Monday, September 10, 2007

Tenured Troll

The last post generated many comments about how I should not be silent about rude and patronizing treatment from a colleague. I have not been silent, but neither have I been effective in changing the situation. The previous chair was a good friend of the troll and thought I was a whiner with a victim complex. The current chair just wants everyone to be nice and get along.

There have been no major consequences for Dr. Troll for his long history of obnoxious behavior towards women, although a long time ago his contact with female students was temporarily restricted owing to unethical behavior with undergraduate women. That is viewed by the powers-that-be as ancient history. Now when he makes an obnoxious comment and a woman objects, he says he is just joking. He once told me that I need to lighten up and get a sense of humor about his comments, and I assured him that I would laugh if he ever said anything humorous.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me he's given you permission to laugh at EVERYTHING he says. But maybe you've already tried that tactic.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts come to mind:

(1) Illegitimis non carborundum;


(2) You rock.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

He once told me that I need to lighten up and get a sense of humor about his comments, and I assured him that I would laugh if he ever said anything humorous.

I'm so totally stealing that.

usagibrian said...

Sigh. I say this as an non-faculty academic professional--this needs to go straight past the Chair to the Dean and then the Provost, NOW. This is pure CYA.

This fool has a documented history of harassment. Ignoring the problem is the worst possible tactic for the school. Fuck with the wrong undergraduate, and the levels liability up through the management chain become frightening. (Scenario: niece of the chair of the trustees' finance committee "can't take a joke" and tells her mother, a lawyer, about Prof. Troll's actions. Mom mentions to her brother that if the university doesn't do something, very expensive bad things will happen. Now, picture this with the same cast of characters except with no deep tie to the institution, and Mom's first stop after the federal courthouse is the local media asking for other former students to step forward.)

At a bare minimum, keep your own log for when this blows up. With luck, it may not before he dies or retires. If not, the pool of liability is shockingly deep. Wear a life preserver.

Drugmonkey said...

This chappie and your other amusing fauna of academe bring up a question. Is it true that we, as a human endeavor err on the side of liberality too much? My assumption is always that "in the business world" these freakos are more often beaten into a semblance of decent behavior by the system. there are expectations. academics? not so much, it is practically a badge of honor to be eccentric in some way or other...

Mr. B. said...


Your chairman is right.

Life is too short.

If he backs off when his bluff is called, he's already beaten.

People like this are eventually going to die off. The world will be a better place.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

I assume he did this sotto-voce? What about: if he does that in the class interim again, asking him, "What? I'm sorry, I didn't catch that? Could you repeat it again a bit louder?" If he tries to mumble his way out, repeat, in your best stage voice, word-for-word what he said to you, but so the students can hear. Then, sweetly, "Is that what you said? I just want to make sure I have that correct."

The man may be many things -- a troll, a serial harasser, whatever -- but he is most certainly a bully, and bullies hate to be publicly exposed for what they are.

Anonymous said...

So, they're just waiting for him to retire and go away. But, is no one in his classes raising an objection? Do the women not take the class, 'cause it's generally recognized that he's a jerk? Is he a woman-specific jerk, or a generalized jerk?

We have a tenured general jerk in our department, and everyone is just waiting for him to retire. But, he doesn't teach (the situation was bad enough that the powers that be decided to restrict his access to students). So now, he collects a salary without doing anything. But, other than that, he does no harm.


Anonymous said...

What troubles me about this situation is that you are receiving signals from the leadership (the two chairmen) as well as the jerk that you are the one with the problem, not the jerk. One of the most interesting things about the "Beyond Bias" National Academies study was the idea that little incidences -- like inappropriate "jokes" -- are the new incipient form of sexual discrimination in the workplace.

But what is the solution? Are women supposed to just "suck it up" for the next 20 years until these old guys retire and a new generation comes in? Or should there be some way to facilitate a dialogue about what types of comments/behaviors/discussions are appropriate and do not exclude women? Anytime I vent to my wonderful husband (a former science professor) about all this, his response is that I should just be quiet about it. He thinks no one will understand how I feel and that I am over-reacting to the environment.

I literally have printouts of the National Academies study sitting here in my office ready to distribute to my male colleagues, but I haven't given them out yet because I can't decide whether this will make things worse or better. How does one get the dialogue going without looking like a whiner?

Marciepooh said...

Sounds like you're not the one being rude or patronizing so your current chair needs to talk to the one who isn't being nice and getting along. Try bringing up the potential liabilty for sexual harrassment of students, that might get the chair's attention.

Anonymous said...

Chic professor is right- you should do something about this guy, if not for yourself than for the female students in his (and your) class. On the student end, it would be much appreciated, as every department seems to have one guy who the students would like to get rid of but know it's not in their best interest to do so.

Ms.PhD said...

Um... according to what they taught us in sexual harassment class, even jokes are actionable. It's like the sign at the airport about how jokes about bombs are always taken seriously.

So the joke defense doesn't work, wouldn't work, in a court of law. Which is, as someone pointed out, where this would end up if there were any justice in the world.

I somehow doubt it will, though.

I think most of the advice people have given here is good. Don't let this particular bastard get you down, waste student tuition AND discourage women students and faculty from the hope of ever having a decent workplace to learn and teach.

But I'm always amazed that people let things like this go on and on. It's like everyone assumes somebody else will fix it.

If you've got a whole group of people who agree he needs to go, I fail to see what's really stopping you from getting together and making a formal complaint, as a group. Do it for the undergraduate women, like anonymous says, even if you won't do it for yourself.

Star Stryder said...

I'm an adjunct professor at a small state school in a science department. What you write about has the good (and sad) effect of letting me know somethings are the same no mater where one goes. I'd love a chance to exchange experiences with you (while maintaining anonymity). If you are interested, you can contact me through (my email address is pamela at that domain).

From a big fan who is trying to safely write a blog that isn't anonymous.