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Should I be worried about getting a professor potentially fired? I reported someone for disability harassment (name-calling and very specific hate speech towards me a student with disabilities. (I'm in upper years of physics and economics).

I reported the complaints to the department head who, in turn, reported to two associate deans. I'm just a little bit scared about how all of this will go down. I don't want this professor fired or anything, which has kept me up at night. I also don't want him walking away scot-free, however. I reported the professor to a lawyer but have not sued my school, nor do I intend to. Instead, I had wanted to cover my butt. Sigh, I am horrified by the situation that caused me profound mental distress, yet I am also empathetic towards not wanting this professor to be penalized too harshly. I'm a human with a conscience. Tenured professors are never fireable, right? And disability harassment is not as bad as sexual harassment, right? (I got called a "useless broken kitten that no one would ever pick up from the animal shelter," amongst other things, so I suppose there is always sadly the possibility that that could be considered minor sexual harassment too.

It's too late to go back from my claims, as I have already reported them and I don't wish to harm my reputation by changing my mind or by saying that I invented things when I did not. However, I find myself empathizing with my former prof, and just wanted to ensure that consequences will most likely be minimal on his end. On mine, I've already been hurt.

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    The only time I've seen tenured professors fired is when they raped a student. They're safe. Please do not worry; they did what they did and need to account for it and, preferably, improve.
    – Peter K.
    Jun 8, 2023 at 16:46
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    When I was in grads, the department head was taking a visiting speaker, a Nobel Prize winner, on a tour of the department. They walked in on one of the profs having sex with one of his undergrad students on one of the lab benches. He was not fired.
    – Boba Fit
    Jun 8, 2023 at 16:51
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    @Boba Fit: On the other hand, if they had walked in on a adjunct leaving the room of a just-finished lecture who did not erase the chalkboard . . . Jun 8, 2023 at 18:03
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    @DaveLRenfro I knew an adjunct who was written up for not putting the chairs in place after the student left the classroom. The school felt that it was part of adjuncts' reaponsibilities. Jun 8, 2023 at 21:53

2 Answers 2

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Should I be worried about getting a professor potentially fired?

You should not be worried about this, because what happens to the professor is not your decision to make, and not really any of your business, despite the fact that you are the victim of a (quite egregious by the sound of it) episode of harassment.

You did absolutely the right thing to report the incident. It’s useful to keep in mind that the people who will be weighing what to do have a much broader perspective on the situation than you do. They will be considering the implications not just for you as the victim but for other students and coworkers of this professor, for the university’s reputation, for the university community at large, and even potentially for the rest of society. And, I hope and believe, they will also have a measure of empathy for the professor and the circumstances that led him to behave in such a way, and will be considering the implications for him personally.

I don’t know if the professor will be fired or not, that could depend on lots of specific details of the incident and on the culture at your institution and country. But if he is fired, then I would think it much more likely that that decision, reached after a thoughtful deliberative process by experienced professionals, is the correct decision, than for your opposing view driven by a personal sense of guilt and focused on your own involvement in the incident, to represent the correct way of looking at things.

Of course, mistakes do sometimes happen and there are occasions when people are punished too harshly for something they did. If the university makes a mistake by firing the professor when they shouldn’t have, the responsibility for making that mistake will be on them, not on you. As I said, you did the right thing to truthfully report what happened.

I’m sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine what the guy could have been thinking to say such a horrible thing.

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    I am really envious of the environment you are in. Where I am (and it is a democratic country), when some misconduct happens (no matter whether in my university, in politics, in medicine, in industry), people in charge have only in mind to hide the topic and save PR, not really considering implications for "weaker" people.
    – user111388
    Jun 9, 2023 at 13:32
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Having made the complaint, the outcome of the matter is now largely out of your hands. The institution will have its own position on what conduct it expects from its professors, how badly it regards departure from expected conduct, and the punishment it considers appropriate for breach of its rules (if this is found to have occurred). Ideally, if the complaints system at the university is working properly, this professor will be provided with due process in the complaint, and if he is found to have breached the university rules then there will be some objective determination of an appropriate outcome, based on all relevant factors.

In any case, as the initial complainant, it is open to you to tell the university what you would like to see happen in the matter. It sounds like your desired outcome is for there to be some punishment that is not as severe as termination. If you want to, you could write a submission to the assessors who are reviewing your complaint and let them know the desired outcome you have in mind. This will not be binding on the university (they might impose a more or less severe punishment), but they might consider it to be a relevant factor in making their own determination of a punishment (in the event that the professor is found to have breached the university rules).

Tenured professors are never fireable, right?

Wrong.

And disability harassment is not as bad as sexual harassment, right?

Generally right, but depends on specifics.

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