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How would you evaluate the school if it has scandals?


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Hey there,

This might be a sensitive question, but I wonder what people think about it. When you are deciding which school you go to, how would past scandals about the department affect your decision? 

My case, there were two faculty members in the department had inappropriate relationships with their students, were accused of sexual assaults and harassments, and eventually resigned due to pressure from students and some faculty members.

I won't need to work with any of them if I go to the school. My two potential advisors are also great people. Other students, faculty and graduates of the department all have good words to say about them. But does having had these faculty members for years imply something wrong with the department?

I'd appreciate any thoughts! Thanks!

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For me it would depend on how the department handled it/ the culture of the school overall is. Seeing as there were faculty members who supported those students who were affected I'd take it as a positive sign for the culture of the department that people would stand up for the students. I don't think it necessarily implies anything wrong with the department but it's difficult to judge how they handle things from a position outside of the administration. Maybe there were things behind the scenes that prevented them from removing them from the position etc etc even if they wanted to.

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I think that this is a great question for current students, and being really frank about your worry or concern.  Especially if you have already gotten in.  It's a fair question and one that current students should easily be able to attest to.

I would also think about whether the people up top in the program, who were theoretically in charge of those individuals and may have been a part of their behavior going on as long as it might have...are they still there?  Are they still a big influence?  What have they done since that happened to make the program better?  


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Seconding the above suggestions. You should have a frank conversation with your potential advisors about these incidents. You should also talk to current students. All these conversations should happen in person if possible and on the phone/skype otherwise. No one will put down in writing anything that would be incriminating. There are questions about how much this was a part of the culture in the department and how much it still is. There are questions about how the department and university handled the situation and what measures have been put in place as a result. There are questions about the current department atmosphere and about how this scandal has affected current students and recent alums on the job market. Some of this is unknowable if it was recent, and some of it may not affect you as someone who won't be involved with these professors. But there might be a concern if this means that the department could lose funding or collaboration opportunities, or if it's perceived as not having dealt with the situation and/or having affected advising and student progress in a way that could color the field's perception of you. In most cases like these students aren't judged harshly because everyone understands their position in the food chain. But it's worth having the conversations and understanding where things stand. 

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