I was coerced into a sexual relationship with my Advisor. Although, I passed my First Doctoral exam in my first year (2008), I was held back from any further advancement by my Advisor. In frustration and by manipulation, I defended a Master's thesis using my Dissertation work. In an ordinary world, the sophistication, analyses, and level of research comprises two of the three required for my dissertation. I can't defend myself and laws aren't upheld at my University. In December 2015, I submitted allegations of sexual misconduct, after accumulating overwhelming evidence that my Advisor had sexual relationships with me and three subsequent students he mentored. I am still waiting for a finding on my allegations from the Title Coordinator at my University.

I want to return and decline my Master's degree. It's apparent that I was held to a different standard than other Masters and PhD students. It is my way of getting this acknowledged. I also want to remove my current obstacle in getting help from my uninterested advisor - "Your Dissertation must be significantly different from your Masters Thesis, thus you need four experiments."

Is this possible?

  • 7
    This is something you will have to discuss with people at your university, probably the dean or the person that is overseeing your case of sexual misconduct. Also, I'm very sorry to hear about your situation. Feb 1, 2017 at 20:55
  • I am sorry to hear about your situation and the continued stresses it puts on you. I am not sure what you mean toward the end of your question: are you trying to now complete your PhD with a new advisor? Is this at the same institution or another institution?
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 1, 2017 at 22:52
  • You might want to consider changing the title of your question to: "How to recover from harassment [or coercion] from my advisor" Feb 2, 2017 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


You're in a tough situation. If the university is smart and if the Title IX Coordinator has power (big ifs), they will do everything they can to keep you from suing or otherwise bringing bad publicity to the university. This could include finding a way to count your Master's research to your dissertation.

I infer from your reference to Title [IX] that you are in the United States. I recommend that you look into the Legal Advocacy Fund of the American Association of University Women (whether or not you are female, which you don't state). They might be able to offer you some free advice or point you to a lawyer who can give a free initial consultation. It is possible your university will be more cooperative if they know you are well informed.

  • 3
    +1 for "consult a lawyer". It seems clear that the university's internal processes are not working here, so that may be the next step. Feb 2, 2017 at 6:16

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