A reader writes:
About 6 months ago, I learned that my undergraduate mentor in philosophy routinely slept with his female students, during my time at the university and for many years beforehand. He never made any even slightly inappropriate advances towards me, and he spent an enormous amount of time and energy mentoring me and supporting me through grave doubts about my abilities as a philosopher – indeed, had it not been for him, I would never have considered graduate school, and would not now have the Assistant Professor job that I love so much. He was always exceptionally kind, supportive, and sensitive to (and indeed often a champion of) feminist concerns. Over the past six months since learning this information, though, I’ve felt deeply hurt and betrayed, and have at times started to doubt myself in all of the old ways. Was I not in fact a good philosopher in undergrad? Was he only as supportive as he was because I was young, and female, and conventionally attractive? Did my other professors take me less seriously as a philosopher because they assumed that I was sleeping with him, too? The part of me that remembers how close our relationship was believes that he would feel deep regret if he knew how his actions affected past (and present?) students like me, but the part of me with more distance doubts that anyone who routinely slept with the 20-year-olds he taught could possibly care. I’ve wanted to get in touch with him recently, to tell him how hard his behavior has been even on students like me with whom he had a fully appropriate relationship, in part because I feel a responsibility to try to get him to change his behavior if he still does this to students. But is it utterly naive to think that getting in touch with him would have any positive affect? And might there be any negative repercussions to doing so that I’m not thinking of? (He’s not a particularly successful or influential philosopher, so I don’t think that he would have any ability to harm my career.)
Please leave your thoughts in comments, but absolutely DO NOT reveal identifying information about other similar situations (or this one, for that matter).