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grad_abuse's Journal

graduate students abused by advisors
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This community is for current or former graduate students who were, or are, being abused by graduate advisors.

Here are some (non-exhaustive) real-life examples of abuse by advisors. It's not a checklist or a way of Determining Definitively whether an advisor is abusive; it's a list of behaviors that I and people I know have seen abusive advisors display within the context of those relationships. I will add more examples as I come across more.

  • When a student assumes the advisor's research is open for discussion in the same way other researchers' work is, retaliating by holding required projects hostage in exchange for good behavior

  • Pressuring students to come up with the 'right' data

  • Insisting students not give due credit to others in the field that the advisor feels him/herself to be in competition with

  • Insisting that students be honest about what they think, then punishing them if they don't give the 'right answer'

  • Verbal abuse, name-calling

  • Blowing hot and cold: one moment everything's fine and going well, then out of nowhere the student is subject to criticism and threats disproportionate to anything he or she has actually done (often minor, forgiveable mistakes on the student's part)

  • Isolating students so that each student thinks they're the only one

  • Behaving very differently when alone with the student than with other people present

  • Interrogating and berating students when the advisor gets an inquiry or warning from the department after a student makes a complaint

  • Trying to convince a student that they can't leave, because "who else would take them?"

If you would like to join, but are frightened of your advisor finding you, here are some steps you can take to maintain your privacy:
  • Omit identifying details about your university and area of study

  • Friends-lock your posts here

  • Set up a separate livejournal account to post about things under

Part of what makes abuse by advisors so bad is that it's not talked about publicly, and graduate students are often afraid to discuss what has happened to them for fear of retribution. You are invited to share your experiences here, but it's fine (and very understandable) if you just want to lurk for now.

If you do decide to do an intro post, here are some things others might be interested in. Feel free to cover all, some, or none.
  • whether you're currently a graduate student

  • whether you're currently in an abusive advisor-advisee relationship or were previously (when, how long)

  • what kinds of tactics your abuser employs/employed

  • have you told/did you tell anyone in the department? what happened?

  • have you told/did you tell anyone outside of the department? what happened?

  • is/was anything helpful to you in dealing with the situation?

And: what can we do to help people who are currently in abusive advisor-advisee relationships? what do you think we can do to reduce the frequency with which future grad students will wind up in abusive advisor-advisee relationships?

Some resources (on 'workplace bullying,' i.e. emotional abuse in the workplace - I've been able to find nothing that addresses grad school advisor-advisee issues specifically):

Why don't targets of workplace bullying stand up for themselves? This site is quite good although it does not address academic advisor-advisee relationships. Also, two more from this site: Why don't targets of workplace bullying always report abuse? And bullying and post-traumatic stress disorder (long read, but worth it)

Bullyonline on Yahoo Groups


Workplace bullying studies

Wikipedia on psychological abuse (also see mobbing and bullying)

If you have other relevant resources, please let me know at euziere@livejournal.com.

Moderated by euziere.