Open Letter to Comedian Jordan Carlos: Your Personal Assistant Sarah Westlake Has Been Sending Me …

… Poisonous Emails

Part I

Comedian Jordon Carlos

Comedian Jordon Carlos

Dear Jordan,

I’m writing about poison pen emails from this person Sarah Westlake who said she was a student majoring in media studies in the Department of Film and Media Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York, and that she was “a mature (in my thirties) student” and that she was (still is?) your personal assistant.

She has never been a student in my class. We have never met. Our paths have never crossed though some might call her poison emails a path-crossing of-sorts.  The venom can’t be denied.

Maybe you weren’t (aren’t?) paying her enough? Forgive me, if it sounds like I’m tying to spread her venom and the poison but you might have more insight into this than I do. But it’s okay if you don’t want to share. I won’t be offended.

Her emails, which I will be providing, were sent to me and cc-d to Colleagues in my department and she tried several times to post to a larger audience on the Department’s struggling listserv, fm-l, which is supposed to be an one-way information gateway for students enrolling in classes in D:F/M, though some present and former Colleagues, such as Colleague Tami Gold and erstwhile Colleague Peter Parisi,  in the past have occasionally used them to proselytize about issues that had nothing to do with students’ education. I can provide you more bio info about Gold and Parisi if you want – or you can just check the blog WORD archives for previous blogs.

In the far past, I used the listserv a lot to inform students about important matters that they should know about D:F/M, which has been academically adrift for many years. I don’t do that so much anymore because of the scandals that have smeared my department’s image. I never supported the plan to keep students from posting responses but the listserv was started by Colleague Larry Shore who wanted things his way.  In a sense, this blog piece and others may address Westlake’s attempt to attract a bigger audience for her unsolicited opinions, ascerbic and otherwise.

I have never received a poisonous email from a student who identified herself as the Personal Assistant to an up-and-coming celebrity comedian. I’m assuming that your Personal Assistant’s poison pen emails were not your way of gathering material for a new standup comedy routine.  Could I be wrong? Could she have been working on a comedy routine for herself?

Westlake was upset that that I had expressed criticism on my department’s listserv about an off-campus coordinator of an off-campus program who was telling students to ask instructors to excuse them from their classes so that they could attend his organization’s seminars. He apparently believed his organization’s workshops offered more educational value than the courses my Colleagues teach in the Department of Film and Media Studies, Hunter College.

That request by the off-campus coordinator of a profit-oriented company hit a sour note with me. If his request had been expressed privately to instructors, I might have ignored him or perhaps sent him a note, curt of course, that I believed my classes were important and that I didn’t appreciate his insinuations. And I would have left it at that. But his notice was posted on the listserv of my department (which has fallen on hard times and has a tawdry image at this campus because of a wave of public disclosures about academic chicanery and machinations that could boggle your mind).

Note: It was a Colleague, Larry Shore, who posted the notice on the D:F/M listserv.  And a Colleague, Bill Herman, indicated in a fm-l post that he supported the idea. [I sent out an alert that students in my classes who were also enrolled in Herman’s classes were advised that they could cut his classes based on his fm-l post – but not mine.]

Who am I? I am a former mainstream journalist (Democrat & Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, New York, Washington Star, Time magazine, New York Post, freelance writer ), published author and occasional contributor to New America Media.  Now, as a professor of several years, it is not unusual for me to get poison pen emails from students who flunk my courses or don’t get the grades they want or were caught cheating and had complaints filed against them. I’ve been collecting them over the years. [Would you believe that I’ve had Colleagues who have tried what I regard as primitive coercion to stop me from flunking students who deserve F’s?]

There is a formal University policy on academic integrity regarding student misconduct but I’m beginning to believe, based on my experience in my department, that one is needed for faculty who assist, inspire or advised students about how to avoid the consequences of cheating.

Westlake’s comments clearly indicated that she was inserting herself into an going imbroglio between me and Colleagues in my Department. She said that she didn’t like previous comments I allegedly made on the fm-l listserv regarding the fight in my department, essentially regarding Academic Freedom, Academic Integrity and other issues germane to higher education. I discuss this in other blog posts. But, of course, such issues might seem abstract or downright confusing to someone like Westlake.

Please note: Following is a copy of my original email to the outside, off-campus coordinator, Traecy Smith, Director of Diversity, The One Club:

” …we ask that you excuse your students from any missed classes should they choose to participate in the boot camp.”

Attention Traecy Smith, Director of Diversity The One Club: You have a lot of nerve asking that students be allowed to miss classes to attend your bootcamp. There may be Colleagues in the Department of Film and Media Studies who may go along with this but students enrolling in Prof. Morris’ classes need to know ahead of time that he isn’t.

And here is Westlake’s complaint.

Re: The One Club’s 2014 Creative Boot Camp New York
Sarah Westlake []
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2013 6:41 PM
To: Greggory w Morris

I have mixed emotions in sending this email, but I feel the need to express the fact that, as a mature (in my thirties) student and soon-to-be graduate of Hunter College, I have become exhausted of, unimpressed by, and disappointed in the negative responses that Professor Morris shares with this entire list serve. Professor Morris, I have never taken any of your classes nor have I heard anything about you, but from simply receiving your pessimistic emails in the list serve, your ugly reputation from this list serve precedes you.

While I will not be attending this particular event and I am in no way affiliated with THE ONE CLUB, it is my sincere hope that Traecy Smith did not actually see your response. It is most certainly not a good representation of the general attitude of Hunter Film and Media students and professors, in my personal experience. We should extend kindness to outsiders and those who offer extraordinary opportunities to us as a college. Your negative attitude can and should be best expressed in a private email amongst any of your students who might be interested in attending.

To publicly shame Traecy Smith for simply asking to excuse students who desire to attend this event is in poor taste. If Traecy Smith did, in fact receive your response, I am embarrassed not only as a student and soon-to-be alumni of Hunter, but also embarrassed for you that you should respond in such an unfavorable manner.

I will, yet again, be contacting the department chair, Jay Roman to be sure that he is aware of this unbecoming behavior. In the meantime, Professor Morris, I hope that you might think before you send unkind emails out to the entire list serve that includes people you do not even know. It is just simply unnecessary and very upsetting.

With warm regards,

Sarah Westlake

My comments didn’t shame Tracey Smith though they were meant as a rebuke. Westlake is upset with my being upset with someone not affiliated with my department or College encouraging students not to attend classes? Absurd.  [True, Traecy Smith didn’t post the info; Colleague Larry Shore did and it’s also true that another Colleague, Bill Herman, supported the post. You can, if you want, contact them about their opinions in this issue].

I, of course, wrote a response to Westlake whom I thought was trying to insert herself into this internecine fight (unlike any ever seen on this campus and well known to the College and University administrations) and I advised her, as I have other students tempted or seduced into joining the fight, to stay out of it:

The One Club’s 2014 Creative Boot Camp New York
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:00 AM
To: Sarah Westlake [];; Tina Turner; Kelly Anderson []; Ewen, Stuart []; Ricardo Miranda Zuniga []; Billy d Herman; Prof. Karen Hunter [];

I noticed that you tried to post on fm-l but student posts and listserv responses aren’t allowed. I also noticed that you cc several colleagues. I usually advise students, especially students I work with, to stay out of the fracas. Most do, some don’t. Their call.

I will make sure that your email to me gets the kind of attention that it deserves. And in contact[sic], which is really important.


Gregg Morris


Revised D:F/M Logo in the Works. Present and former Colleagues.

Revised D:F/M Logo in the Works. Present and former Colleagues.


Gregg Morris, editor of the WORD and this site.

Gregg Morris, editor of the WORD and this site.


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