I am a female undergraduate taking classes from two professors, Prof. A and Prof. B, in the same department. I have some concerns about Prof. A.

First, Professor A has been trying to involve me in his attempts to get Professor B fired. I have never had a problem with Prof. B.

  • He asked me to bcc him on all my e-mails to Prof. B, in case Prof. B does not pass me in his class. He says he can defend me to the dean but needs documentation to prove I asked for help during the semester.
  • He 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 Prof. B fired. He told me that Prof. B was supposed to have been placed on a performance improvement plan, but the school has gone through 4 chancellors so Prof. B did not receive any disciplinary action.

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

  • Another time, he 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.
  • He also 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.
  • He waits until after class to have these conversations.
  • 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?


4 Answers 4


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...)


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.



good luck!

  • 1
    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, 2016 at 23:21
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    pps. you have the rest of your life to fix the world. get your degree first. ;)
    – user61996
    Oct 22, 2016 at 23:57

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.

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.

  • Added as response (rather than just as comment) as per OP's request, as it seems to have worked. Feb 27, 2020 at 1:55

A may very well be right about B, but he is very wrong about enlisting your help.

Either B is tight with the head of department/school, or B is regarded as a lost cause they do as little about as possible. In either case, A is right to be fed up with the situation, but he should either put up with it or leave, only to find that every other academic department on this planet is equally poorly (one might even say: corruptly) led.

None of this is your concern and it may be negatively impacting your ability to study.

And yes, you are justified in believing that a firm rebuttal of his insistence might affect your grade.

I propose a little subterfuge: get a friend to phone you whenever A accosts you (or arrange to be called right about that time after class). Say sorry I have to take it, act shocked, shout sorry I gotta run and run.

  • 1
    Another option is to ask one or more friends to form a study group that meets IMMEDIATELY after each class you have with Prof. A. Hurry out as soon as class finishes. If he tries to stop you for an after-class conversation "Sorry, I've got to run - my study group is waiting for me.". Feb 26, 2020 at 17:18
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    "may very well be right about B" - A records phone conversations with admin and tells this to a student, enlists students for political fights and fundraisers (without good reason), tries to have the student contact them after hours on flimsy excuses. I take my chances to say, whatever flaws B may have (who doesn't?), I would not believe a single word that A says about B; not even suggest there is anything seriously wrong with B without evidence that is not filtered through A. Such "benefit of doubt" is how machiavellistic or psychotic people get irreversible rumours into circulation. Jun 2, 2020 at 2:04

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