A professor I'm familiar with has multiple partners, none of whom are his direct students, supervisees, or university affiliates. As he married to none of them, I understand that having multiple girlfriends seem to be legal in most of North America and other Western countries. They are not casually dating, but serious cohabitant partnerships.

I understand that this is not illegal, but I find it a little bit inappropriate because the girlfriends involved might find themselves unsatisfied. Here are some relevant cases I know:

  1. Some professors in recent years were fired because their students/supervisees reported their relationships.

  2. Schrodinger had multiple partners. Although he was not forced to leave Princeton, he did not accept the offer because it seemed that having multiple girlfriends created a problem.

  3. William Moulton Marston had multiple partners and it seemed like that he was fired because of this.

I am not sure if the general public and the academia in US and other Western countries find this conduct acceptable/acceptable. Here are my questions:

  1. If one of his partner reports this to the University and claims "harassment," will anything happen?

  2. If an outsider reports this to the university, will there be any action taken?

I come from an Asian country and I know that, suppose it happens in my country and someone post this case online, the poster would not be penalized but the professor's reputation will be seriously harmed by the angry crowd. I understand that US can be very different.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Note, this question has already attracted many edits, flags, and comments. While there is still (in my view) considerable ambiguity about the nature of OP's concern, I am not sure that further attempts to clarify will lead anywhere.
    – cag51
    Aug 12, 2020 at 0:43
  • @cag51 Thank you for moving but some helpful comments seem to be deleted. For example, one comment mentioned "Feynman" who pulled out polygamous lifestyle just fine. And I was asking which "Feynman" did she/he referring to. Both comments seem to be appeared.
    – High GPA
    Aug 22, 2020 at 10:40
  • @AzorAhai--hehim Thank you for your helpful comments! You mentioned that if A is reporting B for harassing, but B is actually not. Then, can B files a title IX report because of that?
    – High GPA
    Aug 28, 2020 at 1:44
  • @HighGPA Honestly, Title IX requirements baffle me and so I can't give you an educated answer. Aug 28, 2020 at 1:55

3 Answers 3


Here’s the thing - what someone does in their personal life is almost always exclusively not your business or your concern. In many parts of the world it is completely acceptable to be in more than one relationship, unless what this individual you are concerned about is breaking a law, then you should just leave them alone.

Seeing as you are in the U.S.A, i would say your best course of action is to just not interfere in the personal and/or romantic relationships of your peers. The university, in a U.S.A context, will probably read the email, put it in the trash, and carry on if the women in the relationship are not related to the university in any capacity.

As others have mentioned, if you pursued such actions against a member of the institution, you yourself could find yourself in a position where you are being accused of harassment and it could open the door to other unintended consequences for yourself as well.

  • 7
    Even if there was a law against having multiple partners, which frankly a lot of places may still have on the books, not every transgression needs your intervention. Laws aren't a guide for morality. Aug 10, 2020 at 19:07
  • Thank you for your answer! I wonder if you are implying that, if the women in concern is related to the university, then there might be something happening.
    – High GPA
    Aug 21, 2020 at 23:51

As someone mentioned in a comment, reporting someone for private life behavior that is not in any way unethical or illegal due to something you find "inappropriate somehow" is in itself harrassment. Don't do it.

Someone who reports this will probably face less consequence in this circumstance than some others that some people find "inappropriate somehow" because they are homophobic (in the case of same-sex relationships) or racist (in the case of interracial relationships), but still, don't do it.

I'd expect the complaint to be simply ignored in the circumstances you describe. If someone pursued it further the person reporting could face consequences, the professor likely will not. There may be exceptions at certain highly religious institutions.

  • 1
    Actually I would not have give the OP such a nice advice.
    – Alchimista
    Aug 10, 2020 at 19:23
  • 4
    Actually @Alchimista, the OP needs this advice.
    – Buffy
    Aug 10, 2020 at 19:52
  • 1
    @Alchimista Given I know from other posts that OP is coming from quite a different culture than the one in US/"Western" academia, they might need some direct "nice" advice about cultural things that seem more obvious to others. That they have asked the question indicates they are putting some thought into it, and this is far from the most ridiculous question asked here.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 10, 2020 at 20:03
  • @BryanKrause: Well, my edit to the question title was rejected because this "isn't a site for western antropology";)
    – user111388
    Aug 10, 2020 at 21:10
  • Thanks for your help! It is interesting to learn that "reporting someone for something that is not in any way unethical or illegal due to something you find inappropriate is in itself harassment." I wonder if there is any sources for this information as most of the Title IX harassment cases that I know are not about this type of "harassment" you mentioned. It will be very help to me if you could share one similar case, either university title IX case or a court case, in which the guy reporting a legal behavior is punished for harassing himself. Thank you again!
    – High GPA
    Aug 28, 2020 at 14:51

As stated in the comments, this depends very strongly on the country and the specific university. However, there are some legal statutes in some countries that are important to consider.

In Canada, it is illegal to terminate someone based on "family status". In the US, there are some states where termination can happen based on any reason. These are known as "at will" employment states, and basically it means that there are either no contracts for employment or the contracts do not state anything about reasons for dismissal. I don't know about other countries.

However, there is a difference between family status and inappropriate behaviour. A professor who brings a new girlfriend to every faculty party but is otherwise well behaved is not acting inappropriately and it is none of anyone else's business that there is a new relationship. A professor who repeatedly discusses his or her sexual exploits in a class is acting inappropriately. For such inappropriate behaviours termination may happen.

Ultimately, this is probably a better question to ask at workplace stackexchange, rather than here.

  • 3
    It might not even imply a "relationship" to bring different people to different parties, and such.
    – Buffy
    Aug 10, 2020 at 18:39
  • 1
    @Buffy agreed, and that's a fair point. I assumed in my answer that, since the OP knew that there were multiple girlfriends, that the professor might be introducing them as such and therefore the implication of a relationship is there. Aug 10, 2020 at 18:43

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