Help! Should I Tell the University My Friend Is Sleeping With a Research Student She Supervises?

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 12 2013 2:50 PM

Sex and the University

In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman itching to spill the beans on an improper school affair.

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Re: Disorganized mom: I did invite the kid to come directly to our house last Saturday. They never showed and the mom has not returned my calls. Obviously the mom has to be middleman to some degree; 8-year-olds cannot drive!

A: I said when you make a plan you be the one to swing by and pick up the other child. You've already seen the other mother can't be relied on to follow through. Someone wrote in to say clearly the other mother has a substance abuse problem. We don't have anywhere near enough evidence to make that clear. She could simply be irresponsible. She could have ADHD. And, yes, she could also be a lot more troubled. Despite your annoyance with the mother, at even its most benign something is wrong in the functioning of that household. Instead of telling your daughter she needs a new best friend, continue making an effort to connect with the other girl. She is in need of friends and stable adults.

Q. Estranged Parents Don't Know I'm Pregnant: I have stopped speaking to my abusive parents a few months ago. My parents will not speak to me unless I apologize to them for becoming angry after another one of their abusive tirades. This vicious cycle has been going on my whole life (they do something horrible, I become justifiably angry, they make ME apologize for being angry). I plan on never speaking to them again. However, my sister is getting married. When my parents ruined my wedding, she did her best to keep things together. I am going to the wedding with my son and husband, but I will also be pregnant. I haven't told my parents that I'm expecting again (primarily because they want me to apologize to them first), and I don't want them to think I'm inviting them back in my life. How can I tell them I'm pregnant, so they're not blindsided at my sister's wedding? If I don't say anything beforehand they will make a scene.

A: Your sister is apparently still speaking to them, so she should tell them. But please don't give these people the power to "ruin" weddings. If your parents like to throw temper tantrums at public events, then your sister should designate a few people to step in and guide mom and dad outside until they have cooled off. Since you sound happily married, I don't think you should give your parents the power to destroy your memories of your happy day. You married a wonderful guy. If your parents made fools of themselves, everyone else there saw them for the sad sick people they are.

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Q. Re: Affair friend: I have repeatedly pressured her to end the affair, taking a variety of tactics ranging from "think of your career," to sympathetic "he is a real jerk," to no avail. I have also asked her to stop talking to me about it, and upon her continuing to overshare, gone radio silent in response to anything to do with him. Nothing has changed his or her behavior, some of the students have complained, but Sarah's boss has a blind spot toward anything negative about her. Am I understanding you correctly that it is time to take it to those in charge?

A: For someone not affiliated with that research program, you seem very affiliated if you know the students are complaining and that Sarah's boss is incapable of acting. I didn't say you should talk to those in charge. I said since you weren't directly involved, those who are should be the ones to act. If you were someone at the university who was aware of the global dysfunction in a department you would have an obligation to bring it to the attention of higher-ups. But you aren't a university employee and your information comes from your friend. That complicates this morally for you. But you've tried and had no effect in addressing this directly with Sarah and you see that others are being hurt by her recklessness. If you weigh your obligations and conclude it's time for you to take this to an administrator who will act, that is a fair call.

Q. Opt-Out Wants Back In: I am one of the professional moms who decided to opt out to raise my kids and now my kids are grown. As a result, I am trying to get back into the workforce. I have been volunteering at a fairly serious level the past few years, expanding my job skills and keeping up to date with technology. I don't expect to step back in where I was when I stepped out for obvious reasons, but I have been looking for almost a year, both in and out of my field, and have very few responses to my applications. How do I keep up my confidence in the face of a professional world that seems so uninterested in the advantages I have to offer? In my younger days, I was from such a good school and got such good grades and professional reviews that getting a job was a no-brainer. By the way, I do not regret the years I spent with my children and also taking care of my mom and my grandmother (who have both since passed on). It seems that these things are not valued in today's world and it is discouraging.

A: You are not alone. Journalist Judith Warner had a story in the New York Times about women in your situation and she found that a small elite were able to step back into great jobs but most have struggled to find jobs paying a percentage of their previous salaries. Some of the successful ones were able to turn volunteer opportunities into actual work, and the key seemed to be the ability to network aggressively. So, hard as it is, you have to get out there. Take people you have even a tangential relationship with out for coffee and tell them about what you're looking for. Often the best leads come from those outside your immediate circle. The world of job search has changed technologically since you dropped out, so make sure you're up to date on LinkedIn and other resources. Don't fall into self-pity. You decided to take a long break from employment to do things meaningful to you. But you surely knew that potential employers weren't going to credit your years raising children and caring for elderly relatives into their workplace needs.

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Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column.