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Author Topic: Afraid of another grad student  (Read 8280 times)
snowbound
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« Reply #45 on: December 13, 2012, 9:50:55 AM »

Billy, I'm glad you're taking these steps.  However, I want to add my voice to those who are urging you to let your advisor/prospective seminar leader know what is going on.  He may well be incredulous at first--the stalker is a personable enough guy to fool everyone, including you initially.  But he will take you a lot more seriously when you say that you have witnesses and that the campus police are involved. 

If you decide not to take the seminar, your advisor should at least be made aware of your reason.  It's not that you are unmotivated/unambitious/indifferent about having this valuable educational experience (and reading the books from the reading list is NOT the same thing)--but what else can he assume, when you pass up this great opportunity to deepen your understanding of your subject for no particular reason?

If you do decide to take the seminar, you MUST let the teacher know what's going on.  If you start doing things like changing seats when the stalker sits near you, refusing to respond to stalker's questions when he asks you something directly, leaving class a few minutes early to avoid him following you, refusing to work on a project with him, and so on, YOU will be perceived as the weird one.  In seminars I have led, I would absolutely have wanted to know if there was a situation like this, so that I could do everything in my power to make sure that the stalked student was able to participate in the seminar free of harassment (harassment that might not by obvious to those unaware of the situation)     
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pink_
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« Reply #46 on: December 13, 2012, 10:48:44 AM »

All, it's not Billyg's advisor who is teaching the seminar. In the original post s/he said it was another committee member who encouraged her to take the class. This could mean a lot of different things, some more casual, some less so. I think the question of whether to talk to said committee member about the circumstances is not as cut & dried as some here are presuming. Once you're done with coursework, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to not sit in on yet another class that have nothing to do with who else might be in the room.

Billyg, I don't think it's a bad idea to talk to your advisor about what's going on and get their opinion about whether you should pursue this course. I am very glad to hear that you've talked to the police about everything. It's definitely better to be safe.
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tuxedo_cat
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« Reply #47 on: December 13, 2012, 2:45:32 PM »

Thanks to all for your input. Contacted campus and local police for precautionary purposes--both were positive, reassuring, and comforting exchanges. I made a list of all the suggestions posted here, which helped me to figure out how best to handle the situation as it exists now. I appreciate your suggestions! And, Crowie, I read De Becker. Very helpful text. Thanks for the recommendation. 

Great to hear this update, and to know that you did get sympathetic responses. 

I'm going to post a bit of contrary advice about whether or not you need to / should get any of the faculty in your program involved.  Unless this person is interfering with your ability to take courses you need, I would not share this with faculty.  Unfortunately, when someone who is not entirely mentally well gets entangled with you, the crazy can sometimes rub off on you -- meaning, in the eyes of other people.  You mentioned already that he is generally well liked in your cohort, right?  The faculty are very likely quite used to an ongoing soap opera of relationships among the grad students and may not completely understand that the other person is the aggressor and the problem, not you.  So I would wait to see if that conversation is truly necessary.
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crowie
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« Reply #48 on: December 13, 2012, 4:11:10 PM »

Thanks for the update billyg, sounds like you have a plan.  Good luck and I hope this all resolves itself very smoothly.
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billyg
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« Reply #49 on: December 14, 2012, 12:47:19 AM »

I'm still undecided about whether to take the spring course or not. As Snowbound mentioned, I do not want the professor to perceive me as a slacker/flake/etc. However, I'm also unsure about whether to share this situation with him or not. Pink_'s right, he is not my advisor but a member of my dissertation committee. As a committee member, this professor has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to mentoring me (more than any other committee member with the exception of my advisor). I've learned so much in his previous seminars and from the feedback he's provided me on my work over the last four years. In other words, I don't want to disappoint him or to seem ungrateful. I don't need the course credit, though, which I know he knows, but he still encourages me to enroll for the course as he knows (and I know) it will benefit me greatly. Tuxedo_cat, that's been a very real concern of mine--that the crazy rubs off. I kind of already feel that way without anyone in my "real world" making me feel so.     
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billyg
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« Reply #50 on: December 14, 2012, 1:31:03 AM »

Left out this part: Yes, overall, I've got a plan, thanks in large to you wise people. 
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yemaya
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« Reply #51 on: December 14, 2012, 1:46:48 AM »

I'm still undecided about whether to take the spring course or not. As Snowbound mentioned, I do not want the professor to perceive me as a slacker/flake/etc. However, I'm also unsure about whether to share this situation with him or not. Pink_'s right, he is not my advisor but a member of my dissertation committee. As a committee member, this professor has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to mentoring me (more than any other committee member with the exception of my advisor). I've learned so much in his previous seminars and from the feedback he's provided me on my work over the last four years. In other words, I don't want to disappoint him or to seem ungrateful. I don't need the course credit, though, which I know he knows, but he still encourages me to enroll for the course as he knows (and I know) it will benefit me greatly. Tuxedo_cat, that's been a very real concern of mine--that the crazy rubs off. I kind of already feel that way without anyone in my "real world" making me feel so.     

I'm sympathetic to your fears, but I'd be more troubled if a professor perceived you as a flake for mentioning that another student has been stalking you.  It sounds like this a documented pattern of behavior - and behavior that others have witnessed and were alarmed by.  And, I think that many people are aware that it's not unusual for those who stalk and harass would-be romantic partners to seem perfectly charming on the surface, especially if their primary contact with this person is in professional situations, where they're less likely to witness private behaviors.  More than that, the Department does have a responsibility to protect a student who is being stalked and harassed by another and to provide them an educational environment that is free of harassment and hostility.  

If this other student makes you sufficiently afraid that you're veering away from something that's probably a good scholarly opportunity for you, that's a big problem.  I suspect that it would be far better to tell this professor - and you don't have to go into great detail - that this situation has unfolded and has gotten serious enough that you've had to discuss it with campus security.  You can reiterate that you're really grateful for his mentoring and you're still really interested in the course, but you're concerned about your safety, because this other student seems unwilling to respect the fact that you do not have a romantic relationship (and at this point, you're not interested in friendship either).  I would also approach it as asking for his advice.  i.e. Can you have the reading list and learn the material that way?  Alternatively, should you take the course, with the understanding that the Dept. will be able to support you if there are problems?  I'm completely sympathetic to your fears, both about this student, and about how it might negatively impact your career.  This won't be a comfortable conversation to have.  But my own two cents is that this creep can't be permitted to derail your career, just because he refuses to hear the word "no." You have a right to follow your educational pursuits free of harassment.  

Also, while you should definitely seek advice from a qualified counselor or member of law enforcement, I suspect that you haven't directly told him to stop contacting you may not matter.  Even if you haven't outright told this guy "stay away from me," he knows full well that he's not respecting your wishes.  Normal, emotionally healthy men and women do not hear "I only like you as a friend" and then crash your gathering, try to hold your hand (twice!), and then follow you to the bathroom.  A normal person would respect that decision that a romantic relationship is not to be, and either accept the offer of friendship if they can, or steer clear if they aren't interested in (or can't handle) a platonic relationship.
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Historians are gossips who tease the dead.  ~Voltaire
snowbound
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« Reply #52 on: December 14, 2012, 3:15:52 AM »

Yemaya's absolutely right, it is a big problem if your plan to take this course, which you say would benefit you greatly, is derailed because of the stalker.  What a shame to have to cut off a significant avenue of development--probably the last course you will ever take!  

I can't see any big problem with talking to the teacher.  Unless he's a truly neanderthal boys-will-be-boys type, who has had his head stuck in the sand for the last few decades, he should have some idea about what sexual harassment is, for goodness sake! (If he is that kind of guy, you probably are already aware of it.)  If you present the situation in a calm non-drama-queen way, mentioning the campus police, you won't come off as crazy.  Especially as he already knows you pretty well by now.  Your demeanor on this thread suggests that you would come across as reasonable and sensible in such a conversation.  

that's been a very real concern of mine--that the crazy rubs off. I kind of already feel that way without anyone in my "real world" making me feel so.    

That's in the nature of being the target of sexual harassment--it makes you doubt yourself, blame yourself, and doubt your credibility in others' eyes and even in your own.   As Viburnum said, "I worried I was being too sensitive, or overreacting, or had somehow invited the unwanted behaviors."  But the support you've gotten from the police, the Women's Council, this forum, and your friends who have witnessed the behavior should go a long way to counteracting that self-doubt.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 3:19:39 AM by snowbound » Logged
yemaya
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« Reply #53 on: December 14, 2012, 9:01:49 AM »

Yemaya's absolutely right, it is a big problem if your plan to take this course, which you say would benefit you greatly, is derailed because of the stalker.  What a shame to have to cut off a significant avenue of development--probably the last course you will ever take!  

I can't see any big problem with talking to the teacher.  Unless he's a truly neanderthal boys-will-be-boys type, who has had his head stuck in the sand for the last few decades, he should have some idea about what sexual harassment is, for goodness sake! (If he is that kind of guy, you probably are already aware of it.)  If you present the situation in a calm non-drama-queen way, mentioning the campus police, you won't come off as crazy.  Especially as he already knows you pretty well by now.  Your demeanor on this thread suggests that you would come across as reasonable and sensible in such a conversation.  

Absolutely. These neanderthal boys-will-be-boys types are extremely unlikely to willingly mentor either women, or gay men.   (If you are a gay man, OP, I'm assuming that you're out, since you're dating in your department?)

The Women's Council may have already suggested this, but if your university has an ombuds(wo)man, affirmative action officer, etc, I would recommend that you document the harassment with the university.  You are not required to necessarily go forward with a formal complaint, if you're not yet ready to.  (The action can include a formal demand that he stop contacting you.) However, if Stalker Student's behavior is documented with the university - and especially if there's a clear record that he was told that his behavior violates university policy - and he still doesn't knock it off, it makes it easier to get the university to do something pro-active about it (including booting him from the university).  Universities take this seriously.  There can be some significant legal implications if they knew one member of the university community was harassing another and they failed to address it.
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Historians are gossips who tease the dead.  ~Voltaire
bluesocks
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« Reply #54 on: December 14, 2012, 10:49:23 AM »

Can you audit the class this spring?  That way you can participate in the class and the learning.  But, if things get out of hand, you can stop taking the class without having to worry about your grade.  For my PhD program, several of us audited classes.

Just a thought.

Blue
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billyg
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« Reply #55 on: December 14, 2012, 12:25:09 PM »

Just to clarify, I am a woman. And no, my professor is not of the neanderthal variety. From what I've gotten to know of him over the last few years, he's someone who genuinely cares about his students. I think my anticipation of a negative reaction from him is very likely irrational. I think that if I decide to take the course (and auditing sounds like a good possibility--thanks for that, bluesocks), I'll give him a general sense of the issue, with only enough details so that he understands that this student makes me uncomfortable. Thanks again for your suggestions, everyone. They've been really helpful. 
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yemaya
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« Reply #56 on: December 14, 2012, 1:30:03 PM »

Just to clarify, I am a woman. And no, my professor is not of the neanderthal variety. From what I've gotten to know of him over the last few years, he's someone who genuinely cares about his students. I think my anticipation of a negative reaction from him is very likely irrational. I think that if I decide to take the course (and auditing sounds like a good possibility--thanks for that, bluesocks), I'll give him a general sense of the issue, with only enough details so that he understands that this student makes me uncomfortable. Thanks again for your suggestions, everyone. They've been really helpful. 

Glad to hear it.  I can appreciate that you're scared.  Your rational mind knows that this prof is not going to hold someone else's creepy and inappropriate behavior against you.  Countering this, is the fact that most of the advice about being a grad student involves keeping your head down, doing your work, and not making waves. But since he's in the field, Mr. Creepy is fully aware of what's (theoretically) stake.  He's probably counting on the fact that you won't make waves because you're afraid that it could hurt you career-wise.  It's probably why he thought he could get away with trying to hold your hand in that bar full of fellow students after you explicitly told him that you did not want to date him. 
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Historians are gossips who tease the dead.  ~Voltaire
coldandcallous
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« Reply #57 on: December 14, 2012, 5:40:39 PM »

OP: I think you've gotten good advice on this thread, and I find myself in agreement with yemaya and snowbound in particular. To me, the attempted handholding is what moves Mr. Creepy into a category where whatever response you choose (from talking to your DGS, to shouting, "WTF are you doing?," to talking to the professor, etc.) completely appropriate.

I realize that you want to get this behind you, but I'd say that as a grad student adviser (M.A. and Ph.D.), I'd want to know about the situation. I don't care about grad student gossip (and clearly this moves beyond that), but I do care about any situation in which one of my students does not feel safe and/or starts making decisions that negatively impact their education based on not feeling safe. If the course would be useful for you, then you should feel safe taking it.

Also, there are things that I may be able to do to help the situation. If nothing else, I'd be aware so that I didn't suggest that you work with that grad student. But more likely, I'd drop by Mr. Creepy's adviser's office and say something like, "Hey Bob. I was talking to a grad student (wouldn't say whom, of course), and she described some very weird behavior by Mr. Creepy. Do you mind talking to him?" Or I might drop by and have the same sort of conversation with the DGS. And, god help the grad student if he was one of mine.

Anyway, it sounds like you are handling the situation very well, but I don't think you should feel in any way embarrassed or hesitant to talk to your adviser, the DGS and/or the seminar professor.
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billyg
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« Reply #58 on: December 15, 2012, 2:05:23 AM »

I agree, Margaretsullivan224, thanks for this forum. I'm glad (and hope) you've benefitted from all the wise advice provided here as I know I have. If you are experiencing something similar, I'm very sorry, and hope you're able to resolve it smoothly and quickly.
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tinyzombie
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« Reply #59 on: December 15, 2012, 7:18:22 AM »

I agree, Margaretsullivan224, thanks for this forum. I'm glad (and hope) you've benefitted from all the wise advice provided here as I know I have. If you are experiencing something similar, I'm very sorry, and hope you're able to resolve it smoothly and quickly.

Undortunately, she appears to be a proto-spammer.
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