I’m an Indian PhD student at a mathematics department in the US. A few months back, I was deliberately shoulder-bumped for a few seconds by another PhD student. This student had previously chased me across the department (literally), invaded my personal space, and stared me down. I asked to change offices, which is usually a routine affair, but a faculty member stepped in to prevent this. I had to remain in close proximity with this guy, who continued to act in passive-aggressive ways.
After the shoulder bumping, I threatened to go to campus police. The aforementioned faculty member responded (in writing) saying: “There is no proof of this ever happening; I can’t prevent you from going to the campus police, but be warned that both of you can get expelled."
Also prior to this, I had reported several racist incidents from another student. A few example quotes are:
- "you fucking Indians" in a very threatening tone,
- "don’t tell me you fucking Indians count so fast,"
- "You Indians and Chinese are taking over,"
- or in a mocking tone: "It’s funny there is racism in your country."
When I showed this faculty member documentation of these events, he wrote to me in an email: "I don’t agree with your assessment that there is anything racist in these incidents." He also said the racist PhD student was "special" (though there is no written evidence of him saying this).
Another teaching faculty member had been similarly racist. He said things like:
- "I was scared to come here initially because I thought I would have to learn Hebrew",
- "I'm so white I'll never be mistaken for an Italian who gets mistaken for a terrorist when doing Math on a plane"
- Telling a room full of Chinese students and a couple of Indian students: "If you speak in Mandarin or Hindi in the corridors you will get into serious trouble, like some Chinese students and postdocs from the past who were speaking Chinese in the corridors and it created a lot of mistrust and there were very serious complaints" (no-one else has ever heard of these incidents).
Further, he physically intimidated me and barged into my office at one point. The faculty member said he had not done anything inappropriate (again no written evidence of this specifically). In fact he said, it is commendable and shows the teaching faculty member is very socially aware and aware of his white privilege.
I would not have necessarily made an issue out of this again, but I recently received a threatening letter from the dean and this faculty member. This letter warned that I could be "withdrawn" and stated that I wouldn't be allowed to defend a thesis right away. I replied saying "Are you sure you want to take such a tone after the murder of George Floyd?" Their reply was: "If you keep speaking like this, we will 'withdraw' you."
How should I proceed after these incidents? I'm particularly interested in legal recourse (though the incidents mentioned may be hard to prove in a court of law, although I have these written emails from our faculty member).