I’m having a social problem at work. I’m a female student in a physics PhD program. This means that I’m in kind of a weird spot where: (1) my coworkers are also kind of supposed to be my friends, and (2) the gender ratio is really, *really* bad (<15%).
When I first came in, I repeatedly made it very clear that I didn’t want to get involved with anyone in my department, and managed to get set up with a solid group of friends with a decent male/female mix (girlfriends, spouses, etc.). The people in my department seem decent. The problem is with our incoming class. There is a student in the incoming cohort who talks about how #metoo is overrated (Louie C.K. had his career unfairly cut short and is valiantly rebuilding it) and watches comedians who do blackface routines. He’s the only student who did his undergrad here, so he has a lot more confidence than most of the other new students. The incoming class is mostly international students, with a few domestic students scattered in. I hope (?) that a lot of the international students just don’t have the cultural context to understand what they’re laughing along with, but I’m not sure. Two of the domestic students were pretty quiet. I’m hoping that meant ‘uncomfortable’.
I’m stuck in this program for the next four years. I’d rather not have all of the professional contacts that I can make be tainted by these attitudes. It’s not the kind of culture that I want to take root, and I feel like if I’m going to do anything to limit it, I need to do it now while everyone in that year is still figuring things out and kind of wrong-footed. I’m one of only four girls in an active social group of around thirty people, which puts me in a weaker position. There are zero black people in the whole department.
What are the best ways for me to stop him from influencing overall department culture? I have strong social ties with older students I can pull on, but I don’t want to look like the bitchy overly PC woman bullying the new kid to the rest of his incoming class. I can’t be heavy-handed about this, but it’s also really not OK. What’s the smartest way to do this?
Don’t Want To Be The Funwrecker