When I was at Texas Tech, there was an assistant prof who slept with multiple grad students, as in at the same exact time and place. It poisoned pretty much everything:
- it poisoned faculty-student relations as junior faculty realized that they could not spend any non-office time with students since one of our colleagues was using such opportunities to prey.
- it poisoned student-student relations as students thought that those who were sleeping with faculty were getting special treatment in terms of grades and protection from both the harasser (probably) and the rest of the faculty (probably not).
- it poisoned senior-junior faculty relations as the seniors were oblivious and wanted to give the guy special treatment that the rest of us would not get (they literally said that) while the junior faculty were outraged both by the predator and the special treatment he was getting.
- it poisoned the future of the department since getting him fired for being absent without leave took the new department chair's time and health as he had to fight insiders who wanted to keep an AWOL sexual harasser (he eventually was fired, although I am sure he became someone else's problem).
- derailed the careers of many young women interested in Mideast studies and peacebuilding.
- created tensions among the grad students because some didn't know, some didn't believe and some didn't know what to do.
- created resentment by those faculty in the know towards the administration that barely slapped a wrist.
- fostered tensions within the faculty between those in the know and the predator that remained inside the department.
So much of the Harvey Weinstein stuff is familiar to me.
- There are folks at McGill who remain silent because of confidentiality agreements that were imposed--so journalists know that something happened (and is still happening) but can't write stories with out names and testimony (I have been approached several times over the past year or two). As someone who was never officially in the loop, I never had to agree to such a pledge.
- Others fear saying stuff because of potential lawsuits--my post last year led some folks to speculate when I would get sued. Not yet.
- The community of victims is far larger than folks think--I am not surprised that Weinstein did this over and over again for decades. He felt entitled and empowered by his own impunity. That is very familiar given that the harassers I have known are not one-time guys who fell in love or in deep like or had crushes on one amazing student. Nope, they kept preying upon those who were vulnerable because they could. Again, confidentiality does not protect the future victims.
I remember folks saying that universities could not have policies on faculty-grad student romance since you can't legislate against love. So many of our profs were married to other profs who they had met when one was faculty and the other was a student. I call bullshit on that. Yes, romance can happen, but if one has feelings for a student, wait until they are not a student. I think general policies in this case are needed because the damage done to individuals and communities can be so deep and so lasting that it is worth deferring or even denying a few real relationships.