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In my department, there is a professor who is not my advisor who constantly asks me about my career plans and how is it going with my research, how far I went in my research, and what did I do in that conference and this presentation ..etc.

I am not comfortable sharing information unless it is necessary with anyone in the dept. even if this news is related to my career and I am very introverted too, he interferes too much in things that are non of his business and this is making me uncomfortable. I really want to put an end to it.

Questions are very direct and usually followed by unasked-for advice:

Like: Did you publish your conference paper yet? followed by advice of the form: you should do ....

What schools are you applying for? what conference are you going to? followed by advice of the form: you should do ...

How should I declare my boundaries more clearly?

EDIT: I am almost sure that he has a romantic interest because he glances at me inappropriately and sometimes I catch him so he instantly looks away but, I did not want to mention that, it is not innocent mentoring or someone who is genuinely interested in helping me acing my discipline, he is extroverted and disagreeable, I am in a tough situation because usually women who hint or make the case that they are subjected to some sort of harassment are not taken seriously or being blamed for it and eventually alienated and no one will want to work with them so, if I have to take this route it has to be my last option. We meet in conferences, or while I am staying in the dept. late finishing some work he passes by for minutes. I will take a graduate course with him in the next semester so I will have to interact with him. I should also mention that my dept. is male-dominated and is small, so I am the only graduate female student there.

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    Is he trying to “hit” on you? Alternatively, does he do this with every student, male and female?
    – Buffy
    Sep 3 at 16:59
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    Indeed, is it creepy attention, or genuine? If not creepy, having more people interested in your career can be a good thing.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 3 at 17:12
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    @buffy No he does not do this with every student and I suspect also that he is interested in me so, I want to put an end to it. Also, I will have classes with him the next semester.
    – Véronique
    Sep 3 at 17:16
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    @Buffy I would not necessarily label it as sexual interest (although would not rule it out entirely, either, of course)… Rather, mansplaining sounds more like setting the boundaries of the question - in some cultures/generations being patronizing towards women is still considered "virtuous", after all.
    – Lodinn
    Sep 3 at 20:33
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Maybe the question is "How to deal with a creep that may have some power over my career?". It is a truly fraught situation that, sadly, occurs too often in academia. It it may be one of the ways that women are chased out of some fields.

If this were a person you met at the 'five and dime' you would probably just tell them to get lost. But this is dangerous for a student interacting with a professor.

The first rule, is to make sure you are safe; both personally and professionally. One way to achieve this is not to act alone, but to seek allies who know the situation and who can act with you if needed. If there are other women in the department then talk to them about what experiences they have had and how they dealt with it. But make them aware, so that if it becomes necessary to escalate then you can do so as a group. Solidarity.

If there is a female administrator at the university, or an office for counseling students, make them aware that the person is making you uncomfortable, though you don't (yet) know how serious the situation is.

When possible, interact with the person only in groups. When possible, ignore them. When that doesn't work, say as little as you need to and move away. If you have to take more positive action, do so with your allies. A group is hard to ignore.

If it goes on, a diary of interactions might be valuable. In extreme situations, I'd remind you that your phone probably has a record feature.

They probably think their behavior is innocuous and it would be a shock to them to learn that it isn't. They might react badly. Try not to let that happen if you can do so within the "be safe" parameters. But, first, make sure you have backup.

The advice in a comment by Jon Custer may be good, depending on your advisor. You need to make a judgement call about that.

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    I think this is epically bad advice. This professor is providing mentoring. A much more common form of gender discrimination is for faculty to deny mentoring to students who are not male. Sep 3 at 20:36
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    Upvoted, with one caveat though: "In extreme situations, I'd remind you that your phone probably has a record feature." I suggest to be very careful with this. Depending on the legislation, recording other people without their consent can cause you serious trouble (even if this other person behaves like a complete jerk). Sep 3 at 20:36
  • @JochenGlueck, yes, I agree. Only for extreme situations.
    – Buffy
    Sep 3 at 20:37
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    @Lodinn, in that case you would have important information to calm any fears. And I'm specifically not suggesting a sexual harassment charge. Rather trying to avoid it if it isn't necessary. Your peers may have important things to say, whatever they are.
    – Buffy
    Sep 3 at 20:51
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    That is fair enough, but would not approaching them with "ugh he is being really obnoxious pestering me about my research every week" be more fruitful than "I fear he might be hitting on me, what to do?"? As in, that essentially eliminates the risk of being alienated and cut off support on the basis of overreacting. Getting a response from peers like "maybe he just likes you... a lot" would indeed escalate the situation towards "that is what I am afraid of" and then getting the team together to fend those advances off. What I'm saying is get unbiased take from peers first; advice before act.
    – Lodinn
    Sep 3 at 21:16
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If a professor asks you an unwelcome question about your research or career plans:

Thanks very much for your enthusiasm for mentoring. It's great to know I can come to you for advice when I need it. Right now, I need to get back to my research. Bye!

Giving career and research advice is a good thing for professors to do.

related to my career ... he interferes too much in things that are non of his business

I have to disagree with you. Universities are judged based on the career success of their students. As a student, your career is something all the faculty should be supporting when they can. You can always decline the support.

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    "Giving career and research advice is a good thing for professors to do." WHEN ASKED
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 3 at 20:48
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    @EarlGrey I strongly disagree, because almost all students need career advice and almost none of them ever ask for it. Sep 3 at 20:49
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    and on average, they get career advice of this depth: xkcd.com/1827 look at the current state of academic career: the only meaningful advice for the past 20 years would have been "be a male, cheat the publications metric, done". Any other advice is subjective take on specific points that would not have ever made a difference.
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 3 at 20:51
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    @EarlGrey Well, that's not how I would do it. I'd say to students: Read the AIP careers data. aip.org/statistics/physics-trends/… Sep 3 at 20:55
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    Sorry, this seems tone deaf.
    – Buffy
    Sep 3 at 21:01
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You feel it is unacceptable, then so it is. But you have also the unbearable burden of him being in power position, at least until next semester.

You mention you have classes with him: that is already an issue to be discussed formally, even if he is not a creep, he is at least a mansplainer and you can mention to your advisor it is impossible for you to work with him (I interpret you have classes with him as TA).

Since you are introvert, and he is in a position of power, unfortunately I don't see any meaningful way for you to tell him "my advisor is taking good care of me, I do not need additional support, thanks" (where meaningful would be "get the f*** out of here").

Apart from the formal process, which is heavily country-dependent and it will take a long time, you still have a couple of indirect ways to try to shake him off from your daily life. First: if he express his (unwanted) interest by constantly entering into your office, tell him you are waiting for a phone-call to discuss a proposal or keep your headphones and tell him you are following a video presentation or take your phone in hand and tell him you need to make a private call (please note: the more clumsy you look, the better, he may understand he is doing something wrong...).

If his attentions are expressed at the coffee corner, at the group meeting, etcetc, just stay close to the others (for example stay close to Mary, or to Benjamin, even if you barely know them) and deflect his questions ("did you publish your conference paper yet?" "oh no, it is a long way, Benjamin how long does it take you to publish a conference paper?").

You can try to ignore him, by replying "the same" and "it goes on" to any of his questions, or being proactive in constantly answering to his questions with other direct questions. If possible questions that implies he has to spend time and money. For example asking if he has an open position for a brilliant student from your former uni, asking him if he has any left over money to buy equipment for your group, asking him to cover the expenses of your master student (it does not matter if you have none, you can always say it is a master student you are planning to supervise).

Or play dumb and ask him if he knows the meaning of mansplainer. If he explains it to you, then you can close the discussion with "ahah, a bit like you! I have a phone call, now, sorry", if he doesn't you can tell him "I guess it is someone that is explaining to women what they should do, I have a phone call, now, sorry" and close the small talk with that.

You may look rude not answering to his questions, but given the conditions it is totally ok and you can just tell him "sorry, I am thinking of something else" and keeping on ignoring him.

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    I worry about any sort of confrontation. Even ironic confrontation. It is fine for a colleague to do it, but possibly not for a student without a lot of prior thought.
    – Buffy
    Sep 3 at 20:30
  • @Buffy I tend to agree, but here I am thinking of a PhD student that is already past his master, new PhD in the european sense, because from the OP description it "smells" to me as a very European set-up. I stress here that ignoring a person and replying "I am thinking of something else" and keeping on ignoring that person is no confrontation at all. Bad manners, if anything at all, but if the choice has to be between bad manners and own mental safety ...
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 3 at 20:34
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    You are recommending rude and dishonest behavior. Sep 3 at 20:57
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    Since you are introvert, and he is in a position of power, unfortunately I don't see any meaningful way for you to tell him "my advisor is taking good care of me, I do not need additional support, thanks" I'm an introvert too, but I would have no issue with saying just this if that's what needs to be said. Introvert doesn't mean socially anxious. Nobody is going to guess your boundaries, and nobody is going to establish them for you. This is a great learning opportunity.
    – henning
    Sep 4 at 9:54
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    @EarlGrey "learning opportunity" refers to setting one's boundary.
    – henning
    Sep 5 at 9:18

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