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September 18, 2019

Should I Report My Prof?

Hey, Bonita…

Hi Bonita, 

I am 19 and studying theology at a college abroad. When this year started, my best friend and I met this new girl and made friends with her. Towards the end of our first semester, my best friend started noticing the kind of looks that our counseling lecturer was giving this new friend of ours. When we told her about it, she said we were seeing things, so we decided to leave it. When we came back for the second semester, this friend of ours had changed a lot. She no longer hung out with us, she always had new things and would say her older sister bought them for her, and she was always disappearing at night without telling us where she was going. 

One day, this lecturer called me into his office, saying he had something we had to discuss. When I got there, he asked me a bunch of questions about my family, love life, school, etc., then told me he liked my hugs. After everything, he asked for a hug, and since I didn't see anything wrong with it, I agreed, but then he locked the door, hugged me for a long time and touched me inappropriately. When I left his office, I was devastated.

After doing some research, my friend and I found out that he has been behaving similarly for many years with different women, including our new friend from school. This man is a preacher, a lecturer at the college, a husband, father and counselor, and he should know better than to do something like this. This whole thing has been really been disturbing to us, and we want to expose him, but we are scared that no one will believe us, because this man is respected by everyone. Please help us.

Wow. Any contemporary college professor or instructor knows better than to treat their classroom like a meat market, but this lecturer seems practiced at hitting on students. I recommend that you refer to your university’s policies on harassment and then report him to the appropriate persons, but be prepared for this not to go your way. 

I hate to be a pessimist, but you’ve got the odds stacked against you. You’re young academics sharing a story of sexual harassment by a faculty member at a university that you’re currently visiting. It doesn’t take much Googling to see how that can play out at large institutions. Look at Junot Diaz and MIT. The university cleared him of wrongdoing even after he admitted to past inappropriate behaviors (though he vehemently denied forcibly kissing a grad student). Plus, he’s still an editor for the Boston Review. Basically, there were no repercussions. It makes me sick to my stomach, and I don’t want you to know that experience, but you should be prepared for it.

Your main focus should be to take care of yourself, and also to get out of his sphere of influence if you can. Let this be the last time you study abroad at his institution, and do not mingle with him professionally. You don’t need his reference, his letter of recommendation, his apprenticeship, his anything. If he attempts to guest at your home institution, you have every right to inform your department of his behavior and advocate against his presence there. Put your safety and the safety of your classmates first.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use the anonymous form at flagpole.com/getadvice, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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