The tale of the Oxford Prof’s group (5 of 5)

There are, of course, other interpretations. Other than the Student Hypothesis, that is. Perhaps the Prof would argue for the ‘I didn’t know what I was doing because I forgot what was said version’. Or the more simple `I didn’t know what I doing, full stop’. However the lack of response to repeated requests, and the overwhelmingly obvious need for clarification for the postdocs, argue against either of these explanations – alongside the List material. So it is reasonable that the Student Hypothesis is the most likely explanation. In which case the interesting point, and a main reason for this whole post, is to talk a little about consequences for his Student, his Fans, and the Group [1].

First, for the Student. To have the Prof on a very very tight leash sounds interesting. Making him shop solely from Lidl and the Poundland for a year; obliging him to post at least one feminist / lefty post per day on the Lists; and horse whipping his sorry ass on a daily basis might be one plan worth considering?

On a serious note though, the apparent set up does throw up many difficulties for the Student’s career. If the Hypothesis is even partially correct, he has now seriously screwed up her workplace for her. A professional approach would now seem to require (as a minimum) that the Prof take one of his hypothetical alternate job offers, to allow the student the space she needs to develop professionally, and also to sort out their individual personal lives. That is regardless of whether things develop (or not) the way he, hypothetically, might like. He should also immediately cease to be her supervisor – and admit (if necessary) full culpability at his workplace.

On the somewhat less serious side, for the other fans. Maybe some could learn from this that what seems to be the reassuring option may in actual fact be rather unsafe. But this is not an easy way to learn this. For any postdoc fans who might be reading this – you are not alone. And really really – in this particular case – the `Its not you!’ mantra is so totally true.

As for the wider group/department, it would be helpful if they could look out for those who might be hit by the Prof problem in future. It does appear that several kind members of his group did indeed do this. Ta. Don’t play up the monstrous angle, he likes and uses that one. Do however give as much Prof info/history as possible please.

And for the inner circle – that Student should be supported.  She is in an awkward spot. Whilst Prof-Student relations do, of course, happen in real life. No supervisor should ever publicly, or privately, pressurise their junior.


[1] I guess that I dont need to say any clearer that a Prof hitting on his student, and using public Lists to talk about her as a sex object and encourage her to split her up from a partner is, well, really not okay on any level. Prof-Student relationships can work. But should not be pursued until they are not in any form of professional relationship.  If the Prof continues to be incapable of realising this, other group members could perhaps consider taking steps to ensure that she gets protected on a professional level. He should not be her supervisor. I am aware of a couple of instances of students transferring to new supervisors within the same department to avoid this problem. Locating themselves as far apart as possible on a professional level generally seems to have been the best strategy. She should never have had to deal with any of t/his bullshit.

[2] Nearly finally, thank you for sticking with this whole story. Back to something more cheery – and just perhaps (OMG) less leery next time?

[3] I will condense this 5-part post together into a single post when I’m back home. Perhaps a linkelectronic-tag, text, or otherwise copy of this tale onto Prof related Lists, if and when you think the unsuspecting may require a Prof warning, might be helpful.


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