Ayalon Reveals His ‘Secret’ Identity

Yaron Ayalon, a visiting assistant professor of Middle Eastern history, revealed himself last night as the Emory Secrets professor in front of a crowd of about 30 people in White Hall.

College seniors Malika Begum and Meena Vanka organized the event.

Ayalon has been posting on the “Emory Secrets” Facebook page since December, posting a total of 57 secrets and simply identifying himself as a “professor.” The page allows Facebook users to post their thoughts and opinions anonymously.

He introduced himself and spoke for 20 minutes about his experiences and then opened the floor to student questions. A student asked about why he started posting on the page, and Ayalon responded by saying he took up the alias to reflect on his experiences and to provide advice for the student body anonymously.

He used Emory Secrets, which is operated by undisclosed users, as the platform. His initial motivation to take up the secret alias came from “Emory Compliments,” a separate Facebook page that enables students to say kind words about their peers, also anonymously.

After hearing his students discuss the Emory Compliments page in one of his classes, he became curious about it. After looking at the page himself, he was directed to the Emory Secrets page.

Ayalon had some ideas of his own, so he decided to send them out and see the responses. But soon, Ayalon admitted, he became addicted to Emory Secrets.

Another student was curious as to why Ayalon decided to reveal his identity, something Ayalon said he decided after posting his final secret.

He wanted to meet the students who were following his alias before leaving Emory to teach Middle Eastern history at Ball State University in Indiana next year.

A third student wanted to know how Ayalon maintained his anonymity.

Ayalon answered many people, especially his students, suspected him to be the anonymous professor, but he never personally admitted his identity until the event last night.

Begum, a student of his, was the first student to learn Alayon’s secret.

She said she became good friends with him and eventually figured it out. Vanka learned about the professor’s secret through Begum. Together, they helped him plan the event.

“This event is a tribute to how awesome the Emory community is,” Vanka said. “We are all gathered here for a common purpose because Emory students have a lot of issues that we face in daily collegiate life, and it’s really comforting to have a figure who is willing to listen to them and respond to them.”

According to Ayalon, no faculty, except his wife who is a part of the Emory faculty, knew his identity, either.

College freshman Bharat Koti, who attended the event, didn’t know the professor previously, but Ayalon’s personality accurately matched Koti’s expectations.

“His messages were not earth-shattering, not absolutely inspiring. It’s what we’ve heard before,” Koti said. “Just the way he reached out to students is admirable.”

College is the time to explore those passions, but that too needs to be goal-oriented Ayalon said.

Students perform poorly in classes not because they aren’t studying correctly but because they are bored of the subject Ayalon said. Students don’t see a purpose behind the material.

Success, though, is not limited to academics, Ayalon explained; developing skills to survive in the real world is equally important.

Ayalon noted networking and learning how to write and use a computer beyond just Word and Powerpoint as being key to prosperity. But his first tip — reaching out to professors — is what he considers most important.

“You would not believe how a really good relationship with one professor can transform your college experience,” Ayalon said. “You are more than just a number. So let your teachers know you are more than just a number. So talk to your teachers and let them know.”

He doesn’t know how — or if — he’s going to continue with his online alias, but he is happy to have gotten the opportunity to share his insight.

Much of the inspiration for Ayalon’s posts, he said, stems from a student of his from his time teaching at the University of Oklahoma.

— By Shivangi Singh

Correction (4/26 at 1:41 p.m.): The article above has been modified from its original version, which, on a few references, referred to Ayalon as Alayon.