I apologize in advance that I cannot write about details, as they contain identifying information about the senior colleague in question.
The low-down is that I am a tenure-track professor at a US institution, and one of the tenured professors (married with children) in my department (and in fact, in my research group) has been harassing me for the past month.
He sends me personal emails commenting on my personal life and asking about my weekend plans, he shows up to academic events in the department that I organize (but has no academic interest in these events), and "paces" the hallway in front of my office whenever I have my door open (once I counted him pace by my door at least 10 times in an hour, and my office is located in a quiet corner and he had no reasons to be there). He also visits my office and tries to come up with excuses (department politics and gossip that I have no interest in hearing) to chat with me in the evenings. These visits have gotten increasingly creepy, although I cannot describe them without going into personal details. So far, there has not been any physical touch. (It's naturally a lot more creepy than what I've written, but I'm trying to keep out any identifying information and stick to general statements.)
So far, I have been playing it safe in an attempt to not escalate the situation by responding in monosyllables and hinting at every opportunity that I am busy. I ignore all personal emails. However, this colleague in question clearly doesn't understand social cues, and being cold and disengaging from non-necessary interaction hasn't worked so far.
I am also documenting these interactions since about 2 weeks ago. I am thinking about getting a recording app to record our conversations (I live in a one-party consent state).
The problem is that as he is a senior colleague who understands my research area, I am worried about my tenure case that if I directly tell him off, he may turn vengeful and make my life difficult. But I would like this to stop, and I would like to hear some suggestions on how to handle this.
Addendum (which involves some of my personal opinions): I spoke to close friends in academia (but no one in my department knows yet; I was hoping that the situation would die down, but it hasn't so far). Interestingly enough, the advice I got was clearly divided based on gender.
My male friends were very cautious, and convinced me to not send direct emails telling my colleague that I do not want any interactions other than a professional one. They thought that until I was 100% sure that he was making advances, I should not escalate it and wait for things to die down.
My female friends thought that I should establish boundaries early on, and directly tell him no, because a single faculty cannot strongly affect tenure cases. Sadly, most of them experienced something similar, and they said that once you establish boundaries, these kinds of people tend to fear you a little bit, and they back off quickly.
I found one question somewhat related to my case (although in this case, the OP did not have tenure on the line). It saddened me to read the answers, however. A lot of the suggestions, coming from males and females alike, insinuated that somehow the OP was at fault, in the following instances.
- The OP is a "fresh meat" so people are going to be interested, so just wait it out: I felt that being a fresh face was not something wrong; I wished that the answerers would focus on the fact that the behavior of OP's colleagues was inappropriate, and talk about how to change their behaviors instead of placing the burden of "bearing with the unwanted advances until the male colleagues got tired of her".
- Some answers suggested that the OP dresses down (and at least one answer suggested that OP's hemlines must be elevated). I object to this answer, because the OP should not have to change her behavior or clothes if it's not wrong. I felt that this answer was the academia-equivalent of telling a rape victim that she had it coming because she was wearing revealing clothes.
- Another answer suggested that the OP should just bear it out and establish good working relationship with these people. Again, I did not agree with this answer, as it puts the burden of reconciling with her aggressors on the OP, who is the victim here (you would never tell a rape victim to reconcile with her attacker, right?)
So, I understand that questions of this type can often bring out very biased answers (and even women can have the same type of bias as men), that it can bring out charged reactions, and that despite all of our advances as a society, victim-blaming can seep through our answers.
But the answers that I am looking for here is the kind of things that I can do that doesn't blame me for the current situation, and that doesn't force me to bow down to my senior colleague in order to repair the relationship at some point. I am not afraid of fights, I am not afraid of going public, I don't care if everyone in the department knows about this, and I am not afraid of giving up my job if it comes to that (this is neither here nor there, but my family is rich enough that I don't really need a job; obviously I find fulfillment and enjoyment from my job and I'd like to keep it, but not in a toxic environment such as this.) I just want him to stop and acknowledge that what he did was wrong, and that he should fear for his job if he ever does anything like this again, preferably while not jeopardizing my chances at tenure. And I'd like my future female colleagues to feel safer about my department.