It is the institute’s first Christmas party. My (female) colleague and I just started our first position as research assistants and doctoral students a month ago. Everything is still new and exciting. We are only just getting to know our colleagues and the academic life. Towards the end of the party, in a bar, the mood is relaxed, everyone is already a bit tipsy. I sit at the bar with Professor X. Professor X has a reputation for getting into relationships with his (much younger) female students. Although we work in the same building, we haven’t talked yet – but I did notice him glancing at me. Having the stories about his affairs with his students in the back of my mind, and therefore being not entirely comfortable around him, a conversation ensues that, to my surprise, I find rather pleasant. Later, I enthusiastically tell my colleague about the nice talk I had with Professor X, who was, above all, “not at all flirtatious”. When I check my emails the next day, I find an email from him, written at two in the morning. The email commences with “some schnapps & 1 kebab later and with 47 Schamäffchen (1).“ In the rest of the email, he states how nice it was to finally see me up close and that we should meet again soon. Professor X is not my direct supervisor, but our institute is quite small and he has decisional power in important matters. He is also close friends with my boss. After careful consideration, I reply that I, too, found the evening pleasant and that I appreciated the collegial exchange with him – but that I don’t want him to write me emails such as this one. I never get a reply to my email and, since then, Professor X has not spoken to me. I tell colleagues what happened, and they are taken aback but not very surprised. Apparently, this is not the first time Professor X has behaved in this manner.
Almost one and a half years later and after an accumulation of sexist incidents at our institute, my colleague and I decide to voice a complaint. We write up an email describing the individual incidents and send it to the professors in question. Within the email, I also describe the incident at the Christmas party with Professor X. Professor X replies to this email, saying that he had sent me an apology right after his first email which apparently did not arrive. After three follow-up emails from him in which he asks me to check my spam folder, he finally sends me a restored backup of the apology, sent from a different email address two weeks after the Christmas party – his old email address did not seem to have sent it, he writes.
(1) Note from the translator: It might be that the writer is referring to the ‘see-no-evil’ monkey emoji.