The name Lauren Duca may not ring any bells at first. She’s a feminist writer and social media warrior best known for calling Tucker Carlson a “sexist pig” and also for a piece arguing that President Trump was “gaslighting” America. Duca’s star has risen high enough in resistance politics circles that this month she has a book out titled, “How to Start a Revolution: Young People and the Future of American Politics.”
Over the summer, Duca was also invited to teach a class called “The Feminist Journalist” at NYU. Because Buzzfeed was doing a profile on Duca for her upcoming book, reporter Scaachi Koul happened to be there on the last day of the six-week class. It sounds as if Duca thought the class went very well, but her students were not so happy. In fact, they made a formal complaint to the J-school about Duca.
She asked her students to come prepared with questions for her for what would be an AMA-style session in Washington Square Park. Her students sat in a circle around her in the wet grass. It was, I imagine, exactly what Tucker Carlson would envision a liberal journalism class might be: a bunch of kids from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and gender identities, who could each afford a $6,500 class, wearing T-shirts that said “GenderQueer” or “Kill Patriarchy.”
In the park, Duca praised her students for their ideas and pitches: “You so totally learned what I was trying to teach you.” Nearly four weeks after the course ended, however, her students sent a collective formal complaint to the heads of the NYU journalism school about Duca’s conduct. “We are disappointed at the department and NYU for hiring a professor with more interest in promoting her book than teaching a group of students eager to learn,” they wrote.
But the students didn’t just complain to the school. Because they knew Koul, the Buzzfeed reporter, from her visit on the last day of class, many of them reached out to her as well. Of the ten students that contacted her, five agreed to speak on the record but only if they could be anonymous. They were afraid of being targeted by Duca.
All five students alleged that Duca’s class was disorganized and “a master class in Lauren Duca’s personal life.” (“The point of it is that I’m oversharing all the time. And I think that, yeah, some people like it, some people don’t. Apparently you fucking hate it, but that’s fine,” Duca told me.) They said that she would vanish for 30 to 45 minutes per class to “meditate.” (“It was a three-hour class and we took a break and I would meditate for 15 minutes and they would be gone getting snacks and stuff,” Duca responded.) And that the class was a “waste of six weeks for all of us, and we don’t want anyone else to make this mistake again.” They claim Duca would snap at them for small problems, accuse them of not having done the readings, and never actually read any of the assignments they submitted to her.
But what really set the students off was Duca’s treatment of a foreign student who didn’t speak English very well. The other students say Duca singled out this student for criticism and abuse, even making her cry once in front of the whole class. Asked about all of this by Buzzfeed’s Koul, Duca said, “It’s okay if I’m not a great teacher because I’m great at lots of other things.” But when pressed, Duca tried to make herself some kind of feminist victim:
As I continued asking Duca for comment about the specifics of the complaint, she became more and more agitated. “You should put in there that my tone was expressly pissed off and frustrated,” Duca told me. “You’re being so f**king hard on me, Scaachi, and I really, really, really, really would ask you if you would be grilling a man in this same way. It’s amazing. The shit that I have endured to continue to sustain a voice where I’m just fighting every inch for the same thing that I think that you want, which is public power and equality, and I’m trying my goddamn best, okay?”
Hey, it’s okay with me, but then I didn’t shell out $6,500 to take her class. But you have to appreciate the humor in having a Twitter-famous resistance personality write a book about young people starting a revolution only to have those young revolutionaries come for her first. One student told Buzzfeed, “In a way, she is that ‘worst idea’ that conservatives think liberals are.” Duca should probably put that one in her Twitter bio.
Update: I remember reading this story about Duca months ago. Duca allegedly sent harassing messages to co-workers at HuffPost and then claimed she had been spoofed by whoever was sending the messages:
According to accounts we’ve heard from 10 of her former co-workers, all of whom insisted on anonymity because they continue to work in mediaand wanted to be able to freely discuss a sensitive work situation and because they were concerned about professional repercussions, Duca left the company in November 2015. Her departure came after an internal investigation found reason to believe that she’d sent several inappropriate emails to and about her coworkers—and herself—from what was meant to be an anonymous account, many said to be in the space of one disastrous night in October. One email apparently referred to a male writer as a “bald freak.” Duca was referred to as a “feminazi.” The very first—and most damaging—referred to a Huffington Post writer as an “overweight fake blonde.”
Anyway, it’s one of the best I-didn’t-do-it-stories since time-traveling hackers added all of those homophobic comments to Joy Reid’s blog.