I mentioned that I do sexual harassment law scholarship. Part of the work is trying account for why those who are harassed do not pursue organizational correctives (largely symbolic grievance procedures, etc.), instead quitting their jobs or just living with the harassment. Such behavior is considered “unreasonable” by the courts, and gives employers an affirmative defense against vicarious liability for the harassment of their employees by their agents.
But empirical studies show how hard it is for harassed employees to confront their harassers or report such harassing behavior. The legal scholarship in this area has benefitted from incorporating cognitive psychology studies and sociological studies that show this to be the case, and thus the limits of the legal correctives in actually resolving workplace harassment. It may not be okay, but it’s hard to say that it’s not okay for so many reasons. Now here’s for another question of the week, from a grad student who is soon to join the academy herself. So much of what I love and appreciate about Scatterplot are the professional development posts. You all are so honest and helpful.
So, to put it delicately, and “hypothetically”: how does a graduate student handle a situation in which one of her former advisors from college–now a big named law professor at a Top 5 law school (see the growing interdisciplinariness of law, that law schools will hire political scientists), who was very helpful in writing letters of recommendation that helped her get into current program and stil listed on her CV as a reference–has suddenly started hitting on her? By suddenly, I mean that nothing of the sort occurred when there existed a professor-student relationship, but post-graduation has turned uncomfortable.
How to establish boundaries firmly and yet diplomatically, to preserve the cordial relationship but keep the advances at bay? What does the graduate student say to the former advisor? How to handle the situation of the advisor’s coming to town and insisting on a “catch-up” dinner and drinks?