~ Academic Monkey
I am a tenure track professor at a New England liberal arts school with about two years left on my tenure clock. Last Spring my department managed to poach a celebrated professor from my graduate school. The Department is thrilled to have him. I am not.
This professor made my graduate school experience very uncomfortable. He once tried to kiss me, rather forcefully, many years ago. I managed to hold him off but it made the rest of my grad school experience a terrible one. It was all I could do to prevent him from sabotaging my work or my standing.
We somewhat repaired our relationship. I graduated and moved on. I’ve heard about affairs he had with other grad students after his failed attempt with me. Now that this guy is joining my department, I don’t know what to do. I feel that his tactics are predatory. Not to mention he’s a married father of four. I thought he was out of my life but now my concern that he would prevent me from defending my PhD for turning him down has become a fear that I will not get tenure because he has joined our department. I also worry about my lovely grad students. What should I do? Hope he has changed his ways, or talk to someone about his past?
There are a few ways to approach this. I think if I had any HR training at all, I would advise you to talk to HR. But lacking that kind of training, I only have my personal experiences where mentioning anything to HR that even whispers of the term "sexual harassment" leads to uncomfortable and never-ending hearings and consequences that can tear a department apart and ruin people's careers -- often the victims' careers, for reasons that the Universe has failed to explain adequately.
If you really felt like it, you could be direct, or slightly indirect, about the situation:
1) You mention that you "somewhat repaired our relationship." In light of that, perhaps you could talk to him personally. Explain that this Department is very different from the last one, and you'd really like to ensure the professional atmosphere is maintained.
(Just writing that makes me realize how unsuccessful it will be. *awkward* What would you even say? Stop kissing ladies who are under your influence! Siigh.)
2) You could talk directly to your Chair. I suspect this is the responsible thing to do, because the Chair (unlike HR) could keep it under wraps or take action only as needed. The Chair will be assigning someone to mentor this professor's transition into your department. Knowing about the incoming prof's background might help the mentor selection process. But again, what rot that such tactics must be used. And since you are ticking down your tenure clock, this might not be the best time to stir the pot.
3) How well do you get along with your colleagues? Perhaps there is a middle ground. If there are any well-established full professors who have a good rapport with you, perhaps you could take one of them off-campus to lunch and indicate some discomfort about the new hire. It does not have to be specific -- in fact, I would encourage you NOT to be specific -- but to use your charm and euphemisms to the best of your ability. That way, if Newbie Prof starts pulling his old behavior, you can go back to this person and give more information.
Completely Secret and Passive-Aggressive options include:
- Keep your mouth shut about this situation and start an undergrad series of presentations about "safety on campus" and "how to say no elegantly when your boss comes on to you." Maybe he'll get the point if you plaster such fliers ALL OVER THE DEPARTMENT and especially ALL AROUND HIS OFFICE DOOR.
- Talk to your grad students about the importance of keeping relationships professional during their graduate career. Remind them that future fellowships, journal articles, and post-docs are decided based on personal relationships -- and you don't want an ex on those panels. Date outside of the field.
- Sit on the floor of the Department Office and beat a drum about patriarchy.
- Don't worry about it, because Alcohol.
I'm sorry this happened to you. I hope you are able to take control over the situation and gain the tenure you deserve.