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I have some concerns about the behavior of a professor whose class I am taking, Professor A.

First, Professor A has been trying to involve me in his attempts to get another professor in the department, Professor B, fired:

I am taking different classes from two different professors that are in one department. Professor A has asked me to BCC him on all my emails to Professor B, in case Professor B does not pass me in his class. I took a class in the Spring semester with Professor B and never had a problem with him. Professor A said he can defend me, to the dean but needs documentation to prove I asked for help during the semester.

Today, Professor A asked me to write a detailed outline to him about Professor B and all of the things he has not done correctly in my class and then sign it and include my name, the company I work for and my job title. He wants to turn it in to the department chair to have Professor B fired. Professor A continues the conversation and tells me Professor B was supposed to have been placed on a performance improvement plan, but the school has gone through 4 chancellors so Professor B did not receive any disciplinary action.

I am also uncomfortable with other conversations I have had with Professor A:

Another time, Professor A asked me to look at an invitation his wife created for a fall fundraiser for the school. Both he and his wife want my opinion. I work in corporate America, but never did fundraising. He asked for my cell phone number to give it to his wife. I didn't think anything of it and gave it to him. He texted me in the classroom so I would have his number. I thought it was very strange. I have stalled the meeting because I am busy with school and work. Plus it seems weird to me.

Professor A gave me his business card that his wife made him in case I want to contact him outside of school. Apparently, he is a musician when not teaching during the week.

I am really uncomfortable with these conversations. He waits until after class to have them. He told me he records all conversations on his phone when he speaks with the administration to use it against them in case the administration tries to get rid of him. I think it is unprofessional and unethical to say any of this to a student.

The semester is half over with and I only want to pass the class and never speak to Professor A again. I have not committed to anything because he creeps me out! I feel like he should be reported to someone, but I don't want anything negative coming back to me. Can someone please help me with what I should do?

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    What gave Prof. A the impression that you are going to help them? Was there anything you did that supported this? Apart from that, perhaps, become very, very busy (at least for Prof A). Get a second phone and a second SIM card, and transfer your friends to the second SIM by and by. Be polite and respectful, but very busy. Apologize for having this and that other project. Obviously, reporting Prof. A may not work that easily - that person has a paranoid outlook on things and is possibly extremely well informed. Such people are extremely hard to catch out unprepared - it could badly backfire. – Captain Emacs Oct 21 '16 at 10:43
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    @Karl Your response demonstrates either a lack of experience with really extreme cases, or a very strong personality that can get away with a "boil your head" attitude. However, OP's case or personality clearly doesn't fall into this category, so the advice needs to be a bit more suitable for them. For this, I recommend to let it fade out and to slowly slip out of Prof. A's focus of attention. – Captain Emacs Oct 21 '16 at 10:49
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    From what you report, it doesn't sound like it's your fault. You are very unfortunate to encounter such a situation. There are some really strange people out there, but they are rare, though, as you found out, they exist. There is a reason why we avoid "zombified" people on the street - but, of course, in your situation, they have already built up a link to you. Try to present yourself as bland; listless; uninteresting for Prof. A. Chances are Prof. B knows A's spleens already and doesn't care much about them, but you should not end as a punching ball between them. Good luck. – Captain Emacs Oct 21 '16 at 14:14
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    One more point - between the lines I read that he is male and you are female? If so, there may be other unsavoury ideas brewing here. You are very right to tread carefully here, but at least the motives may be a bit more transparent in this case. It will be more difficult to try get out of Prof. A's focus, but if he ever should make a pass, at least a university should have proper mechanisms in place to deal with this, these days. – Captain Emacs Oct 21 '16 at 14:19
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    Does your university have a Dean of students, or something similar? If so you can ask to speak to them confidentially for advice. At the very least, it will be good for someone to hear about this problem early on in case Professor A escalates things in the future. If for example he takes offense and deliberately fails you, the dean is the person you would appeal to. I think you will have a stronger case if you have already mentioned the problem to them in advance. – Ruvi Lecamwasam Oct 21 '16 at 21:20
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This sounds like an instance of mental health problems on the part of the Professor A...

Probably it is simplest to behave "incomprehendingly", to just be unresponsive, disengaged, listless, and generally not react at all to the machinations of the person.

It is unfortunate, but does happen, than people (apart from gender issues) get caught up as "dupes" or "accomplices" in the schemes of mentally ill people who've managed (despite their problems) to get into situations where they have considerable power over others.

While in principle one can file grievances and/or hire lawyers (e.g., in the U.S.), this is often a path that has great costs, psychological, personal time, and one's reputation (even if one "wins").

So, as often is the case, again, if it is feasible, "playing dumb", being unreactive, and just letting the drama pass you by, is probably the most desirable/happiest approach.

(No, "justice" is not served ideally-well by this approach, but it may be served as well as can be...)

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you sound very sensible to me. my advice, fwiw, is:

keep records. all the emails you have received but also your thoughts- keep a diary. do this to protect yourself.

he records phone conversations??!! that's just illegal in many jurisdictions. in any case, never again talk to him on the phone if you can help it.

you definitely do NOT want to get involved in this. you do not have a dog in this fight. play it strategically: never commit, for either side. just observe. and learn! if you're young and getting started, treat this as a learning opportunity - this kind of stuff happens a lot.

you might think "somebody should do something about this!" well, unless you have very very very clear evidence of wrongdoing, steer clear. faculty politics are very complex and there is almost certainly more going on here than you know about.

just try to keep both sides happy, or at least not pissed off, and get the hell out as soon as possible.

of course if you think one or the other side is threatening you in any way, that's a different story. but even then, be very careful. just because you're right does not mean you will get justice, especially if you're going up against powerful people. better to be shrewd than to be right.

hth

g

good luck!

  • ps. if your school has a good support system then by all means go seek councillors - but do not mention names! at least not at first. just get advice for that kind of general situation - you can bet that this is not the first time this sort of thing has come up. you want to get out with the least damage to yourself, they may be able to help you. – user61996 Oct 22 '16 at 23:21
  • pps. you have the rest of your life to fix the world. get your degree first. ;) – user61996 Oct 22 '16 at 23:57

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