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Married professor disguised harrasment


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Not sure where to post. This married professor of mine wanted to have an affair. Told him no. He seemed to accept it and offered friendship. However, he constantly emails me when away, finds reasons to see me (work related) practically begs me to please keep in touch, tells me all about his problems and last email he claimed my words are his source of strength, his real or pretend neediness if very draining. I am kisking myself because I see this now as a trap, I feel like he is imposing on me some form of personal relationship that i do not want to have. I should add he is very powerful in my department (I'm a Phd student) and this situation sent me to the pscyhological department for help as it literally made me sick, (I've been a victim of sexual abuse in my youth).

Before I file a complaint, which would be a no win situation for all parties, but it might be the only safe route at some point. I must document my rejection and how this 'closeness" and constant references to my beauty (mind and body) are unwelcome. I want to reject the friendship and communicate I cannot be such a close friend. I do not want to be his source of emotional support. this is affecting me badly d needless to say i am not attracted to this person, in any way. in fact , I find him immoral and manipulative, and a self centered egomaniac. I thought he meant it about the friendship, now i think is another strategy to get me where he wants to.

He is very smart and good with words, English however is not my first language, could someone suggest polite but firm words to both make him back off while establish a document that I have rejected his advances, I think the harrasment complaint might be in the near future, he is relentless.

Thanks much,


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If it were me, I'd correspond via email. Everything will be on record. The next time he oversteps his bounds, say...


"Listen, you're a married man, and I'm your student. This isn't appropriate. If you think it is appropriate, then what about this 'friendship' makes you feel this way? We should be having a strictly teacher/student relationship, but this feels like more to me. It makes me uncomfortable."


Then, see what he says. If he agrees then he backs off. If he keeps pushing then it's all on email.

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I agree with Jettison. Write him an e-mail, and be sure to save a copy of it, and be sure to save any replies he sends you. I would perhaps be just a bit more specific, though, just so that it is established, in writing, that he has attempted to pursue you in an unprofessional manner.


My suggestion is to make sure that your e-mail has a very assertive tone, AND be specific about the behavior that makes you uncomfortable and in asking him to refrain from further behavior of that type. Maybe something along the lines of this:


"Professor X,


Our recent interactions and your e-mails to me in which you have shared personal details of your life and made requests to have a personal relationship/friendship with me have made me very uncomfortable, and I would appreciate it if you would refrain from any further personal (non school-related) correspondence with me and any further requests for a relationship outside of a professor-student one.


As I have told you before, you are married, I am your student, and I am not interested in pursuing any type of relationship with you other than a professional one. Please respect my wishes and keep our interactions and correspondence strictly professional from now on. Thank you."


As Jettison said, if he realizes he made a mistake, he'll back off. If he persists, you'll have your original request AND his responses in writing, and you need to take them to your Department head and file a formal complaint.


This guy is obviously quite troubled. I can't believe he doesn't realize that he can get fired over this. I'm a college professor too, I can't imagine acting like this toward a student! It's appalling and very unprofessional. Even if he has tenure, there still ARE a few things he can get fired for, and sexual harassment is one of them. I wonder if he has had other complaints made against him...

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Hi Bacci,


This is tricky. *Is he your advisor? Is he on your committee?*


I agree with others here that you need to keep a record of your email correspondence. I'd be polite but firm--don't embarrass or frighten him. Say the following things:


1. Thank him for all of his guidance. Say that you appreciate his perspective on your coursework and research (or whichever applies).

2. Say that you are flattered that he thinks of you as a friend, but explain that you are a very traditional person who prefers to keep firm boundaries between her personal and professional life. You're sorry, but this is just who you are, and you hope that he understands that you can't be friends with him--or any other faculty member--outside of work.

3. End by saying that you are glad that he is such an understanding person, because you know that this means that he will respect your preference and will not feel hurt by your decision to not pursue a friendship.


If he responds negatively, or if he gives you any trouble, or if you are concerned that this could have a negative impact on ANY ASPECT of your graduate career, I would schedule a private meeting with the chair of your department. Present your concerns, bring the emails as backup, and be honest about feeling worried and stressed. Tell your Chair that you have sought counseling because of this. Universities DO NOT want to become embroiled in sexual harassment lawsuits. The Chair will be on your side--faculty prey on students frequently, and this is always something that the department is watching out for.


You are not alone--this happens to lots of graduate students. If you report it, it will happen to fewer. Trust me, you aren't the first student this guy has hit on, and his colleagues know it.

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I will write something like this on my next email. To further complicate issues, our daughters attend the same school and girlscout troop. I once talked to his wife about boundaries, in the beginning when I didn't know how to handle the different roles, but she said these boundaries were all in my head. She has a degree in psychology ,mind you, but she now probably feels threatened by me,as she has made jokes about me being the chauffeur and that he found himself a little slave. Out of politeness I didn't react, my ex husband said she was joking.

But I also need a way to keep our daughter's friendship less tight, no sleepovers for one, while not hurting the wife disclosing her husbands' proposals to have an affair. I feel sorry for her but according to him, she would choose to look the other way. anyway, there's innocent children involved, but I have been rejecting playdates and such, because i want to keep our daughters apart, the wife probably will choose to blame me, who knows?

I don't know if this is truly horrible manipulative person or if he just can't control himself. I don't want to be too judgemental, I told him sometime he had to choose the higher path and abandon his way of life (he disclosed having affairs before) I also appealed to him being a father (how would you feel if your daughter found herself in this situation? where a professor (and married!) propositioned her?) But all these converations took place few months ago and not in writing.

I'm a 40 year old woman, he's 20 years my senior, highy respected, even famous in the field. It was a great disappoinment and I have already lost by not being able to work with him professionally anymore. I blame myself for not having seen the signs early enough before things got to a point where I will lose all these professiona opportunities, he really is big in the field and would have been a great asset to have him be y advisor ,but I know that is no logner an option. So i already lost.

I thoguht I could handle the 'friendship' but he has turned it into some form of delusion where I am his source of strenght, comfort, and he is subtly turning me into a personal, close friend, trying to stroke my ego and waiting, i suspect, for some moment of weakness or need, I would never engage in anything sexual or romantic, but he tries to turn me into a "muse" and it is unwarranted.

He even knows I still love my ex husband and that we are trying to see if things could work out. In fact,my ex and I had a problem early this year because I tried to pull our daughter away from this family, I felt uncomfortable early on about their lack of boundaries, but he thought I was misinterpreting and being controlling and jeopardizing our daughter's social life. He was in part recting to me being a bit antisocial in the past. He now knows whats going on, and he first wanted to talk to him, I said fine, but my ex doesn't realize (as I didn't realize before talking to the psychologist) that this people don't change, that they are narcissistic and objectify women, and that this is not my fault, I have been firm. Although, maybe not firm enough because I wanted to keep things civil.

I can only imagine what this harrasment would do to a younger woman and because i am a mother I feel, as reluctant nd afraid as I am, that it is my moral obligation to file a complaint, if he doesn't back off. The head of the department knows and will support any decision I make. Of course he'd rather avoid a complaint and a confrontation but he has to support my decision, the behavior is indeed inapproapriate. I have an email of him offering to contribute to paying my car repair and stating he wanted to give me a bycice but was afraid i would be offended. I replied He was correct, and that I couldn't accept such gifts.

I'll write the email letter, thanks to all of your replies. You're wonderfully supportive.Maybe i'll post it for feedback. Thanks again.

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Thanks much for your thoughful suggestion.

He was my advisor but I made the chair of the department my advisor when this guy propositioned me.

I showed him the letter offering to pay for my car. He showed concern and asked me to document things and insisted that he needed to make sure I was OK. I reassured him and told him i was getting help from university services, but i didn't disclose too much or ese he'd be obligated to investigate and i wanted to keep him off the problem.

He has periodically checked with me, he knows that this has implications. I know he would talk to this person and this situation is a potential headache.

I really thought he would back off.

He is form England and new to our department, actually ,he was the greatest new acquisition, because he is really a big name.

I have said these things and he has said that I have rigid beliefs and not enough flexibility, what he says doesn't matter to me. However, I thought he would back off and I don't know anymore who am I dealing with. Is he unstable, is this neediness real or just a strategy. To be honest I don't want to figure it our nd I simply want him out of my life, opportunities will have to be the price i pay. I know that they could force retirement, maybe if someone with authority points that out then he'll stop his behavior and refrain form harrasing someone else.

I hate to agree with you that professors do prey on students. Last year I had a situation with another professor, he was not directly my professor but I confronted him and he backed off. (However, he seems to be after another student now, she doesn't seem to mind but i have alerted the chair on this person too).


This is so sickening and erodes women's sense of safety and self esteem, I even wonder why me, am I giving off the wrong signals? the psychologist says its because I look much younger and am attractvie and these narcissists see a pretty object and go "i want", never considering what the others may want, and that's why telling them you don't want them doesn't work, they are not listening. It simply doesn't matter. so time to file a complaint. wish me luck!

Thanks very much, you people restore my faith in humankind, and men in particular!


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The "Head Of The Department" is just as wrong as this Professor is. By avoiding a complaint, and avoiding a confrontation, he is just covering up for this guy.


I'm sure it's not the first time he's tried to pull this off with other students. This behaviour should never be tolerated, and you certainly don't deserve it.


I agree with the others as far as saving any correspondence, you need all the evidence you can get, as he wil deny... deny...deny.


I would even go as far as getting the media involved.


Wishing you the best...Take care

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I know he is avoiding confrontation but I gave him that way out so that he wouldn't perceive me as a problem maker.

The problem is, I have had this happened to me once at a a Summer institution. I filed a complaint, no one claimed to have jurisdiction, the professor in question waited until the last day of instruction to take me out on a supposedly networking interction, (it is expected that graduate students and faculty will interact and should be able to have professional lunches together) and he blatantly propositioned me.

It was the first time i encountered this behavior and I took the next airplane home, let go of the tuition fees i had paid, and filed a complaint. Nothing much happened that i knowof , the professor hired a lawyer who thretened to accuse me of slander. My ex husband was a lawyer so he reassured me that they would have a hard time with that as I had the email demanding this person to never contact me again. The investigation ran its course, 'll never know what this guy said to counter my complaint. He again was a very famous Stanford professor. I was no one but at least there is a record.

Trust me i dress properly, behave properly, and am careful to not give the wrong message. But these men feel entitled or something, then the other women also think its something I do by being lively. This is not about me though, this is them and their power issues. However, I need to learn to be tougher and less 'nice'. I am scaed though, the first time i complained i was not part of the same department, this time I will have to live with the consequences. i reviewed the harrasment policy of my university and the first offense they might just warn him, some of the sanctions include a cut in salary, yes they can force retirement (he's old) but I must document its serious, and he hasn't 'raped' me, he is very smart about this, really open to interpretation.

Thats why i have to wirte this letter in a way that there is no doubt and he knows that it could be used against him, Although I'm sure he'll find a way to try and deflect it in his reply.

I thought about recording him, i know phone conversation are illegl to record but under some ammendment could I claim i'm recording myself and he happened to e around or o i have to disclose i'm recording? that would really leave no doubt.

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You know what? his present wife was once his student. I suppose thats why she didn't like the boundaries talk.


I think I have been wrong trying to handle it by myself, I was a coward. I'll use the proper means now. Although I am scared.


I wanted to believe he really meant to be friendly because i wanted to avoid the hassle of a complaint. That lawyer did intimidate me the first time although I had much less to lose.


This time my whole career seems to be at stake. Retaliation could take so many forms. Being perceived as a problem maker is not good. And I don't have a husband to support me anymore. (but my ex is supportive though)


Your replies have made it painfully evident that I was wrong to try to downplay it. I will call a harrasment counselor right now.


Thanks to all for your advise. Sincerely,


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Ugh, I hate this type of thing so much, and unfortunately I see it way too often. Part of the problem stems from an inconsistent attitude on the part of many universities towards staff dating their students. I think that's a dangerous thing to allow personally, and I'd certainly never consider dating any of my students even if they made they move, but if it's allowed, then it inevitably follows that professors will start to proposition students, and in an environment where there are numerous attractive young people around, it's going to happen a lot unless a very firm position against it is taken. I know one prominent guy who dated his PhD student, then married her, and a short while later decided to leave her and take up with another one, after unsuccessfully propositioning someone else in between. Only on the third one did the university step in and kick him out.


How to handle it depends on your universities attitude and the people involved. Some places take it extremely seriously, and even a suggestion of improper conduct towards a student will result in formal disciplinary action and the termination of contracts. Others unfortunately take the attitude "boys will be boys" and there's a nudge and a wink in the men's room while going through the motions of a slap on the wrist. It used to be the case that there was also a real stigma attached to making a complaint, so that it ended up being as bad for your career as for the abuser's. Fortunately, I believe that's no longer the case, and you'll get a much more sympathetic hearing and no significant impairment on your own career progress now.


I will make one observation about your particular case, and that is that from your original description, it sounds like that guy is not just after a one-night stand or something purely physical, but is actually infatuated with you. I suspect you have been innocently friendly towards him, and he's built up a whole fantasy scenario in his mind as a result. Making the whole thing formal may inadvertently do the trick not only as a wake-up call for him, but also because he will see it as an act of hostility which is very effective for stopping an infatuation in its tracks. It will make relations between you rather awkward for a while afterwards, but I'm sure it's the right thing to do in this case.

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