my coworker feels entitled to my time, expertise, car, and house

A reader writes:

I’ve been reading your site for a while, but I’ve not seen anything that will help me address this particular issue — when a coworker who’s your peer feels entitled to all your technical expertise, time, and other resources.

Our department had about 20 of us PhD students start at the same time. I’m one of the oldest, having returned to academia after several years working in industry. The youngest has had a very sheltered upbringing as an only child with indulgent parents, never held an actual job, and has glommed on to me as a substitute big sister. She gives the general impression that everyone else is an extra in her movie and our job is to help her succeed.

If I have a skill or resource she wants, she feels entitled to it. And I don’t mean small things. She complains about money all the time (we all get paid exactly the same in our program) and is saving to buy a house in her hometown, so her “solution” to this was to tell me she wanted to move in with me (in a one-bedroom flat) so she wouldn’t have to pay rent. When I told her that wouldn’t work, and even if she moved to my town, we couldn’t carpool because I stop on the way home to take care of my horse, she replied that that’s no problem, she’d always wanted to learn to ride but it was too expensive!

This kind of thing is also happening in the office. She’s repeatedly promised people things that will make her look good but expected the actual content to come from me (like taking over the department website but telling others they needed to write the blog for her) or told our department head, without asking me first, that I had volunteered to be the “guest lecturer” for a lecture series she signed up to give but didn’t know enough about. (And then she told me that she’d already printed the posters with only her name on them, but that wouldn’t be an issue for me, right?)

We ended up teaching a class together that was an absolute disaster because she ignored the structure we’d worked out together, overloaded the students with far too much coursework and confusing, contraditctory instructions, then marked their work extra harshly to show that she was not a pushover. It made me look bad and I don’t want to do it again.

For the coming academic year, she wants to teach another class and has given a syllabus that covers things I’m an expert in and she is not. I’ve declined to teach with her when she asked, but she’s gone to our head of department to complain that I’m refusing to do collaborative work as is required in our contract. I’m now being pressured by him to do this again, because having a good class on this would be genuinely useful. It’s complicated by the fact that her PhD supervisor is the head of the department, while mine is in a different department that is in direct competition for funding, so politics come into it.

How do I get out of this? And how do I communicate that “even if I’m the person that could solve your problem, that doesn’t mean I have to do it”?

Can you tell her directly why you aren’t going to teach another class with her? Meaning, can you say, “When we taught together last semester, our styles didn’t mesh well. You didn’t follow the structure we’d worked out together, and I was concerned about the amount of coursework and clarity of instructions you gave the students. I also wasn’t aligned with the way you graded them. I was happy to give it a shot last semester, but I learned that we have really different styles and so I don’t want to do it again.” It’s even better if you can change that last bit to “and so I’m going to try collaborating with others this time around.”

And speaking of which: Make a point of collaborating with others in your program so that it’s clear you’re not refusing to do collaborative work. You’re happy to do collaborative work! You just did some with her when you co-taught a class together, and now you’re doing some with other people. You’re highly collaborative.

In theory, you should also be able to say to your department head, “I was excited to collaborate with Jane last semester and we co-taught a class together. But we turned out to have really different styles and I wasn’t happy with how it went. We’ve talked about that, and I let her know that I’m going to try working with Cecil and Lucinda this coming year because I really want to do X and Y with them.” (I say “in theory” because academia has its own rules and politics. Adapt accordingly.)

About the other stuff: Be direct with her. It sounds like you’ve already taken care of the housing and carpool requests, but if something like that comes up again, say, “Nope, it’s really not something I can do.” If she pushes, say, “Wow, you’re really pushing here, and it’s making me uncomfortable. I can’t help with it, but I hope you figure something out.”

If she makes promises to people while expecting you to do the work for her, say, “You need to talk to me about things like this before you make any promises based on it. You’re volunteering me for things that I haven’t agreed to take on, and I have other commitments that you often won’t know about.” Or, “No, that’s not something I can do. You’ll need to go back and let Cecil know I didn’t agree to that.” (You might need to follow up with Cecil yourself too to make sure the message was delivered correctly. That would mean saying something to him like, “Jane told me she’d mentioned to you that I might be able to do X. I want to make sure she’s had a chance to circle back and let you know that it wasn’t something we’d talked about yet. She did ask after that, but I’m going to be busy with Y and let her know I couldn’t help.”)

Also, about all this language to use with Jane: I often tell people to sound cheerful and matter-of-fact when delivering messages like these, and that’s one way to go. But in this case, you might get better results if you let yourself sound annoyed — because she’s behaving as if she’s oblivious how annoying her actions are, and she might need to be confronted with that. (Again, adapt for academia’s politics, blah blah.)

Another thought — since you say she sees you like a big sister, is there any chance you can talk with her more broadly about some of this? Could you sit her down and say, “I like you and value our relationship, but there’s something we need to fix. You tend to make claims to my time and my skills without asking me, like when you told Apollo I’d volunteered to be a guest lecturer when the series you’d set up when I hadn’t done that at all, or when (other examples). And I taught a course with you last year but you still complained to him that I wasn’t teaching one with you this year, when I have other projects I want to focus on. That’s not cool — and it definitely doesn’t make me more eager to work together. It makes me less eager, and I know that’s not the outcome you’re going for.”

But it’s also possible that would be exactly the wrong approach and you’d be better just trying to put distance between you. She’s being sort of a frenemy here — on one hand being aggressively friendly (“let’s move in together!”) and on the other hand complaining about you to your department head. You might be better off keeping her at as much of a distance you as you can manage, and forgoing any conversations about “I like you and want you to fix this problem.”

(And once again, as my multiple caveats above indicate: This is the answer I’d give for a normal workplace, but you’ll have to adapt to for academia, which can have its own rules and politics that I can’t speak to.)

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 537 comments… read them below }

  1. Vicky Austin*

    Ugh. What an awful situation. I feel bad for the OP.
    On another note- Apollo!!!!!!! Best pseudonym ever!

  2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I’d suggest a long chat with your PI and your graduate program head. Her behavior is showing red flags for academic dishonesty (putting her name on a poster for your talk, declaring herself teacher of a class using your material) and also mental health issues which universities are legally required to deal with in a different fashion than an employer.

    Good luck!

    1. Artemesia*

      Yes I’d be much more aggressive about this in noting that she is a problem — these are pretty vivid examples. And I’d make it dead clear that you will not collaborate with her because she doesn’t pull her oar and preempts or takes over the work other people do. This screams a mental health issue. Healthy people don’t behave like this on so many fronts.

      1. Moray*

        And it might help to frame that conversation as “hey, I’m concerned about Glommy, both professionally and personally.”

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I honestly wouldn’t even say you’re worried about her personally. Keep it as professional as possible, but use a warm tone when appropriate and a very matter-of-fact tone for most of the conversation. Use keywords related to professional expectations and academic dishonesty. Unfortunately, unless someone is at significant risk of self-harm, deploying personal concern in your framing will encourage the PIs to brush this aside as a “personal issue” or “personality clash” instead of a concrete and alarming lapse of professional norms and expectations.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            Agreed. Any hint of “personal” is likely to get this dismissed as “personality clash.” OP needs to frame this as a professional & ethical issue.

              1. DoomCarrot*

                Ugh. That’s not even an angle I’d thought of yet.

                Also, we’re of two different nationalities that are “traditional enemies”. (Neither of us is from the country we work in.)

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Ohbyeah that’s tough. The gender issue though, being dismissed as a “cat fight”… it’s real. Be ready for it.

              2. gilthoniel*

                You know, long ago when I was an engineering-type engineer, eventually there were more women engineers than just me. We actually had two in the building (among hundreds of male engineers). We were placed in a different groups specifically to avoid cat fights, but in sight of each other so we wouldn’t feel so alone. At least, that’s what the higher-ups told me.

                It just seems kind of sad now.

          2. tamarack and fireweed*

            I agree (postdoc, <2 years post PhD defense, and also a "returner"). The OP needs to figure out where to hold the line, and then treat it without a hint of defensiveness, and like you're talking about something that is completely accepted (which it should be!).

            If you're ok with guest-lecturing, eg., it's good on your CV / for your professional development to either have the experience or the "collaboration" cred: "Sure I can guest-lecture, but please make sure it is clearly announced to the students. I didn't see my name on the agenda – an omission? Also, here is how I organize my guest-lecture [lay out how *you* are in control for the class period]"

            If you are supposed to collaborate, start collaborating with someone you mesh well.

            To get her out of your hair for personal things, a short pause with a confused (MAYBE slightly annoyed) look on your face and "No, I'm not looking for a housemate. Maybe you can put up a note on the notice board with what you're looking for and the rent you'd want to pay?" "I don't socialize when I go to my horse. If you're interested in getting into horses, I recommend [barn farthest away from where you keep your horse, if possible]" Or even, if she's complaining about money "You ARE aware that we're all paid the same, right? Sure, would be nice if we were paid better, ha ha. One day! Meanwhile the way I figured it out for me just about works well for me."

            Teaching… your program seems to be putting you into a relatively favorable situation, in that many PhD students either don't get the opportunity to teach OR get overloaded with mindless repetitive TA duties where they have little control over the lesson plans. Right now, she seems to have the upper hand because she develops the concepts, even if she then leaves it to others to fill in the actual hard work. You can circumvent this by developing concepts of your own. Including about evaluation, teaching techniques etc. When you go to your PI/advisor think about which arguments carry weight. In academia, expertise is valued highly. If you're the expert and she's a newbie on a topic, EITHER you should be in control of the lessons and she needs to follow, OR you're her mentor that she can draw on to help her develop her class, but then you aren't going to be the one who jumps in and pulls the potatoes out of the fire. First case, your script is "Here is how I believe this needs to be structured, and why". In the second, it is "Hm, I see that you have an issue with [module] – here are some materials to fill it, and tips I've found helpful in avoiding pitfalls."

            You might want to read up on consensus building techniques, and getting buy-in from your supervisor.

                1. Brisvegan*

                  As an academic I have to say: All hail professional staff!

                  You are so under appreciated and completely vital to making EVERYTHING work in tertiary education institutions! Please know some of us see you and know you are worth your wait in gold.

      2. Linzava*

        I agree about being more aggressive. I’d act in a manner that she is actively trying to sabatoge my career, not that I think she’s doing this intentionally. The results will be the same though if she’s running around and telling people you are or aren’t doing things you haven’t been in the loop over.

        1. Lemur*

          This is hard because different grad programs have very different cultures. What might apply in a STEM field is likely to be different in the humanities and even then these things vary a lot by location. All that said…
          I’d be careful with how aggressively you approach this with faculty members. Many academics like to think of themselves as mentors, but not supervisors. Sometimes, that can be nice, but it can also mean they would prefer to avoid conflicts and unpleasant conversations. The problem here is that while this person has behaved in some inappropriate ways, nothing is all that clear cut and I’m guessing she could explain most of it away as a misunderstanding. I suspect that your grad director would really really not like to deal with any of that, and will blame both of you (fairly or not) if they have to. I’d suggest that you go talk to the director and make it clear that you don’t think you worked well this person and that you think there might be some kind of miscommunication about you agreeing to work with her again. (It might help if you have concrete plans for collaboration with someone else) Then tell the director you’ll talk to her about it and clear up any issues.

          This way you’re not asking the director to do anything and if your nemesis complains to them about you again, then she’s put herself in the position of the unreasonable person who is causing problems. This is more complicated than it should be, but I really think it might be the best approach.

          1. Ali*

            “Many academics like to think of themselves as mentors, but not supervisors.”

            Ugh. This is SOOO true. I wish I could bold it and put it in rainbow flashing text. This was absolutely my experience in grad school, it is my experience now that I am a faculty member, and it is a HUUUGE problem!

            1. BethDH*

              And to be fair, as someone who has been on both sides of the faculty-grad table, many humanities programs are structured in ways that discourage faculty taking on “supervisor” identities with their grad students even if they wanted to and knew how.

          2. Silamy*

            I graduated last month and you just explained one of the biggest problems I had with a professor while I was in undergrad. Thank you.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I know plenty of perfectly healthy people who are also perfectly eager to get credit for work they didn’t od, either because they’re entitled or because they’re totally clueless and have no idea what doing the work actually looks like. Don’t touch “personally” in this context: Just make it very clear that she’s pushing a lot of professional and academic envelopes. I can’t tell from your letter how clear you’ve been with your bosses/advisors, and you really need to be.

        1. LKW*

          Another option here is to reach out directly to whomever she’s arranging your time and very clearly document “My apologies but these arrangements were made without my input and I’m already committed to other activities. Glommy will have to deliver the content promised without my assistance.”

          Shame can be a good thing sometimes.

          1. Mb*

            Yeah after thinking it over for a bit about what’s the best thing the LW can do is try and
            get a head of the story”. As soon as she finds out that she’s being recruited to do something she needs to send out an email to the people involved “I am sorry there was a miss understanding, I was never asked about doing X thing and sadly I have pre existing obligations. I can provide Y thing (something like notes or link to videos of her giving a lecture) instead”

            It shows the lw is willing to help but sadly is just unable too and everyone will soon figure out that the other person was over promising.

          2. Quill*

            Like getting the short stick on a group project in high school. “No, lazy Glommer, you will stand up here with me and admit that even with me doing 60% of the project you STILL didn’t lift a finger, and thus we have gotten an F.”

      4. smoke tree*

        To me, the parasite coworker just sounds like a master manipulator. She sounds accomplished in establishing enough of a friendly tone that it is difficult for many people to see her as a real threat, and I’m sure someone with weaker boundaries than the LW may have capitulated to more of her demands. She does sound like she’s very used to getting her way.

      5. Jadelyn*

        “This screams a mental health issue.”

        Oh, come on. Can we not? This directly contributes to stigma against people with mental illnesses. Trust me, I’ve known plenty of “mentally healthy” folks who were wildly and profoundly selfish/self-centered, pushy, credit-stealing, etc. – and plenty of folks with MIs who are kind and selfless. This is not a mental health problem, this is a selfish pushy jerk with boundary issues problem.

        1. Kaitlyn*

          EXACTLY YUP. This could be a person with a personality disorder or a mental health issue, but this is DEFINITELY a person who is willfully misconstruing her standing with OP and the typical definition of “collaborative.”

        2. Lars*

          The past few weeks have really seen an uptick in these kinds of “It’s a mental health issue!” comments, and they’ve completely derailed a handful of comment sections (medal boss, for one), beyond being potentially offensive. Can we get some sort of moratorium on these?

          1. Quill*

            Ultimately, “Mental health” is too broad a category to be useful and isn’t an excuse anyway.

            Being a greedy, manipulative shoerock isn’t mental illness, it’s just bad behavior.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I think most of the time it stems from sincere but misguided efforts to not be ableist. Not just here, but in other spaces as well, I’ve seen mental illness referenced (by neurotypical people) as a possible explanation for bad behavior in a way that suggests the person heard “MIs are invisible most of the time, so don’t assume you know what a given person is dealing with, and be careful about unnecessarily holding people to an ableist standard,” and misunderstood it as “assume anyone behaving badly might be mentally ill and you have to make allowances for that, no matter how bad the behavior is.”

              Which, y’know. Is not at all what that means. “Be careful about holding people to neurotypical standards,” is for things like not expecting autistic folks to make eye contact all the time, not being weird about people who stim in public, giving people a heads-up about what you need to talk to them about instead of being vague and ominous (“We need to talk, can you come to my office?” vs “I had a question about the TPS reports, can you come to my office?”), letting people who say they need their back to a wall have the desk that gives them that, letting people wear headphones to help them concentrate, letting people take an occasional mental health day when they need to, things like that.

              “Don’t hold people to neurotypical standards” is about arbitrary, small stuff like “people shouldn’t wear headphones at their desks ever” or “doodling while in a meeting is rude and disrespectful”. It’s not about basic politeness or the need to treat people well in general. By taking the “neurotypical standards” issue too far, it circles around and becomes its own kind of ableism. I just think a lot of neurotypical people haven’t realized that, and they’re trying to be Good Neurotypical Allies, but they’re just overdoing it.

              1. Swampy*

                Honestly, I don’t care why they do it the upshot is they need to stop. There is no way you can be trying to be a “good ally” without being aware of the rule “don’t armchair diagnose”.

                In the interests of educating you about being a good ally, neuro atypical is not an interchangeable term for mental illness. It most commonly refers to autism (which is not a mental illness). Disorders where the brain has developed differently such as DID, ADHD or bipolar, can also fall under this term but it does not apply to all mental illnesses which have different causes. I would advise to stop using it in this way if you would like to be a good ally to people with mental illness and people with autism.

                1. Zillah*

                  If my memory serves me correctly (and apologies if it doesn’t!), Jadelyn is speaking from personal experience, not just as NT ally. I also don’t think that she was suggesting that autism in a mental illness, though I can understand how it could have been interpreted in that way. I have ADHD and bipolar disorder, and like her, I’ve also seen neurotypical and neuroatypical/neurodivergent used to include people with mental illnesses as well.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Thanks, Zillah – I appreciate this.

                  Trust and believe, Swampy, I don’t need education on “how to be a good ally”. I’m not trying to be an ally here at all. I myself have both “traditional” mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, PTSD) and what you’re referring to here as neuro-atypicality (ADHD). I have always heard non-neurotypical/neuroatypical used as an umbrella term that covers both mental illnesses and things like autism/ADHD, which is how I use it.

                  The irony here is that I do agree that the upshot of it is that they need to stop. But I’ve found that it’s easier to get people to stop, if you acknowledge the potential for benign intent. I understand being angry at people who pull that shit, I really do – but I’ve found that, for me, I do better when I can ease people into reconsidering rather than coming out hard from the get-go, which tends to put people on the defensive.

              2. PersephoneUnderground*

                Sigh- I wish people got all those other messages, or even “just because they don’t remember your name doesn’t mean they don’t care or don’t remember *you*”. That can be one of the most painful parts of ADHD or other issues which effect memory. I think mental illness and atypicality are something that’s so rarely discussed or fully understood that the conversations even by well-meaning people can be rough and awkward. People may see the problem, but feel uncertain about the best response. At least things are improving- it’s just sad that even at a highly liberal politically involved employer I’m still afraid that they might peg me as ADHD if they notice me using my fidget cube. “Hi, you’re paying me money but sometimes I can’t focus and forget things.” is a hard thing to sell, I’d worry it would unconsciously bias an employer even if they don’t think they care.

            2. Anonforthis*

              Yes. As someone with MH issues it’s offensive on two levels, one in the idea that mental illness = bad behaviour and two in that it suggests mental illness is a *pass* for bad behaviour. It’s a grey area because some people truly cannot control themselves. But in most cases people with MH issues are just people, and aren’t / shouldn’t be exempt from social rules just because they’re unwell.

          2. embertine*

            Agreed. Apparently the internet has moved on from assuming sexually predatory men are all autistic to this; it’s not an improvement.

      6. Aquawoman*

        I’d like to refer back to the commenting guidelines re diagnosing people/speculating. Boundary-challenged is not a mental illness; greed is not a mental illness; a sense of entitlement is not a mental illness. Plenty of people have these traits without having a mental illness. Plenty of people have mental illnesses without having any of those traits. If anything, the co-worker seems like she is quite calculating and maybe even pretty savvy in how she’s doing it, given that she now has higher-ups advocating for her.

      7. Marmaduke*

        While she doesn’t sound like a socially or emotionally well-grounded individual, I’m not sure what you think screams mental illness. Selfishness, backbiting, and bulldozing over boundaries are all at least as likely to be personality traits as symptoms.

      8. Swampy*

        Can. You. Bloody. Not. Say. It. Screams. A. Mental. Health. Issue.

        It doesn’t. Stop. Straight up take that phrase out of your vocabulary. With this you’ve proven you don’t know how to spot a mental illness so stop. Bad behaviour is not evidence of a mental illness.

        1. Mr. Tyzik*

          Thank you. I have a mental illness. I am not pushy, self-absorbed, and manipulative and I’m offended.

          Just. Don’t.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Bingo. I would be using that word too! “I *am* collaborative, but I am not going to collaborate with a plagiarizer and harm my own reputation.”

    2. Oxford Comma*

      All of this. There’s a lot going on here that is worrisome and a lot that is outside the norms of what is acceptable for academic behavior.

      I would not put off asking for a meeting. You might also go to your adviser about this.

    3. Snark*

      This is a fair point, and not out of the question. My feeling is that she’s struggling, underequipped to struggle by a generally cushy and unchallenging unbringing and college experience, and attempting to use OP to stay afloat, not that she’s malicious or particularly calculating.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This is my impression, too. I’m not in academia but I have a lot of close relatives and friends who are and they have endless accounts of students who simply had no idea that graduate school was this much work. And I went to one of those fancy undergraduate colleges where a lot of my classmates had been top students in high school and were unpleasantly surprised by what was expected of them at college. For once in my life, I was grateful that I’d already had so much practice being bad at school (I have a learning disability. I was udner no illusions about how hard school can be).

        1. Snark*

          And there’s a lot of students who are very comfortable in college, where demands are high but there’s an objective measure of how well you’re doing (grades) and everything you need to do is in the syllabus (which few read, but.)

          And then they run into a wall in grad school, where things are simultaneously vastly more demanding and also much more freeform and self-directed. There’s no syllabus. You plan your time. You plan your research. You, if you’re in STEM, do your lab work. Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you flail.

          1. BottleBlonde*

            Yup. The transition from “high performing high school student” to “college student” was tough. The transition from “college student” to “graduate student” was a THOUSAND times tougher (for me at least). The unstructured nature of grad school that you mentioned was what really made the difference, it was more than my perfectionist’s brain could handle. I left with my master’s and haven’t looked back.

            1. Liz*

              And for me, although I went to grad school a good 20+ years after undergrad, I loved it so much more than the structured nature of college, from HS.

              1. Paulina*

                Some people don’t do as well with the more artificial-goal do-it-like-this situations common to undergrad, and flourish in more freeform challenges in grad school. The different stages of education sometimes select against who succeeds later.

              2. Eukomos*

                I think being a returning student helps a lot. When you’ve learned to handle all the demands of adulthood, including high work loads and lack of externally imposed structure, it’s not such a shock to encounter them in grad school and you’re more equipped to handle them.

            2. Quill*

              I’m always glad I didn’t do grad school because after undergrad thesis, the mere idea of it gives me hives.

          2. Goldfinch*

            I only have a STEM master’s (assuming a doctorate is much harder), but I found grad school much easier than undergrad. I could finally concentrate on what I was good at, and dump the gen ed bullcrap.

        2. Malarkey01*

          My only pushback to this idea is that these are PhD candidates which is very different from grad school master programs. To get to a PhD level and still be pulling these things is pretty shocking and way outside any norms I’ve seen.

          1. Manders*

            In many programs, you don’t graduate from a master’s program and then apply for the PhD track, you go straight from undergrad to PhD. It’s definitely possible to find people in those programs who’ve never had any experience of life outside school/never had a chance to observe professional norms outside academia. This person’s a REALLY extreme example of it, but I’ve definitely seen PhD students with terrible boundaries about housing, money, work, etc.

            1. Massmatt*

              Yes, some people go along surprisingly far in life without developing basic skills such as balancing a budget, dealing with housing, etc. And many PhD programs are as you described, you enter straight from undergrad, and a Masters degree is only given as a sort of consolation prize for those that don’t complete the program.

              Her sense of entitlement is pretty breathtaking. She doesn’t just suggest moving in with you, she says she’ll move in and not pay any rent.

              OP Alison and other commenters have cautioned a soft tone because academia, but I wonder if you have been too soft. Have you come out and said “stop volunteering me for things. I will decide what I want to volunteer for, not you” and “stop asking me to do your work. You volunteered to overhaul the website, YOU work on that, or go back to the person you volunteered for and tell them you cannot do it”.

              If her strategy of getting things from you continues to work she will keep doing it.

              1. TootsNYC*

                yeah, I wonder if you should be a lot more direct with her.

                Listen, she thinks of you as an “adult authority figure”–make that work for you.

              2. Baru Cormorant*

                I’d have a hard time not responding with an awkward laugh and incredulous “Whaaat?? No you can’t move in with me!”

                1. Helena*

                  I don’t think my laugh would even be that awkward. “Haha haha fuck no Abigail you aren’t moving in with me!”

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        She got to this point, a position in a PhD program after completing undergrad and graduate degrees by being completely calculating. Not malicious, because there is no malicious intent. She doesn’t want to harm OP, but she will use OP.
        She’s always relied on the kindness of strangers, because her friends get fed up and extricate themselves from the resource-sucking black hole that is her life.

        1. Paulina*

          Yep. I have seen people in academia like this, and it’s all about them. They will use anyone, and don’t bring much to the table themselves.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, she seems like a career user of coworkers, most of who follow the academic “go along to get along” mantra.

            I’ve actually gotten in trouble standing up to a workplace bully who uses the “go along to get along” thing to get his way, even when he’s probably wrong, because I didn’t “go along to get along”. Too much stuff we do because $Guru says, not because it’s the best technical solution.

    4. Dagny*

      The academic dishonesty part is the biggest problem. She may have gotten by in life by co-opting other people’s work, and someone either puts a stop to it now or she’ll make people’s lives hell for years while getting praised by the higher-ups.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        That’s what stood out to me too.

        OP: if you choose to have a discussion with your adviser, chair, or whoever and I encourage you to that, I think that’s what you push. Because those are likely to get attention and immediate attention at that. Living arrangements, rides, etc. all of that is a concern, but it will cloud the academic dishonesty part.

    5. Ex-Academia Admin*

      This!!! I’ve worked in the administration of both MD and PhD programs, and we WANT to know about these types of issues.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I only hope the ones in this particular school and department want to know about these types of issues. An unfortunate number of them prefer not to see the boat rocked, especially when it would require them to get off their own butt and fix it. They’re willing to accept academic dishonesty if they can avoid having the responsibility for it laid at their door, and the easiest way to avoid that is not to know it’s going on. Such administrators tend to punish the whistleblower rather than the offender.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was going to advise the same. While it’s important to be direct with her, OP ‘s highest priority should be to go directly to OP’s PI/advisor and ask for assistance/intervention from her colleague’s PI/advisor (the department head). This is not a situation that will resolve by OP being direct with the problem colleague.

      Be incredibly direct and succinct about what’s been happening. Don’t let the framing allow anyone to brush it off as a “cat fight” (because like other workplaces, academia is notorious for brushing aside professional disagreements between women as a gendered “mean girls” situation). If the department head knew the full context, it’s unlikely he’d continue to lean on OP to collaborate with his report/mentee. And if he continued, at least OP’s PI could push back.

      I know this is pure speculation, but I suspect this is someone who has appropriated other’s labor and taken credit for it her entire life. I have no idea if she’s individually talented or skilled in this area, but she’s gotten by by executing an academic con job. It sounds very Theranos-y, to be honest, and the only way to survive is to refuse to let her set the field and then make you play her game.

      1. Brett*

        Thank you for pointing out the problem with minimizing disagreements between women in academia. My friend who was plagiarized in a similar way (I mentioned that in a post below) moved on from our program partly because her issues were waved off as interpersonal conflict between women. What made it worse was that all the PIs and department heads involved were also women.

      2. boo bot*

        I agree with all of this, and in terms of avoiding a “cat fight” framing (because that is both gross and likely) I would leave out the personal stuff, like asking to move in with you, or for carpooling, and stick to the professional misconduct – it’s all part of the pattern, but including the annoying-coworker stuff will dilute the impact.

        Also: you are an expert in the subject of the class she wanted to collaborate on – can you explain to the relevant person that the class you taught with her last time was a disaster, and that you would be happy to collaborate with someone else on this class, but just not her? I realize this might come under the umbrella of “things I don’t understand about academia” so it’s more a question than a suggestion.

        1. smoke tree*

          If I were the LW, I would tread very carefully in how I dealt with this situation, because I suspect the coworker is going to go out of her way to make it sound like the LW is just being petty and unreasonable. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m getting the vibe of someone who has spent her whole life charming others into doing whatever she wants. I’ve known a few people like this and they’re very hard to work against because they’ll turn it around and make everyone think you’re just being horrible to them for no reason.

          1. Clorinda*

            Yes. Nobody realizes how toxic these people are until being stung.
            Fortunately, OP has quantifiable, visible evidence on her side.

        2. Properlike*

          Academic here, adding to this: I get there are evaluations from the students in that class that will back you up on how poorly the class was taught. Admins don’t like to see that. Negative evaluations can also harm your reputation in all aspects of your job, both student-facing and colleague-wise. You may not be able to this walk them back this time, but you do need the opportunity to prove yourself in teaching without her.

          And in general, you have to nip this in the bud. Yes, collaborate with others (which will make you too busy to help her out) but also go to your own department head/advisor to get help with this signing you up for things and taking credit. Make it clear you’re trying to keep it professional and she is overstepping all the boundaries.

          Do not let her push those boundaries. Be matter-of-fact. Document everything. Treat her like that student who oversteps, but take out the “let me mentor you in the proper way to do this” part. As others have said, this is not “misguided youngin’ looking for validation”… this is manipulation and potentially harming *your* reputation. Protect that.

          1. DoomCarrot*

            To be honest, that entire lecture series/class was a disaster. The Powers That Be decided that the PhD students on a certain grant should teach an introductory course together. That means 17 of us. With no further guidance or input except one micromanaging post-doc with no experience in the actual course content. We managed to section it into a series of self-contained lecture-and-a-seminar units, and I got stuck teaching two of those with her, one on my own and two with someone else.

            But the evaluations are for the entire series, not individual lectures or seminars.

            The department is aware that it was a total disaster (as we had predicted and were shushed) and won’t repeat that particular format.

            She is convinced that her (our) lectures were brilliant, and that we should teach a full course this time to prove it.

            I’ve tried voicing my objections over our entirely different approaches, but she considers this an asset and says we “complement” one another.

            1. TechWorker*

              In the nicest possible way I think you’re going to have to start being less nice. When she says ‘we should teach together because our differences complement each other’ you just say ‘that wasn’t my experience’ and smile sweetly. Ok maybe not the best advice.. but she sounds like a nightmare. She is not being nice or reasonable. Honesty is really the least bad thing she can expect.

              1. Rana*

                Agreed. Drop the different approaches language. “When we co-taught, you were disorganized, gave contradictory and confusing directions, and graded students too harshly. This increased my workload, and we got poor evaluations because of it. I have no reason to trust you to hold up your end this time. Find someone else.”

                1. Rana*

                  Note. This approach only works if you do the work to build solid relationships with your supervisors and peers. She’s a manipulative person and will distort your words to benefit yourself. In fact, I might go so far as to have this conversation in a semi-public space where other grad students can overhear it.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  also note–this is factual. Lean on that concept, especially if you take this sort of thing to other people.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Agreed. I think it’s important to say no and stop explaining why. It sounds like colleague will find any way to turn this in her favor, so it might be helpful to not give her any latitude or anything to latch her argument onto.

            2. Blunt Bunny*

              Can you tell her that you actually didn’t enjoy doing the series and that the fact she didn’t prepare causes you stress and the were embarrassed with the results.

            3. Eukomos*

              Ah the joy of arguing with academics. We can always come up with an argument for why our idea will work, because that’s what we’re trained for. I find the best approach is to cling to your boundaries with a death grip. You can rarely change anyone’s mind in conversation, but you can say “this is what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, that’s my decision within my purview and it’s not changing.” So say that to her, obviously the department head has more power to say “this is your class assignment, take it or leave it” so you’ll have to talk him around, but hopefully he’ll be less committed to doing things her way and will be willing to consider other options.

            4. Artemesia*

              You have to play rough. Make it clear to the major professor in charge that you will not teach with her because she doesn’t prepare; been there; done that; not doing it again. And preempt ‘cooperation’ by getting with someone else to plan a class you would like to do.
              My department once hired an advanced grad student to teach a class to undergrads. He basically took the syllabus and created ‘guest lectures’ on most of the topics and assigned various faculty to come and teach on X topic. It is not unusual to have one or two guests a semester and when you do, of course you ask them to talk about their expertise — you don’t assign them a syllabus topic to develop which is the job of the instructor. When I got my assignment, I immediately made sure that this strategy was stomped on hard and he would be teaching the class he was being paid to teach. We didn’t hire him again. Putting up with outrageous behavior can happen in academia — but it doesn’t have to and there is a time to draw a clear line. Plagiarism and not doing the work you agree to do are two good reasons to refuse to work with someone.

              1. Cathy Gale*

                Some friends of mine in a specialized graduate field had this exact issue with a new faculty that was hired, basically expected “guests” (everyone else in department) to teach. It took them the better part of three years to fire this faculty after abysmal ratings (an average of 1.7 on a 5 scale) and lots of related bad behavior. Happy to hear how you handled it.

                1. bleh*

                  I’ve seen schmos like this tenured, promoted, and adored because they got in with the chair of the department or otherwise charmed the ones with power. Those with power then shame-silenced anyone who said an ill word about golden boy and his non-existent work ethic. Awful.

              2. TootsNYC*

                “And preempt ‘cooperation’ by getting with someone else to plan a class you would like to do.”

                Yes–you’ll be way to busy collaborating with someone else.

              3. TootsNYC*

                I think a key to handling this sort of thing is to act fast; don’t let it be accepted as the norm. You have to get out in front of the “sunk cost.”

                But that realization and backbone might take some life experience.

            5. Flash Bristow*

              Is she like this with anyone else? Or just glommed onto you?

              This might sound odd but when I had someone glomming onto me, it turned out they fancied me(!) And any attention was better than none apparently.

              Just wondering why they keep trying to involve you, or whether they tried with others (and if so, which tactics worked for others to get rid of her).

      1. DoomCarrot*

        FWIW, I didn’t give that lecture. (I had a conference to go to as a totally legitimate reason, so didn’t get pressure from the department, either.) I just included it as an example of how little she realises what’s appropriate.

        I don’t know whether anyone ever gave it, in the end. Not my problem.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          DoomCarrot, think about precisely what examples you have — especially with hard evidence supporting them — for the *specific* charge of academic dishonesty. Claiming credit for work she did not do is the one thing on which you can probably get the backing of anyone in the field you need backing from… if you can actually prove it happened. Even if she tries to pretend she didn’t really mean it that way, at best it will get her a talking-to and watched more closely in future, and if you have to bring up other issues later they are more likely to be believed.

          So I would lay aside everything except trying to prove the incidents of claiming credit for work that other people did, or other forms of academic misconduct; but leave all the personal stuff out of it and all the judgment call stuff (such as “graded too hard” because, even though I absolutely believe you that it was true, it’s too easy to dismiss as a difference of opinion), and laser-focus in on the cases in which she has claimed credit for something that she didn’t do, passed off work on someone else without correcting the attributions, or otherwise violated academic ethical standards. Those are going to be the core of your best argument to your/her supervisors to get someone to rein her in.

          1. DoomCarrot*

            I’m not looking to get her punished for anything. I’m quite happy for her to be someone else’s problem at this point.

            The personal stuff was included more as an indicator of how just talking to her wouldn’t be particularly effective.

            1. Observer*

              Sure. But these are the issues that are the most likely to get traction. Also, you want to make TOTALLY sure that she doesn’t mess you up by either stealing credit of making you look bad.

              Given how overtly political the whole scene is, you’re going to need to play politics.

            2. Dagny*

              “I’m not looking to get her punished for anything. I’m quite happy for her to be someone else’s problem at this point.”

              That’s nice. What we are saying is that you might be somewhat naive in that approach, and she sounds like she is trying to misappropriate your work.

            3. Cathy Gale*

              I have to agree with the above two. Even if you want to avoid drama, conflict…understand it won’t stop here. You really have to draw a line. I have known faculty who saw their PowerPoint slides presented at a conference under someone else’s name!

            4. TootsNYC*

              don’t worry about whether they punish her–that’s not what “rein her in” always means.

              The people above you in the program are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves how the will handle her–it’s disrespectful of you to try to shape their response.

              Your responsibility is to give them all the full information they need (and don’t have).

              Give them facts.

            5. Nic*

              Not to be cruel or anything, but people not wanting to punish her could easily be the main problem she has. If she’s been indulged and spoiled all her life, and is used to getting people to cover for her all the time, then she needs boundaries. If she can’t see those boundaries or won’t acknowledge them, then she – and you, and the whole department – needs someone senior to step up and enforce them for her, and teach her a different way of working. If it isn’t done now, when it’s a bad habit that can be fixed if she puts in the effort, then it’ll wind up being a career-destroyer later when the bad habit has become entrenched and she’s anchored her academic reputation on the rock of being entitled to other peoples’ work.

              She can’t be someone else’s problem unless you give them a good reason – a valid academic reason, which may come with consequences for her actions – to keep a closer eye on her.

            6. Jadelyn*

              I understand not wanting to get people in trouble about things. If it helps, think of it a different way: you’re not getting her in trouble or getting her punished. She’s getting herself in trouble by behaving badly. All you’re doing is ceasing to shield her from the consequences of her own actions.

            7. Working Hypothesis*

              Academic dishonesty is your problem if you are an academic and you are aware of its existence. It’s fine to try and pass it off onto someone who is more capable of handling it, but you have to give them the information, because in the information that she’s demonstrated academic dishonesty is their reason to care what she does.

              Tell them, with all the details about her academic misbehavior. You owe that much to the truth. What they do from there — whether they punish it or just stop her, or ignore it because they’re foolish — is their problem, not yours.

          2. Observer*

            You are also wrong about something – the poster is not just “irksome” it’s a significant over-reach. This is a field where stealing credit is a huge deal.

        2. e271828*

          She knows *exactly* what’s appropriate and she is manipulating boundaries to exploit norms in her favor.

        3. TootsNYC*

          she knows it’s not appropriate.

          She knows.

          She pointed it out to you and said, “You won’t have any problem with that, right?”

          She knows.

          Stop cutting her so much slack.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Yep. Sorry DoomCarrot, but yeah, that.

            It’s not up to you whether she is punished, but it is up to you to report into those who *do* decide, and so protect your professional integrity.

      2. Artemesia*

        Signing you up without asking and then not giving you credit for the speech is hilariously inappropriate and that example alone should stand you well in not being willing to work with her. Her failure to prepare when you jointly taught is another ironclad reason to not work with her again. Those are not subtle or subjective; they are outrageous and unethical.
        And unethical and unprofessional are too good words to use when handling this.

    7. anonymous 5*

      Came here to say exactly this. The academic misconduct issue should go at least to the program head and possibly higher. Your course materials (syllabus, outlines, etc) are your intellectual property and it is a *monster* violation of academic freedom to use them without your consent. As for what’s in your contract with respect to “collaborative work,” check the language in your contract and contact whomever the appropriate person is for grievances (or the equivalent) because I’m guessing that she is using those words without actually understanding what they mean.

      Meanwhile, talk with whomever is actually in charge of teaching assignments and courses, and explain to them what you’ve explained here about the problems of co-instruction with this student.

      As for the living situation, it sounds as though you have a firm handle on saying no, but you can certainly escalate to campus police if you feel that she’s somehow encroaching on your living arrangements. GOOD LUCK!

      1. Dissenting opinion*

        “The academic misconduct issue should go at least to the program head and possibly higher.”

        I’ve read the letter three times, and seen repeated allocations that OP’s fellow student is somehow guilty of “academic misconduct” — and yet I’m not clear on what academic dishonesty is taking place here.

        The examples cited were:
        1. She took over the department website, but it having others ghost-write a blog. Setting aside the fact that this practice would be utterly uncontroversial outside of academia, it’s unclear that the blog is really academic work product. It may well be more of a marketing or PR tool (“our department has world-class experts in llama anatomy”).

        2. She’s created a syllabus for a new course, which covers areas of OP’s expertise. So what? That’s hardly plagarizing or misconduct. Most survey courses will hit on topics outside of the instructor’s expertise. Moreover, OP does *not* say that her fellow student copied the syllabus word-for-word. She’s merely upset that it encroaches on her turf. (And even if she had copied OP’s syllabus word-for-word, I have a hard time seeing a syllabus as original research.)

        3. She organized a lecture series and asked OP to be a guest lecturer. The poster for the lecture series omitted OP’s name. To be clear, this was rude at best, and an attempt to arrogate the credit at worst. I also agree this is the worst example of this woman’s behavior. Still, I find it a stretch to see how it’s actionable as “academic misconduct.” Guest lecturers are a thing.

        4. She overloaded her undergraduate students with “far too much coursework and confusing, contradictory instructions,” and she was a harsh grader. Again, so what? At worst, she’s a poor teacher. At best, she’s a *demanding* teacher. Neither involves misconduct.

        I am sorry to say this, but I think OP should think hard about what her real disagreement is with this woman. I’m getting a whiff of “bitch eating crackers” territory after the proposal to share an apartment fell flat.

        OP’s got a legitimate beef with the poster issue, but that’s something that mostly falls into the category of “please be more careful next time.” The real crux of the matter is the teaching duties, which sound like a turf war (“she’s got items on the syllabus that are in my area of expertise”) and conflicts over teaching style (you can argue over the wisdom of being a harsh grader, but it’s not a priori illegitimate).

        I also think OP should carefully think about whether she really should refuse to teach this course. OP acknowledges that the department needs to offer a course in this area. Her fellow student *has* offered to co-teach the course with OP — so she’s acknowledged that OP has academic expertise in her particular area of specialty. OP is placing herself in a difficult position by saying “the subject matter of this course is my turf, and if I can’t teach it, no one can” and then simultaneously refusing to teach it. To make matters worse, this woman’s advisor is the department head and has clout. Consider whether this is the hill to die on.

        1. DoomCarrot*


          But if I don’t teach that particular course, no-one *can* – they just don’t have the knowledge. I have no problem with someone else teaching it. My issue is with the assumption that I would teach it, without ever being asked (or being allowed to help write the syllabus in a way that makes sense for my field.)

          It’s an interdisciplinary department. As I’ve mentioned downthread, I’m the only teapot engineer in a digital china department (humanities) and the course is, specifically, history of teapot design + practical digitisation of teapots.

          She assumed I’d teach all the technical parts when she submitted the course but never actually, you know, asked me. And now the department is stuck for someone to teach it with her.

          1. HQB*

            At the very least you can go to all the relevant administrators, coordinators, graduate students, and professors and let them know that there have been several misunderstandings about what work you had agreed to do, or not, and please to make sure to confirm with you directly anything you are “supposed” to do or have “volunteered” or “offered” to do.

            I would do this individually, as opposed to a mass email, which may come off as aggressive.

          2. Dissenting opinion*

            @Doom Carrot, I read the remainder of this thread and would summarise my advice as follows:

            1. Separate the personal conflicts (living arrangements, equestrian events, etc.) from the professional ones. Faculty will not want to get involved in disputes over roommate situations. Yes, this woman is being boorish. All you need to do is tell her “no” — you’re not open to having a roommate, you’re not able to drill holes in her new apartment, etc.

            2. If you bring up this matter with your adviser, I’d also drop tangential issues like the department blog, particularly if she’s not asking you to write for the blog. That probably goes for the posters, too, irksome as that incident was. The crux of the problem *from a professional standpoint* is teaching the courses.

            3. Downthread, your say that your adviser has told you to focus more on research/completing your dissertation than teaching. I echo what others said there. If you don’t want to co-teach with this woman, that’s the reason you cite. For good or ill, research and publishing are ultimately more important than teaching in academia.

            4. However, I do stand by what I wrote concerning the syllabus. If you opt-out of teaching the course, you can’t ask to author the syllabus. And if you opt-out, you don’t have standing to object if someone else covers subjects on which you have expertise. If the department literally has no one else qualified to teach the course, then that’s on the department, which has made it clear your priority is your dissertation.

            Good luck.

            1. DoomCarrot*

              I’m confused. When did I ever say I wanted to write the syllabus if I’m not teaching the course? Or that nobody else is allowed to teach it because I know about it? I’m afraid you’re reading something into it that isn’t there and it’s making you weirdly aggressive toward me.

              I just don’t think anyone else has the ability to teach it. The department head also doesn’t think so, which is why it’s being made my problem. If they prove me wrong, yay – then the students will learn what they need to learn and I can go back to shooting lasers at teapots.

              I just a) don’t want to teach with her or b) teach a syllabus written by someone (her or otherwise) who has no expertise on the subject.

              1. Eukomos*

                As far as the class, I’d say your best options are probably either “oh gosh, wish I could, but I’m much too busy with my research. If only she’d asked me before suggesting this I could have let you know in time!” or “I will teach this only on the condition that I have full control over my part of the class, and never have to teach it with her again” and then just lump it with her bad teaching techniques for the semester, maybe try to mentor her on it a bit. Sounds like she’d at least listen to your advice if she looks to you as an older sister figure?

                1. Paulina*

                  Do not try to give this glommer mentorship, OP. She’s supposed to be at the same level as you, and has no respect for boundaries. She will suck you dry if she can.

                2. PJs of Steven Tyler*

                  This! The “oh gosh” thing works great when nothing else will – I call it the “Marilyn Monroe” voice (although I don’t actually get all breathy). Acting surprised that this action has been taken is usually a great way to highlight how unusual/inappropriate it is.

            2. Anonforthis*

              You seem to be downplaying everything this person has done and being weirdly hostile to OP. Remora didn’t ask if they could be roommates, she demanded to live in OP’s house for free.

              1. Oxford Comma*

                That’s egregious, yes. It’s also not going to be the purview of anyone above DoomCarrot or the Remora’s academic department. They won’t want to touch that with a forty-foot poll and if any of that is brought up, they will perceive DoomCarrot badly.

                1. Anonforthis*

                  Sure. It’s more that the person I was replying to was minimising Remora’s behaviour in every way and one of the examples was the ‘roommates’ one. This is I guess where cultures are different too – if I had an employee behaving like this i’d Want to know in case the behaviour spilled out into other scenarios. Plus I’d want to tell them to knock it off.

          3. Blue*

            Ah, I found myself in a similar situation as an advanced grad student. I was the most qualified person (theoretically) available to teach a popular course in a particular term, and I definitely felt pressured to say yes. I ended up talking directly to the associate chair and explained I had research and related obligations I couldn’t back out of without compromising my degree progress. And he was…shockingly reasonable about it? But the critical thing was he was very aware that no one had run this by me at any point, and he didn’t expect me to drop my professional plans to bail them out. I think the chair in your case definitely needs to know your context for this situation, if he doesn’t already.

            I imagine they can revise the course to deemphasize the technical parts? Maybe you can volunteer to give a couple of guest lectures and otherwise be uninvolved (because you’re super busy with X, Y, and Z other projects and can’t responsibly commit to team-teaching the full class, obviously!). Ugh, good luck!

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              That’s a great idea! Frame it as holding back your own academic progress to teach the course, but offer to do one guest lecture on your specific area of expertise “because I understand so-and-so has really put you in a bind by volunteering me for this without ever mentioning it to me, and I do want to help as much as I can. But right now, my primary focus needs to be on X and Y, so a single guest lecture is all I could possibly manage.”

        2. somanyquestions*

          1. You were given the example of how it was dishonest and you just ignore that she’s putting her name on someone else’s work.
          2. She created a syllabus for a course which she is trying to force the OP to teach, when that was awful before. Not that she was going to teach the course herself, with her oen effort involved. Again, she’s trying to get someone to do work for her.
          3. She didn’t expect her to be a guest lecturer, she expected OP to BE the lecturer while she got all the credit.
          4. Goes to why the OP would never want to teach with her, when their reviews would be tied together.

          What perspective can you possibly have that you think all that is OK? Do you think it’s OK to act like that?

          1. Dissenting opinion*

            @somanyquestions, While I’m inclined to “agree to disagree” with Doom Carrot at this point, I feel I need to respond to some of what you wrote, because it’s factually wrong.

            “[OP] created a syllabus for a course which she is trying to force the OP to teach”
            That is absolutely *not* what OP wrote. I quote, “For the coming academic year, SHE wants to teach another class and has given a syllabus that covers things I’m an expert in and she is not. I’ve declined to teach WITH her when she asked.” (Emphasis mine.) So at best, the colleague initially proposed to teach the course and then shifted to proposing that the paid co-teach the course.

            “You were given the example of how it was dishonest and you just ignore that she’s putting her name on someone else’s work.”
            Your “example” of dishonesty was that (1) she’s somehow assumed editorial control over the department’s blog and is asking others to ghostwrite articles, and (2) she put her name on the poster for the lecture series (and it *is* a series) for which OP was to give a guest lecture. The first example is commonplace on corporate blogs, and I don’t see ghostwriting PR fluff as “dishonesty” at all. (I’d feel differently if this blog were a venue for publishing real academic research, but that’s unlikely.)

            The poster incident was inconsiderate, but it’s not something that rises to the level of plagiarism — and if OP attempts to publicly assume her colleague of “academic dishonesty” on this basis, she’s going to look like she’s overreacting.

            “She didn’t expect her to be a guest lecturer, she expected OP to BE the lecturer while she got all the credit.”
            OP expressly says it was a “lecture series.” So there’s more than one lecturer. The colleague “volunteered” OP to give a guest lecture. Again, that’s presumptuous, sure, but not academic dishonesty. I’m by no means saying that OP’s colleague is an angel; far from it. But you don’t want to get senior faculty bogged down in low-level disputes.

            “Goes to why the OP would never want to teach with her, when their reviews would be tied together.”
            Again, disputes over teaching methodology are not the same as “dishonesty” — not in the slightest. If you teach a course, you’re entitled to be a tougher grader than the next fellow. There’s nothing remotely dishonest about that.

            The housing and horse issues are ultimately tangential. The colleague may have been very presumptuous to ask about rent-free living, but a simple “no” (or if you’re feeling bold, “no, dummy”) will shut her down. (I suppose this sort of behavior could rise to the level of stalking if she absolutely doesn’t take “no” for an answer, but there’s zero evidence of that actually happening here.)

            This situation is all about the upcoming course for which the colleague wrote the syllabus, and who teaches it. I’d really like to question the department’s role in all this. If this course is so mission-critical, why is some mid-PhD student the only person in the entire university qualified to teach it? That’s on the department, not on OP, and not on the colleague.

            If OP doesn’t want to teach the course, she has an ideal solution — her adviser has told her to focus on research and finishing her dissertation — and that’s what she should tell the department chair. Problem solved. (Refusing to teach the course on the grounds that her colleague wrote the syllabus? Problem amplified, bigly.)

            The foremost subject matter expert on teapot design doesn’t need to write the syllabus for every survey course on teapots. If OP is upfront about needing to focus on her dissertation, the department is likely to accommodate her. *That* is how academia works.

            1. DoomCarrot*

              Hey, I’m with you there. I don’t really see the academic dishonesty angle myself. More the “expecting other people to pull her chestnuts out of the fire” angle. She wants the credit for making stuff happen (not necessarily for the content) but expects other people to make it happen. And always at the last minute.

              The issue is that she wrote said syllabus on the assumption that I’d co-teach it, and when I declined, didn’t change it to reflect that, but instead waited until the last minute, panicked, and framed it as me refusing to collaborate rather than owning up to her mistake.

              It’s a class that could be adapted to simply cover *different* things. Not teapot design, but a history of dinnerware, for example. It’s an introductory course that’s meant to showcase the breadth of what you can do with this particular field, and having it be interdisciplinary and hands-on would simply make it more attractive to more students.

              The thing is that she refuses to accept the solution of “I could simply change it to cover what I can teach myself (or what someone else wants to teach with me)” and is presenting “force DoomCarrot to do it” as the only possible way forward.

              And this department being the mess it is because they’ve just realised that the funding body is getting antsy about why they’re not being as interdisciplinary as they promised just adds fuel to that particular fire.

              1. Paulina*

                If she’s successful at getting you to teach with her, for a course that officially is hers, then you will be supplying critical technical knowledge but she will be the listed instructor getting credit. That would be academic dishonesty, just as the poster with her name only was. We see the signs. And given what you’ve said about the importance of your cross-disciplinary expertise, it’s going to make her look, on paper, a whole lot better than if she taught the course in her own field. Meanwhile you would be doing a lot of the work. Yes she’s trying to get you to save her, but she’s also trying to look like you as a result, without doing the work.

                When certain interdisciplinary fields become “in” or important, there are always researchers in neighbouring areas who want to get in on the action (and potential $). Many of them are far less interested in doing the hard work of learning the new field and understanding the other disciplines. They’re very prone to try to get someone already in the field to do the heavy lifting for them, “collaborate” and then they have a great CV without doing much work. It also has a high tendency to derail the person they glom onto, if that person doesn’t rigorously protect their own work and their ability to do it. I had a colleague who glommed onto others for his entire career, come up with vague ideas for something interfield and then look to the new hire to work it out (instead of that person’s own, better, ideas). There was always implied pressure on the new person to collaborate to get along, but it never served them well. The only winning move is not to play.

                I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the person she’s glommed onto is you. Your knowledge and experience is very valuable. In time you could be a great mentor for the area, but you won’t be if you get derailed by getting sucked into it at such a critical point of your career. And it’s not like she’s really going to listen, or put in the work, so please save yourself.

                1. Paulina*

                  “Please save yourself “ is amplified by rereading the information about the department not being as interdisciplinary as the funding body wants. You’re a PhD student with a hard deadline. It’s not your responsibility to save their interdisciplinaryness, and it is sadly, horribly, common for senior academics to eat the young by getting more junior people to pull their feet out of the fire without caring at all what significant damage the junior people sustain while doing so. All the more if the person whose help they need is likely to leave in a few years (as students would; I’ve seen supervisors drag out theses for years because they want more work and more papers from particular strong students).

                  If you want to leave options open for offering a course like this in the future, by yourself, you could suggest that to the chair, making it dependent on reaching key thesis milestones first.

              2. animaniactoo*

                Please reframe this in your mind: She did not wait until the last minute and panic. She waited until the last minute, when she could have a better shot of making it seem urgent for you to agree and present it to the dept chair that way as a method of applying pressure to get you to do it.

                I am a “give a person the benefit of the doubt” kind of person always. I always look for the benefit of the doubt because generally even if I’m wrong, approaching it that way gets me a better result. I’m telling you that from the various things you have described here, this is someone who is beyond the benefit of the doubt. You need to stop giving it to her so that you can stop being surprised or frustrated when she does stuff and simply be willing to resist being co-opted into going along with any of it.

          2. Dissenting opinion*

            @somanyquestions, While I’m inclined to “agree to disagree” with Doom Carrot at this point, I feel I need to respond to some of what you wrote, because it’s factually wrong.

            “[OP] created a syllabus for a course which she is trying to force the OP to teach”
            That is absolutely *not* what OP wrote. I quote, “For the coming academic year, SHE wants to teach another class and has given a syllabus that covers things I’m an expert in and she is not. I’ve declined to teach WITH her when she asked.” (Emphasis mine.) So at best, the colleague initially proposed to teach the course and then shifted to proposing that the paid co-teach the course.

            “You were given the example of how it was dishonest and you just ignore that she’s putting her name on someone else’s work.”
            Your “example” of dishonesty was that (1) she’s somehow assumed editorial control over the department’s blog and is asking others to ghostwrite articles, and (2) she put her name on the poster for the lecture series (and it *is* a series) for which OP was to give a guest lecture. The first example is commonplace on corporate blogs, and I don’t see ghostwriting PR fluff as “dishonesty” at all. (I’d feel differently if this blog were a venue for publishing real academic research, but that’s unlikely.)

            The poster incident was inconsiderate, but it’s not something that rises to the level of plagiarism — and if OP attempts to publicly assume her colleague of “academic dishonesty” on this basis, she’s going to look like she’s overreacting.

            “She didn’t expect her to be a guest lecturer, she expected OP to BE the lecturer while she got all the credit.”
            OP expressly says it was a “lecture series.” So there’s more than one lecturer. The colleague “volunteered” OP to give a guest lecture. Again, that’s presumptuous, sure, but not academic dishonesty. I’m by no means saying that OP’s colleague is an angel; far from it. But you don’t want to get senior faculty bogged down in low-level disputes.

            “Goes to why the OP would never want to teach with her, when their reviews would be tied together.”
            Again, disputes over teaching methodology are not the same as “dishonesty” — not in the slightest. If you teach a course, you’re entitled to be a tougher grader than the next fellow. There’s nothing remotely dishonest about that.

            The housing and horse issues are ultimately tangential. The colleague may have been very presumptuous to ask about rent-free living, but a simple “no” (or if you’re feeling bold, “no, dummy”) will shut her down. (I suppose this sort of behavior could rise to the level of stalking if she absolutely doesn’t take “no” for an answer, but there’s zero evidence of that actually happening here.)

            This situation is all about the upcoming course for which the colleague wrote the syllabus, and who teaches it. I’d question the department’s role in all this. If this course is so mission-critical, why is some mid-PhD student the only person in the entire university qualified to teach it? That’s on the department, not on OP, and not on the colleague.

            If OP doesn’t want to teach the course, she has an ideal solution — her adviser has told her to focus on research and finishing her dissertation — and that’s what she should tell the department chair. Problem solved. (Refusing to teach the course on the grounds that her colleague wrote the syllabus? Problem amplified, bigly.)

            The foremost subject matter expert on teapot design doesn’t need to write the syllabus for every survey course on teapots. If OP is upfront about needing to focus on her dissertation, the department is likely to accommodate her.

        3. Alton*

          I think some of this depends on what pretense the annoying colleague is getting some of these opportunities. For example, it sounds like she may be attaching her name to these lectures even though her only contribution is roping the OP into doing the actual work, and it sounds like she wants people to get the impression that she’s playing a bigger role than she is. It doesn’t sound like she’s organizing these lectures, it sounds like she’s agreeing to give them, and then saying, “Oh, by the way, DoomCarrot is going to do the presentation with me.” Then she hers to put the lecture on her CV even though the OP did the actual work.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              That’s still academic dishonesty. She should not be getting credit for work that other people did.

    8. Sara without an H*

      Yes, this. OP, you definitely need to talk with your department head/PI and whoever wrangles graduate students for your university. That business about putting only her name on that poster? Definitely dishonest and you should have told her in a loud firm voice that yes, it was an issue for you.

      I’m a little concerned that you’re now actively building relationships with your department head and with the other graduate students. So far, The Little Leech has been getting to your department head first with her version of events. You need to start cultivating the department head yesterday. Success in academia is only partly a matter of being very smart — it’s also about being well-connected. Start building alliances with your peers and superiors and you’ll be in a much better position to head off The Little Leech. (And btw, I strongly suspect that if you ask around, you’ll find she’s also wildly unpopular with the other graduate students…)

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Probably very unpopular. There was a guy in grad school who would challenge me on every freaking thing I said. Every single time I opened my mouth to speak. , questioning my authority to speak on any given subject…every single time.

        Ok, I get it, you see an *apparently* white woman speaking about X and think I have no standing. But…you don’t know my life/experiences dude. Also only my skin is white. I am culturally/ethnically a WOC just lacking melanin.

        Anyway for all his negativity he would glom on to me to work with him because I knew stuff and he…didn’t.

        Fortunately the entire cohort, including professors, et al saw it fir ehat was. I flat refused to work with him. If that meant no PhD, so be it (it didn’t). I value myself more than that.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I was going to say this. Right now LW, you are letting Ms. Glommy frame the issue. That puts you on the defensive and having to do things like show you are collaborative, just not with her. YOU need to go to the Department Head and lay it out all. Be professional but don’t mince words. “When we taught before, she overloaded the students, then graded harshly after giving confusing instructions, she changed the plan we agreed on, leaving me hanging. She has promised to do things then expected ME to give her lectures.” Etc. Lay out al the academic stuff. Tell her advisor and yours what is going on.

        Take the initiative instead of being the one to explain yourself after the fact.

        I would not confront her because she will never realize her own behavior is the problem and has you’ve seen, she just blithely goes along regardless. Or worse, she will gaslight you and make it seem YOU are the problem until you doubt yourself.

        1. HumbleOnion*

          I wonder if the students did end of term evaluations that mentioned any of the OP’s same concerns. That would be excellent evidence to present to the department head.

    9. Miss May*

      Seconding this. If anyone in the department has any sense, they’ll listen. But to cover your butt, bring all the proof you can (emails, etc.).

      Good luck!

    10. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes, this. Don’t make it personal at all, stick to the professional/academic issues, but this is not a battle you can or should fight alone. If she was just insisting you drive her places or that you should let her live with you it’d be one thing, but the academic dishonesty and poor teaching experience (meaning poor teaching evals for you) makes it the department’s problem too.

    11. JSPA*

      Came to say this. In academia, this actually DOES at least potentially get the push-back that it deserves. I would label it as such, and draw clear lines, not muddy them with continuing to be friends. It’s the one circumstance, academically, where cutting someone dead does get respect.

      She is mis-representing her skills, mis-appropriating yours, failing to give proper acknowledgement. I’d ignore the demands for rides and the housing, as that level of boundary-crossing does not (sadly) get the attention it deserves, in academe.

    12. Josie*

      Yes, I agree. There is something seriously WRONG with this person Wanting to move IN with someone?
      It sounds as though she has been getting what she wants her entire life: It’s time for that to stop. And I worry how she will react, since she sounds unbalanced.

    13. Jadelyn*

      “Her behavior is showing red flags for […] mental health issues”

      Are you really suggesting that only people with mental illnesses are capable of being profoundly selfish or steamrolling over people’s boundaries? Because going from “this person is really selfish and entitled” to “this person clearly has mental health issues” is a Cirque du Soleil-worthy flying leap, and I have no idea why you’d make that particular leap, aside from some potential unexamined bias against people with mental health issues.

    14. Farah Mendlesohn*

      A rare example of really bad advice which could well even lead to accusations made against the complainant.
      (I am a PhD supervisor and have been an HoD and a Head of Research.)
      Your correspondent needs to write all this down, and go to see their own supervisor and take it from there. Your advice is possibly acceptable for a working environment but this is an academic environment where there are issues of academic honesty at stake.

      Furthermore, the more your correspondent seeks to ameliorate the situation the worse it’s going to get because the person they are complaining about daren’t be found out. If they were the standard sort of bully –do my homework or I’ll twist your arm around your back–it would never have got this far, but just because it’s done with sweetness doesn’t actually alter the issue that this is a bullying situation which the bully is using their own self perception of entitlement and superior status to threaten the correspondent. The more the correspondent goes along with it, the more there will be to threaten them with.

      1. Cathie Fonz*

        Yes, as a former student advisor at a university, and an administrator for faculty committees, the biggest challenge I saw for graduate students and for junior faculty members was the transition from being a “student” to being a “professor”, to take responsibility for their own academic career.
        I agree that it is time to involve your own supervisor in this issue. If you lay it out the way you have done here, I would hope your own supervisor will be able to give you some advice on dealing with both the annoying grad student and with her department head.
        Also, if possible, I think you should try to move your office space to your supervisor’s department, or at least get a toehold in that department somehow, so you can make this department more of a focus for your professional activities and relationships.
        Getting a PhD is not a quick process — you have time to establish research and teaching relationships with faculty throughout the institution. I believe you need to work on developing these links for yourself, rather than letting Ms Glommy speak for you in any way. This might mean such things as making sure you attend research seminars in both departments, speak up as often as you can about your areas of expertise, take opportunities to generate publicity from the research you are doing, volunteer to join department or university committees which are working on areas of interest to you, get involved with the Graduate Students Association and even run for an office in that body. Any of these types of activities will make you into a better “university citizen” and demonstrate your ability to collaborate with others. Good luck and hope your research goes well

    15. Samwise*

      I don’t know that it signals mental health issues — people can be self-centered, obnoxious, and immature and have robust mental health. Bad behavior does not = mental health issues. It more likely means, doesn’t know the norms, or doesn’t care about the norms, or is a big ol glassbowl.

      The point about academic dishonesty is spot on, however. Baby Jane may not realize it’s academic dishonesty (I know, I know, PhD student!), or she may not care. Probably she is not even thinking about the possibility. OP, you can *tell* her this, if you wish; you can couch it as, Hey, you may not realize this BUT… Or you can leave it for her diss director and the PI to tell her.

      I would not “collaborate” with her again. Alison’s suggestions on how to cya re collaboration is good. Unless you’re directly ordered to work with her, don’t. And no need to be so explain-y when she wants something unreasonable, like moving in!!! (I can’t even!!!). No explanation: “No, I can’t do that” If you feel a need to offer her guidance, you can say something like, No, I can’t do that. And Baby Jane, I’m concerned — this is really not an appropriate/professional thing to do, it’s going to make you look bad. Blah blah reputation blah blah. Or with the speaker series: No, I can’t do that and frankly, I’m shocked that you thought it was ok to do.

      BTDT. Don’t go there, don’t do that….

    16. TootsNYC*

      yeah, bubble this stuff up!

      Drag it out into the sunshine so everybody can see it. And so they can deal with it accurately.

      Think of is as the data from a scientific experiment–you need the data to be accurate, right? And especially do you need it to be accurate when it’s different from what you expected!

      Make sure people have accurate data. Even if it’s negative.

      There’s no such thing as a failed scientific experiment, right? So there’s no reason to hide the data on the “experiment” that working with her was.

      Be factual, of course–skip the adjectives and stick with nouns and verbs.

      1. DoomCarrot*

        Haha, we do have a postgrad researching how interdisciplinary departments collaborate. Maybe I should go to her and offer some data points.

    17. Salymander*

      I think op should leave the question of any alleged mental health issues out of it. First, there is no way to tell whether the glommer has mental health issues without asking or snooping. Not good. Second, the issues can be dealt with regardless of any mental health issues. Third, the topic of mental health will very likely serve to derail any discussion about glommer’s unacceptable behavior. Why muddy the waters and make it more difficult to get glommer to stop all the crap?

      Also, mental health issues don’t explain so many of the unacceptable things people do in the workplace. I think the vast majority of people with mental health issues make perfectly acceptable co-workers, and most of the crappy co-workers are not crappy due to poor mental health.

    18. MM*

      Agreed. Talk to your own advisor first (assuming they’re supportive and actually doing their job as an advisor; I know this isn’t a given, sadly. I am grateful every day for my advisor). Lay out the situation, including the departmental politics, and think about a strategy together. If there’s a faculty member other than the dept. head/her advisor in this department with whom you have a good relationship, talk to them next, especially if they’re someone you think you can speak frankly to about the dept. head. Then take it to the dept. head who is her advisor with those conversations in mind (assuming you and your allies agree this makes sense to do; I know some departments where the dean is basically feared and avoided at all costs, so YMMV).

      I would also think about proactively proposing collaborations with other people in your department, or in departments that aren’t in direct competition with yours (whether peers or otherwise–maybe a faculty member really needs you as an RA/in the lab/etc. this semester! Maybe you and a postdoc were going to do a project together! How unfortunate!!). This is not only so that you can have a reason why you can’t “collaborate” with this woman; it’s so that her assumption that she’s entitled to you will be inconveniencing more people than just you. The more you can spread the problem she’s creating around, the less this will be a matter of My Student vs. Someone Making Things Difficult for your dept. head. If it’s too late to take these steps this year, absolutely get ahead of it for next year. Book yourself up long before she gets around to roping you in at the last minute. (The last-minute nature of her requests is part of her strategy–it makes it hard for you to say no–and therefore it is also a reliable weakness.)

      If it gets really, really bad–I hope it doesn’t come to this–think about whether you can make some kind of lateral institutional move that will get you away from the situation. A friend of mine who recently finished her doctorate switched from one specialization to another within her department because she came to the conclusion that her interests and her advisor’s had diverged enough that she would not be supported in writing the dissertation she wanted to write. It sounded like it sucked, but she was able to do the work she wanted to do and graduate and she does now have a job.

    19. tra la la*

      THIS re the academic dishonesty. I work in academia, and collaborated for awhile with someone who ended up taking full credit for work we’d done together (and who, I discovered, had done the same thing to someone else without the third party being aware of it). I collaborate with the third party now, who is terrific. I love to collaborate and I recently got positive feedback from an interview process about how well my cover letter highlights my preference for collaboration — but I’m not collaborating with someone who has shown themselves willing to take credit for my work.

  3. Less Bread More Taxes*

    I’d suggest calling for a meeting with your supervisor and hers. Let your supervisor understand the situation beforehand but deliver the message to her supervisor yourself. This is affecting your work. It’s disrupting the student atmosphete. It’s wildly inappropriate.

    I’m a PhD student also. I wish our workplaces were normal too.

    1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      I don’t know how that department works, but at least in mine, while my PI might appreciate a head’s up that this kind of nonsense is going on, others might wonder why you were bothering them with something that had nothing to do with them. Supervisors for teaching are different from PIs, and Jane’s PI is the department head, which is usually the one ultimately in charge of teaching-related stuff, so politics are tricky because the department head may be more inclined to believe one of her own students over a TA from a different department. Though it’s sort of odd to me that there wouldn’t be an instructor of record for a class taught by TAs- if there is such a person, that would be one to talk to here for sure. Otherwise, I think OP is probably best off getting as much distance from this person as possible and dealing with one-offs as they arrive. Hopefully Jane is annoying enough other people to get a reputation.

      1. Yorick*

        Yeah, it could be weird to bring your supervisor into this, since in academia this role is really different. You might talk to them about it to get advice, depending on your relationship, but they wouldn’t have much of a role in fixing the problem.

        On the same note, the fact that she’s talking to the department head about OP may not be as sneaky as it sounds. With some faculty-grad student relationships, it’s common to talk to them about problems you’re experiencing to get advice or personal support.

      2. Elitist Semicolon*

        I think the instructor of record differs from university to university – I was a TA by title but instructor of record for a number of courses I taught while a grad student. I still reported to a faculty member who served as a course coordinator, but I had final authority in and for the coruse. It’s pretty common at my institution.

        But more important, on the point of LW involving their advisor/PI: tpart of the advisor’s/PI’s responsibility is to keep their students on track, and it’s legimitate for them to approach the department chair and note that Jane’s program-related demands are getting in the way of LW’s ability to complete her own work and/or meet the program expectations in other ways. If she thinks the chair is likely to dismiss her issues with Jane by telling her to work them out herself, it’s worth having her advisor go to bat for her on those grounds; ethical faculty won’t want to tangle with their colleagues’ students in that manner. (And the chair should be keeping an eye on time-to-completion averages anyway.)

      3. Sarabeth*

        Interesting that there’s so much variation. I teach at a Ph.D. granting university, and would 100% want to know if one of my advisees were in this situation. I would be happy to help mediate with the head of the other department, if that seemed useful. It might be easy for the advisor to deflect demands by saying that s/he wants the OP to focus on other things at this point in her program.

        For the co-teaching – the simplest way to avoid working with her is just to have already committed to teaching with someone else.

      4. ThatGuy*

        Regarding the instructor of record, it really depends on the institution. My PhD is in a STEM field and I attended a large research university where the faculty mostly viewed teaching as an impediment to their research. It was common to have upper level graduate students teach undergraduate courses with zero oversight from faculty. If students complained about the quality of instruction, it’s unlikely that the department would have taken any action…because teaching just wasn’t a priority.

      5. Samwise*

        You can be a PhD student and be the instructor of record — you are not in this case a TA at all. Very common situation.

        There MAY be a supervising faculty member, whose name may or may not be listed as the instructor of record. If there is, talk to that faculty member. They MAY be helpful.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          In the (pretty rare) instance at my institution where a PhD student is teaching a course without faculty oversight, they are still considered a TA, because they are not faculty (yes, this can get a little ridiculous). I think terminology here between institutions might be muddling responses to what I said- I think in most cases where PhD students are teaching courses there is a supervising faculty member, which at my institution is called the instructor of record. Apologies for confusion.

      6. The New Wanderer*

        For things like asking to move in with OP or other personal demands, that’s not advisor-worthy. However, since this person is trying to commandeer OP’s time with demands for co-teaching, giving lectures, and anything that takes away from OP’s project time, that is probably something to address with the advisor at least as a heads-up and to ask advice on how to manage this with the other person’s advisor or dept head.

        “I’m finding that Baby Jane keeps offering my time to her department and signing me up to give lectures or co-teach without asking me first. I don’t want to be in a position where that department is expecting me to do these things that I didn’t know about, much less agree to. I wanted you [Advisor] to know in case you get any negative feedback about me not being willing to collaborate or teach a class. Of course I’m happy to collaborate and teach, but not when I’m forced into it without my knowledge or consent.”

        Spend as little time as possible around her, to the point of rudeness (your point, obviously not hers). Now that you know what she’s like, keep any email exchanges as short as possible. No justifying or explaining. “No, that doesn’t work for my schedule.” “No, my time is already spoken for.” “No, I have my own work to do, you will have to do it yourself/find another option.”

      7. Paulina*

        At my institution, a grad student teaching a course requires the approval of their thesis supervisor, the director of their grad program, and the head of the graduate school. We know it’s very prone to derail students and delay completion. I find it bizarre that a supervisor wouldn’t have anything to say about the situation described, though some supervisors do act like glorified thesis reviewers.

    2. Moray*

      Plus it helps that so many of the examples in the letter are pretty quantifiable–collect the confusing instructions she’s put together for students, the grade averages of work she’s been too harsh on, emails she’s sent, flyers she’s made, any feedback you heard from undergrads, etc, to present as an explanation of “this isn’t working.”

      If she’s even half as outrageously demanding and difficult with her PhD supervisor as she is with you, he’s probably not going to automatically take her side, even if there are politics involved.

      1. CRM*

        That’s a really good idea! Furthermore, many Universities keep a record of course evaluations by students. If OP could find a way to access the student evaluations from the course they co-taught with this person, and if those evals corroborate the sentiment that the students struggled with her teaching style, that might further help.

        1. Samwise*

          They may not be publicly available and it’s likely not appropriate for the OP to ask for them. OP can look at her own evaluations but not anyone else’s. Don’t go down that road unless you’re very sure you can legit ask for those. You will look really out of step and possibly even as if you have an ax to grind.

          And frankly, crappy teaching evaluations are not likely to harm Baby Jane. I’d tread carefully there, because (1) the department may not really care and (2) OP may find herself mentoring Jane on being a better teacher.

          Go with Jane’s unwillingness to stick to the agreed upon syllabus, and all the other issues.

    3. Nesprin*

      This is a thing to make sure your PI is on board with first, and probably also your dept dean. The way you do that is with scrupulous documentation demonstrating the level of dishonesty from this woman. But do not open this can of worms without backup- if your PI is not on board, this could go very very poorly.

      I really hope that this gets better for you OP- but I’ve seen this sort of thing go sideways. A decent PI will defend their grad student, and I’ve seen PIs defend blatantly dishonest students.

  4. Kate*

    The exact same thing happened to me in grad school, just not to the extent that it happened to the OP. I was a bit older and a very immature fellow lab mate completely glommed on to me. She would always call me her older sister and expect help. She treated other people in our lab poorly and would gossip about them in really unkind ways to me. I wish I had advice, I just had to be nice enough to get by until graduation a few years later. Once I graduated I stopped returning her phone calls and it was great. We live far apart so it was easy for it to seem natural.

    The politics in my academic department was such that I couldn’t do anything about her. The politics in most of academia means you very rarely can do anything about anything while we’re at it…

    1. Naomi*

      The part where this coworker sees OP as a big sister is like a one-person version of workplaces where “we’re like a family here!” It’s setting an expectation that she can ask OP for personal favors like free living space (or home improvement help, as OP reports downthread).

    1. VAP*

      Grad students rooming together is fairly common, in your usual roommate way. But not just asking like that and expecting to pay rent, no.

    2. Liz Lemon*

      I lived with a classmate while in grad school. But I, you know, paid my share of the rent. This woman’s request is outrageous and inappropriate.

    3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      It’s more common than not for graduate students to share apartments, but it’s usually done with far more tact.

    4. Snark*

      It’s not uncommon in grad school, but the expectation is that one will pay rent, and the arrangement is usually mutual.

      1. DoomCarrot*

        Letter writer here – we do work in an area with ridiculous housing prices, so some people choose to share. I need my own space, so I’ve accepted a longer commute in exchange for having a nice place to myself. I once invited all the others over for a BBQ, so she knows how small my place is.

        Her argument was that it would only be Monday-Thursday because she spends weekends at her boyfriend’s, so she “didn’t mind sleeping on the sofa so I can keep the bedroom” (!)

              1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

                It’s the title of a kid’s book. Wherein the mouse keeps asking for more and more stuff.

        1. Jim, I'm a doctor not a janitor*

          OP – this is a case of “NO” is a sentence. You do not need to explain or justify your NO to this person. It is not a debate, where the best argument wins. “NO”. and walk away.

          Also if you are being pressured by the other advisor to do the class again, because having a good class on this would be genuinely useful — tell them that you would be willing BUT only if you get to teach the class with someone other than the entitled yapper. You would organize, you would finalize the syllabus, you would lead teach, but only if you get to pick the other facilitator. If not, simply say I’m not interested in working with her again under these circumstances.

          1. Mama Bear*

            This. Why does it have to be with her? Can you select someone else to collaborate with since it went terribly the first time?

            I have rarely regretted holding to a firm no. I have too often regretted a coerced yes. You said no, you mean no. Doesn’t mean she has to like the answer, just accept it.

          2. DoomCarrot*

            Unfortunately, she’s already scheduled the class in her name, which the way our system is set up means that nobody else can teach it instead. I’d be willing to let myself be presuaded to teach it without her (and with one or two specific people I teach well with, though one is currently on parental leave.)

            1. Observer*

              You can STILL tell your adviser that you would be willing to do this, just not with her. The system won’t allow that change? Oh, well. That’s too bad. Maybe we can schedule ANOTHER class, so that we have something solid in place to counterbalance the disaster hers is going to be. Or, could YOU schedule something for the next semester?

            2. Samwise*

              Fine. Let her sink. You do NOT have to collaborate with her. Do NOT let yourself get sucked into “team” teaching with her. In other circumstances I’d say you could guest lecture one session, but with this person I would NOT do it, because it’s not going to stay just one session. I’d be clear with the head or whoever is assigning courses, to Jane I’d be all enthusiastic: what a great opportunity for you! I hope it goes well! And then nope her to kingdom come if she asks for any help.

              If you want a nope with a dig, then something like “No, can’t do that, I’m so busy *collaborating* with Hamid.

              1. Boba Feta*

                Jumping in half-way to chime with Samwise.

                She signed up to teach this course, in her own name. Let her do it. Fill your schedule with all the other (reasonable, department- and program-supportive) obligations that support your own work and collaborative participation with the rest of your cohort. As needed (when she inevitably attempts to wrangle your participation), inform her in no uncertain terms that you are “terribly sorry, but that just won’t be possible.”

                PhD students and new PhDs are constantly tasked with teaching new courses or coming up with fresh preps with insufficient notice (am currently running 3 new preps out of four!), so it is not at all surprising that someone ends up teaching a class they don’t feel prepared to handle. The difference is that she is expecting *you* to magically take all the pain out of it for her: do not let yourself become her magical solution.

              2. OrigCassandra*

                Agree with this. No, no, a thousand times no. However much no it takes. No. You have Cecil’s dictum about your dissertation to back you on this, OP.

            3. Working Hypothesis*

              OK then! She’s claimed it; she can teach it herself. If she fails at it, you can offer to teach it instead next time, since it’s your field.

              Meantime, there is no reason to rescue her from her own incompetence. Be busy with your research (which you’ve already been instructed to concentrate on instead of teaching) and with other collaborations of other types with other colleagues.

            4. Jack Balfour*

              As someone who schedules academic classes, I have a hard time believing that it’s literally impossible for the instructor of record to be changed. I don’t doubt that someone told you that it was.

              1. Artemesia*

                This There is no way this is actually true. And if she is not competent to teach it it is astonishing that she was allowed to schedule it. Is no one running the curriculum? I would be firm about not co-teaching with someone who doesn’t prepare. I have done a lot of co-teaching and it is difficult even with competent hard working peers; with a remora, it is impossible unless you do all the work. Why would you sign on to be her assistant.

                I once wrote a book with a non-writing colleague. Still burns my tail to this day that he collected half the royalties. But at least he was a major contributor to the work that lead to the book. I had to fight to get first author having conceived of and written the book.

              2. Triumphant Fox*

                Yeah – things happen. I can think of several instances where an instructor had to be changed last minute.

            5. Jessica*

              Just DO NOT teach the class or help her with it in any way, shape, or form. I know you said the department wants you to be collaborative, but are you getting paid specifically to assist with teaching? In my department, people who teach and people who don’t are paid differently, and it would be illegal (thanks to the contract negotiated by the TA union) for someone to assist significantly with a course if they are not being paid as a TA/instructor of record. It also seems like it would be a big problem for you to have access to student records/grades.

              It sucks for those students who are going to be taking a sub-par course, but that’s the department’s fault for approving the course, not yours!

        2. Luke*

          Mighty generous of her to offer to “let” you keep YOUR bedroom…

          In the US military someone like this is referred to as a “Blue Falcon”, the blue being code for “Buddy” and the second word being code for “one who does a certain thing, that certain thing starting with the letter F”. A supposed comrade whose primary pastime is making trouble for his alleged friends, usually (but not always) for his own benefit.

        3. Jack Be Nimble*

          How gracious! I can’t see why you weren’t jumping at the chance to make this happen. /sarcasm

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          She allowed you to keep the bedroom in your apartment that you pay for?! How generous!

          Please excuse me while my head explodes.

        5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Also want to add that “I spend weekends at my boyfriend’s” is likely a very temporary arrangement.

          I worked with someone like this. The boyfriend did not stick around. And by “didn’t stick around”, I mean, he stood up in the middle of their couples counseling session number 572353, said “I don’t have it in me to do this anymore”, and within the next few weeks, he packed up and moved to the opposite end of the country. (From Northeast to Southwest US.) Frankly, most days that I worked with that person, I was tempted to do the same.

          1. Quill*

            The dude I went to college with who had a girlfriend like that would have done better to just break up with her (and possibly move) instead of what he did, which was cheat on her so she’d break up with *him.* The rest of our undergrad was spent with him sheepishly trying to avoid her entire sorority, an asking me how I’d gotten her out of the club I’d founded that she was in.

            Dude, I refused to give her what she wanted (a feather in her resume cap without doing any work) she threw a fit and left, sounds like you should just have told her bye and moved off campus.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I’ve been laughing at this for the last 20 years since I witnessed it happening, so, not in my book, no.

              I found out about all of that because we shared an office, and every morning, she’d get on our (shared office) phone and call her mother, her sister, everyone and their dog to give them the same account of what happened between her and the boyfriend the night before…

        6. Meredith*

          “Hey, I have a great idea that will work out for both of us! We can be roommates. I’ll move into your place and not have to pay rent.”
          “What part of this is beneficial to me?”

          Weirdly, I had a friend who moved into a friend’s home and the homeowner didn’t charge her rent. The house had been her parents’ and was long-paid off, with low taxes and utilities. My friend maybe paid for cable/internet or something. Another friend moved to the area and asked if she wanted to get a place together. Original friend said sure. Turns out, she expected to not have to pay rent at the new place since she was formerly in a situation where she wasn’t paying rent, so why would she move if she had to pay rent?

          1. NACSACJACK*

            I have invited two people to move in with me who didn’t pay rent. The first one, we had a set date when he would be leaving and since he was paying his mortgage while trying to rent his house out, i didnt ask for rent or utilities. All he did was complain about the condition of the house, while I was working really hard and long hours. he second one, I thought we had an understanding that he’d be out in six weeks. I had to sit him down long after the deadline, point out he is not paying rent and that he was stalling my future plans in order to get him to admit he didnt have enough money for a deposit and first months rent. I told him, thats not my problem, you need to make other arrangements. He did, that fizzled, and I’m not talking about that, but through it all, I laid it out to him as an adult. Managed to get through it without too much damage to my reputation (I think).

            1. Meredith*

              I actually also invited a friend to live with me for free for almost a year, but that was a very specific and understandable circumstance.

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              I will never, ever, ever again invite a grown-ass adult to live with me rent-free. Not after one friend just “needed a place to stay for a few days” and it turned into a solid month of never getting off my couch. The home is an important boundary which, once eroded, causes cascading issues. Stand your ground, LW!

              I did subsequently invite one other person to move in without paying rent, but I had just given birth to him.

        7. TechWorker*

          DoomCarrot how you managed not to just gasp in horror at that I don’t know. She sounds like she has zero idea of what is normal or appropriate. (No, you cannot live for free on my sofa, and in zero alternate realities would you living for free IN MY BED be a possibility).

        8. Blunt Bunny*

          Wow she is bold. I think you can go with the truth here “I bought a one bed apartment specifically because I didn’t want to share with anyone else”.
          Also can you make friends with someone else or have lunch in a group so that there’s some distance between you. People are going start to associating her with you and if you don’t start pushing back it’s going to look like you are ok with the things she does.

        9. Massmatt*

          She was going to allow you to keep your bedroom? How generous!

          OMG I would have laughed in her face so hard, and told everyone I know about it!

        10. Flash Bristow*

          That is just hilarious. So naïve…ly demanding. As if you’d roll over and agree.

          It’s the end of summer, so pop-up tents will probably be remaindered if she’s stuck… let me guess, she will find an alternative!

    5. Kiki*

      It seems fairly common for grad students to live with people in their same program because they often are in the same boat (new to the area, few connections beyond their school, etc). But trying to live with someone rent-free is definitely not a thing, especially when both parties are paid the same

    6. Lilo*

      In my lab in college about half the PhD students were married. No one in my lab roomed together.

      I had a roommate my first year of law school but we both paid rent and had a two bedroom with clear boundaries.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This isn’t common. It’s common for folks to share an apartment/loft and both pay rent. But it’s not common to share a one-bedroom and refuse to pay rent.

      It’s not even common in the scenario OP has described. Nearly everyone I know who commutes (i.e., is part-time in town and most of the time out of town) pays their host a stipend in cash, services, or gifts, with the exception of professors in homes with guest rooms.

    8. Heidi*

      No!! Not okay!! Even in the weird world that is academia, you cannot invite yourself to live at someone else’s house. All of this behavior is unacceptable, and a big part of the problem is that it’s gone on so long uncorrected that she thinks it’s okay to keep pushing the boundaries of credit-thievery. I’m wondering if she has some sort of blackmail or other power over the OP. Perhaps this relationship benefits the OP in ways not described in the letter. If not, however, it’s time to push back, OP, if you’re going to stop her from continuing to take advantage of you. If she signs you up for a lecture, tell her that the person who gives the lecture should be on the poster. These lectures are a measure of productivity that go into consideration for promotion. Not taking credit for your own productivity is essentially weeding yourself out of academia. Now, if Coworker is some sort of favorite of some higher up, a clean break may not be achievable, but that doesn’t mean she gets to highjack your labor. Confrontation sucks, but it will not change unless you put a stop to it. Good luck, OP, and keep us updated.

    9. Environmental Compliance*

      I roomed with 4 others when I was in grad school. Many of us (with the exception of the slightly older students who were married/already owned a house/had a family/etc.) did. It was an easy way to lower costs.

      But it was always mutually agreed-upon, several bedrooms (often a house in that area), and everyone paid a share of the rent + often a share of mutual belongings like toilet paper. It was never a “I’mma come live with you!!!1!” situation. And it was always clear that we all had our own lives that did not necessarily include the others. I have a horse and have had him since high school. He came with me to grad school. Not one of my roommates tried to butt into 1) demand rides and/or 2) demand riding lessons (!!!).

      She sounds incredibly pushy & unaware of boundaries, and tbh I’m pretty concerned about academic dishonesty the same as comments above. Here, I voluntold you (a peer!) for a lecture oh but also your name won’t be on it anywhere? Here, I volunteered for this and can’t do it so can you do it and I’ll put my name on it? Uh, yeah, nopety nope. She sounds a mess and determined to get herself out of it through dragging in everyone else. I would distance myself as much as possible while still remaining friendly & professional.

    10. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes, students rooming together is very common. Asking to share an apartment would not be outside the norm. What is outside the norm is inviting yourself to live in someone’s apartment rent-free and then being weird when the answer is “no”.

    11. Meredith*

      Grad student stipends aren’t known for being generous. My husband rented a bachelor apartment with a mold problem and a 30 minute commute during his PhD program.

    12. Close Bracket*

      Yes, PhD students get roommates all the time. School is expensive and stipends are low. Is this really so surprising to you?

      1. Sadie*

        Are you seriously suggesting it’s normal to invite yourself to move in with someone FOR FREE AND NOT PAY RENT? That isn’t “Getting a roommate”. You’re ridiculous.

    13. Beth*

      Having apartment-mates is common. We don’t get paid that much, and it keeps costs down.

      Having a peer in your department just tell you they’re moving into your one-bedroom with you, and ignore you when you tell them it’s not happening? Not so common. 1) That’s not an appropriate way to arrange any kind of interpersonal relationship, 2) even if it were everyone would need to be on board to make it work, and 3) we’re mostly still adults who want our own bedroom (or sharing with an intimate partner only) at the very minimum!

    14. tamarack and fireweed*

      No. I think it is common among spoiled inexperienced youngsters who don’t appear to check for fairness and equity when they’re pursuing their interest.

      The same person would probably not have asked a peer as an undergrad, where everyone has to pay in some form for going to school. But now that the cohort is in this odd (and frankly, uncomfortable) stage where they’re still students, but are being paid a graduate stipend (so they’re ALSO professionals and employees), apparently any restraint from has gone out of the window.

  5. VAP*

    It’s hard to say without knowing your department, but generally “I’d love to, but I really need to focus on my research right now,” is a solid excuse for getting out of just about anything in grad school. Can you use that for some of these? Especially the department head, who at least in theory wants you to be productive and then graduate soon (because your glory reflects the program, etc). Bonus if you have a new exciting project that you can cite specifically. In my experience, other grad students maybe mildly resent the people who become research monks and never contribute to anything else, but the faculty love them (and I doubt you’d take it that far anyway). If you can say something like, “Oh, I hadn’t actually talked to her about doing that. I actually can’t this semester, I have to get XX project into high gear,” would that help?

    All of this behavior sounds really annoying, you have my sympathies for having to deal with it. Grad school is tough, because of the ways it really blurs professional and personal relationships. Good luck getting her to give you some distance!

    1. Blue*

      As someone who spent five years in grad school and still works in the academic world, this is what I would do. Go in on writing grants, doing research, teaching, etc. and suddenly be far too busy to spend any real time with/around her. I also really like Alison’s suggestion about proactively pursuing a collaborative project with other colleagues. In my experience, there’s really no lack of things you could potentially work on that would give you a completely legitimate excuse to put some space between you and this person. This is a person to have a warm professional relationship with, but no more.

      I also very much agree that OP needs to be sure to close the loop on things herself. She absolutely cannot trust this person to communicate on her behalf. If OP has to say, “You didn’t ask me about this before committing me to it, and I’m not available, sorry,” she should also follow up with the relevant person herself; otherwise, I expect the message they receive will make OP out as the bad guy.

      1. Else*

        +1! OP will need to follow up on these things with all involved. Maybe send an email to the Leech, whoever she’s dragged in, and OP’s adviser, carefully listing out the exact situation and OP’s polite, reasoned refusal. Make sure to find a way to politely request that the Leech talk to you first, and to thus reinforce the idea that she a) does not speak for you and b) did not bother to ask you about anything.

    2. Squid*

      This! In many programs, invoking your research is an absolutely unquestionable answer to everything. (In my runner-heavy grad school department, the other always acceptable excuse was needing to exercise before getting back to research, but YMMV on that.) If you can frame her behavior as hindering your research productivity, that gives you a lot more license to take it to either your PI or hers than if you frame it as an interpersonal issue. And it can be your excuse to her for everything. Keep invoking it until it gets boring for her.

    3. Nesprin*

      Yes- this’d be my recommendation- the academic version of gray rocking (be uninteresting and non-committal until she goes away).

    4. Eukomos*

      +1 This is the trick! “I can’t, I have too much research work to do” is pretty universally respected.

    5. Somewhat Sane Cat Lady*

      Agreed. I actually got out of being a “TA” ( in quotes because the course director would sit in on the TA sessions and critique the TA’s presentation, so the TAs really had no respect from anyone) for a graduate course that 2nd years were expected to TA using the ‘need to focus on research’ excuse. I don’t think the course director was happy with me (a risk to keep in mind), but he didn’t force me to do it.

  6. Jamie*

    I love the accadamia questions, it’s like getting a glimpse into an entirely different world.

    And my hat is off to all of you who survive in that world…I’d be eaten alive before the end of my first day.

    1. Michelle*

      Me, too. It sounds exhausting. OP, please give us an update on what you choose to do, if you can find the time!

    2. TiffanyAching*

      As someone who works in higher ed, it’s nice to see Alison say things like “here’s how things work in a normal workplace, but academics is weird.” It’s validating to hear that I’m not nuts, higher ed is in fact just kooky.

      1. Properlike*

        I’ve worked in both higher ed and Hollywood. Based on this blog, I wouldn’t know how to function in a normal workplace.

      2. TheMonkey*

        Same! My spouse is well-steeped in the ‘normal’ working world and it’s hard to have a conversation about norms sometimes.

      3. PNWDan*

        I also work in higher Ed, and I actually find it frustrating when Alison says things like that. Yes, there are often different politics in academic settings than a “normal” workplace, but saying it in such a way kind of normalizes toxicity that we shouldn’t just accept.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t agree that noting that academia has its own rules and politics does that. But the alternative would be me not explaining that there’s a very different context in play, one that I’m not qualified to speak to with any nuance (which isn’t a caveat I’m willing to leave out), or just not answering letters about academic settings at all.

        2. DoomCarrot*

          I don’t think it normalises toxicity so much as acknowledges that a lot of the structures a regular workplace would have for dealing with this kind of thing don’t exist in academia, so it needs an insider to advise on who to go to, etc.

    3. DoomCarrot*

      I did think long and hard about going back to academia, but it will help my job prospects in the long run.

    4. Meredith*

      This is 70% of the reason I chose not to pursue my PhD. The politics of academia is bonkers and I got enough of a taste of that with my first grad school advisor.

    5. Iain C*

      I agree – my wife is in Scandinavian Academia, and it appears to be a really different beast to the US as well. But plenty of “missing stairs”, professors expecting others to do the work they themselves were already committed for etc.

      (ps, great to see the Helly Kitty avatar again Jamie. I missed you! (And not alone, I believe).

      1. Always "anon just for this"*

        “Jamie’s back!” I squealed to myself with joy. So great to see the Hello Kitty avatar.

        [This is very off topic, so I’m adding a URL to help Alison prevent too many off-topic comments along this line appearing in this thread: ]

    6. Amity*

      Just wanted to say welcome back to Jamie. I’m not a regular commenter so you won’t know me, but I’ve read for years and always enjoyed your input. : )

  7. YoungTen*

    It sounds like a narcissist you’re dealing with. I think Alison is right when she says you may really need to disengage. She has got it into her head that what’s yours is hers too. If you want your peace of mind back, you really need to get busy collaborating with others asap!

    1. Snark*

      It sounds like someone who, for whatever reason, has poor professional and personal boundaries and a sense of entitlement. There’s a thousand like her in all walks of life, and while it is somewhat narcissistic, it’s hardly necessary to diagnose her.

      1. Nye*

        Yeah, this just sounds like someone who’s “young for her age” and hasn’t ever had professional experience outside of school. Academia has a lot of these types as grad students, there’s a push to accept book-smart students right out of undergrad that can make this a real problem. My grad lab had one and she was a nightmare.

        Now that I have my own grad students, I have a pretty firm rule that I’m only interested in students who have had real work experience. Working in an undergrad lab doesn’t count for this, but working at Starbucks does. So far it has worked really well in helping me screen for mature, self-motivated students.

      1. DoomCarrot*

        And what’s hers… she offered to let me use her parking pass for a week while she was away at a conference, then casually mentioned that she expected me to pay for the month’s parking in return, since it would still be cheaper for me than paying the day rate. (I usually park outside the city and do the last bit by bus.)

        1. MM*

          I am going to COLLAPSE. The FITS OF LAUGHTER I would have had if she’d said this to me. Genuinely beyond-the-pale incredible.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Wow. Nothing from her without strings.

          But nothing to her without her expecting freebies and all the credit.

          If this were someone I worked with, my conversation would be limited to the weather and trivia, with warning bells going off in my head saying “Warning! Alert! Do not engage! Do not engage! Disengage now!!!!!”

    2. Meredith*

      Not necessarily, just someone who has always been centered in everything she does and therefore hasn’t developed a robust sense of empathy.

      1. Else*

        It’s not even empathy; she doesn’t even have the slightest hint of manners, or normal social/professional rules.

      2. Observer*

        I’m going to agree – this is not just about empathy. Or about empathy at all. It’s about lack of boundaries, narcissism (in the colloquial rather than diagnostic sense) and total lack of any sense of norms.

        One of the key attributes of psychopathy is lack of empathy. Yet, it’s totally possible for a psychopath to live in the world without it being immediately obvious that they are a psychopath. Because whatever they think or feel, they do know how to behave.

  8. ShwaMan*

    I would have a hard time remaining polite with such a person, but at a minimum I would definitely be direct and straightforward with her on *every* *single* interaction. Codependent personalities tend to have no self awareness.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    because she’s oblivious how annoying her actions are

    Bull. She wants what she wants what she wants and will use any means to get it.

    This kind goes for plausible deniability too. Hence all the gaslighting.

    Don’t let her control the narrative. I’d go back to the department head and let him know that you’re willing to collaborate with anyone else. And the reason you don’t want to work with this woman is because you end up doing all the work. Make sure you have several examples of how she’s sandbagged you in the past to show a pattern of her using you.

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      Eh, I’m not 100% convinced of this. I know someone through a social group that sounds awfully similar to this – extremely sheltered, extremely needy – and in my experience she really IS oblivious when she makes her demands. Largely because I think what she perceives as “normal” is continually being reinforced by her home environment.

      I’m not sure how germane my advice will be because it doesn’t come from an academic perspective, but a social one…even so, what I have found worked in my instance was bluntness. Saying flat out, “no, I’m not going to do that”…and then not giving an inch when she began trying to work on me. I think eventually that got the message through.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I have a sister like this.

        And I’ll point out that the coworker willing to lie about her contributions as well as to lie to the department head to force the OP into teaching the class with her.

        The forcing is where it crosses the line.

      2. Massmatt*

        I honestly don’t see what difference it makes if she is clueless about boundaries and social norms or aware of them and choosing to ignore them. The result and advice is the same. We are not the coworker’s psychiatrist.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Even if it’s just a product of a dysfunctional home environment, you would do her no favors by allowing her to do it in a school or work environment.

        The “No, I’m not going to do that” firmly is the best solution, both for the OP and Ms Glommer, regardless of why she does the boundary violations.

    2. Snark*

      I don’t think obliviousness is actually incompatible with wanting what she wants and doing anything to get it, or with notional gaslighting (which I do not think actually applies here).

      I went to college with literally dozens of wealthy, incredibly priveleged, not terribly well equipped fellow students whose baseline assumption, unexamined to the point of obliviousness, was that the rest of the world would bend over backwards to help them out of difficult situations at their request. They didn’t conceptualize it as taking advantage of people because they’d been surrounded by people delighted to (and paid to, often) smooth the way for them for their entire lives. This coworker is of a type very familiar to me.

      1. NW Mossy*

        Agreed – I’ve met this sort of person too. It’s a form of social myopia where it literally does not register that other people have the agency and autonomy that would prompt them to have a different agenda and/or be unwilling to go along with the requester’s whims.

        On the receiving end it feels so obviously malign, because it’s so difficult to fathom what it must be like to not “see” other people as, you know, people. But just like it’s possible to be physically blind, it’s also possible to be socially blind. It doesn’t make the behavior something you have to accept or tolerate, though.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes, she sounds like two of my least favorite college classmates. One had a clear attitude of “I am a princess and other people are all my servants,” and the other had the fun combination of staggering social and emotional immaturity and a major persecution complex. Both had atrocious social skills and tended to latch on to others and demand unreasonable things with little apparent understanding that those things were in fact unreasonable by most people’s standards.

        Princess eventually started acting actively malicious rather than clueless, which is when we had our final falling out. The other one…. well, his parents ended up pulling him out of college after his freshman year because they realized he was too immature. From everything he’d said to me, I suspect his childhood consisted of obsessive attention and indulgence from his parents contrasted with vicious bullying at school, and I suspect this explains the way he divided the world into Good People who did everything he wanted and Bad People who didn’t (and were therefore just like his bullies). I hope his parents yanking him out of school didn’t just end up feeding that worldview.

      3. Guavara*

        Guh, just dealt with one of those “do you know who I am types” who felt he was uniquely inconvenienced by a natural disaster and decided to take it out on me, likely someone’s secretary because of my female voice, when I’m actually in IT and just happened to answer the phone. These people are disgusting and will be first on spikes when the revolution comes.

    3. mark132*

      I think you are likely right about this. She is probably is aware of what she is doing. I think she has probably learned that acting this way gets her what she wants, with a minimum of work.

      1. Snark*

        I think the fact that acting this way gets her what she wants with a minimum of work indicates more that she is not aware of what she’s doing – or that she’s aware of what she’s doing, but oblivious to how it looks.

        Like I said above – there were a half dozen kids like this on my dorm floor alone. I am certain they all thought they were making reasoanble requests of people who wanted nothing more than to help them out and suggesting reasonable ways forward to unfortunate confounding factors, not making bonkers requests of near-total strangers and bulldozing the polite excuses those strangers were offering to end the excrutiating conversation.

        I had one girl straightforwardly ask me to just reteach the gen bio lecture to her every evening, because she wasn’t really a morning person, and then say “oh, but it’ll be a great refresher for you!” when I said, stunned, that I had to do my own studying too.

        1. mark132*

          I see what you are saying, but I guess I just don’t think most people are that clueless. Or if they are, then they are possibly are exceptionally self centered.

          1. Snark*

            Most people are not! But there are certain contexts that kind of serve as a drain trap for those people. Grad school and elite colleges can be two of them.

    4. DoomCarrot*

      OP here – as far as I can tell, she actually is oblivious, because she’s been raised to think that the rest of the world exists to help her, personally, succeed. She’s in for a real shock once she hits the real world.

      There’s also an additional dynamic. While half our grad students are male, only one of over a dozen professors in our programme is, so she also seems to regard her “collaboration” with me as a way to demonstrate girl power. I’m all for girl power. Just with a different girl, please.

      1. Goldfinch*

        she’s been raised to think that the rest of the world exists to help her, personally, succeed. She’s in for a real shock once she hits the real world.

        I am still holding my breath on this regarding people in my peer group of 40-somethings. Some people truly do manage to skate by on favors indefinitely.

      2. hbc*

        If she’s oblivious, I think you need to start helping her be less oblivious. Start treating her ridiculous requests as the jokes that they are. Not, “You can’t room with me for [reasons], sorry,” but “Are you seriously proposing that you just get to live for free in the place that I pay for? I don’t have the money or the desire to be your sugar mama.” Or “You need to ask and let me volunteer before you count on my participation, and I’ve definitely got other commitments that beat out ghost teaching.”

        Don’t break it out for requests that would sound reasonable coming from a reasonable person (like the co-teaching), but shoot her down hard over the other stuff. What’s she going to do, complain that you won’t let her live off you for half the week?

        1. Paulina*

          break out laughing. “Good one, Remora! You’re so funny. Like I’d ever do that, right? I love living on my own.”

    5. Paulina*

      Heartily second the suggestion to proactively collaborate with anyone else.

      I also strongly suggest that the OP takes initiative around presenting their own material, and pushes forward with what advances their own goals. If the course topic is one that is highly desirable, and the OP is the expert, then the OP should be the person in the lead, not the other student. Academic freedom, when applied to teaching, is supposed to be about the experts teaching what they know, and in control of how it’s done because they are the experts. Taking the OP’s knowledge and filtering it through someone who doesn’t have that expertise or judgement on the material will not serve the students well. I hope that the department head would be receptive to an expertise-based argument, as well as not expecting the OP to mentor someone who is a student at the same level. If this other student gets away with this, then down the road she’s going to be applying for academic jobs and pointing to her own experience teaching this material, when in practice she still doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Meanwhile, those opportunities should instead go to the OP.

      OP: is there a program head (for your PhD program) that isn’t the department head? They can be a useful person to discuss this with, and to have a discussion that focuses on your own goals. You shouldn’t be pressured to “mentor” someone else into a role you should have yourself, which in effect is what your fellow-student is trying to do to you, under the guise of “collaboration” (when she’s not bringing anything to the table herself). Your expertise is valuable and you deserve to be allowed to be in charge of it, and to choose collaborators who have better-meshing styles and bring something to the table themselves. You also deserve to have mentoring *you* be something that the various faculty members involved consider, rather than being used to mentor someone else.

      I have met people like this before in academia, some as students and some as faculty. They leave a long wake of disillusioned former collaborators whose ideas they have misused. Best way I’ve seen to deal with them is to stop playing along with how they’re framing the situation — even if you’re disputing whether (or how) you’re going to help them, they’re still making it about them. Center yourself and work out what you need, talk to others about what you want to do, and hey it doesn’t have any room for her.

  10. blackcat*

    Go to your department head/advisor and ask them to intervene.
    Bring a list of how she has been in inadequate teacher (ex: not sticking to the syllabus), and say that you can’t have your teaching evaluations impacted by her, as this will hurt you on the job market.
    Then get a meeting with the two heads where you lay out this pattern of behavior. You can say things like, “I am happy to be part of collaborations if I am involved from the outset and can set expectations from the beginning. Jane expects me to do [things] without talking to me first.”

    Are you in a union? If so, talk to a union rep. Changing job reqs mid semester–which is effectively happening to you!–is a common thing forbidden by most grad student union contracts.

    1. blackcat*

      I will also add: I was an older grad student in a program full of 22 year olds. I set a lot more boundaries around work than others, and it was TOTALLY FINE with the faculty. It bothered some of my peers during our first year, but it was fine after that.

      1. Lilo*

        Yeah my spouse did his engineering PhD part time. He set plenty of boundaries and they were respected (he is really good at grant writing and helping undergrad students get internships do no one ever had a problem with say, the fact that TAing wasn’t compatible with his job).

    2. Namelesscommentator*

      If this is a major research institution they will not care about quality of teaching arguments and in many cases it will come off as wildly out of touch/poorly aligned with department goals. Especially if there’s any appearance that research is taking a backseat to teaching.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think the advice is sound. OP has already said that collaboration and teaching are part of their contracts—clearly these folks are required to teach, probably as part of their aid package.

        It may be the case that institutions place higher priority on research, but they’re going to be unhappy to hear about this situation (if nothing else, because it interferes with research!). I’ve only worked at major research universities, and they would all want to hear about what OP has experienced. It would not look out of touch or poorly aligned with department goals.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          To clarify: When I’ve worked in academia, I’ve only worked for major research universities. (I have of course worked in the normal world for ages, as well.)

        2. Dissenting opinion*

          “I think the advice is sound. OP has already said that collaboration and teaching are part of their contracts—clearly these folks are required to teach, probably as part of their aid package”

          “Required to teach” is not the same thing as “senior faculty want to get involved in a dispute between two grad students over teaching quality.”

        3. Samwise*

          Required to teach, but quality of teaching may be less of a concern. Unfortunately. If it’s an R1, then “R” is what really matters.

      2. blackcat*

        Most of my experience is based on large research institutions.
        No, they might not care about quality of teaching per-se, but the “I need good (or at least okay) teaching evaluations to get a job” is generally respected.
        Most advisors and programs will take steps to optimize the prospects of their students. Jane’s actions will hurt LW’s job prospects in multiple ways. This is an angle to pursue with her advisor.

      3. Gingerblue*

        This really depends. I’ve taught at major research institutions where my department cared deeply about undergrad teaching.

      4. Paulina*

        A more research-centric institution should care about the OP being able to control her own intellectual property and how her expertise is being used.

      5. Snark*

        I did my PhD at a major research institution; you’re way off base. Teaching was and is still important, and it most certainly would not have been “wildly out of touch” or poorly aligned with department goals to say that collaborating with a certain person didn’t result in great teaching outcomes or instructor evaluations because she went off script.

      6. Well...*

        Yes I was coming to say this. Anybody who seems to struggle with (aka cares about) teaching is in dangerous territory and it opens you up to being seen as incompetent, lazy, and stupid.

        Teaching is easy if you don’t care. Profs don’t care. Ergo teaching is easy and anyone who says otherwise is incompetent, lazy, or stupid.

        This “friend” has stumbled upon the ideal strategy actually. Be a horrible teacher, but be harsh enough for plausibly deniability about student reviews. Act as if everything is going perfectly.

  11. Sir Peeves*

    It feels to me as if the poster is being “Single, white, female(d). She needs to be told “No”, loudly and often. I feel terrible for the OP.

    1. DoomCarrot*

      I’m sorry, I don’t understand this reference – is it an American thing? Without context, it just seems vaguely sexist.

      1. Jerry*

        It’s a movie in the vein of “Swim Fan,” “Greta” or “Fatal Attraction” where casual friendship turns into obsession leading the object of obsession to become the object of violence. Not sexist, but kind of alarmist and not helpful.

  12. OrigCassandra*

    One thing Li’l Remora is doing that you might be able to put a stop to is triangulating — setting you and your PI/Cecil at odds by lying to Cecil. The next time this happens (and it probably will happen again), see if you can get Remora and Cecil in the same room with you to hash it out. “Hm, Cecil, Remora didn’t say anything about that to me. Let me go get her and we’ll talk this out.” If Remora is delivering the news, edit to “This is the first I’ve heard of it. Let’s go talk to Cecil together.”

    Then, as Captain Awkward says, return awkward to sender. Your truth is that Remora told you nothing and you did not and do not agree to this. If Cecil leans on you (as Cecil very likely will) and you can’t get out of whatever Remora wants, your fallback position is, “Cecil, I’d like to meet with both you and Remora next time Remora has an idea involving me. Can we agree to that?”

    This should make clear to Remora that triangulation won’t work.

    1. Frustrated Limousine Driver*

      I agree with all of this! Make it clear you did not agree to any of Li’l Remora’s plans. And then if it happens again, note that it is a recurring problem and just flat out call her a liar. (“Cecil, I don’t know why she feels like she must mislead you, but I’m frustrated that she is including me in her lies to you”).

      1. Door Guy*

        I once had a friend who did that with me. (I say we were friends, but friendly acquaintances who later became housemates is more specific). We worked together (which came several years after we met) for a short time and one day while I was washing my hands after using the bathroom, the General Manager came in. Apparently seeing me jumped something in his brain as he just had to talk to me right then and there.

        He broached the subject that most days after his shift, for long before I had started, friend would always have some list of complaints and bring them to him. Now that I was working there, and that he knew we were housemates, my friend had started tacking “And Door Guy thinks/feels so too” on his complaints.

        Let him know that if I did have complaints big enough to bother the top boss, I’d bring them up myself and that friend didn’t speak for me. We laughed for a moment, we acknowledged that my friend was (to use the GM’s term) “Persnickety” and that was the end of it with management at least.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      I have been in this meeting before and hoo boy was it awkward for the Remora character! You will likely have to do this several times before it sticks.

  13. Person from the Resume*

    It actually sounds like you’ve been doing what she has asked of you at least at work, and it’s not turning out well for you. Have you said ‘no’ to her yet? If not, now is the time to start because she needs to hear it from you. She may glom on to someone else, but then its their problem to deal with and not yours.

    1. Witchqueen*

      Seconding all the suggestions to go to your PI as well as a direct, “No, I’m not gonna do that.” She’s glommed on and you need to pry her off you. Focus on other students and be direct with your refusals with her. No more, “Oh we can’t carpool because X, Y or Z.” It’s “I don’t want to, but maybe someone else does.”

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Right. This. Reasonable people understand reasons. Unreasonable people (and remoras are always unreasonable) will see them as negotiating points.

  14. Delta Delta*

    As a person with horses, I say, “oh hell to the no” about anyone who says what this lady said. And say it so aghast and frosty that she never asks for anything ever again. But I can be terrifying, especially when it comes to my creatures.

    1. Environmental Compliance*


      You want to come pet my horse? You are going to be highly vetted first. I am not putting anyone near my animals that 1) wants the “cool factor” or 2) wants the Insta photo or 3) I do not trust to do something incredibly stupid. If you want to see horses, you can drive past a pasture and wave at them.

      You want to come *ride* my horse? Hokay, for one, my gelding is pretty much a One Person Horse – I’ve had him since he was 3, and he knows he’s mine. He tolerates everyone else. But if you do something stupid, he will let you know, and if you end up on the ground because you were too rough with him, well, sucks to be you, because chances are you’re going to get it from me too.

      I’ve had my share of pushy “horse-loving” people, and it almost always turns out to be someone in love with the idea of horses, not an appreciation for the animal itself. It’s an easy way to get into a dangerous situation.

      I’m relatively laid-back in most ways….until you involve my animals.

      1. Quill*

        I know exactly enough about horses to know that, unlike many dogs, they don’t instantly decide to befriend strangers.

        (And younger me was definitely guilty of hanging over fences trying to get a horse to come over so I could pet it.)

    2. DoomCarrot*

      Yes, that was an “absolutely not”. My horse is my horse – not a fashion accessory or light evening entertainment for someone else.

      In a way, my private alone time with him, away from anything electronic, is what keeps me sane in this programme.

      1. valentine*

        You’ll want to stop sharing even the most seemingly benign personal details with her and never invite her over again.

      2. Shoes On My Cat*

        Stick to that solid NOPE! Anyone who won’t respect basic day-to-day instructions will certainly continue to not respect instructions while at the barn. I teach riding professionally (including FEI -international competition levels) and part of my immediate family is not invited to the barn anymore for that exact reason, while old office friends I see occasionally are welcome anytime because they respect my freaking professional judgment and instructions! Gah!!! As you know, one single bad situation can screw up a good horse for months…or forever. Keep that hard NO for your horse and yourself. You have made sacrifices to support & care for your horse & you deserve your ‘horse time’ on your terms!

        1. DoomCarrot*

          Yeah, that’s pretty much the reason my sister isn’t allowed to ride him, either ;-) I’ve taken him from “terrified rescue who couldn’t walk in a straight line” to “confident Working Equitation horse”, and I’m not letting anyone screw that up who won’t believe that the fault lies with them, not the animal.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I never got much beyond intermediate riding and have never had a horse of my own and I’m STILL aghast at her pushiness.
      I have a friend with horses who has ASKED me to come ride with her because she has more horses than people in the house and I’m STILL afraid of imposing by going too often.

      1. Shoes On My Cat*

        And that is exactly why she asks! You are trying to be respectful of her generosity, which probably translates to being respectful of her barn rules, way of handling her horses, etc. Go! Ride!! Check in once a month to make sure you aren’t being pushy, if that makes you feel better, but take her at her word. Ride & enjoy!! (Riding instructor here)

    4. lost academic*

      Yeah no. That’s the curse of people who have a little experience with a trail ride or something – they truly do not understand what it is they’re asking to do. I’ve always struggled to find a good analogy that would hit home – even comparing it to “Would you ask to drive someone’s NASCAR?” isn’t enough.

    5. Antilles*

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think she actually has any real intent or desire to learn to ride; it’s just her trying to solve an issue and turn a no into a yes. Effectively, when OP says “no because of Issue X”, she is interpreting that as if she fixes Issue X, that automatically makes it a yes.
      -We live in different towns? No worries, I’ll just stay at your apartment.
      -Your apartment is a one-bedroom with one bed? No worries, I can sleep on the couch during the week.
      -You can’t drive me because you have to stop by the ranch every day? No worries, I’ll just learn to ride.
      …But I’d bet IF OP was foolish enough to actually let her get away with any of these, it’d last like a week before the pushing happened again – “you need to stop at the ranch again? ugh, I told you my rump hurt after the last time, why can’t we just go straight home?”, “the couch was too cramped, so you don’t mind if I get a small futon and put it in your room, right?”, or whatever. So the issue isn’t really about the horses, it’s about the fact she’s apparently never learned the word “no”.

      1. Observer*

        Exactly this. Definitely time to stop offering explanations since no matter WHAT you say she’s have a “solution”.

        And you don’t have to be a horse person to realize how bonkers she’s being here.

  15. Allonge*

    O em gee. I worked in academia but not in the US, so I have very little actionable advice, but this is so very inappropriate!

    Is it an option to talk to (her supervisor) the department head about it, saying that it happened several times that co-student volunteered your skills and effort for things without consulting you, how does Head expect you to handle this, with the implication that it is obviously not ok?

    1. DoomCarrot*

      OP here – I’m not in the US either, but I think the issue isn’t country specific. She’s unlikely to be reading this blog, so it feels safer to ask here.

  16. Shawn*

    I would most definitely be upfront and direct with her about the living situation. I would flat out tell her no and that it is just not an option or even a remote possibility. I’m wondering if you should just maybe schedule a meeting with you, her and your supervisor…get all 3 of you into a room and hash out some of her dishonest behavior. I mean obviously you would word it all professionally but this woman sounds like too much. Sounds like she’s trying to obtain a PhD without truly working on it and by piggybacking on others to do the work for her. Gotta love the entitled!

  17. DoomCarrot*

    Hi, OP here!

    Thanks very much for answering my question – at least I’m not alone in finding this bizarre.

    I’ve learned to be *very* direct with her already. As in saying “no, I can’t do that and it’s kind of ridiculous that you expect me to”. The latter was in response to her – after I didn’t let her move in with me for free – finding a studio of her own and then expecting me to drive 150km round trip on a weekend to drill some holes in the wall for her. (We work in a very expensive town and so we all commute in from Far Away. She now lives Far Away in the opposite direction.) She’ll usually accept that – and then demand something else totally ridiculous the next day.

    As for the collaboration – I’ve taught classes with other people. I publish papers with other people. I do the lab tours for our department and science outreach/TED talks/open days to the degree that my supervisor has told me to cut down on the extracarricular activities and concentrate on my dissertation. That’s when I see him at all – we’ve spoken five times in 26 months!

    Unfortunately, the “Apollo” also assumes I’m available for anything and everything where he wants my particular skill set, to the point where I’ve told him I’d be happy to cut my PhD position to 80% if he wants to hire me to be their Outreach & Dissemination person for the other 20% but can’t keep doing this level of work on top of my contractual obligations. He’s eased off a bit since, but it’s an ongoing issue.

    1. Rock Prof*

      Where’s most of your funding coming through? Are you dependent upon the teaching and outreach through your department, or do you have research funding through your advisor? If you’re funded through your advisor, you are in a great spot to push back a lot more!

      1. DoomCarrot*

        We’re funded by a national research programme. Our contract says we have to do “some” teaching and outreach, but doesn’t quantify it.

        We also have an absolute hard limit of four years total to write and defend our dissertations, so we can’t just prolong it to do side quests.

        1. An academic...*

          FYI, you can ask the more advanced students if you can see their CVs (or just look online). Use the amount of teaching/outreach on the more successful students’ CVs as a guide for yourself.

          1. DoomCarrot*

            We’re a new insitute, so we all started at the same time. But asking others at the university seems sensible…

            1. Sparkle*

              Do you have any new faculty? You can look at what they have on their CVs from wherever they came from and get a sense of what is expected on the job market.

          2. Well...*

            I think op is doing too much outreach. You should aim for lower/middle of the pack of people on your grant, especially if (like me) you enjoy it. It’s excellent procrastination material.

        2. VAP*

          Oh no, you 100% have to look out for yourself here. Four years is fast. Put together a CV of our outreach and teaching, so that it’s ready to go if you need to, and remember that it’s your advisor, not the department head, who’ll be writing you letters in a few years (I assume, anyway–I’m more used to US programs and I’m guessing you’re in another country).

          1. Helena*

            If OP is in the UK, or a system similar to that of the UK, four years is the norm.

            You do your MA/MSc separately first, so the PhD is literally all dissertation, no taught component or interim exams/papers. You usually have your thesis title pre-decided from day one, and might have done the preliminary lab work etc even before registering. You start at the US ABD stage, basically.

        3. Rock Prof*

          Without a lack of clear constraints, it really sounds like a confusing setup. However, if your advisor is asking you to prioritize your research, you really should listen to that. They’re the real link between you getting a degree and not. The department chair has some power certainly, but if your advisor says you’ve done enough of the extracurricular stuff, that’s really the main argument to use about adding or continuing more work.
          Teaching and outreach feel terrible to drop to the wayside, but with only 4 years available to you, it’s really important to finish what you need to finish to actually get the degree to be able to do your own thing afterward. I’ve known quite a few people who have started as adjuncts or lecturers while “finishing” up their PhDs, and it can be a really tough situation to extricate yourself from.

          1. Well...*

            If a grant wants outreach but is vague on the details, do the bare minimum and exploit vagueness to your advantage.

    2. Grits McGee*

      Is it feasible to cite your supervisor’s direction about cutting back on extraneous activities in response to requests from the Glommer and Apollo? (For a lot of people that would be enough, it does sound like you have enough capital to push back on things.)

      It also might be helpful to sit and think through what the worst case consequences would be for just saying “no” to these requests- like real, concrete, measurable-consequences. How much would having a relationship with Apollo affect your post-graduation career?

    3. VAP*

      Handling Apollo does sound tricky. I know the politics can be complicated, but have you tried talking to your advisor about that problem? Mine would have wanted to know that someone else was trying to get me to do more other stuff (especially if they’d told me to focus more on research), and would have stepped in as necessary. I was also in a different program than the department that my advisor was in, and whenever there was any kind of conflict, it worked out much better for the grad students if we could loop in our PIs and have them deal with it, rather than getting into it ourselves. Every time we did, they seemed surprised that we’d tried to handle it ourselves even as much as we had. Even my horribly conflict-avoidant advisor knew how much more power he had than us, and was willing to step in when needed.

      In your shoes, and with my imperfect knowledge of the situation, what I’d probably do is:
      1. Tell Apollo that your advisor has asked you to focus more exclusively on your dissertation, so unfortunately you won’t be able to do X.
      2. At pretty much the same time, tell your advisor (in person or in an email), that Apollo has asked you to contribute to X and Y, but since you’re working on focusing on your research you’re saying no, and may be citing their authority.
      3. See if that works. If not, ask your advisor for advice on how to handle the situation, and if that still doesn’t work, ask outright if they’ll step in.

      You may have thought of all of this already, of course. Academic politics are really hard, you have my sympathies.

      1. Somewhat Sane Cat Lady*

        I agree with this. Sometimes, having someone with more power like your advisor step in can really help. Unfortunately, students usually arent respected to that level, at least in my experience.

    4. Seifer*

      I… wow. Just. Wow. I don’t have anything constructive to add except to contribute to the ‘yes this is bizarre and not normal not at all’ feeling.

    5. An academic...*

      It sounds like your advisor has given you a perfect out here: “Dr. Doom has actually been on my back about my having done too much service/having helped others out with their work at the expense of my research, and I’m on strict orders to focus on my dissertation for now so that I don’t fall into that trap where female academics have an excess of service and a dearth of research outcomes.” Good luck!

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Yes. And again, this is a situation where getting Cecil and Apollo into the same room to hash it out between them might be fruitful, if you trust Cecil to protect your interests. (This is VERY DANGEROUS if Cecil can’t be trusted or if Apollo can unilaterally overrule Cecil, however, so deploy with care.)

    6. Practical Criticism*

      Hi OP,

      I’m in academia in the UK (maybe you are too, with the four year limit?) and in an arts department, so my advice might be not be wholly relevant, but I think this is your out for ever having to work with Jane again: “to the degree that my supervisor has told me to cut down on the extracarricular activities and concentrate on my dissertation”. Every time you are asked to do something extra, default back to this line, explaining that you’re already covering the required teaching/outreach/etc for your PhD and you have to prioritise finishing. Explain to your supervisor that you’ll be saying this and copy him into emails if you need to. I’m sorry he’s not more available and doesn’t have your back more.

      The advice above about emails saying “this is the first I’ve heard of it” is also good – and don’t be afraid to add, “and turns out I have a clash.” If you wanted to seem super helpful, you could add “Although I can’t help, Other Student is knowledgeable on this and would be glad for the experience” – although I get that this is throwing another student under the bus. It also might be worth trying to offer this to Jane as friendly advice: “you signed me up without asking me, and people in our field can get pretty annoyed if you do that. You should get into the habit of bringing all collaborators in at the first stages of planning.” This has the advantage of also being great advice, but I understand that, at this stage, just distancing yourself from her might be easier.

      Getting good at saying no firmly and prioritise research will stand you in great stead later in academia, or anywhere else. Good luck. I hope you’re done soon, and the rest of academia has been kind.

    7. Batgirl*

      I think your best bet here is to use your skill level to put yourself out of her reach.
      Like, if the department head wants you to do allllllthethings but knows you’re stretched; tell him you’re happy to give someone’s work a helpful once over, (with a time limit like ‘I have one hour I could spare to help’) but they have to do the legwork because of your other commitments.
      So something like “Co-worker has chosen topics x, y and z for her course. If she can do the research on those topics and put x lessons and y materials together, I can look over them and give her some improvement tips and advice; I just can’t do the work she’s suggesting myself because of my other collaborations which are already in place.”
      When she flops, send her low-skill materials to your advisor and say “I promised to give Co-worker an hour’s meeting to give her some pointers but this is far too rudimentary for that.
      She has clearly chosen topics that I know about rather than things she knows about. Can we show these documents to head of department and ask for his help in getting her to bring her own knowledge to the table before volunteering others for something, going forward?”
      Just keep saying no + giving her a lot of homework for each request + showing people what her idea of collaboration looks like. Make it too like much hard work and embarrassment for her.

    8. Nesprin*

      Hey I’ve worked with this person’s slightly less evil younger sister (also in academia, also demanded unreasonable time from me, also claimed my work as her own). You have the added complication of a dept head problem- my PI had the standing and willingness to protect my time.
      I made sure my PI was aware of the situation and on board with my noes, so I could disengage as much as possible, and because of my PI’s backing, I was able to be as vague and unhelpful to her as possible. So lots of “huh, I’ll think about it- send me an email with the ask”, then responses of “no, sorry”, ccd to my PI. Side effect: documentation of everything.

    9. tamarack and fireweed*

      Frankly, it sounds like you’re doing everything right.

      Keep holding your lines. This is temporary. What it clearly evidenced is that in the future, choosing under whom to work is going to be critical not only based on that person’s standing in the field and as a professor, but also — and in some ways more — based on their ability to run an equitable, productive and happy team. (In the end, I personally evaluate academics / scientists / researchers much more on the sum total of the achievements of the people they mentored or directed than on their own personal output, for this very reason.)

      Document what you do with whom.

      It is also possible that the Apollo person clearly perceives her weakness and therefore pushes who he thinks he could into helping her through the program and out of the door. Again, hold your lines. (Is he on your committee? In which case, your advisor and you need a strategy how to handle workload/expectations from you, otherwise there may be conflict that it would be better to sidestep beforehand.)

  18. Rock Prof*

    I’m going to second all of the others and say that you should definitely alert your advisor to everything going on, and perhaps both of you can go to the department head together. It could be that other student’s advisor is also kind of annoyed by her too but just hearing one of side of the story you’re part of. Additionally, if there are other students who this one student is exploiting, maybe band together to talk to the department head, too.
    However, because university politics can be ridiculous, I’d say you should maybe put a tiny, tiny amount of thought into an extreme worst case scenario where the department chair has been poisoned against you or your advisor. In that case, could you switch departments to the one where your actual advisor sits? I know that’s sometimes possible when working on a multidisciplinary phd but not always.
    Additionally, if this gets to the point where you legitimately feel harassed (it might be at that point?), you might need to rope in the dean of (graduate) students or university ombudsmen.

  19. An academic...*

    Allison’s advice is solid. I’ll just add some academia-specific observations.

    Politics or no politics, I’m not hearing that the LW has discussed this with her advisor. This kind of crazy boundary pushing is definitely something that you need to bring to your advisor’s attention. This student is endangering your professional reputation! In all kinds of ways – you won’t make your best presentations if you’re shorted on prep time; if someone ever tries to double-check your CV with some online sleuthing, those talks listed under her name make you look… not so honest; and I bet your student evaluations from that co-taught class are worse than your normal evals. And that’s before we even start in on your relationship with your own department head, which is vital to funding and other opportunities.

    Aside from flagging it for your advisor, it sounds like you have more room to bring stuff up with your department head than you may think. When you’re being pressured to work with this other student, in addition to Allison’s suggested verbiage, you can point out that you went above and beyond to give that talk for her even though she had volunteered you without asking you. (Incidentally, the head needs to know about that if you haven’t already happened to let that info drop in their presence.) Depending on how secure you feel with the head, you might even note that you find it concerning/it hampers your ability to collaborate with a PEER who tries to manage you, which is effectively what she’s doing by, for example, “complain[ing to Apollo] that I’m refusing to do collaborative work as is required in our contract,” but also when she tries to “tell[] others they needed to write the blog” and assigns presentations to you.

    Moreover, as Allison pointed out, collaboration isn’t something you just do with one person. It sounds like this student’s attempts to force collaboration on you are taking up so much of your time that they’re hampering your ability to collaborate (i.e. develop a professional network naturally) with other students.

    tl;dr: Focus on your long-term career goals when discussing this with both your advisor and Apollo. You want good working relationships with many people, not just this student, and you need time and mental space to plan your presentations/develop your own syllabi (an opportunity you don’t get if she’s making them and then forcing you to teach them), etc.

  20. Camille McKenzie*

    This woman is bonkers.
    What’s next?
    “She asked to share my boyfriend because she doesn’t have time to date. When I told her “No” because we’re getting married, she said, “That’s wonderful! I’ve always wanted to plan a wedding!”

    1. Mimi Me*

      I knew someone who was a lot like this. She once tried to invite herself to a funeral of a person she didn’t know for a ride somewhere. The person she asked was headed to a funeral for her uncle and the woman literally said “Oh I’ve never been to a funeral. I don’t mind going with you. You can drive me after it’s over.” FYI – she didn’t go to the funeral. The person who was going was very clear and very profane (rightly so given the situation) in her refusal.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        What amazes me is that people say things like that without realizing it is sitcom worthy.

      2. Nea*

        This is why “Never JADE” is some of the best advice I got. Never:
        – Justify
        – Argue
        – Defend
        – Explain
        …because the person is just going to come up with excuse after excuse as to why your position is completely wrong or can be twisted to their needs anyway.

        No is a complete sentence. “But why?” “Because No.”

      3. Cyberspace Hamster*

        Excuse me while I go look for my eyebrows, I think they ended up somewhere in the stratosphere

  21. WellRed*

    You are not being direct enough. The correct answer to “I will move in with you” is no. Not, “no, and even if you did, we couldn’t carpool.” That gives her room to argue.

    1. WellRed*

      OP, I just saw your comments further up about the drilling holes in the wall. She’s really bizarre and I’m exhausted just reading about her. Sympathy!

    2. DoomCarrot*

      To clarify: the “we couldn’t carpool” was a response to her saying “oh, well, I could at least move to the same town as you so we can carpool and I won’t have to spend money on that”.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I think somewhere around there I would have literally said, “And why should I do this for you?”

        I imagine she figures you’re paying the rent anyway, and driving anyway, so it makes her life easier without putting any “extra” burden on you (apart from the minor detail of having her up in your space all the time), but it’s still incredibly entitled to expect someone to help you for free.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ooooo boy. How many flags on that play??
        I had someone talk to me about carpooling with him at a long-ago job — only to find out that his car had broken down so he wouldn’t be sharing the driving, just giving me some gas money. He seriously expected me to add 30 minutes and 5 miles of street traffic to my otherwise all-highway commute and be happy that he’d give me gas money. I agreed to 2 weeks so he could figure out the bus schedule…and it was 9 trips too many. The man couldn’t stop talking long enough for me to hear the traffic report, let alone a full story on NPR. He didn’t get it even after I was blunt about the drive being my quiet time.
        Sorry for the tangent but that brought back bad memories!

      3. Helena*

        Where’s the “pooling” part of the carpooling here? It isn’t carpooling, it’s you ferrying her around.

  22. SaffyTaffy*

    Am I allowed to say that this woman reminds me strongly of Rachel Yould, the academic profiled in the 2010 New Yorker article “The Scholar” by Jeff Toobin who was jailed for fraud?
    I guess just saying that isn’t helpful, except I think you may be seeing this as just a rude, pushy, weird person rather than someone who is being malignant.

  23. AngelZash*

    Wow… She has no idea how the world works!

    I think this girl is less seeing OP as a big sister, as OP says, as more as a jackpot. Also, I hate it when people equate being a single child with being a spoiled brat. Sometimes a spoiled brat is just a spoiled brat, and I think that’s the problem here.

    OP needs to go to her advisor and have a nice long talk about how this girl is harassing her. This girl is displaying definite harassing behavior, academic dishonesty, poor judgement, bad teaching skills, and several other problem that could and should get her in hot water. She looks to me to be a budding con woman in making! If the school is smart, they’ll put her on notice and start watching the situation, before she ruin any more students’ gpa’s or the OP’s reputation.

    1. pcake*

      At a guess, the girl sees everybody only as a jackpot.

      And I agree with you – this is harassing behavior, and she seems to already be a con woman, albeit not that talented and perhaps not even aware of it.

    2. Tiger Snake*

      “I think this girl is less seeing OP as a big sister, as OP says, as more as a jackpot.”

      That was my thought too. She’s cleverly pushed the OP into an obligation and emotional-labour corner. Any way you cut it, that act is a deliberate method to have you favour her and do favours for her. At very best, we could say Glommy doesn’t realise how insidious the action is; but the act was intentional all the same.

  24. Fuzzyfuzz*

    Can we stop maligning only children as particularly self-centered as lacking in social awareness please? A bit off topic, but it’s an implicit bias most people don’t examine.

      1. DoomCarrot*

        It’s not a cause of being entitled, no. But it does contribute to her complete lack of experience in ever having to negotiate with peers, which is why I included it. Many people who haven’t had much real world experience at least learn through siblings that the existence of a thing does not necessarily mean that it’s yours.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Nah. Singletons learn the same lesson from friends in the neighborhood who will or won’t play with them depending on behavior.

        2. Fuzzyfuzz*

          No–it doesn’t necessarily. And you can’t really know that in her case. Only children grow up with friends, cousins, classmates, etc. I’ve know several people with stereotypical “only child” personalities–all of them have coincidentally been youngest siblings.

        3. the other kind of $ problem*

          How exactly do you know that she never had to negotiate with peers? This is just silly. Only children have friends, cousins, and classmates, all of which require having to negotiate with peers.

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          It’s not a cause of being entitled, no. But it does contribute to her complete lack of experience in ever having to negotiate with peers, which is why I included it.

          No, it does not. What makes you think people without siblings have no peers? What makes you think siblings never decide that what’s yours is also theirs, but not vice versa? This is a ridiculously prejudiced and judgmental stance for you to be doubling down on. Please stop.

          (And as for people with siblings being forced to negotiate in real life… do Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman ring any bells?)

          1. DoomCarrot*

            Well, for one thing – what makes me think that is the research on this.
            Here, for example, is a paper that at least strongly correlates lack of siblings with reduced conflict resolution ability:

            And this one suggests that only children are more “achievement oriented”.


            I’m definitely not claiming it’s the biggest or exclusive factor, just another data point.

            And while survivor bias is a thing, I’m glad you’re able to report that not all – or not even the majority – of only children have this issue.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      YES. Of spoiled brats that I know, many are youngest children — and at least one is a middle child whose sibling arrived late. (As far as I can tell, she just never got over the toddler reaction of being displaced as the baby.)

    2. Alexis Rose*

      Thank you for saying this, the more I think about it the more I think I only want one child, and everyone has such a terrible opinion of only children!!!!!! They will go to daycare and school, not be kept in a box until adulthood, so they will DEFINITELY learn some social skills around kids their own age and older/younger.

      To make this reply more specific to the overall themes of the post: Someone who is a PhD candidate would have made it all the way through grade 12, undergrad, and presumably a masters to make it to the PhD level, and I would hope would have some job or volunteer experience to make herself an attractive candidate for universities. She has had AMPLE time to learn professional and self-sufficient behaviour and i suspect that too many people (yes probably her parents included) have indulged and not given her firm boundaries and expectations. there really aren’t any good excuses for her as an adult to behave this way. its actually quite sad, as it doesn’t seem like she will continue to succeed if this is how she is coming across.

    3. Quill*

      Yeah, my first college roommate had a sibling and she was the worst stereotype of an “only child” possible, right down to lying to me about when she’d move in and taking over 2/3 of the room because her clothes “needed” to be laid out on large shelves her dad just sort of built in? During move ins?

      I got off lighter than her second roommate, who literally has scars from their time together (she couldn’t follow directions about microwaving things and the next girl paid the price…) but still.

  25. RUKiddingMe*

    Not have to pay rent? Wow that’s some gall!

    OP show this letter to your department head. You laud it out really well here.

  26. Brett*

    I would not assume in this case that Jane is just obliviously entitled.
    I dealt with a similar person to this in my grad program, and the various other students that she leaned on all assumed she was obliviously entitled.

    Until we found out that she was stealing our course material and selling it on the side as an educational consultant.

    She was purposely acting oblivious while definitely knowing that she was blatantly manipulating people to do course development work that she was turning around and quietly passing off as her own to build her reputation and client list. She was not just targeting people in our department, but also in several other departments and the college of education, while garnering praise for her interdisciplinary collaborations (and leveraging key professors to pressure people into those collaborations).
    The surprise syllabus thing especially rung a bell. She tried exactly that tactic against one of my friends, because she was trying to fulfill a consulting contract that also needed the same content. My friend ended up transferring to a different college at the university to get away.

    This does not mean that Jane is a rogue educational consultant out to rip people off, but I would be more likely to assume that she is intentionally manipulating people rather than being obliviously annoying. Despite her apparent naivety, she knows how to play academic politics to get what she wants and protect herself.
    (Incidentally, none of this ever caught up with the person I am talking about.)

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      Yeah – I’ve known two people who have really hyped their naiveté/cluelessness/social awkwardness in the hopes of getting those around them to do everything for them out of pity/sympathy/desire to not feel uncomfortable. Nothing as egregious as the above, just behavior that really made me wonder – “are you an evil genius, or just terrible at everything?” For my own sanity, I chose to believe that they really were just that clueless because the alternative made my heart hurt. Even at the time, though, I suspected that their incredible helplessness was at least partly manipulative.

  27. Cat Wrangler*

    Hey, OP, please give us an update at some point in the future. Wishing you the best on your research.

  28. Only the Lonely*

    As an only child with at least semi-indulgent parents, I want to disassociate myself and other only children from this absolute outlier.

    (This message paid for by the Coalition for Mostly Well-Adjusted Only Children)

        1. Only the Lonely*

          All you need to do is certify you’ve never asked a coworker if you could live with them rent-free because you want to save up for a house.

          1. Liz*

            well then, i guess that cements MY membership! I’m an only and never once did I, or would have thought about doing this!

    1. Grapey*

      Can I join too? I was admittedly bratty with my immediate family and friends, but my approval from adults in academic/professional roles was so important to me that I learned to read a room from an early age and NOT do things like this.

      (And show me an only child that WANTS to share a room and I’ll show you another outlier.)

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Do you offer auxiliary membership? There’s a 17 year gap between me & my nearest sibling so they were in college by the time my memories begin.

    3. Perpal*

      Not to derail too hard but I think this puts more evidence towards Glommy not being as oblivious as they let on; which ultimately just means LW needs to be proactive in warding off their attempts to triangulate department heads on them.
      I, too, am an only child with extremely indulgent parents. I, too, went to graduate school. I would never in a million years have dreamed of asking a coworker to a) give me free housing b) do my work for me c) help me with housework, etc etc. I’m not even sure about how LW knows of Glommy’s background; is it part of a polished helplessness act?

  29. Nicole*

    While I agree with Alison for the most part, I don’t necessarily thunk it should be on you to clean up after your coworker when she plans things so poorly, especially without asking. Like how Alison mentioned reaching out to Cersei to make sure she knows you can’t commit—I’d leave her high and dry and wait for Cersei to contact you. Then I’d respond to the effect of, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. It wasn’t ever discussed with me, and because I had [other commitment] I wouldn’t have agreed to be a part of it anyway. I’m not sure why she told you I would participate.” Leave your coworker in the lurch a few times and hopefully she’ll learn.
    Also, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. She sounds incredibly annoying.

    1. Observer*

      The thing here is that if the OP doesn’t reach out, it could hurt her reputation. Alison tends to go for a pragmatic approach – do the thing that gets you the result you want is long as it’s ethical and legal rather than so the thing that is MOST RIGHTEOUS and that you have the right to do.

      Sure, it would server Jane right to have this blow up. But, it will still hurt the OP. It’s not worth it.

    2. Perpal*

      OP needs to make sure Glommy doesn’t “forget” to let people know OP isn’t actually doing whatever Glommy tried to set them up for. It will help OP control the narrative more than letting Glommy tell everyone what’s happening.

    3. Triumphant Fox*

      You really want to control the narrative here as much as possible. That isn’t about doing the work for her, it’s making sure it’s understood by everyone that she is at fault for planning things so poorly. Also, you want to be sure that you appear collegial and accommodating when it’s reasonable. Not that you can’t manage your own time or made false promises and Cersei is left holding the bag.

  30. Lisanthus*

    Oh boy. OP, I went back as an older Ph.D. student and had to fend off less egregious attempts by a few entitled younger students to glom onto my time/expertise/existing professional network because they felt I owed it to them as an older person. (When they weren’t sniping behind my back about me — which of course got back to me quickly with names attached. Ah, academia…*eye roll*)

    So I totally sympathize. And from your follow-on comment, I may be jaded, but it sounds as though Remora is deliberately trying to leverage your reputation and success to benefit her rather than regarding you as a “big sister.”

    As others have said, I would try to meet with your advisor about this with documentation of the problem. Maybe it would be useful to take the “I’ve made X amount of progress on my dissertation but dealing with Remora [insert documentation here] is an issue here, FYI” tack.

    If that doesn’t seem like a good idea, depending on your student services/ombudsperson setup, maybe a conversation with them of “I’ve been told by my advisor to focus on my dissertation and Remora is pulling X, Y, and Z that’s interfering with it. However, the department head is her advisor and is pressuring me to work with her even though [documented disaster] happened last time” may be worth trying. At least to document the problem if nothing else.

    And I’d start using email to document every conversation with the Cecils you have to inform them that “No, actually, Remora never asked me about X before telling you I was doing X. Unfortunately I can’t do X because, dissertation. If Remora had asked me about X I would have told her that in the first place.”

    Good luck!

    1. AKchic*

      This has the added benefit of calling her out in writing when you put everything in writing via email to the Cecils (and anyone else).

  31. Kiki*

    I think if she has referred to you as a big sister or insinuated that she sees you as such, you have some standing to talk to her more personally about this. “I know you see me as a big sister figure, but sometimes your asks overstep my boundaries. We’re classmates and colleagues and will have to lean on each other for some things, but things like XXX, XXX, and XXX are pretty far out of bounds.”

  32. multicoastal*

    I am an academic and supervise doctoral students.

    Your advisor is not doing his job here. He needs to tell you, clearly, what is and what isn’t required of you, including how much collaboration and with whom. He also needs to go to bat for you if you are worried about retaliation from other faculty. I’ve seen, often, that students who do not have a good working relationship with their advisors can get into tailspins of wondering if they should do this or that or spending lots of time working on something (like collaborative work) that turns out not to be necessary and sets them back. All the time you are spending worrying about this person is time that you are not writing your dissertation.

    So: Ask your advisor if you should be co-teaching this class, and if he says no ask him to put it in writing to the chair. It is literally his job to advocate for you, and you are paying a great deal of money for his help. Your advisor will know how to phrase it, but if it were me I’d probably say something like: “OP needs to be focusing on her dissertation right now and teaching X (on her own) rather than Y (collaboratively) will help her do that. I’ve seen her do X Y and Z collaboratively and she is strong in collaborative work and right now she needs to focus on her dissertation rather than on collaboration.”

    I’m also going to guess that your coworker is a person who will not be successful for very long in academia, so the problem will go away soon enough. She seems like the kind of person who goes to graduate school because they were good at college and not good at working. You can coast for a few years in graduate school using cheats and workarounds, like you can in some undergraduate programs. But it stops working eventually.

    1. Practical Criticism*

      As another academic, this is great advice and exactly how the supervisor relationship should work. Your supervisors jobs is to help your protect your research time, advocate for you and your project, and help you get done. multicoastal, you sound like a great supervisor!

    2. anonymous 5*

      YES. All of this. I had an excellent advisor who went to bat for me really well–and with whom I had a comfortable enough rapport that I should have been able to lean on him more heavily than I did. I chickened out of a lot of said “leaning” in the interest of not causing trouble, and I know that that ultimately hurt me (though I did finish the PhD and now have tenure as a prof). Don’t be as hesitant as I was!

    3. DoomCarrot*

      Sigh. It really would be lovely if it worked like that.

      Unfortunately, making time to talk to my supervisor even about *acadamic* things is hard enough. We’ve had 5 meetings in 2 1/2 years. He was away for a while due to illness, and now, he’s on sabbatical and has just announced that he’s going to Paris all next semester.

      But that’s a separate issue.

      (Yes, I’ve talked to the head of research, and been told I can’t change because politics.)

      1. blackcat*

        This bit here really concerns me. It’s enough that I’d consider leaving with a terminal masters if that is an option for you. An absent advisor is a HUGE deal. It’ll become more and more of an issue as you are nearing the end of your program. You need someone who knows you to help you on the job market. An advisor who doesn’t do that will make it EXTREMELY difficult to land an academic job, if that’s you’re goal.

        For perspective: I saw my advisors *wife* more often than you see your advisor.

        1. DoomCarrot*

          Fortunately, I don’t want to be in academia indefinitely.

          Let’s try saying this with teapots:

          I’m a teapot engineer. There is an emergent field, digital teapots, that I’m trying to establish myself in. Most companies that work in the field have employees from all kinds of non-academic backgrounds, but their clients want someone with an academic title on the team to assure them that they know what they’re doing when it comes to trusting them with their teapots.

          So I’m now a researcher in a newly-founded digital china department (of which teapots are a small subset) while my supervisor is in the traditional teapots department.

          (Glommy does dinnerware and gender – so she’s lost without my engineering skills if she wants to teach a class on understanding china construction techniques. That class would look really good for the digital china department to have, because it would show that the department as a whole has an understanding of STEM, even though it’s officially humanities.)

          1. deesse877*

            A+ dinnerware allegory. If you hadn’t said otherwise, I’d have taken you for the humanist! The interdisciplinary drama and posturing is also A Thing, unfortunately; I hope you find your path forward relatively unencumbered by it.

          2. Brett*

            This either _is_ my academic discipline or one bizarrely structured just like it. Your advisor problem is an enormous red flag if it is the same one. I watched dozens of PhD candidates in my program and others drop out precisely because of advisor communication issues and nothing else. The ones who succeed inevitably have readily accessible advisors who they meet with at least weekly, as well as a diverse group of active committee members. The fractured nature of the discipline, between traditional, quantitative, and emerging digital and engineering, make it extremely difficult to put together a coherent dissertation and a functional committee who can fairly evaluate it. Without an active, involved, advocating advisor, PhDs are very tough to finish in our field.

            1. DoomCarrot*

              That’s the impression I’m beginning to have here, yes.

              Fortunately, I worked in research (in the private sector) before I started this, so I do have quite a large network to draw on, and several potential employers lined up for when I finish. But they all say the PhD would be what justifies their creating a position for me.

          3. Sarabeth*

            This…is not encouraging. I wouldn’t worry about the distance alone; Skype is a thing. Due to the nature of my research, my students and I all regularly spend a semester or more at a time doing fieldwork on another continent. But I still have regular meetings with them. At every institution I know of, the terms of sabbatical leave specify that you are still responsible for supervising your graduate students.

            What you need here is someone who cares about getting you through the program, who also has some degree of leverage over both your advisor and your department head. Is there a separate director of graduate studies, in either department? Or just a sympathetic full professor with a reputation for being an excellent mentor, whose interests overlap with yours at least partially? It doesn’t need to be a formalized relationship, but you *do* need someone who can intervene on your behalf when it’s necessary. Someone who can tell your advisor, for example, that they absolutely do need to provide you with feedback on your dissertation in time to get it revised and submitted within four years.

      2. Ariaflame*

        Well, given that he has given you a directive to focus on your dissertation, it does mean that nobody should be able to contact him easily if they wanted to dispute this/question it.

      3. Elizabeth*

        Then send a well-worded email to him — this is high enough priority it’s at least trying to reach out to him however you can so he can intervene for you. If he’s that absent he may not be a very good advisor, but even a somewhat decent one (I’m a professor and advise multiple PhD students) should want to help advocate for you. (You can even provide him with a draft of what you’d like him to send to the Department Chair — I love it when people help me write the emails I need to write for them!) Much of this can be done by email, especially him sending the email MultiCoastal suggested to your current department chair — at my institution this would actually be more likely to happen by email than by trying to arrange and in-person meeting between two too-busy professors…

      4. Batgirl*

        Can you use his absence to plead for the head to give you some kind of advisory help or to give you a bit of a break or would he not GAF?
        Something like “Teaching with Glommy did not go well last time and caused lots of issues for the students. I would really need to sit down with someone and explain the issues with merging our styles/knowledge but my advisor is out until x. His directions to me until then have been to focus on my dissertation over collaboration. Nevertheless, some collaboration could happen; with (other students names) who ime are able to contribute more seamlessly. I could also sit down with you if you need me to go over the issues which prevent me collaborating with Glommy and see what you suggest.

      5. Sparkle*

        I have a Ph.D. and I’ve been in academia, in industry, and a self-employed consultant. There are so many people in academia who want you to work for, at best, getting your name on something… but not money. Can I eat having my name on a paper? I cannot. If you can’t talk to your advisor, the odds of her talking to him are pretty slim, so you can always revert back to this line when you are truly desperate:
        “I. DON’T. WORK. FOR. YOU.”
        If she persists, quote her an obscenely high hourly rate.

        You can also just repeat, “Boss told me to work only on my dissertation,” ad infinitem. Teaching classes and hosting seminar series is not going to get you the industry job that you want to get. Put yourself first, focus on what serves you best and do just enough of the other stuff to not make your entire department hate you. You’re not planning on staying in academia so just make sure there’s one or two people there that can be a recommender in addition to 2-5 from your industry jobs and optimize your time to finish your degree and get the skills that will serve you best.

        (One of my jobs has been to get graduate students focused and motivated to, you know, actually graduate.)

        1. DoomCarrot*

          Oh, that was a different entitled coworker – a postdoc who demanded I finish my PhD two years early so she could use it as content for her new e-learning platform!

      6. TL -*

        This is the stuff that can be all handled by email – and you have standing to talk to your professor’s department head if r your professor doesn’t supervise while on sabbatical. Not to get a new supervisor, but to get someone to remind yours that he’s still obligated to fulfill his supervisor duties.

        In general, professors are expected to continue to supervise during sabatticals and long research trips, generally accomplished through emails. So email him (several times) until you get an answer.

        If you don’t get an answer, email the department head who wants you to teach, cc your supervisor, and say “unfortunately, as per supervisor’s and my last meeting, right now my focus has to be on research. My dissertation is due X and I can’t take on any classes for the remainder of my PhD. I’m happy to put aside an hour to go over the syllabus after it’s delevoped.”

      7. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think this illustrates the “the advisor is not doing his job”. I’m sorry. With people in the situation to advise graduate students who have never been prepared for it, and haven’t thought about it other than their own experience (potentially a quarter century ago), you get into these situations where some are stellar at advising and some are abysmal. And anyone who isn’t stellar rarely is even able to articulate what it takes.

        And yeah, while you surely can change advisors (your graduate school is bound to have some form of policies) it would likely come with too high a cost, such as loss of stipend and starting-over research-wise. So I understand why you stick it out.

        But do get in writing what his expectations are and then lean on them for all they’re worth.

      8. Nesprin*

        This is not right. Your advisor is an essential part of your PhD and an absent advisor is not doing his job. Can you setup weekly skypes? Advocate for phone calls? Get a co-Advisor? Quit and find a sane advisor?

        1. DoomCarrot*

          I’d be over the moon about *quarterly* meetings. For the last one, I ended up having to track him to his house and refuse to leave until he gave me the sources he promised me two years ago…

          I’m beginning to realise my problem here is bigger than that coworker.

          1. Boba Feta*

            Oh, no, DoomCarrot, no. This comment just triggered my PTSD from my own, similar grad experience. I had an absentee advisor for basically the entire dissertation phase, and it nearly broke me. It’s a miracle I ever finished.

            Get yourself another mentor ASAP. You don’t have to call them your “advisor” if politics forbid an official switch. But DO make a concerted, conscious, and calculated effort to deepen your existing connections with others in your program, faculty, or field to get the practical guidance and support you need to finish on time. Don’t frame it was trying to replace your advisor, but that you value their adjacent expertise and how it can illuminate your research. Play up the “interdisciplinary collaboration” angle while you work (quietly and diligently) to get the support you need to finish.

            When the reality of my situation was finally known to the PTB, suddenly some real, effective support rallied around me in the final push to defend and graduate, and my “advisor’s” role was effectively limited to signing the paperwork. Please don’t wait another day to switch your mindset on this.

            There is no excuse for an “advisor” to allow a situation in which one of their graduate students has to track them down at home and hold them hostage in order to get promised resources. Take control of the final trajectory of your degree completion in all aspects but name. Stay in regular contact with your advisor via scheduled updates and nominal requests for feedback, but assume they will never reply and take proactive steps to get what you need via whatever other resources you can, instead.

            I let things go far too long, thinking I could just make do with what little contact I could manage to wrangle from my primary advisor. In doing so, I managed to do some severe damage to my physical and mental health that I’m still trying to recover from nearly seven years later.

            Your ÜberMooch is the Skylla you’ve been trying to avoid while attempting to stay within reach of your Charybdis advisor, but this is a trap: you need to break free from BOTH of them (in different ways) to complete your program and move on from this place toward calmer waters.

            1. DoomCarrot*

              Thank you, Boba. I do realise that he’s a problem – just a separate problem I’m not sure to tackle, but where this particular blog won’t be much help, because it’s so specific to academia (and not even US academia, at that.)

              1. Boba Feta*

                You’ll figure it out! I have so much sympathy for you, because I get the sense that I *was* you, to some degree, and unfortunately this scenario is much more common than it should be in academia. I suspect that student reticence (or fear!) to speak up about absenteeism contributes to the problem, but I lay the most blame first on the Ghostvisors themselves and secondly on those of their peers or the directors above them who know they are a problem but take no actionable steps to correct their neglect of their students.

                Do what you need to do to protect your time, your research, and your success in this program. You mentioned you have a hard 4-year deadline, and it sounds like you’re already half-way through year 3. There is zero time left to entertain any more of your colleague’s shenanigans. Become the Grey Rock of No she has never before encountered and maintain the calm until she moves on to other targets. Make use of alternate support systems and use your main advisor for the bare minimum that is contractually required to graduate and get a good reference.

                YOU CAN DO THIS!

      9. Astor*

        If they won’t let you change, will they let you have a co-supervisor or can you find a committee member who is willing to step up? I do administrative work with graduate students and so am not allowed to get involved in the “academic” side of a supervisor who drops the ball, but it’s deadly for students. The ones who graduate on time and as expected in our program when they don’t have that support are ONLY the highly motivated top masters students. Even our superstar doctoral students who have external funding out the wazzoo (including one with a faculty position held at top research university) absolutely get delayed by awol supervisors.

        Keep doing what you’ve described, but also focus on relationships with faculty members who can help support your research and direction, even if you won’t need them for an academic career. They can help you with the mentoring you don’t have. You sound like you have a solid plan. Good luck!

  33. CommanderBanana*

    That sound is me screaming BOUNDARIES from a mountaintop. She’s also controlling the narrative here, too, which I think you definitely need to get out in front of, and at the very least is showing unethical behavior by trying to gank credit for work that is yours. And it sounds very intentional.

    To quote Bell Biv DeVoe – that girl is poison.

  34. No Name Today*

    OP, stop giving excuses for all the off-the-clock stuff. Repeat “Sorry, that won’t work for me” as many times as needed and don’t be tempted to add anything more. If you provide an excuse, she’ll always try to find a way around the excuse. As has been said many before, “No.” is a complete sentence. Getting comfortable with that will serve you well in the future.

    For the work-related stuff, you’ll need to loop in the appropriate supervisors so she doesn’t get to control the narrative. I like the previously mentioned “bring awkward” to her by arranging meetings with the involved parties “to make sure everyone is on the same page” as a way to clarify what you did and did not agree to.

  35. Jack Balfour*

    I’m an admin who assists a grad program. While I’m not a scholar myself, these look like serious issues that you should address with your program director and/or chair.

    Dilettantes with a poor work ethic and little grasp of professionalism are unfortunately not rare in graduate school. But volunteering colleagues for work without asking them, not properly crediting them, and taking credit for their work are serious ethical issues. Even if your chair is her mentor, this should transcend politics. And unless your “friendship” is the only area in her life where she reveals her total immaturity, which is extremely unlikely, the faculty are not oblivious to her issues.

    I’ve also had friends who immediately glommed onto me and expected outrageous personal favours on a regular basis. There is nothing you can do with such people besides firmly reject them. You will probably lose the friendship, but having a fellow graduate student be chilly with you is preferable to being their personal slave.

  36. QCI*

    It sounds like this whole thing could be summed up with “be very firm and direct in your communication.”
    “I’m not going to share my home with you”
    “I’m not going to carpool with you”
    “I’m not going to teach a class with you”
    Followed by very direct reasons.

      1. QCI*

        It sounded like OP was wishy-washy and hasn’t firmly put her foot down. If she was firm then she shouldn’t be getting pressure from supervisors to collaborate with her when it’s clearly not in any ones best interest.

        1. Red Wheelbarrow*

          The LW said no to Leech-Girl, who complained, which is why she’s now getting pressure from above. That doesn’t necessarily mean she didn’t give a firm no; it means she’s dealing with someone without boundaries. And saying no to your superiors is not a simple matter; it can have real consequences for the LW’s career.

          1. Perpal*

            Ah yes, this too. There is an art to saying no when it’s in the form of work requests (vs the weird personal requests). OP should start looping in their adviser and probably the department head too who is starting to put pressure; but stick to the facts “tried to leave my name off a joint presentation” “doesn’t do their share of the agreed upon work” etc etc

            1. Paulina*

              “went ahead with planning for me to co-teach a course without my agreement”
              Seriously, even without any of the other previous problems, you can’t collaborate with someone who doesn’t listen to you, and it’s unreasonable for the dept. head to expect the OP to.
              I get why he might — the leech sold him a bill of goods, so he’s been expecting that this great course will materialize and he’s attached to it happening. He needs to work out a backup plan, since the OP will be far too busy with a crucial thesis milestone, and will not be working with someone who refuses to listen to her.

        2. Perpal*

          My sense is OP has done everything right and wonders why these outrageous requests continue. My guess is Askley is not actually all that oblivious and will just keep it up as long as it sometimes gets her what she wants, much like those mail order scams that manage to toe the line of legitimacy (ie, the ones that look like a bill but put in very small print somewhere this is not a bill etc etc)

          1. Anonforthis*

            Yes. “I know you said you couldn’t do it but I booked it anyway and now if you say no it’ll be awkward. And I’m counting on manipulating your politeness in my favour.”

          2. Red Wheelbarrow*

            I’m really enjoying the various renamings of this character in these comments, and so far “Askley” is my favorite.

            1. DoomCarrot*

              Well, I’m about ready to give her up, let her down, run around *and* desert her, so it’s very appropriate!

  37. Just say no*

    Really, the only thing that needs to be different due to academia is the conversation with the chair about the collab teaching. Both PhD students? Nevermind that the coworker isn’t likely to ever defend, it’s still dog-eat-dog. Eat or be eaten. Your only choices on this will be to a) teach with her and be miserable about it or b) tell the chair exactly why it was such a pain in the ass last time. “Chair, she was a terrible collaborator last time because she X, Y, and Z. I’d love to collab teach, and I’ve thought about how Other Colleages A, B, and C and I could work together. But she’s terrible to work with.”

    As for everything else, you have to Just. Say. No. She’s the kind of person who no matter what justification you give, she will argue every single point. Just. Say. No.

  38. Observer*

    On the personal stuff – stop giving her explanations. “No is a complete sentence” was created for situations like this.

    Obviously, you’re better off trying to phrase it a little more softly, at least the first time. But but it still needs to be unambiguous and with no explanations given.

    So instead of a bald “No” you would maybe say “I’m sorry, but that won’t work for me” or “I’m sorry but I can’t do that.” Don’t give her the faintest glimmer that this is up for discussion or that she can find a way to come up with a “solution”.

    On the work stuff, I think Allison is on the money. Can you tell her supervisor that she created a situation where the students where really unhappy and would be likely to ding the program? If the reason to do this is to make the program look good, this should be something they need to know about.

  39. Jo*

    This reminds me a bit of a flatmate I had once – she expected people to come running when she clicked her fingers. One time she asked me to help her with something totally non urgent, and I said
    ‘just give me a minute – I just want to see the end of this tv programme’ and she said ‘Why, what are you watching?’ in an annoyed voice as if to say ‘How could anything be more important than ME?’ I told her what it was and said it’ll just be a minute and she got this pissed off look on her face and said sarcastically ‘Oh thanks Jo’ and stomped off. She had no idea how she came across, which was as an arrogant, self important idiot.

    1. Jo*

      That posted before I’d finished typing. I meant to say, sometimes you might just need to say no, but make sure you loop in your manager so they’re aware you’re not just refusing to collaborate! Your colleague sounds like a total pain so I hope you manage to get something sorted.

  40. 2 Cents*

    I worked with a guy like this. Was well aware of how the world worked, just didn’t want to do any work, wanted to co-opt mine and had no issues taking full credit for it. The only thing that helped (before I left for a new job) was to say “no” as often and as cheerfully as possible. “Can you help me research this?” (Translation: can you work your butt off while I get all the credit?) “sorry, on a deadline, but I’ve had good luck with this resource.”

  41. deesse877*

    Yeah…just so OP knows:

    This Is A Thing.

    Academia has a **lot** of people like this. Some are only entitled, some are only scammers, some few are only mentally ill, but most are an ethically messy combination of entitled and scammer. The environment enables them, the way that high-pressure sales enables mild sociopathy.

    So it’s more important to learn to avoid them and protect yourself than it is to figure out Remora’s true motives. I agree that you should look to your overall career trajectory and your advisor to solve this; beyond this specific problem, it sounds to me like your program has not truly concretized the grad student role as such. Instead they seem to look to you-all, very inappropriately, as core teaching staff and PR people. The program serves you; you don’t serve the program, ever.

    multicoastal is also correct that Remora will most likely burn out, sooner rather than later. The more reason to find yourself FAR away.

    1. deesse877*

      Also, re: your recent comment that your advisor is a bad resource: does your program have a Director of Graduate Studies? How about a Dean or Vice-Provost for Graduate Education? In-department options are a first choice, upper admin a bit of a nuclear option, but if you have a hard limit on time to dissertation it may be time to push that button.

  42. juliebulie*

    Honestly I would just straight-up tell her to stop trying to mooch off of me; either find someone else or learn to live like a grownup.

  43. not neurotypical*

    Do you have a contract that guarantees you a set number of classes to teach each semester, not just this year but through to graduation? If not, then you probably are not in a position to decline to teach a course you have been assigned, not unless you have another source of income such as lab work. In most programs, grad students are in constant competition for a finite number of teaching spots, and compensation is at a flat rate per course (or credit hour) taught. There’s no guarantee you’ll be assigned a different course to replace the one you turned down, and a reputation for being finicky will mean you’ll be less likely to be offered courses in future. If they want to offer this course and it is in your wheelhouse, then the best you can do is lobby to either teach it on your own or be assigned a different co-teacher. Refusing to teach something that needs to be taught is not a recipe for a steady flow of teaching work (which you need for both income and for your CV) into the future.

    1. DoomCarrot*

      We’re not paid for teaching – we’re paid as regular employees of the university whose main job is writing a PhD. (This isn’t the US.) And the amount of teaching we’re meant to do is not quantified.

      Since I don’t actually plan to stay in academia *and* am already above average in teaching hours, it’s not a problem for my CV to turn it down.

      It’s just that without me, they’re stuck, since I’m the only teapot engineer in a humanities-led department that needs to show it’s doing interdisciplinary work to keep its funding.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Really? Then that sounds like you have some leverage here. If they’re stuck without you, then you have some scope to insist on certain things, such as the non-involvement of Remora, because otherwise, sorry but you have this dissertation to work on and that has to be your primary focus and you’ve already done a significant teaching load. (And if it really is too much with your dissertation then go ahead and say that, they want you to finish! Completions are the goal! Perhaps they’ll have to find a different way of getting the interdisciplinary work done)

        1. Elizabeth*

          Agreed! You have leverage if you are that important/desirable! Delineate what you are willing/interested in doing to help the department with and make a requirement be that you aren’t willing to work with Remora on it (because of previous experience XYZ). If they need your help, don’t let your sympathy for them being “stuck” outweigh you prioritizing what you need now (time for your research and dissertation; to not be sabotaged by this woman…) You can be a helpful professional while still advocating for you.

          1. DoomCarrot*

            You’d think – but she scheduled the class for herself in the system, which effectively blocks anyone else from teaching it due to bureaucracy.

            1. AnyaT*

              I guess she’d better get busy learning the topic then! Maybe she could search out some youtube tutorials :)

            2. Boba Feta*

              Wild thought:
              What would happen if you managed to utterly refuse to help her at all the first time the course runs (allowing it to burn in the spectacular halo of incandescent fail we all know it will be) so that the program/ PTB can witness for themselves her ineptitude, and THEN offer to run the course under your name next term? Given the particular politics / relationships in your program, is this something you could pull off?

              “Terribly sorry, but for this term I am absolutely swamped with deadlines. However, [Director], I would happily consider running it my[damn]self next term.”

            3. Samwise*

              Sucks to be her!!!
              She’s scheduled to do the class, let her.
              You are not scheduled to do the class. don’t do it.
              Dept is stuck? Not your problem! Seriously, THEY need YOU.

            4. Observer*

              Well then, DON’T teach it!

              If they would rather let an incompetent idiot wreck the class because she “called first dibs” rather than work around the annoying process necessary to change things, that’s on them.

              “I can’t afford to take on extra efforts that don’t have my name on it” is something these people should understand – especially when you add “Especially since my advisor has instructed me to cut back on the projects I take on.”

      2. drpuma*

        Speaking from outside of academia, so feel free to take this with all the grains of salt, but… They’ve known they need interdisciplinary work to keep their funding, yes? You’re not responsible for whether or not they’re “stuck.” You didn’t tell them to only engage with one academic from outside their discipline. As Alison says all the time, folks leave jobs! Things happen! They would be just as stuck if you dropped the class because you won the lottery tomorrow. Don’t let their poor planning stop you from advocating for yourself.

      3. Properlike*

        Can your answer be, “I would love to, but since my advisor is often unreachable and I’m told I can’t switch, I need to spend more than the average amount of time attempting self-guidance. If only I could have another advisor, I’m sure that would free up more time! Would love to help!”

      4. Lisanthus*

        Hang on a minute. You’re the only teapot engineer in a cohort of 20 PhD students, not to mention the entire humanities-led department? And they know they need to show interdisciplinary work to keep their funding?

        They got themselves into this situation, then. Granted, I don’t know if they offered other teapot engineers or other STEM types admission to the program and were turned down, or didn’t have anyone else with a STEM background apply. Even so, the people in charge of running the program should have considered the possibility of losing their funding this way and put preventive measures in place. That’s just common sense.

        But if they’re “stuck” without you, I’d leverage it as others have suggested as far as you can to solve the Remora problem even if you can’t change the absentee advisor problem.

        1. DoomCarrot*

          I’m the only teapot engineer, but not the *only* STEM person (we have some computer scientists as well). But since the class is, specifically, history of teapot design, they can’t really help.

          The best they could do is teach something related to their work instead, and drop this class. Classes start next week.

          I just feel sorry for the students, really! The department itself…needs some lessons in how to do this properly, even if they have to come from failures.

          It’s the entire department that’s meant to be interdisciplinary, not just the graduate students, but they’re all too “busy” to work on collaborative stuff. (Hah!)

          1. animaniactoo*

            Honestly, let them drop the entire class. Push it back on her advisor. “I’m not sure why she signed up to teach a class that she does not have expertise in, but I cannot collaborate with her on it. Perhaps you can work together with her to create the content for the course, but I need to focus on my dissertation as per my own advisor. After last year’s experience co-teaching with her I know this would create far too much disruption for me to manage.”

            Part of the reason she keeps getting away with this is because neither she – nor anyone in charge of reining her in apparently – has to clean up the mess.

            1. animaniactoo*

              And btw – when push comes to shove, there is somewhere somehow that who the lead instructor on the course is can be changed. Teachers who need to be out unexpectedly, etc. Somewhere, there’s a way to change this. It might be *hard* to do. But there is zero way that it is impossible.

              So I would let them flail for a day or two and then make it clear that your willingness to do the course is contingent on you being credited as the teacher of the course, without involvement from her. It’s your expertise. You’re willing to teach it. You’re willing to collaborate with someone you can rely on to follow the syllabus, etc. (which is not her). You’re not willing to “ghost-teach” it for someone who has no expertise in it but signed up for it anyway rather than signing up to teach something they DO have expertise in.

              1. Observer*

                I was thinking this. After, what would happen if she got run over by a bus?

                I think that, since you don’t plan to stay in academia and you don’t really need to be teaching, you can make your last word be “I will not collaborate with her for the reasons I’ve outlined. When you’ve figured out how to activate the instructions for emergency change of instructor, we can talk again.”

              2. BetsCounts*

                Totally agree that changing the name of the instructor is a PITA, not impossible, but it’s not clear that DoomCarrot wants to use her political capital on this when there is enough other drama at her department to worry about- absent advisor, department head being weird coworkers PI, etc.

          2. Samwise*

            Do NOT save this department from its own stupidity. They are not going to learn any lessons if you save their bacon. They probably won’t learn anyway, but that is not your problem. Are you a faculty member in this dept? No, you are not. Course scheduling, curriculum planning, hiring, etc etc — not your problem. So very not your problem.

            The students will drop the class and scramble for something else, and that is really unfortunate, but again, NOT YOUR PROBLEM and frankly, you yourself all by yourself cannot save them. The dept will get a sucky reputation (or suckier) — too bad for them. You will be gone by then.

          3. Boba Feta*

            You sound like a wonderfully conscientious person and I identify with the guilt attendant to a situation in which students will be negatively impacted by a problem you know you have the means to fix or avoid. However, as others have said above me: this is not. your. problem. to. fix. This is a problem entirely of others’ making, ÜberMooch most of all but also those who allowed her to schedule a course she was unqualified to teach.

            You said it yourself: The department has to learn how to run interdisciplinary programming effectively, and in this case that means they have to feel the pain of it going poorly the first time. If you save them, they’ll just get the (WRONG! BAD!) impression that it worked (!) and there will be nothing to stop the cycle from repeating itself again. Next thing you know, you don’t finish your degree in time and ÜberMooch is adding CV lines left and right. I don’t mean to sound apocalyptic, but I have seen it happen and have very nearly had it happen to me.

      5. boo bot*

        Can you teach the class, but with someone else? I understand that it might be awkward because she suggested it, but as the one who has the necessary expertise, you ought to have some bargaining power here (theoretically, anyway).

  44. Jaybeetee*

    Blargh, that’s gross behaviour. I can’t speak to the academic angle, but I’ve known a couple of people like this socially, and you need to have Serious Boundaries with them – and be stubborn about it. Which at least in my case, I was not always well-socialized to do. You need to say no, and *always* say no.

    What strikes me in your follow-up comments is that she’ll respect your “no” in the moment, but will come back a day or two later with some different outlandish request. I can’t remember the technical term for it, but she’s basically slot-machining you to see what you’ll say “yes” to. And it tends to be pretty effective because a) no one wants to be that heavy who says no all the time, and b) she’s more likely to catch you off-guard in some way or another that leads you to agreeing to something you normally wouldn’t. If you shoot her down 20 times and then say “yes” the 21st time, she learns that she needs to ask you for 21 things to get that “yes” out of you.

    But if you – constantly, relentlessly – say “no” every time, she’ll eventually register that you’re not a “resource” she can use, and leave you alone. She might think not-nice things about you, but you don’t sound too concerned about that.

    Like I said, I can’t speak to the academic politics of it all, but hopefully you can lean on your advisor a little bit, and hopefully you can use your advisor’s feedback to focus more on research to your advantage with this person and her advisor.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      “Slot-machining you to see what you’ll say yes to” is brilliant. It’s like how some people see other people as robots they can control if only they enter the right program, or video games they can control if only they enter the right cheat code.

  45. ThatGuy*

    Here’s how I would have handled this back when I was a graduate student:

    The most important thing is ensuring that your PI will support you. You need to schedule a meeting with them and lay all of this out. I would focus on the academic dishonesty part first and the poor experience teaching second. If you think it would add to your case (rather than getting this dismissed as a personality conflict) you could describe your colleague’s request to live for free in your home and suggest to your PI that some of your colleague’s behavior is related to hurt feelings about you not meeting her unreasonable expectations.

    Then you want your PI to reach out to your colleague’s PI, either by phone or by email, and explain that there are some issues with the colleague. The main thing your PI needs to convey is that they believe you and support you. This sets up a situation where the department head has to listen to you. Then you schedule a meeting with the department head and explain everything you explained to your PI. It really depends on your specific institution whether you could manage the meeting alone or whether your PI should attend with you. I’d ask your PI’s advice on that one.

    After that, I’d expect the department head to speak to your colleague and tell her to knock it off. In the meantime, you should work on doing a lot of collaboration with other people, and teaching some other class without creepy colleague. That way if you get questioned about those things you can point to what you are doing and also state that you’re too busy to work with the problematic colleague. This also establishes relationships with people who can speak up in support of you if your colleague tries to negatively impact your reputation.

    Over time people will get wise to this person’s behavior. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets weeded out, or maybe allowed to complete her masters and then not advanced to PhD candidacy.

  46. So sleepy*

    In a nutshell, this question is really, “How do I deal with a co-worker with boundary issues?”(which I think is important to note as it really influences how the OP should respond)

    OP, right off the bat, I think you need to start responding with shock and awe where shock and awe are warranted. Co-worker asked to live with you (or other completely unreasonable request)? Your response: “What? Are you serious??” “What? No! I don’t even like when people stay with me for a weekend!” “Why wouldn’t you just live with someone who is actually looking for a roommate? [she says you’re free/she likes you/whatever] – Well, I don’t have space/I like my alone time/would charge you just as much/need room for my exotic snakes to free-range in the house, so that’s not going to happen. You’ll have to ask someone else.” Even just “yeah, that’s a hard no”. Don’t elaborate. Don’t give her reasons to pick apart. As they say, no is a full sentence. Or my personal favourite, which my daughter has somehow learned to employ indiscriminately when she doesn’t want to do things, just a “no, thank you.”

    As for the work-specific issues, you definitely need a conversation where you basically say “I am going to do this one, but going forward, I want you to know if you sign up for anything on my behalf without consulting me, the answer will be no”. And then do it. Know she is going to test it, so you need to stand firm. If she asks if something is an issue for you, you say “Yes, it is, actually. This is your presentation/commitment, not mine. You need to tell [her supervisor] that you signed up for this and cannot fulfill your obligation. If he wants me to step in, he can approach me directly and we will come up with a solution, but I can’t step in on your behalf this time, especially seeing as I specifically asked you not to do this”. Then, let your supervisor know you are expecting this request, so when she spins some yarn to her supervisor, yours can respond “yes, OP spoke to me about this, but my understanding was that YoungPhD agreed to do this and her name was on all the public materials and was now asking for coverage. Is that not the case?” It may be that you have to deal with this BS on an ongoing basis, but this will ensure her supervisor (and yours) are aware of the stuff she is pulling. Anything where she is CYA-ing herself, don’t do it unless someone else is aware.

    For the class, I think your best approach will be what AAM recommended. Refuse to collaborate with her. Instead, collaborate with someone else on another course this semester, if you can. Take any opportunities to be collaborative with others. If she complains, respond (to her and others), “I am more than happy to work collaboratively per the terms of our agreement, and we actually taught a class together last year. However, I don’t find we’re a good fit in the classroom and I think, for this course, it would be best if she found someone else to collaborate with. I’m more than happy to take on any other collaborative work you may need support with, though.” Your contract may require collaborative work, but I doubt it requires collaborative work specifically WITH HER.

    If, all said, you get forced to teach this course with her for political reasons, you need to sit her down and say, “listen, the last time we worked together, it did not work well because of XYZ reasons. If we are going to do this, I need you to do/we need to change XYZ (specific changes to how you run the course together), or it’s not going to work. Can I get your commitment to making those changes to our approach?” [either she agrees or she doesn’t] “If you can’t agree to those changes, I really think you need to talk to Cecil about finding a partner with a more similar teaching style to collaborate with. Is that what you want to do, or would you rather make the changes?” [note that you are giving her two reasonable options, without the option to have a repeat of last semester. Repeat as many times as necessary. I’ll go ahead and pretend like this isn’t the exact strategy I use to get my 3 year old to put on his shoes in the morning]. She has a pretty well-developed sense of entitlement, but it will be difficult for her to say “actually, I choose option 3, you will teach the course with me and I will continue to make sure it sucks for our students”.

    She may try to rationalize her way of doing things, in which case you respond, “listen, I completely understand if that’s your preferred approach to managing your classes. However, if you’re not willing to adapt it to work with my style, I think you need to find someone else to teach it with you. Which option would you prefer?”

  47. Oxford Comma*

    OP, this is what you’re going to need to do:

    1. Set up the meeting with your/her adviser/chair. Leave out the encroachments on your living, driving, space. The meeting needs to be about your concerns about academic dishonesty, professional norms, and so on. You can frame it however you need to, but I would leave out your conjectures as to why she’s the way she is, how she wants to live with you, etc. The former isn’t your problem and the latter will just cloud the conversations.

    2. Distance yourself from her as much as humanely possible. No excuses. No softening. Nothing. Just put as much as you can space as you can between yourself and this person. “No, I can’t do that.” Don’t give her an opening or she’ll take it (witness her response to the horse). It will take time, but it sounds like she’s determined you are an easy target and until she learns otherwise, she will just keep coming at you.

    1. DoomCarrot*

      Right now, I’m putting as much physical space between us as possible by working from home, which is semi-permissible between terms. The silence is blissful!

  48. STEMprof*

    What is it about academia that attracts this type of narcissist? I know several academics, some at a very high level, who engage in this kind of manipulative, boundary-disrespecting toxic behavior. They use others to get ahead and then sabotage anyone who they perceive as a threat. That is what’s happening here. She’s not sheltered, she’s toxic.
    I unfortunately don’t have great advice re the course, as a lot depends on your relationship with the chair and her relationship with the chair. But big picture advice: if she has the chair’s favor, proceed with caution. Definitely tell your advisor, but based on what you’ve said, they may have limited influence. Can you cultivate a mentor within your department who could advocate for you? When you interact with her, use email as much as possible (and save all the emails) – so you have evidence if needed. And definitely push back with the chair (or other relevant authority figure) on things like taking credit for your work – that’s still a red line in a lot of academia.

    1. Definitely not an academic*

      Because success is generally determined by how special one is. So every effort is made to be special, and to make sure everyone knows about it. This is passed on to graduate students, who are also encouraged to give every bit of their time, body, soul, and energy to their study, soaking up every bit of dysfunction along the way.

      At the same time, academic jobs are shrinking almost entirely everywhere *and* people like the OP’s coworker who are anything but special but are convinced they are. There are way, way, waaaaaay more candidates for a given academic job than there are jobs to begin with, especially in some fields. So not only is it super toxic and super competitive, it’s also for most people a path to nowhere.

      In digital humanities (OP?), one can distinguish herself properly, such as OP has done, by having a (actually) needed specialty, or one can distinguish oneself by being a righteous tool, a walking poster child for D-K syndrome.

  49. YetAnotherUsername*

    This is one situation where politics can work in your favor. Print out what you wrote and show it to your supervisor. Or even just talk to your supervisor. tell her the whole story.

    I bet your supervisor won’t be happy and will sort this out quick smart. what makes you look bad makes your supervisor look bad.

  50. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    This is a Tracy Flick disguised as an Elle Woods. Do whatever it takes to keep her out of your life.

  51. Probably Nerdy*

    Ermagerd – my sister is exactly like this, entitled to everything, me me me, it’s ridiculous.

    The way I dealt with my sister is to get used to being a “beyotch” to her (I don’t think I’m being one but any pushback is perceived by her as “mean”). I recommend completely dropping the rope. Needs a ride? No. Wants to stay with me? No. Can’t afford something and wants me to pay? Then I can’t afford it either. Wants me to do something? No. She’s also always late for everything so I ensure that I never have to rendezvous with her anywhere.

    She won’t ever understand her behavior and its impacts. No point talking about it.

  52. Boop*

    This isn’t work-related, but I can’t believe she thought she was just going to help herself to your horse!
    1) May not be a riding horse
    2) May not be suitable for beginner
    3) OP may not want anyone else to ride the horse (I’d be pretty picky if I had a horse!)
    4) OP is probably not a certified instructor, and it can be very dangerous for someone not qualified to try to teach a beginner
    5) When is OP going to ride if she is going to be spending her regular time teaching colleague?
    6) OMFG!!!!!

  53. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    The situation with your advisor reminds me of something my dean once said: “Bad graduate programs encourage bad faculty to be bad.” I worked at a Research I university for nine years, and I understand that faculty would rather work on research than teach. But your advisor chose to work in a position where he is expected to mentor graduate students, and he’s not doing it. Politics, I get it, I really do; but if you are the only doctoral student there with certain engineering skills, the yes, you have leverage.

    If it were me, I’d go to the graduate program directors of both your program and hers, just with the bare facts. I had a problem with an dis-communicative advisor in grad school, and this is what worked. The department head has a whole department to run; whereas the grad program director focuses only on the work of grad students and their mentors. So, your grad program director hears about your awful advisor — just with the dry info you’ve given us here — then with her grad program director to let that person know about misrepresentation issues. After that, you are working on your own research and have no time for her.

    Yes, students will suffer, and that is a bitch to reconcile yourself to. However, you did not create this situation — she did, and your institution did, with this bullshit piece of bureaucracy that says no-one can override her booking the class in her name because she got there first. I mean, come the eff on, really?

    Let her crash and burn. The students will live.

  54. Beth*

    With the department head: Come up with some good excuses for why you can’t do this class right now. You’re planning this other exciting class with this other colleague! Your research is at a stage where you really need to focus on that! You’re prioritizing your own coursework this semester so you can get it wrapped up as soon as possible! Whatever you can make a compelling case for based on where you are in the program. Saying “I can’t because ___” will probably maintain more goodwill than “I won’t because your student is a nightmare to work with,” even if the latter is true.

    With this classmate: Say no more strongly. Be blunt. Stop explaining or justifying why–she’s not listening to your reasons, she’s just treating them as new avenues to convince you to say yes, so stop offering her the chance. She’s not living with you because you said no. She’s not carpooling with you because you said no. She’s not presenting on a topic with you because you said no. She’s not co-teaching a class with you because you said no. She’s not riding your horse because you said no. End of story. Also, distance yourself from her if you can. You’re not her big sister, you’re her peer, and she’s taking advantage of your general collegiality. She’s not someone who’s going to help your career, clearly; be civil, because professionalism, but it’s okay to keep your distance from her and refuse to engage beyond basic politeness and work needs.

    With other peers who she may be telling you’ll do X or Y without you agreeing to it: If your graduate program is anything like mine, there’s likely a very active gossip network. You probably know who tends to be the ones organizing things, keeping track of who gets along with who and who’s currently studying what, etc. Next time you’re hanging out with those people, talk about this situation! Just mention it in passing–“Oh yeah, it’s actually been kind of a rough week–Kelly apparently told Ben I’d agreed do this lecture series with her, but she never talked to me about it and I’m not actually up for it, so I’ve been navigating that nonsense. Anyways, how’s your week been?” Have two or three conversations like that, and people will start to get the picture. (Added bonus: I suspect you’re not the only one she’s doing this to, based on your description of her character. By talking about it openly, you might just find some support from others dealing with the same issues.)

  55. Clay on my apron*

    This woman is an absolute leech, and/or completely clueless. I’m not sure how you haven’t punched her in the nose, she sounds so obnoxious. I’m fuming on your behalf.

    Alison’s advice feels a bit on the soft/apologetic side for me, and I’d tackle it a bit more head on.

    My advice
    1. Document all of this behaviour including the stuff that seems non work related. It’s all part of a pattern of grabbiness and boundary crossing
    2. Find out whether your peers are experiencing the same issues
    3. Use more direct language with her, e.g.
    – “Why would I want to let you move into my place for free?!? If I wanted a roommate, which I don’t, they’d have to pay their way.”
    – “No, I’m not going to be a guest lecturer, and you’d better go and sort that out right away. You can’t offer other people’s time without first confirming it with them.”
    – (straight after the first class) “What happened there? You ignored the structure we’d worked out together. We can’t work together if you’re going to do that.”
    At the same time consider your tone so that you don’t come across as aggressive. Amused disbelief seems about right for most of these scenarios.
    4. Follow up where relevant to cover yourself, e.g.
    – “Hey Ethel, I just spoke to Grabbella and about the lecture series. Unfortunately G didn’t confirm my availability before she spoke to you; I’m committed elsewhere and won’t be able to participate.” CC Grabbella
    – “Hi Grabbella, I see you’ve put together a really interesting curriculum, I wish you had checked with me first because I’m already working with with Binky this semester.” CC your supervisor

    All this with a pinch of salt though because I’ve never worked in academia.

    Good luck and please share an update!

  56. Elizabeth West*

    The youngest has had a very sheltered upbringing as an only child with indulgent parents, never held an actual job . . .

    What I am seeing is someone who has never been allowed to fail or do anything for herself, and who’s been given anything she wants or needs. She reminds me a lot of a woman on that old self-help TV show, Starting Over. Anyone remember Lisa, aka Baby Lisa, on that show?* She had rich parents who paid for everything, had never worked, and was a 40-year-old helpless child. Your peer in this program is basically her. Unlike Lisa, who sought help with her issue, she may not realize she has one. But yanno, it doesn’t have to be you.

    It sounds like she’s used to getting her way, but she also could be clinging because she’s scared shitless and out of her depth. She’s now expected to actually do things, she’s never had to do things, and of course she’s falling back on what works for her — that is, getting someone else to do it (or clean up after her when she inevitably effs it up). This doesn’t necessarily scream mental illness to me; it screams that her parents did a piss-poor job of parenting, the goal of which is to raise a being who can TAKE CARE OF ITSELF at the point it leaves the nest. A lot of kids who are raised like this have little to no self-efficacy.

    I feel like Alison’s advice is good, but OP, don’t feel badly if you don’t want to take on the role of *big sister* (i.e. substitute parent). I’d definitely stress collaborating with others in the program; you don’t want to cut yourself off from that opportunity because of her.

    1. LilySparrow*

      I think she has a high degree of self-efficacy at lying and blackmail.

      She was not confused about whether OP volunteered to teach, etc. She purposely tried to get OP over a barrel, and use the higher-ups to force OP into doing her work.

  57. agnes*

    oh boy, this sounds like someone I got partnered with in my graduate program! I wish someone had given me advice like you have received from AAM and many others. Honestly, this “colleague” almost drove me crazy. I was a wife and mother and she was just….well…..crazy and immature. Please use the suggestions you have been given sooner rather than later. It will not get better until you do something.

    1. Anonforthis*

      Bit baffled at your framing of “wife and mother” vs “crazy and immature”. Pregnancy and marriage are not the preserve of the sane and mature.

  58. Seeing Right Through It*

    I think OP is giving this woman entirely too much credit. It sounds like she knows exactly what she is doing. She is manipulating OP and probably many other people into supporting her career, and playing the young innocent card to get away with it. OP, call her out to her face, and the to your supervisor.

  59. justk*

    I wish the title of this post was ‘my coworker feels entitled to my time, expertise, car, house, AND HORSE’ bc that is just… fully, hilariously beyond the pale.

  60. animaniactoo*

    Hmmmm. From the other info you’ve given through this thread, there’s another angle you might be able to play: “I am willing to be collaborative, I have no idea why she has given you the idea that I am not. However, I have not been approached to do a collaboration. I was not consulted in advance about whether I wished to work on this course. I was not given an opportunity to help shape the Syllabus structure, I have had no requests for potential lesson plans or other feedback which might have been useful for determining pacing, etc. Frankly, I would level the charge of unwillingness to collaborate back at Leech; as she has made no prior attempt to include me in anything while heavily relying on my participation for this course to exist at all. That is not my understanding of how collaboration works.”

  61. Not Rebee*

    I’m sure you’re used to fielding this type of comment/inquiry all the time, but as someone with a very green baby (off the track, like 4 months of retraining on him and rehabbing from a bowed tendon) I find that leaning in to how complicated and psychotic my horse is really cuts down on interest. In the past when I have had less green horses, I’ve leaned on them being extremely sensitive.. just because a horse is well behaved for an experienced rider doesn’t mean it’s beginner-friendly! Don’t be afraid to make your horse seem like a danger zone if it’ll keep random strangers from trying to cut in.

    1. Clay on my apron*

      The problem with this is that it doesn’t actually establish boundaries and requires a different elaborate excuse each time.

      Of course, you can have fun with that too ;)

      “Oh, you can’t move in with me. I still haven’t got the cockroaches under control and the constant fumigation is hell on the sinuses.”

      “I won’t be able to do those guest lectures. I have to go for my rabies shots.”

      “Of course we can carpool! It’ll be great to have someone to push when I break down again. It’s been happening so often lately.”

      “I’m looking forward to teaching with you again. I want you to cover (all the topics she doesn’t understand). It’ll be great experience for you.”

    2. DoomCarrot*

      When I bought him, he was labelled a “killer horse”. So I just spread that story around. But really – it’s not about whether or not she can ride him, but about her assumptions that she can just help herself to my life being so ridiculous!

  62. DoomCarrot*

    Hmmm, I’ve just realised that one major mistake I made was still having her on my social media, back from when we were all new and looking for connections.

    That seems to be how she knows enough about my personal life to make specific demands.

    Time for a discreet cull, I think.

    1. CatMomma1689*

      That sounds like a smart move. Please update us about how these strategies help you moving forward!

    2. Close Bracket*

      If you are talking about FB, just put her on your restricted list. If you defriend her, it will probably start recommending her as a friend based on her being mutual friends with the other students. LI does that, too, and I don’t think they have a “restricted” option. I don’t know about Instagram. Your only choice may be to block her.

      1. Hedgehug*

        I second this. If it’s FB, then de-friending her will make things awkward. I would limit her access to your posts, what she can and cannot see. And do it with the others you work with, otherwise, one of your other colleagues will say “oh hey! I saw on FB you went hiking this weekend!” and she’ll be like, “I didn’t see that! Howcome I can’t see that?”, etc.

        1. Jess*

          Algorithms, am I right? Gosh, it’s SO WEIRD how sometimes things just don’t show up! Whelp, nothing we can do about that, how about that local sports team…

  63. Artemesia*

    The professor who is telling you, well you need to do this course with her because she can’t do it should be resolutely told no — you will not work with her. It is a classic ‘not your circus’ situation. You didn’t create a class with a crappy syllabus you couldn’t teach. They are telling you, they can’t remove her name from it and yet it won’t be any good. NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Don’t cave. NOT YOUR PROBLEM. And have other pressing things you must do.

  64. LilySparrow*

    Look, I don’t know anything about academia, so I have nothing to offer about the politics.

    But I know about liars and users. I’m afraid your perception that she sees you as an “older sister” is too optimistic. She sees you as an easy mark.

    Rule 1: Never forget that she tells lies. She’s lied about you volunteering, she’s lied about you refusing to collaborate. You may have to talk about them to others as “misunderstandings” or “miscommunication” because of politics, but always remember in your own mind that these were deliberate lies, done to force you to comply with her wishes.

    2) Never believe anything she tells you without outside verification. And check your sources – if they are relying on her info, they aren’t reliable either.

    3) Document everything you do, and cover your ass with higher ups. Default to maximum transparency, regular reports and check-ins, cc’s (not bcc’s) about everything, all the time. The best defense against blackmail and manipulation is to be an open book.

    4) Don’t allow her any access to your personal life, and don’t have any personal conversations. Assume that anything you say will be twisted and repeated to someone, sometime, as ammunition to embarrass you or get you in trouble – even if it has to be totally distorted to do so. You know she will distort it – she tells lies.

    5) Be prepared for reprisals when you start telling her no. She’s tried it once already with the “refusing to collaborate” nonsense. She will escalate.

    6) Be as diplomatic as you have to be, but no more. The more you can flatly say “that is incorrect,” “that is not what happened,” “I did not agree to that,” etc, and back it up, the quicker she will give up and move on to someone else, or be exposed.

    Best of luck to you! Hopefully, the more transparent and cheerfully-Teflon you are with her, the quicker everyone else will see what’s really going on.

  65. Kitty*

    A person who doesn’t understand how utterly bizarre it is to ask to move into someone’s one bedroom apartment without paying rent (!!!!) is not someone who understands boundaries or common sense at all. Stay away!

  66. Hedgehug*

    OP, DoomCarrtot, you wrote: “She’s repeatedly promised people things that will make her look good but expected the actual content to come from me (like taking over the department website but telling others they needed to write the blog for her) or told our department head, without asking me first, that I had volunteered to be the “guest lecturer” for a lecture series she signed up to give but didn’t know enough about. (And then she told me that she’d already printed the posters with only her name on them, but that wouldn’t be an issue for me, right?)”

    What is your response when she does this? Do you or others continue to bail her out of her own stupidity? Because she needs to learn to stop doing this and take ownership for her actions and to stop making promises and having others fulfill them. It’s severely disrespectful to you and the others, she’s treating you like servants. Bailing her out is enabling her bad behaviour, and contributing to her acting like a spoiled princess. If she did that to me, I would flat out say to her, “Uhhhh yeah I am definitely not doing that, sorry. Don’t have time.” And then if she whines and says “But I promised so and so!”, then I would say, “Yeah well you shouldn’t have promised something that you can’t follow through on.”. You need to throw the shovel at her so she learns how to dig herself out of the holes she creates for herself. No sympathy. That’s part of the growing pains of growing up and learning to be independent.

  67. Tiger Snake*

    OP, I want to highlight that there’s a very clear pattern of pushing boundaries and pressing further over time because she got passed that first boundary. Glommy didn’t start by calling you uncollaborative to your department head, she;
    1. Arranged for the two of you to create course last year that you developed together
    2. Disregarded what you’d agreed to as a pair, resulting in you conforming to her own ideas and whims
    3. Following the groundwork of 1 and 2, set up a course instance where you did all the heavy lifting and she got to be the leader regardless.

    If you’d shut her down at step 2, she’d not have been able to get to step 3. She’s learnt that your protests and your ‘no’ are soft and can be changed, and that if she pushes just right, she can get what she wants from you.
    That doesn’t mean Glommy’s behaviour is your fault; it means that you need to understand that once she’s got step 3, there’s probably a step 4 and onwards coming as well.

    Alison’s given good advice for handling this latest issue – but look for the other patterns. It sounds like she’s pushing you on a lot of fronts, and this is just the first one to step on your bottom line. Work out what else you need to push back on before it gets to this point.

  68. Gabrielle Schiavo*

    Is there any way to let the others know not to believe you’re agreeing to something without speaking with you first? I don’t know the proper words for academia but something along the lines of “In the past others have volunteered me for things without consulting me first. Going forward, please note not to believe those offers unless you hear it from me personally.”

    And I’m guessing from your description of her upbringing that she’s used to others bailing her out and expects it of you, like she expects it from others. I have to wonder who “helped” her with her school work over the semesters for her have advanced this far being so clueless about doing her own work.

  69. Tenured Academic*

    I really don’t have anything to add except, what everyone else said. Treat her like a bad employee and document everything. Put your regrets in writing, keep the thread. Keep everything in the super civil “bless her heart” style. Wish I could help. Wish you had come to me sooner. Keep your private life private.
    The semester is starting now. No prep, bad partner, no. just no.
    I had exactly this experience my second year. I had the expertise. Got maneuvered into co-teaching a course. The co-teacher did not follow the syllabus, zero collaboration, screwed up the grading, was unavailable for meetings and final projects were all on me. Put my name on a course last year without consulting me. Did a big No (politely of course) and ccd department chair, my direct supervisor so that there was no question that I was being roped into the class. There was “good for the dept. shows collaborations noises” But my no was a no and I focussed my energy on my own classes, collaborating with colleagues who were actually collaborating, research and publications. There was no negative fall out for me.

      1. Tenured Academic*

        yes, and people don’t get that “getting along” is one of the most prized of academic skills. Therefore do your best to “not engage” Appearances are everything. And yes everything did work out. I did all of my venting outside of the University with trusted friends across the country. It is great to listen to feedback that says, yes the individual is selfish, manipulative and here is how to side step their unreasonable demands.

  70. DoomCarrot*

    For those playing along at home, we just had the following conversation in the kitchen:

    Reasonable Coworker: Thanks for lending me your device, Remora, but unfortunately, I can’t get it to turn on.

    Remora: Oh, yeah, it’s broken – you’ll have to get it fixed if you want to use it. DoomCarrot, since RC has my device, can you do some things for me on yours?


    1. Carlie*

      OMG no. At this point she’s become a cartoon caricature of a narcissist. You mentioned her saying you were like an “older sister” – it sounds more like she’s treating you as a pushover parent. Have you tried something like “No. I’m not your mom. You have to figure out how to do things for yourself.” ? I’ve noticed with a lot of people that telling them they’re acting like a needy toddler knocks them out of what they’re doing. (note: I have no hope that this will work. I’m just enjoying the thought of you telling her this, and it’s not at all inappropriate to say to her.)

      Since your PI is basically AWOL on this, I think you do need to jump up to the next level of your own department chair. Not hers, since they’re her advisor. Don’t worry about the politics – this is exactly the kind of situation politics was meant for. If the two of them butt heads often, yours will probably jump right at the chance to go to bat for you over this and take it to the dean’s level if necessary. And honestly, it does reveal a flaw in the organization. If it’s impossible to settle issues like this at a lower level because of the cross-departmental nature of what you’ve been asked to do (and the bias inherent in the system!) , that’s an infrastructure flaw that needs to be pointed out. If I were your department chair, I’d find it completely inappropriate that you were being leaned on by a student in another department and that the chair was backing her up in order to fill some gaps in what they need. Your chair needs to be selfish about you on a chair-to-chair level – let them. Give them the info about the professional stuff (leaving out the personal stuff, as mentioned by many people above) and ask them to back you up when you start consistently turning Remora down for collaborative work. If they’re a good chair, they should take that as a hint and have a well-placed conversation or two that should stop her altogether.

    2. animaniactoo*

      Uh. No. I have to agree with EngineerGirl above now. There is NOBODY who is that completely clueless. I’ve been witness to this kind of thing before. Remora is a scam artist. She is very very good at acting oblivious to the effect of her actions. Because if she acts oblivious to it, that makes it much harder for people to call her out on it. But she’s not oblivious – she’s just repeatedly trying it on all the time. I doubt she knows how to *not* try it on given that she just raised it to that level of transparency.

      Which should hopefully make this easier for you: If you view everything she asks of you as the actions of a scam artist attempting to get something from you, you can decrease the urge to go along with it – no matter who else it helps out. You don’t have to declare her a scam artist to others. You simply need to decline to go along with anything that is unreasonable. Calmly and cheerfully as if it is just as matter of fact and reasonable for you to do so as she is acting is the unreasonable thing is. “No, sorry, if you need a device, I suggest you get yours back from RC and get it repaired. Or perhaps you could use one of the library’s/IT dept might have an extra you could borrow while yours is being repaired.”

      Don’t ever answer immediately – say “hold on, I just need to think about my schedule” or whatever will give you cover time to figure out the “no” that you’re going to come up with.

      1. Anonforthis*

        I actually also think it’s a form of dominance / bullying. She knows DoomCarrot doesn’t want to lend her the device / put her up for free / drill holes in her wall. But I bet she gets a lovely thrill when she succeeds in getting her way at other people’s expense.

    3. DoomCarrot*

      Don’t worry. The reply to this was laughter from both of us until she took her coffee and ran. There may be fallout. I don’t care.

  71. Scarlet*

    Um WOW

    How outrageous can you get? How dare she lie and take credit for your work? How dare she be so self absorbed as to think you owe her something or need to provide for her? This child needs to be SHUT DOWN. I am furious on your behalf, OP.

    Isn’t academic dishonesty a HUGE deal though? I would think that alone could shut down all of this. And although I do like Alison’s approach – talk to her like a big sister, but what if you just vocalized everything you wrote here with her? Would she be mad? Would she hold a grudge? Would she refuse to collaborate with you in the future and then could you complain to her boss that she refuses to collaborate as per your contract?

    Muahahahah karma

  72. post-academic in academia land*

    I had a PhD colleague like this once. She made us start an academic journal and then tried to back out everything. When she snaked back in and tried to get me to take things over for her via an email. I simply cc’d the rest of the team into my polite reply. She promptly quit in a bout of fake outrage. Job done.

  73. Captain Awkward*

    If you’re seeking permission to respond to everything this person says with some version of “No thanks” or “NO that doesn’t work for me” for the rest of time, here it is. Do you want to split a sandwich/build a snowman/ride home together/share notes? “No thanks.” “Oh, that won’t work for me.”

    And if anyone tries to tell you you are being a bad team member, if you are seeking permission to laugh and say “If you say so! You’re welcome to work with her, I’m out though,” here it is. “Jane has a practice of both overpromising and underdelivering and stealing credit for what I deliver, so I don’t see future collaboration happening for us.” There’s a thing that happens in academia (as everywhere else) where everyone’s a little afraid to go at the aggressively difficult person so they try to cajole the reasonable person into enabling whatever it is (or cajole the stronger student into mentoring the weaker one) and you can nip that in the bud. “Oh, I agree, teamwork skills are very important, which is why someone who wants to mentor Jane should probably intervene at some point, it could really hurt her career if she carries on this way. Anyway, I’m looking forward to working with Frances and Joan on the next iteration of the journal…”

    She’s not a lost puppy she’s a grownass woman and this is no Elle Woods in disguise. She is manipulative as hell, and the more distance you can get between you, the more you can wrest your education back into your hands.

    1. Former Employee*

      Thank you. The words “manipulative” and “user” came to mind when I read the OP’s letter.

  74. Tessa*

    This kind of person will say totally different things to different people to get what she wants, and it will never end.

    Go into CYA mode and stay there at all times. Always circle back with others where she’s concerned, and be sure that whoever you report to has a clear idea of your work and contributions. Don’t ever trust she will represent you or your conversations accurately if it doesn’t serve her goals. Do it all matter-of-factly and with professionalism. If you let it get drama-llama it will make it easy for her to paint herself as a victim.

    And get comfortable pushing back with her directly. Her personality will likely never change, but you can say things like, “That’s not reasonable.” She tests boundaries because she’s looking for ways to get away with things.

    I work with two people like this–one is very covert and the other is much more overt. CYA, be polite, make sure your work is visible, check in and maintain healthy work relationships with others, and push back politely when she is being unreasonable.

    She will likely never, ever change, so don’t get sucked into her drama.

  75. Alice's Rabbit*

    OP, you need to get on your superiors’ good side yesterday. I mean it. Academics are not about being the smartest or the most knowledgeable. In that field, more than any other, it’s who you know. Piss off the wrong professor, and you will never publish. But it he thinks well of you, you can get away with almost anything.
    That’s what she’s doing here. She has volunteered to run the blog, to give lectures, to teach classes… as far as they can see, she’s the ideal academic. Because they don’t know that it’s all built on the work of others.
    So now, they’ve only heard her side of the story, and you wonder why they’re siding with her? She’s their golden girl! Why would they have any reason to suspect she’s being manipulative?
    At this point, you have to guard yourself from her by getting out in front of her. Get friendly with your bosses, and their bosses. Volunteer to guest lecture for her class once, but regretfully explain that you simply can’t co-teach the entire semester with her. And that if you had been consulted earlier, all this could have been resolved in plenty of time. Unfortunately, she made up the syllabus without asking if you would teach the class, and so she’s going to have to figure it out on her own. So sorry, but you need to focus on X and Y this semester. If only she were a team player, and asked people in a timely manner, instead of assuming they will say yes and not telling them until it’s too late. “She does this constantly, you see, and I can’t keep covering for her like I did during our last class together. I’m so sorry, but I can’t sacrifice my academic career to keep fixing her screw ups.”

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