WLU ’19 — Crossing Lines

TW: Mention of rape

After seeing some other stories about the same professor, I figured I would share my experience as well. 

I went to his office in order to catch up on what was covered during a Writing Center meeting I had to miss during my senior year. He closed the door, which felt very strange—I never experienced a professor, let alone a male professor, do that. His office blinds were drawn, and he sat between me and the door.

As a survivor of sexual assault, all of these things had me on high alert. We discussed the Writing Center and he caught me up from a meeting I missed, which was fine. But then he wanted to talk about becoming a mentor for a club I was leading, and that was when things took a turn.

He said he would only be a mentor “if it’s worth his time,” and he went into the stories of people he’s been a confidant/mentor for over the years, presumably to prove to me he’d be a good/effective mentor for the students in my organization.

He mentioned that he had “bone chilling stories” (his words) to share of the things that go on at W&L, playing coy and not seeming to want to tell me at first. Of course, I already knew there were plenty of bone chilling things going on, but he seemed to think this would be new information for me.

One story was about a white male student who got a DUI, who he advised to get a lawyer and got out of the charge. Another was “falsely” accused of rape (it didn’t sound false to me the way even he told the story) who he also advised to get a lawyer, and another who was kidnapped by a fraternity during pledging (hazing).

He then said he “hoped I’d never gone through anything as bad as those experiences.”

I wanted to reply that I’ve been raped twice on this campus (and had been writing about it all year) by men exactly like the ones he’s worked to protect, but I decided it was better to say nothing. Safer. I’d gone numb and into survival mode, trying to get out of the conversation as quickly as I could. After over thirty minutes of these stories, he ended the meeting. I left shaken and dazed, a little unsure of what had just happened, as all of it was inappropriate.

I reported this incident to my advisor, who told me to share it with the department head, who escalated it to HR. My advisor also spoke to this professor, advising him not to talk or interact with me outside of Writing Center duties.

Some days later, at the senior capstone reading, I came in a few moments late, and this professor stared directly at me (perpendicular to where the students were speaking, so it was very obvious and uncomfortable) until I acknowledged him. I was trying not to acknowledge him because given the social situation I didn’t feel like I needed to-I was late and wanted to pay attention to the capstones. Further, he had already been advised not to speak to me, as I did not want to speak with him, given how uncomfortable he had made me.

Later during the event, he reached to get his cup that was somehow on the ledge on the other side of me. He put his hand on my lower back to reach by, which was completely unnecessary and inappropriate. I do not want to be touched. I do not want to be touched without my consent. I do not want to be touched by a professor that had made me feel so upset and uncomfortable. I shouldn’t have to say that, really

And he especially shouldn’t have touched me after I had reported him (which he had happened to find out about, making me feel even more unsafe and anxious.)

I was always on edge walking around campus for the remaining few months of my senior year, worried I’d run into him and he’d try to talk to me about my report, etc. He was known for crossing lines left and right, so it never seemed out of the realm of possibility.

I don’t think he received much in the way of consequences, but it was an unpleasant and severely anxiety-inducing experience, especially as someone with diagnosed PTSD after being raped twice at W&L. Given the volume of stories about him I’ve heard or read here, ranging from verbal and written harassment to horrific racism to sexual harassment,

HE SHOULD NOT BE EMPLOYED BY THE UNIVERSITY.

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