15 March 2012

The Moral Oligation Of Academic Advisors To Warn

John Hawks calls attention to one of the most serious responsibilities of an academic advisor in graduate school: Helping the graduate students they advise steer clear of faculty members who are likely to sexually harass or otherwise bully them. Since these faculty members often hold the keys to career success for graduate students aspiring to seek academic careers, this is serious business, and, of course, also requires a level of empathy, emotional intelligence and social awareness that not all professors share.

Academic advisors, of course, are merely in the business of providing advise to their advisees on the lay of the land in the relevant departments when there is an issue. Actually directly addressing this kind of behavior is primarily the responsiblity of the department chair and above the department chair, the dead to whom the faculty member reports. And, their jobs aren't easy, as the problematic professors frequently have tenure and have knowledge and expertise unrelated to their personal faults that is not easily replaced or substituted. Department chairs and deans are very much in the herding cats business, who must mostly manage with use "soft" methods to psychologically corral misbehaving professors into good conduct, rather than "hard" methods like write ups or formal disciplinary processes.

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