I am a PhD student who lost a year in school due to factors beyond my control.

First, several non-school related issues made it difficult for me to focus on school. Then, a little later, I was harassed and threatened by someone in my program. The harassment continued for a couple of months before I ceased leaving my house altogether. Eventually I talked to the graduate supervisor about the situation. They agreed that it might be best for me to leave for a while. But, I am left with two problems:

  1. Most deadlines for schools have past. The ones that haven't, don't seem like a good bet by way of funding. Should I try to find a program to apply to anyway? If not, what can I do to get my year back? I was kind of on a roll before, but now my thought processes feel stagnant and slow — Any recommendations for getting back up to speed?

  2. My grades from this year are poor. I do not think they accurately reflect my academic potential or my understanding of the material. Should I be explaining any of the extenuating circumstances to prospective schools when I do apply?

  • 21
    A fellow student harassed you to shut-in status, and you're the one who had to quit? That seems like nonsense. Your university should be afraid that you will be suing them into the ground, and probably should be giving you a break on the classes you couldn't attend due to harassment. They should be doing everything in their power to fix this for you.
    – Bill Barth
    Jun 5, 2014 at 18:52
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    @BillBarth Unfortunately, although it is indeed nonsense, it does happen way too much in practice that the victim ends up moving.
    – gerrit
    Jun 5, 2014 at 19:17
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    I almost get the feeling that your school is trying to get you out the door as quickly as possible so that you don't make a huge stink about the harassment. Here's a test (since you say they would "vouch" for you): Ask them to acknowledge in writing your harassment incident.
    – Mad Jack
    Jun 5, 2014 at 23:03
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    This sounds like a circumstance that calls for legal intervention. You describe intense harassment and forcible detainment. Your former friend's actions are probably illegal, and almost certainly rise to the level of a restraining order. (I am not a lawyer.) Please find both counseling and legal help. And please, for your own sake, stop calling the other person your friend; they are not. Friends don't do that.
    – JeffE
    Jun 6, 2014 at 3:27
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    @keyswitch What you describe is a highly illegal behavior. The other person should be expelled from school. There should be no consequences to you, and the school in fact should face negative legal consequences if they interfere with you resolving this matter. As much as I'm anti-lawsuit, you have every moral right to sue the school to the ground if they interfere. What you describe is highly troubling. The fact that no physical violence has occurred doesn't lessen how grave a situation it is. Jun 11, 2014 at 0:31

1 Answer 1


I think the department is 'on the hook' to do more than just vouch for you (whatever that means). Sit down with your advisor and the graduate supervisor. Work with them to identify programs which would be a good match for your research plans and with which they or other department members have strong ties. They should be working their networks to help you transfer as easily as possible.

If you're only a year in, you might also want to think about whether you want to cleanly start over at the new university--retake any classes, etc. as opposed to trying to get credit for any classes you passed in your current program. Were you accepted to other programs before? See if one of those are still a good match.

I know you want to move for various reasons, and you may not want to do anything with the person who harassed you. However, if that person is not getting punished, counseled, or something, the problem is likely to recur with someone else. Ask the department to do something, if only to require the person to undergo a psychological evaluation.

  • 7
    @keyswitch Yes, that behavior you describe is punishable. You have suffered emotional abuse and lost a year of precious time in your studies, and this creep is still wandering around not having been dealt with in the proper way.
    – Mad Jack
    Jun 6, 2014 at 0:09
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    ...by the police.
    – JeffE
    Jun 6, 2014 at 3:30
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    You bet that is punishable, harassment and sexual harassment, physical threats and so on are things that I could easily see in the police report. Jun 6, 2014 at 8:02
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    I know everyone else has said this as well, but this is certainly a level at which it should be taken to the authorities (i.e. police). It isn't just 2-3 random people on internet telling it to you(I guess we're still random but there are lots of us), but it seems to be a consensus that this is a serious crime and both the school and police should be involved. Abuse of any kind is heinous regardless of the emotional state of the other person; one should have learned to control themselves and their actions by this point.
    – cc7768
    Jun 6, 2014 at 16:33
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    Now, one factor that not everyone here is considering is which country this story is taking place. The answers and comments here are certainly relevant for at least North America and Western Europe (and surely other places that I don't know as well), but might not be appropriate in other places. For example, in some North-African countries, there is a history of women getting in serious trouble for reporting harassment to the police.
    – Cape Code
    Jun 6, 2014 at 18:05

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