Razdan furnishes details of hiring fraud
Former NDTV anchor Nidhi Razdan on Saturday provided a detailed account of an elaborate online fraud that prompted her to resign from her job and accept a non-existent teaching position at Harvard University in the United States but the journalist’s blog left some unanswered questions about the alleged scam.
In a blog on her former channel, Razdan said she was invited in November 2019 to speak at an event by the Harvard Kennedy School, the public policy institute of Harvard University, and one of the alleged organisers separately told her of a teaching vacancy. “A few weeks later I was ‘interviewed’ online for 90 minutes. It all seemed legitimate, the questions were thorough and professional,” she wrote.
Razdan said she googled and found a journalism degree programme offered by the Harvard Extension School. “Contrary to what many are tweeting, Harvard has a school called the Extension School offering a Journalism Degree Programme. The actual programme is called the Master of Liberal Arts, Journalism degree. The Extension School lists 500 faculty of whom 17 are categorised as journalism faculty. A number of these people are working journalists. I believed I fit this profile.”
On Friday, Joshua Benton, a former journalist who founded the university’s news website, Nieman Lab, had said there was no journalism department or journalism professors at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “She (Razdan) was apparently under the impression she was joining the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), which is the main faculty [for Harvard College and the Graduate School]. FAS definitely doesn’t have any journalism professors or offer any journalism degree,” he tweeted.
Razdan said in January last year, she got an email from an “alleged Harvard human resources person” from what appeared to be an official Harvard email ID, with an offer letter and agreement.
“The offer letter and the agreement appeared to be on a genuine letterhead with the University insignia, and contained the “signatures” of all senior Harvard University officials who actually do hold those positions even today,” she wrote. The unidentified people separately emailed her employers at NDTV and others for recommendation letters. Razdan said no one at NDTV thought anything was amiss.
Later, her former colleague Sonia Singh said she gave Razdan a recommendation. “I gave Nidhi a recommendation as well and received an extremely genuine seeming university link to upload this,” Singh tweeted. It was unclear whether any questions were raised at the lack of a formal interview or her apparent lack of academic qualifications or publishing to be recruited as an associate professor. In June 2020, Razdan quit NDTV.
“I had been told a work visa had been issued in the US for me which would be sent to me only when travel was required. I would have also needed a visa from Delhi but it never reached that stage since no travel was on the cards immediately,” she said.
Work visas are usually issued by the consulate in the applicant’s home country and need the applicant’s passport. There was no clarity whether Razdan submitted her passport for the visa procedure, or how a work visa could be issued in the US without her visiting the country, or in the absence of a genuine job offer, or communication to the embassy confirming the same from Harvard.
In December, Razdan said she wrote to the head of human resources at the university but didn’t hear back. In January, she said she wrote to the office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “It was only earlier this week that I heard back from them telling me there was no record of my appointment and that the people claiming to be their HR staff do not exist!” It was not clear why Razdan waited until December to communicate officially with Harvard, or why official insignia and designation of the university was used in events and conclaves attended by the journalist.
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