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Mod's notice: Given the clear outcome of the poll below, I've now closed the question (MO).

I have the highest voted answer to this controversial post regarding racism against an Indian student. The claims in the OP are quite extraordinary, but the poster deserves the benefit of the doubt, so I gave sincere advice. Then I read this reply by the OP on my answer that was just posted yesterday (September 19th):

In the end, I remarked to this individual that one serious problem is that I'm a high caste individual, and look at white people in my university as an abominable low caste, and that automatically creates a lot of problems.

I had to re-read it to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding. Then I looked back over the rest of the posts, and I'm not sure what to make of it. The OP implicates the following list of people with some very over-the-top racism, including physical confrontations and swearing:

  • Other PhD students
  • The department chair
  • The Dean
  • HR
  • Multiple faculty

It's certainly possible that this person landed at the most racist institution in all of Massachusetts. But in light of the quote above, it seems more plausible that either the OP is the problem, or more likely, the whole post is an elaborate and puzzling attempt at trolling.

At a minimum the conversation has become so focused on this person's bizarre situation that I can't imagine it being particularly useful to other readers. I'm not sure what the appropriate action would be though.

So what does the rest of the community think? Am I being overly harsh in my judgment after reading the above comment?

Some more context from the linked chat room from the same OP:

I wrote this after documenting a huge number of incidents inside our department, and got a reply from the Title IX office saying there's nothing really wrong. Actually I'm not sure if all of the documented incidents could be dealt with by the Title IX office, but certainly there were major serious incidents there that they should have dealt with. Caste is officially a protected category in this university. I felt a bit sick myself talking in this manner with these disgusting hypocrites who pretend to be such progressives that they make caste a protected class, but with this cabal, it felt fine. I wanted to see their reaction; if they would do anything now that I claimed that the whole problem was basically casteist. This was meant to slander them even further. I mean, caste should be a protected class, but very very few places in the US have added caste as a protected class, if I'm not wrong. I was basically baiting them at this point. I hope I could make the context clearer; I was basically trolling, and trying to conjure up an image of myself as a casteist a**hole and that too by calling white Americans in my university lower castes by default, in a farcical tone. None of this is really relevant here, but from my high school and college days (my opinion changed from middle school when I was more swayed by the opinion of General category folk around me), I have openly advocated for caste based reservation in India and why it is important for it to continue for at least a few generations, and have faced the wrath of some of my friends for saying this. Of the handful of really close friends I made in college, about half of them were from a non privileged caste. We never discussed caste then of course. In fact literally four of my most closest friends who I hung out with in college were all from a non privileged caste. I've lost touch a little bit, but good old days, and we'll meet again! But again, this is what you would call "reactive behavior" at best, but I felt the time for continuing politeness with our university administration was pretty much over, after their continuing dismissals of all incidents.

Further comments:

This was exactly what I had written in the very last email to the Title IX office: "Actually a lot of these problems stem from the fact that I'm a high caste individual, and look around in this university and see a dimwitted peasant class that is a natural anathema for me. Do you think that can enable you to take some kind of action?" I did not say 'white people in the university were an abominable lower caste'. The idea was to bark back. The context was that this university made headlines by adding caste as a protected class, and thus showed off it's progressive cred.I should mention that in the prior emails, the documentation that I had was huge, and this thread or the chat probably covers at most 30% of everything documented there.

OP later clarified:

I hope in the discussion, I could make it clear that I don't actually view white people in my university as a lower caste, or want to look down on lower castes in India.

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  • 2
    I noticed exactly the same comment as you. FWIW, I certainly think the OP is not trolling and is sincere in their beliefs; you probably have enough rep to see some of their deleted posts from March 2020, such as academia.stackexchange.com/questions/145334/… (which I can't, although I had bookmarked it at the time) – Yemon Choi Sep 20 '20 at 15:40
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    I added some more info from the OP from the chat room. Gonna be honest, we should probably just nuke it from orbit – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 20 '20 at 18:30
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    I momentarily locked that question while we sort things out. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 20 '20 at 18:39
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    There is also enough information on the post now to easily identify the university in question, if not the individual themself or the faculty involved. – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 20 '20 at 19:06
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    I concur with your concerns. I'm inclined to say we should post possible paths forward as answers to this question, and let the community decide how to proceed by voting. What do you think? – cag51 Sep 20 '20 at 19:44
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    @scaaahu "Lunatic" is inappropriate. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 21 '20 at 8:34
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    @scaaahu The question was first flagged by a user and the flag was first reviewed by me. I agreed with the flag because, in addition to "it may be that you are a lunatic" I find it also problematic the sentence "Your account is one sided and doesn't make me think that you're the victim". I'll flag that answer so that another moderator can review the decision. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 21 '20 at 9:45
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    Just a correction: I had mentioned the former departmental chair, not the current departmental chair, who is universally well respected. Also, in my post from March, I had mentioned incidents with a faculty member in a nearby university, which were also very disturbing, and about which I had spoken with an Emeritus faculty member in our department (and an eminent combinatorialist and former Putnam Fellow), and he had agreed that I was getting abused in that situation. – laputalanglang Sep 21 '20 at 18:58
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    Also, if it is of any value, I want to assure that the post was not an elaborate attempt at trolling; and if you ask some Chinese students in our department they will also tell you about the behavior of our teaching faculty member unless they fear repurcussions, and literally everyone in the department knows about this specific grad student I'm speaking of; although I don't think he has said such extended amount of crap as he has to me in such an offensive tone, being in the same year as me for one thing. – laputalanglang Sep 21 '20 at 19:07
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    I think this over the top racism has one important reason, which I will not opine on here, since that will give away the institution. – laputalanglang Sep 21 '20 at 19:30
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    @MassimoOrtolano As that's my answer I don't feel that the penalty is too harsh (I should have chosen different language). If you'd like to edit it down and reopen it you are welcome to do so. – user128815 Sep 21 '20 at 20:57
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    I finally went and reread the entire thing, and I don't think it's a likely outcome but this entire thing raises a bunch of red flags for workplace violence. He clearly views his coworkers as lesser humans, he believes that they're all out to get him, and he's been involved in some sort of physical altercation with at least one of his coworkers. This is borderline and I don't know which way I'd vote on it, but one option should probably be to notify his campus security. – user128815 Sep 21 '20 at 21:11
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    I took a look at the deleted answer on which Massimo requested a second opinion. I think the deletion was reasonable, and while there might have been a way to salvage it with aggressive editing, I recommend that we just leave it be, particularly since the entire post seems destined for closure (and probably deletion) in any case. – cag51 Sep 21 '20 at 22:34
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    @laputalanglang - yes, please see the appropriate uses of comments and our code of conduct. Your comments that accuse our users of racism (without evidence) and post unrelated material ("spam") violate both of these, and may therefore be deleted without warning. Please be aware that we have extended you the benefit of the doubt in that we have so far only deleted the inappropriate comments; however, users who continually or seriously violate our code of conduct may be suspended. – cag51 Sep 22 '20 at 0:18
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    I'm sure you are an educated person, and have critical thinking skills; do you understand how CJRD's comments above are unsafe? – laputalanglang Sep 22 '20 at 0:19
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Upvote this answer if you agree we should close (for any reason); downvote if you strongly disagree.

Close the question. This "depends on individual factors": if all these details are really needed to understand the question, the question does not belong on this site.

7

Upvote this answer if you agree we should delete (for any reason); downvote if you strongly disagree.

Delete the question (in addition to closing). The situation seems enough of a mess that suggestions based on an incomplete understanding of it can easily do harm.

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  • I wonder why you have a "new contributor" flag when you have 18.8k rep and have been a user for 6 years – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 21 '20 at 18:27
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    @Azor - Looks like their first answer on meta! – cag51 Sep 21 '20 at 19:15
  • @AzorAhai--hehim - indeed, it is a weird quirk of the Metas and how 'new' is tracked... – Jon Custer Sep 22 '20 at 13:19
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Victim-blaming is often a manifestation of prejudice. It's a manifestation of prejudice that is seen from time to time on this site. We are not defense attorneys, so there is no need for us to investigate the victim.

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    Does this imply that we should leave the question open? Or only that we should be cognizant of this whatever we do? – cag51 Sep 21 '20 at 8:23
  • Be cognizant. This response is neutral on the open/close" issue. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 21 '20 at 8:33
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    I view this a bit differently. It's not that we are defense attorneys investigating a victim, but I do think we act as self-scouts. – Bryan Krause Sep 21 '20 at 14:49
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    @BryanKrause No idea what that means. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 22 '20 at 0:43
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    @AnonymousPhysicist A self-scout (kind of borrowing a sports term here) is responsible for looking at your own weaknesses, finding holes in your defense or weaknesses in your offense. I don't think questioning someone's presentation is blaming the victim when the purpose is to say "here's how your approach paints you in a bad light". "Investigating the victim" is not a bad thing when it's done from the victim's point of view, to strengthen their position, rather than to truly dismantle it. – Bryan Krause Sep 22 '20 at 1:53
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Upvote this answer if you agree we should heavily edit the question and leave open (for any reason); downvote if you strongly disagree.

Heavily edit the question, then leave open. We can edit to (1) generalize the question, and (2) remove some of the troubling comments cited above. This will allow us to keep the existing answers intact.

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Upvote this answer if you agree we should leave open in its present state (for any reason); downvote if you strongly disagree.

Leave the question open in its present state.

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