in academia, are disputing that basic fact.

      I can understand your incredulousness at the university’s response and everyone falling for it, but if you’d been paying attention in class, you would have known this was the likely outcome.

      And then you come here to blame your instructor and accuse her of seeking fame?

      I retract my previous opinion that suing you for defamation is an over the top reaction.

      1. vanBOOM*

        Jessesgirl72 makes an excellent point here that is worth emphasizing and repeating:

        Do you know that adjunct professors are often paid ~$2k-$3k for the *entire semester* per course, are usually limited to 2-3 courses a semester, receive NO benefits (health insurance, retirement contributions, etc.), are usually not included in university decision-making, and are hired/rehired on a semester contract basis with NO promise of renewal for the next semester?

        You are lucky that your professor adjuncts in addition to her more stable full-time job, because you could have done this to someone who–using my example numbers above–could have, at best, been earning $1800 a *month* for teaching 3 classes at your university for one semester. And that’s *before* taxes are taken out (unis don’t do that for adjuncts)! Then deduct even more money for those benefits they aren’t receiving, for payments towards the student loans they needed to take out for 6-12 years to get their graduate degrees, and for survival savings for those summer months where it is often very difficult to get summer teaching work, and…you hopefully get the point by now: Adjuncting is difficult, extremely underpaid work–but for some people, it’s the only work they can get. Thoughtlessly playing around with someone’s future employment prospects in this context could very well have been the difference between just scraping by and being homeless and starving. Wake up.

        I hope you learn something (many things, actually) from this and that your future employment prospects are not damaged in the ways that you may have damaged your professor’s.

    5. Cath in Canada*

      I would imagine that immediate damage limitation for her own reputation – which has the potential to affect her current and future employment – seemed more urgent than asking you what your intentions were. Your intentions don’t really matter if her current and future employers, not to mention her peers and her other students, believe that your fake email was true.

      Why didn’t you just use a fake name for the professor?

    6. nutella fitzgerald*

      I don’t think this is the right venue to work out your issues with your professor or anyone else employed by your university. You should really keep your communication with them internal.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Dude, why are you posting here and throwing people’s full names around (which I’ve removed from your comment) rather than cleaning this up by removing the tweet (which is still pinned to the top of your Twitter page) and contacting the places that have posted it? Please go do that immediately if you want to salvage any integrity you have.

      1. Professional Sweater Folder*

        Okay, this is the first time I’ve seen you call someone Dude in a comment, and for some reason I find it hilarious. While I know you’re easy going, I do have this image of you that you are very professional and proper in your communication, so to see you just call someone Dude point blank is so funny.

        1. AD*

          I think Alison has done it once or twice before that I can remember. But I share her wrath. This student’s actions and responses to what he has done are puzzling, incoherent, and attention-craving.

    8. Aisling*

      I can see that you really don’t understand what you did. Not clearing this with your professor first is a huge misstep. No one gets to decide what their extra credit work will be, do whatever they decide to do, and then go to the professor for a grade. It’s never worked that way. And, even if the professor had consulted you before escalating things, do you really think a “Golly gee, this was all a joke, teacher!” conversation would matter at all? You posted your tweets in a place outside the university, they went viral, and your “it’s a joke” conversation would not have stopped any of that. Please understand the magnitude of what you did and how you have affected your professor’s career. Her “15-minutes of fame” is her trying to salvage what you ruined.

    9. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I ask you, How would you respond had a classmate decided to use you as an example of a “funny and real life” example of fake news, tweeting that you only had achieved your grades in this class via cheating off others?

      The road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions. Your post proves that you didn’t learn anything in your class.

      Fake news is dangerous because it obscures the truth. Obscuring truth alters perception and creates damage. You created a fake post about your professor that went viral and is damaging to her reputation.

      In that instant of playing a joke for extra credit, you put in motion a series of events that could:
      -Damage your professor’s reputation, implying that she does not take education and academic success seriously.
      -Damage your University’s reputation, implying that they have loose academic standards and sub-par educators.
      -Devalue your degree program because who wants to hire a graduate from that University with their reputation.
      -Disavow yourself as someone who is educated and successful by virtue of attending and graduating that University
      -Destroy your own career before you even get out into the working world.

      Before you can “expect” certain professional behaviors you must first behave professionally on your own, gain that respect, they others in kind.

      You clearly demonstrate in your argument a great lack in critical thinking to review the situation in a neutral way, the logical skills to think through potential consequences and cause and effect, and a profound lack of self awareness with your provided explanation.

      In short, you show gall in trying to blame a situation that *you* created and backfired on *you* as something that your professor set in motion.

      At this point, you have a good deal of learning left to do. I suggest you start by looking up the definitions of the words, “truth”, “perception”, “reputation”, and “contrition”, before crafting a thoughtful, honest, reasoned apology for damage you did.

    10. vanBOOM*

      No, you did not deliberately conduct an “experiment” only to be shocked when it went viral. Those two statements don’t go together. You tried to pull a fast one, it went viral, and now you’re freaking out about your public lie.

      You don’t get to spread false information about someone and then dictate how they should feel about it or how they should handle what you’ve done to them.

      You have a lot left to learn.

    11. Mookie*

      Look, even if everything you say is true — including this wildly implausible business of both wanting to create fake viral news but being shocked! appalled! when, in fact, it became viral because YOU TWEETED IT — you did not receive consent from your instructor to involve her in this fiasco and that’s utterly unethical and bodes very badly for your future. Trying to frame this an act of generosity towards your instructor, to “help” her find examples of fake news, is almost offensive in its transparent dishonesty. Her defending herself is not, as you say elsewhere, “reckless” or “malicious,” and you certainly didn’t mind the attention you were receiving from news agencies around the country until the positive praise became negative when it was revealed you lied. You were desperately courting your own “15 minutes,” so please stop projecting. You’ve been caught out; digging isn’t going to help.

    12. AnonNurse*

      As a previous higher education student and current student working on an advanced degree, I am completely baffled by this comment. I don’t know where you go or what kind of interactions you’ve had with instructors in the past but I just can’t imagine a situation where this would ever by appropriate. I have never had an instructor that would give extra credit for something that I came up with or would have taken kindly to it even being suggested. Also, I know without a shadow of a doubt that had I brought the kind of attention to my school that you have brought to yours, I would have been kicked out of my program so fast my head would have spun. I really hope you can turn things around and see from the comments here that your reaction is so far beyond normal, professional, or acceptable it’s not even funny. Good luck to you.

    13. So Very Anonymous*

      Also, given the current media climate, if you think that your professor is somehow in need of a “real life” example of fake news and how it spreads, you didn’t learn much in that class.

    14. animaniactoo*

      You may never see this but, life lesson here:

      [blockquote]I expected her to at least ask me about them or respond to my requests to talk to her[/blockquote]

      When you do something that affects someone else, you can expect them to respond in the way that makes the best sense for their life/career/etc. Not what you would consider “fair” to you or “reasonable”. Your expectations are out of balance with your actions. Life won’t work according the script we write in our heads for how the other person will react. Because they are people, individuals, humans with their own motivations, needs, and viewpoints. So the very moment you move the established relationship outside of the realm it operates in, you break any idea of what you can “reasonably” expect on the part of the other person.

      And you are asking for what you are not willing to give – you took the teacher-student relationship here outside the classroom. You were willing to be interviewed about it. In fairness, you should expect that she may do the same.

      Maybe you didn’t know that you were potentially screwing with her ability to pay her rent and feed herself. Maybe you think people are overreacting (especially her). But when that happens, the adult and responsible thing to do is to do your best to clean up your end of it. In that case, that would mean – minimally – at least pinning the interview about the fakeness of it to the top of your page too, and editing the original tweet to indicate that it’s a fake. Out of the same respect you want and expect in return when people think you are making too big a deal out of something. You want that respect? Show that you have it for them. Whether you think they are overreacting or not.

  43. Vladimír*

    Men you show you absolutly do not get it and still have lot to learn. You post a fake email that in a way tarnishes someones reputation it goes viral, and when she defends herself you blame her? The fault is all yours man, all yours you shoud have never posted fake email about anyone. You shoud imeditely delete the tweet, post clarification everywhere and apologize.

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