Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Horrific Tale

I ran into a buddy of mine yesterday. He was sitting on a wall, looking vacant. In fact, he looked like all hell. Toni is one of my few collegues who I respect. He has a heavy teaching load. He is very professionally active, gives papers and gets invited to give papers, and publishes quite a bit, in only the very best journals. I had not seen Toni in a while, so I asked him how things were. What I got in response was what I have titled 'A Horrific Tale'.

A couple of years ago, Toni started dating Joan. Joan also works at our institution, but has a bit of a bad reputation. According to the students, she is a bad teacher. She also has not published in years. She is not well respected, being known to be hysterical, full of herself, and egotistical. Despite being a white middle aged lady, from a very middle class family, she is one of those people who claims discrimination the moment there is even a suggestion of criticism of her (apparently, she has never made a mistake in her life). Many people avoid Joan, because the believe that she is both paranoid and crazy. When I heard that Toni and Joan had started dating, I suggested to him that this might not be the best idea. I was not the only person who expressed concern. He said that he was aware of the issues, but thought that he could handle them.

Several months ago, Toni and Joan split up. He was sanguine about it. She left him, but he was thinking of getting out himself, so it was not a big deal. Toni has since started seeing a new women, who is much better for him. However, it seems that Joan has found a 'novel' way to keep bugging Toni. As he told me about the details, I was horrified.

It seems that some time after they quit dating, Joan sent Toni a letter by registered mail, asking Toni to stop stalking here. According to Toni, this was a bit of a surprise, as he had had no contact with Joan in quite a while. Joan even went to see the Provost about the issue. Toni tells me that the Provost told him that he did not take Joan too seriously, describing her and being paranoid and incoherent. Famously, on another occasion, the Provost described Joan as being like 'academic acid rain'.

It seemed that last week some time Toni had been trying to find a book at his house. He had not had any luck finding it, despite looking for it for several days. Apparently, Joan had moved things around in Toni's house last summer, when see was supposed to be keeping an eye on it. So, she was possibly the only person who might know where the book had got to. Thus, Toni tried to call Joan to ask where he might look. When he got no reply, he sent her an e-mail asking the same question. This apparently was a major mistake on his part. He told me that he assumed that Joan's madness might have abaited. Boy, was he wrong!

The next day, Toni got a visit from the University Police. Joan had flied a police report about Toni, once again claiming that he was stalking her. According to Toni, the police were quite nice, as they had seen the e-mail he sent and concluded that it could hardly be said to be anything other than an innocent request. Toni said that the whole incident scared him quite a bit though. The police recommended that Toni try and do things in the company of others, so that he would have witnesses, should Joan make any other accusations.

Now, I have known Toni quite a while. He is the last person to be a stalker. These accusations just seem to be crazy. However, it seems that when a woman accuses a man of such things, she is given the benefit of the doubt. It sounds to me like Joan is abusing the police system, for goodness knows what reason, to harrass Toni. Either that, or she really is paranoid and crazy. Possibly both.

When I saw Toni, he was suffering from a further shock. He had had a phone call from the Town Police also advising him that they too had received a report from Joan! They too suggested that Toni should keep well away from Joan. Toni had even talked with his lawyer. To file one police report sounded a bit much. To file two, appears to me to be simply barmy. To make matters worse, Joan had apparently shown up briefly, in the corridor outside Toni's office that day, while he was talking to a student. She had also parked her car in the space that Toni usually uses. Joan appeared to be trying her level best to annoy Toni. She succeeded in making him feel very unhappy and uncomfortable. Toni thinks that this was all some kind of attention seeking behavior.

What I do not get is how someone like Joan can be allowed to get away with such behavior. Are there not laws about wasting police time? Has anyone else heard of this kind of thing? This whole sad tale reduces my faith in human nature. It fills me with nausea. I will be doing my best to do what I can to protect Toni. I know that there will be several others who will volunteer to do likewise. What a sick world we live in.

The CP


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