Today I had a fellow student (who is working on a master's degree) come to me and inform me that our mutual advisor (call her Professor WW) had just dropped her as a student for "personal reasons." I am a more advanced doctoral student and have some niche expertise that my advisor does not have, so I do not feel like I am in personal danger of being axed as well, but I want some advice on how to proceed with this situation.
My colleague (call her QQ) is entering her final semester of a master's degree, so naturally having her advisor drop her is rather troubling. QQ is a high quality student and is an excellent worker. She is the type of person I am privileged to have as a colleague. I was very surprised to hear that WW had curtly told her to find a new advisor.
QQ was funded via an NSF grant that WW had. As such, QQ had turned down other funding offers. With the abrupt dropping, Prof. WW obviously also cut QQ's funding. This has left QQ scrambling for funding for next semester with about two weeks before school goes on holiday.
To make matters even weirder, Prof. WW told QQ to not mention this to anyone and that she (WW) would arrange a new advisor for QQ privately, a complete circumvention of the department administration. The advisor that WW has chosen to pursue for QQ is on sabbatical until April 2017. (So,...not a great option).
While QQ has done some of her thesis, she is still at a stage where having an advisor is critical. The only professors who have enough expertise in our area of research are either on sabbatical or are the brand new department chair (and hence is "too busy for grad students").
Professor WW is up for tenure soon, and I think she is fearful that this antic will reflect poorly on her (since, well, it does). As I mentioned, WW has a large NSF grant. She produces a lot of papers (mostly on the backs of her grad students honestly) and brings in lots of money. She probably will get tenure.
Should I do anything here? Professor WW does somewhat control my destiny, but I already have a strong dissertation topic I feel, and I am not so far along that I could not just switch advisors if it came to it due to politics.
Am I ethically obligated to mention behavior like this to the administration, especially with the tenure considerations? I want to advocate for my colleague QQ, but I also do not want to be blacklisted in my department for stepping out of line.
Some of the comments or answers have suggested that QQ was caught cheating/plagiarizing in some way. I am going to take this into consideration. It is a reasonable thought, not so much because I feel that QQ might actually be a cheater, but just because there is a (albeit very tiny) probability that QQ plagiarized.
Still, the last we spoke, QQ has been in contact with someone at the university level to guide her through the process of switching advisors. Unless QQ is much less intelligent than I thought, she probably will not be going down on the official record of filing a grievance if she had been caught doing something nefarious that WW had any semblance of proof of.
As for the thoughts on some sort of romance that developed between WW and QQ.....even less likely than QQ being a cheater in school. Let's just leave it at that.