Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Stalking of Faculty: Results of a Nationwide Survey

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Stalking of Faculty: Results of a Nationwide Survey

Article excerpt

Stalking behaviors on college campuses have been studied and recognized for some time. However, student stalking of college faculty has remained relatively unrecognized. In the present study, college faculty across the United States completed online surveys about their experiences with student stalking in order to obtain lifetime and twelve month prevalence rates. Faculty reported demographic information about their campuses, the types of stalking behaviors experienced, characteristics of the student stalkers, emotional reactions to the stalking incidents, and the impact that student stalking had on the faculty member's behavior in and out of the classroom. Current results replicated previous research on university stalking (Morgan, 2009), both in terms of reported stalking rates and types of stalking behaviors reported.

Keywords: stalking, student-professor relationships, harassment


In June of 2009, a former student at Harold Washington College in Chicago, Illinois was arrested for stalking a professor (, 2009). The student threatened the professor with a crowbar but was disarmed before the professor was physically injured. The student was arrested at the scene shortly after the altercation. Situations like these can end very differently. In 2002, a student murdered three professors at the University of Arizona after receiving a failing grade in one class (, 2002).

Stalking is defined as any behavior that involves a pattern of persistent, unwanted interactions and communications that would create fear in the victim or a reasonable person (Purcell, Pathe, & Mullen, 2002). Stalking is different from harassment in that stalking creates fear while harassment is annoying (Purcell, Pathe, & Mullen, 2004). Although the term stalking was originally used in the context of fans who obsessively pursued celebrities, the term is now used more generally to describe persistent threatening behavior in an interpersonal relationship (Purcell, Pathe, & Mullen, 2002).

Lifetime prevalence rates for stalking in the general population range from an estimated 4.5% (Basile, Swahn, Chen, & Saltzman, 2006) to 6% (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2003) to 24% (Purcell, Pathe, & Mullen, 2004). Stalking can occur during romantic relationships, at the end of romantic relationships, in therapeutic relationships such as those with psychologists, psychiatrists and medical doctors, and, in the case of celebrities, where no prior relationship may have existed (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2003). Approximately 84% of stalking cases involve a male perpetrator; 75% of victims are female with the majority between the ages of 16 and 30 (Purcell, Pathe & Mullen, 2002).

Research on stalking in the general population has identified several typologies (Mullen, Pathe, Purcell, & Stuart, 1999; Roberts & Dziegielewski, 2006). Roberts and Dziegielewski (2006), for example, described three categories of stalking behavior: domestic violence stalkers who are the most common, the delusional stalker or one suffering from erotomania, and the nuisance stalker. The domestic violence stalker represents situations where the victim and the stalker were previously involved in an intimate relationship. According to Purcell, Pathe and Mullen (2002), this occurs in approximately 13% of stalking cases. The delusional or erotomanic stalker, according to Roberts and Dziegielewski (2006), is an individual who becomes fixated on someone of a higher social status or in a higher position of power. The stalker may believe the victim is actually in love with them even though the two may have never met. The third category, the nuisance stalker, harasses the victim through indirect means such as telephone calls, letters, faxes, and countless e-mails (Roberts & Dziegielewski, 2006).

A second system for describing stalkers may be seen when looking at those who stalk mental health therapists. …

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