My apologies for once again being gone for longer than intended, but I am back now and ready to write!
Today I’m going to talk a little bit about one of the main reasons that I finally started this blog – a professor in my department who just barely toes the line between sexism and awkward social interactions.
Without going into details, he has a past record of being sexist – he is no longer allowed to evaluate a female colleague on her in-department reviews, and he has had a couple of complaints filed with the NSF for unequal hiring practices for research on their grants. It’s never gone higher than that to my knowledge, but…it’s unsettling to know, to say the least.
My own interactions with him are somewhat more complicated. When I began grad school, he was assigned as my temporary adviser; as such, when my personal life took a nosedive halfway through my first semester, I told him what was going on. After asking permission to give me a hug (which I gave – I’m a huggy person in general), he gave me a way-longer-than-is-normal hug. There were a couple more of those over the course of the semester, and any time he saw me in the hallway, he would grab my hand to see how I was doing (and I still have no idea how he could tell that from grabbing my hand). The next semester I was in his class, and there were no problems, really, until final exam time rolled around. My grandfather was lingering in the hospital, on the verge of dying, and so I took an incomplete in his course. I completed the work barely 3 weeks later – I handed everything in on Memorial Day – but it took 6 months to get it graded and my final grade posted. If he had been a few weeks later, it would have been a failing grade; it was only after I got the graduate program coordinator involved that anything got done.
I am once again in his class, taking the last elective I need to ultimately get my Ph.D. It has turned out to be an utterly useless course, and a complete waste of time, but I put the effort in to study for our midterm. When we got it back, he told us to hand it in later, corrected, as homework, and so two friends of mine – who also both work for this professor – and I broadly discussed the exam. I noticed a possible bias (read: sexism), but I couldn’t be sure because he made no comments. I sent him an email asking for clarification on the grading, and said I was trying to see where I lost points; his response was that he dropped them down a flight of stairs. I was absolutely apoplectic with rage for well over a day. When I discussed it with the graduate director the next day, he said it wasn’t really enough to make a fuss about it, even with the 6-month wait for my last grade, but apologized profusely on behalf of the department and said that there will be a closed-door discussion with this professor about how to treat students.
The program director then said if there was anything else that had been a problem with this professor, it might be enough to actually do something official, but I didn’t tell him about the awkward contact. It wasn’t blatantly inappropriate, although it certainly wasn’t acceptable, and I’m not ready to take on a tenured professor with such shaky claims. I did promise myself, however, that if there is one more incident if any kind with this professor, I will raise holy hell. (Pardon my strong language – this guy really gets my temper going.)
Does anyone have any experience with something like this, or any advice?