Duke professors report emails from someone falsely claiming to be student, seeking information on their courses

Duke University professors took to social media on Tuesday to see if they could trust emails from someone claiming to be a student, seeking information about reading lists in their courses for the coming semester.

It is unclear how many Duke professors received the emails, and this is a time of year that some faculty members aren’t checking email regularly. But those who went public with the emails noticed that the courses about which the so-called student was seeking information all happened to be the types of classes that some right-wing bloggers like to criticize. The person sending the email sought information, for example, on courses called “Money, Sex and Power,” “Energy and Environmental Justice” and “Religion and Mass Incarceration.” The email messages, which did not come from a Duke email account, were very similar in asking for a reading list so the alleged student “could get a better idea of if the class is right for me.”

Professors who shared their emails said that they would try to answer such questions from a Duke student, but didn’t want to inadvertently help someone trying to attack either higher education generally or certain fields of study. Many cited the mood in academe in a time when new groups like Professor Watchlist are appearing. The list is for people to name faculty members who “promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Ara Wilson, associate professor of women’s studies at Duke, said via email that she responded to the email, offering to send a syllabus for “Money, Sex and Power” if the person seeking her out sent her a Duke email address, but the person who sent the email claimed that his Duke account didn’t work.

The emails came from someone claiming to be Gary Joe, but Duke says no such person is a current student. The university sent out an alert to faculty members Tuesday suggesting they not respond to the alleged student, and said that he has tried before to get information from faculty members about Duke classes.

Inside Higher Ed sent email to Gary Joe seeking to find out who he is and why he is sending the email. He did not respond but this article will be updated if he does.

Here are some of the comments on Twitter about the emails sent to Duke professors:

 

Gender Studies has always been a Right Wing target, so we’re primed for scrutiny, critique, and insult. https://t.co/NCT4GVtlnM

— ara wilson (@arawilson) December 27, 2016

 

@kjhealy “Dear Gary Joe – Sorry, that class is full. May I suggest you take Prof. Sokal’s Towards a Transformative Hermeutics of Phishing?”

— TED (@EpicureanDeal) December 27, 2016

 

 

Gender Studies has always been a Right Wing target, so we’re primed for scrutiny, critique, and insult. https://t.co/NCT4GVtlnM

— ara wilson (@arawilson) December 27, 2016

 

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