Professor mamas, WWYD if a student did this? UPDATE! - Mothering Forums
View Poll Results: What would you do in this circumstance?
Ignore it. It's just a childish prank, and a stupid one. 3 21.43%
Call the student out on it privately and ask what the h*&$ s/he thought s/he was doing 2 14.29%
Report the behavior as a violation of the university's sexual harassment policy (assuming I can figure out who it was) 3 21.43%
DIscuss it with the entire class so that the young women in the class see a woman standing up for herself against this behavior 4 28.57%
Other 2 14.29%
Voters: 14. You may not vote on this poll

Working and Student Parents > Professor mamas, WWYD if a student did this? UPDATE!
Comtessa's Avatar Comtessa 03:36 PM 01-18-2012


Okay, any mamas out there who teach, give me your opinion about this one. 


I teach two intro classes at a local university.  Today was our first day of class.  I handed out index cards and asked each student to write a few pieces of basic information about him/herself on the card.  When they were handed back and I started reading them out loud to learn the students' names, I suddenly came upon one card that was blank except for the phrase, "I want to see you naked."  


I was totally floored, as you can imagine.   What on earth am I supposed to do with that?  At the time, I just raised my eyebrows, said wryly, "Nice," and then kept going.  I wasn't about to let whoever-it-was see me flustered by such a juvenile prank.  


But now I'm thinking about it and wondering, what do I do with this?  I can probably ID handwriting and figure out who wrote it, but I'm wondering if it's worth it.  I'm going to take it to the head of my dept. and ask his advice, too, but I thought it might be helpful to get some other opinions here.  


If it were you, what would you do?

Imakcerka 03:54 PM 01-18-2012

I think your initial reaction was good.  You didn't give the person what they wanted.  However that person may try again and you may be able to figure out who it is.  And remember it could be a girl.  Then get EM!

JollyGG's Avatar JollyGG 03:58 PM 01-18-2012

If you have the rest of the classes information/names then you should be able to narrow down who wrote it by process of elimination.


I think you handled it fine for now.

Red Pajama's Avatar Red Pajama 04:50 PM 01-18-2012

Not a professor, for full disclosure.


I'd want to know who wrote it. Once I knew, I'd probably just sit on the information. It was probably just a dumb prank, but I'd still want to know.

*MamaJen*'s Avatar *MamaJen* 05:22 PM 01-18-2012

I think discussing it with your department head is a sensible idea.

smokeylo's Avatar smokeylo 08:43 PM 01-18-2012

Definitely share it with your supervisors. I'd try to figure out who it was so that if a pattern of behavior is evident, this can be a part of it. Otherwise you'll be worrying about it for the entire term.

LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 08:56 PM 01-18-2012

I would share it with my department head. Not because I think I can do anything about it, but if a student is brash enough to write that on a card, then this may be a pattern of behavior. You want to start documenting the behavior NOW in case you need the university to step in soon. This could be a juvenile prank by some young kid or it could be really unbalanced behavior. You can't tell. If it's the former, then being 100% professional all.the.time will cure it. (If you're young, I might dress up a bit to teach for the next few weeks. Sad to say, but young, female instructors have a harder time establishing respect.)


The other thing I'd do, not necessarily because of this, but because it's a good idea, is to search out what the resources/procedures are if students become inappropriate either during office hours or class. Our department was caught flat-footed a couple of years ago when a student became very threatening to one of our adjunct professors while meeting in her office. Luckily, it was during the day and other people were around. The TA was in an office around the corner, and so the instructor left her office and got him. Then our dept administrator called campus security. After that, our chair had a conversation with the counseling services on campus and they gave us the procedures for those kinds of emergencies. I've got it taped to my filing cabinet. I've never had a student flip out on me, but it can happen.


ETA: I would NOT call the student out privately or talk about it with the entire class (I didn't see the poll when I first posted). Your instinct not to give this issue air time was a good one. Sexual harassment is less about sex and more about power. You don't want to give this person any power.


And if you don't have a section on your syllabus, you should have one that tells the students they are expected to follow the university's code of conduct (link to it), and give examples of the kinds of behavior that is prohibited, e.g., plagiarism, harassment, etc. etc. It also helps to have a statement that says what behaviors you do expect. I have a 10 page syllabus because I want to be really clear about goals and expectations.



namaste_mom's Avatar namaste_mom 10:11 PM 01-18-2012
I agree, I would try to find out who the student was if possible, I teach huge classes so it would be very difficult. I would share with the department head. If you ever feel threatened in your class, make sure you know exactly what to do. Have a known course of action. We also have a place that we can call to report odd behavior. After VA Tech, these procedures were put in place.
emilysmama's Avatar emilysmama 06:23 PM 01-19-2012

Definitely I would want to know who it was.


Our university has a an office and a Vice President in charge of what is called the Board of Student Conduct.  The office draws from a pool of students, and a pool of professors, and if a student is accused of doing something wrong (whether it be plagarism/academic integrity issues or minors drinking in the dorms, or students creating disruptions), then the accused student has to go to a hearing, which is a little bit like a trial in front of a jury of peers and faculty, where both sides tell their story and the group renders a swift but fair decision and recommends the penalty.  It works pretty well, although I have to say that the students in the jury are often harsher and less sympathetic on the accused student than the faculty are. 


Plus, at my university, this office also acts like a clearinghouse, where you can report incidents like yours, and choose to report your incident for information only without pursuing a hearing and punishment.  The office keeps a file on the student, so that if other departments also have problems with the same student, then the pattern of problems is easily identified and already documented with a paper trail, and the student can be dealt with more severely than a first time offender.  This is very useful because we used to have the same problem students occur across different departments, and we didn't even realize that the student was doing the same thing to other professors unless we just happened to kvetch with the correct faculty members in the other correct departments.


I would also take it to my Dean, who would not take an incident like this lightly.


I would also look through the University's student handbook. You know, the booklet that the University publishes things like students' rights and responsibilities, grievance procedure, and that kind of thing.  The student handbook might say what the procedure for a situation like this is.


Also, I would look on line for my University's operations manual.  There might be something there about what the standard procedure is.


Edited to add: Hi Comtessa!  I was just at Case-Western Reserve University this past weekend for a physics conference.  Cleveland is a beautiful city and seems like an exciting place to do research.

SimonMom's Avatar SimonMom 02:32 PM 01-21-2012

Hey Comtessa.. I'm actually not sure how you should address it, but I just wanted to say I'm in Cleveland too :p I'm not a professor mom, but I'm a student at CSU. 


Anna Phor's Avatar Anna Phor 02:52 PM 01-23-2012

Ugh. Gross. Sorry that happened. 


I don't teach any more, but I used to, and I work at a university. Yes, definitely play by the book and take it to the dept. head--and I'd add, if you don't find that response satisfactory, go to HR. I also like the idea of passing around university policy documents on sexual harrassment, maybe at the same time as you talk about plagiarism procedures? You don't have to call out the student in front of the class, but even if you can't ever figure out what student it was, doing something like that lets them know that you are responding and that you won't put up with that behavior.


good luck!

Comtessa's Avatar Comtessa 06:13 PM 01-25-2012

Thanks for your advice, everyone!  And... we caught the culprit!  


I did decide to take it to the head of my dept., and he recommended that I address it with the entire class.  (I also called a female colleague to ask her advice, too, since my boss is a wonderful man but has the occasional sexist bias.  She seconded his recommendation -- more strongly -- so I figured I was good to go.)  


I printed out the relevant section in the university sexual harassment policy and brought it into class.  We were going over the syllabus that day, so when we got to the section on "Respect in the Classroom" (yes, I have an entire section dedicated to it) I put the sexual harassment policy on the overhead projector and explained what had happened at the previous class.  You could have heard a pin drop in there.  I was sure I'd hear a bunch of nervous titters when they heard what the note said, but there was not a sound in the classroom.  This was heartening; it was clear that they were taking this very seriously. 


I gave them quite a lecture, which boiled down to: someone in this room is a creepy little schmuck, so y'all had better be careful until we know who it is.  And when I find out who it is, the Sexual Harassment policy will apply and the consequences are likely to be severe.  And then I looked each of them in the eye and said, "All of you -- but I'm speaking especially to the women in the room -- I want you to know that you should never, ever accept this shit from anybody."


So I thought that would be the end of it, but after class an extremely embarrassed-looking young man came up to my desk and stammered, "Um, professor, about that note..."  Apparently, he had written it -- but not to me.  He had passed it to a buddy across the room, and somehow it was passed forward to me.  Apparently the phrase is a long-running joke between the two of them, an inside joke whose origins I'm sure I don't want to know.  


So, all's well that ends well... I suppose.  I suspect that the buddy did pass it forward deliberately, as a lark, so I'm fairly certain that my lecture was at least somewhat warranted.  And... the women in the class had the opportunity to see a woman standing up for herself.  


And perhaps, this week, I'll actually be able to teach them something about the subject of the course!!!  

Altair's Avatar Altair 06:34 PM 01-25-2012

GREAT update!!!  


Loved this part:



"All of you -- but I'm speaking especially to the women in the room -- I want you to know that you should never, ever accept this shit from anybody."





*MamaJen*'s Avatar *MamaJen* 10:05 AM 01-26-2012

That's what they call a teaching moment. I bet some of your students will remember that 20 years from now. Nicely handled.

CookiePie's Avatar CookiePie 11:47 AM 01-29-2012

You handled that beautifully!  A great way to remind the women in your class, to stand up for themselves, and not accept this sort of crap.  Also you must be happy to know that you don't actually have a creeper in your class!  It's refreshing that the student came forward about what happened!  I'm sure that wasn't easy to do.

modestmothering's Avatar modestmothering 10:46 AM 01-30-2012

I would get naked. But I guess I'm a nontraditional prof.


I teach sexuality and gender theory -- SO, this would be a great moment to teach. Imagine the discussion?  Wonderful.  I would rejoice if I got something like that on the first time.  It would make for ripe discussion.

Comtessa's Avatar Comtessa 08:09 PM 02-02-2012

Originally Posted by modestmothering View Post

I would get naked. But I guess I'm a nontraditional prof.




I'm an adjunct.

And I teach religion.

At a conservative Catholic university.

No matter how nontraditional I perceive myself to be (and I DO appear in one of Spencer Tunick's photographs...), I'd most certainly get fired for that one.  

Ellien C's Avatar Ellien C 04:06 PM 02-03-2012

This may be the single most important thing any of them ever learn in college. You are my hero! It's moments like this that they will look back on.





"All of you -- but I'm speaking especially to the women in the room -- I want you to know that you should never, ever accept this shit from anybody."







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