A faculty member wrote to a staff member that "you are selfish." The staff member wrote back to the faculty member asking for an explanation. The faculty member did not respond and wrote: "I would not respond to you any further." Is this harassment?

  • 1
    Please provide more details in order for us to understand the question. Who from the faculty? Who is the staff? What is the reason?
    – padawan
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:13
  • From the faculty. The faculty did not the reason.
    – user12586
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:15
  • Okay, but a faculty cannot write an email. There must be some person who actually typed the email, right?
    – padawan
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:16
  • 4
    Likely this was not an email out of the blue, with no prior communication. So, lacking that other communication, this is impossible to answer.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:25
  • 1
    Whether it is harassment is a matter of opinion, I think. Whether it's something that's forbidden by your institution's rules or local law is an entirely different question that we can't answer, not knowing what those rules are. Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


It's brusque and ill-advised, but it's not harassment per se.

Harassment is the creation of a hostile work environment through pressure or intimidation. A one-off heated email and the use of a single adjective to describe someone in a negative light is certainly not sufficient of proving anything more than the person who wrote the email probably should have waited a while before hitting the "send" button. A sustained campaign of emails and a larger pattern of behavior would be needed to make a believable harassment argument.

There's no reason for this to be escalated into a larger situation that will ultimately accomplish very little except inflaming tensions further.

  • Then what will be requirements of "harassment"? What will be needed to prove that there is a harassment?
    – user12586
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:28
  • See my revision.
    – aeismail
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:33
  • There are multiple that the faculty eventually banned a staff from any discussions and meetings.
    – user12586
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:35
  • 5
    That's not in your original question. And it's still not clear that it's harassment.
    – aeismail
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:43
  • If this is the US, in order to qualify as harassment legally, the behavior in question also has to be based on a protected characteristic (i.e. sex, race, age, etc). Calling a staff member "selfish" because they are Jewish = harassment; calling a staff member "selfish" because you don't like their shoes = not harassment.
    – nengel
    Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 12:08

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