Image: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons

“Congratulations!” reads an email that the graduate admissions department at New York City’s School of Visual arts sent today. “I am pleased to inform you that you are among an elite group of applicants to earn graduate admission to the School of Visual Arts for the Summer 2016 semester.” But the recipients—some of them, anyway—hadn’t been accepted to the elite grad program. Many of them hadn’t even applied.

My friend Kevin posted on Facebook this afternoon that he’d just learned he’d been accepted to SVA’s Visual Narrative MFA program, without even having put in an application. I thought he might have been kidding, but then another person commented with a screenshot of his own acceptance letter, which he hadn’t applied for either.

Searching Twitter for “SVA accepted” revealed a river of jokes and complaints from people who’d had the same thing happen.

There are many more.

Perhaps the whole thing was a withering critique about the intersection of commerce, technology, and education, wrapped in a piece of new-media performance?

Sadly not. Jeffrey Perkins, SVA’s director of communications, told me a database error was to blame. “This afternoon the SVA Admissions Office sent an acceptance letter to the MFA Visual Narrative program to those who requested admissions information from SVA,” Perkins wrote in a statement. “This email was sent in error due to a database glitch which defaulted to an incorrect distribution list. We apologize for any confusion this might have caused.” Perkins did not immediately respond when asked how many people had received an incorrect email.

Kevin, my friend who got the bad acceptance letter, said he’d requested information about an SVA grad program at least two years ago, and assumed that’s how his email address ended up in the system.

About an hour after he learned of his erroneous acceptance, he received a very real denial. “This afternoon you received an email from our Admissions office congratulating you on your acceptance to the MFA Visual Narrative program at SVA. This email was sent in error due to a database glitch and we apologize for any confusion this might have caused,” the second email read. “If you have applied to the MFA Visual Narrative program, you will be contacted separately about your application.”