A prominent TV news anchor in India, Nidhi Razdan was looking forward to starting her new job as an associate professor of journalism at Harvard University in September.
Just one setback. Harvard doesn’t have a journalism program.
After months of delays that she attributed to the pandemic, Razdan had a jarring realization: the faculty position, it turns out, doesn’t exist. The offer she thought she had accepted was nothing more than an elaborate ploy to access her personal information, she said.
In a lengthy statement on Twitter Friday, Razdan, who spent 21 years as a reporter at New Delhi Television — or NDTV — a news network and online media company in India, said she was falsely led to believe that she had been offered a position teaching at Harvard beginning in the fall.
“While I was making preparations to take up my new assignment, I was later told that due to the ongoing pandemic, my classes would commence in January 2021,” she wrote in a tweet that had been shared nearly 17,000 times.
Soon after, Razdan said she began noticing “a number of administrative anomalies” about the process that the person — or persons — described to her during their correspondence.
At first, she waved off the discrepancies, chalking them up to the tumult caused by the pandemic, she said. But more recently, the “representations being made to me were of an even more disquieting nature,” she said.
Razdan wrote that she reached out to “senior authorities” at Harvard for some clarity about what was happening with her supposed job. At the school’s request, she sent them some of the correspondence she believed she was having with representatives from the school all along, she said.
“After hearing from the University, I have now learnt that I have been the victim of a sophisticated and coordinated phishing attack,” Razdan said. “I did not, in fact, receive an offer by Harvard University to join their faculty as an associate professor of journalism.”
Razdan said she has asked police to investigate her allegations and “take immediate steps to identify, apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of this abominable attack.” She said she has also asked Harvard to look into the scam.
Razdan first announced her departure from NDTV in June.
“Some personal and professional news: after 21 years at NDTV, I am changing direction and moving on. Later this year, I start as an Associate Professor teaching journalism as part of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences,” she wrote at the time. “I never say never, so TV may one day beckon again. Wish me luck.”
But there’s no department of journalism at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, a spokesperson confirmed, nor is there a professional school of journalism.
The university said a review had found “no record of, nor any knowledge of, an appointment involving Ms. Nidhi Razdan,” and the names referenced as members of human resources in the documents Razdan shared are not in Harvard’s employee systems. The job agreement document also had “a number of irregularities,” the university said.
Harvard Extension School offers journalism courses, and confers a master’s degree with a concentration in journalism, but the program does not employ full-time journalism faculty.
For months, Razdan has made appearances on television and has been listed as an event speaker using the title “associate professor” and “associate professor of journalism at Harvard University,” according to screenshots shared on Twitter Friday. The title has also been used in descriptions on some websites and in news stories and podcasts.
Many expressed shock about Razdan’s tweet on Friday.
“Wow — this is awful,” tweeted Joshua Benton, founder of the Nieman Journalism Lab, which is part of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. “For the record, @Harvard has no school of journalism, no department of journalism, and no professors of journalism. (It does have @niemanfdn! But we have no faculty and no classes. And it does have @ShorensteinCtr, but no journalism-specific faculty.)”
“Don’t fall for her spin as the victim here,” one person wrote. “All after having been called out for masquerading as a Associate Professor at Harvard, to build clout through speaking engagements.”
As Razdan’s original tweet went viral, she later issued a second statement thanking people for their outpouring of support as she navigates the situation.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the calls & messages of support including the DMs here. I apologise for not writing back immediately. I’m taking a well earned break from social media for a few days & will return refreshed and as good as new. In the mean time keep safe everyone.— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) January 15, 2021