An open letter to Tithi Bhattacharya

Dear Tithi,

I am writing to you because as Bill Mullen’s wife, you more than anyone have a right to know that quite a few girls at Purdue University have been the target of your husband’s inappropriate solicitations. Perhaps you already suspect; it would be hard for everything to go completely unnoticed when you teach in the same university.
Have you seen the way he leers at his female students? Have you seen the anything-but-accidental touches? If you haven’t, you will. It’s only a matter of time before he slips up and gets caught.
Of course, it is easier to turn a blind eye to what’s happening than to confront such an uncomfortable reality. Much is at stake: your relationship with Bill, your reputation on campus, his reputation on campus, and even little Shayari – the innocent bystander in all of this mess. When she grows up, she will eventually have to come to terms with her father’s failures as a husband and as a professor.
Tithi, I implore you to conduct an investigation of your own before he covers his tracks. Pay attention. There are likely things Elizabeth Petrasovic knows about Bill that you are only faintly becoming aware of.
It’s tempting to sweep incidents like these under the rug, but for the sake of truth and justice, they must emerge. Read my story, and the stories of other young women who have been on the receiving end of his advances. Then you can come to your own conclusion and decide how best to act.

Regards,
Nicole

My Own Experience with Bill Mullen: Creepy Questions

I was very excited to take Bill Mullen’s American Studies 601 class because of my passion for American history and American exceptionalism. His political angle aligned with mine, and I couldn’t wait to delve deeper into the material. Unfortunately, a dark cloud was cast over my learning experience, in the form of Professor Mullen’s inappropriate comments.
Before I knew this about him I attended his office hours, where it was just me and him. I had come to get his feedback on a first draft of a paper I had written for his class. At first he was professional, answering my questions and providing constructive feedback. But then he steered the conversation into a personal direction. He asked me if I had a boyfriend; I answered him no. He started asking me if I was interested in working class men, in older men. It seemed like he was interested in examining my personal life through the lens of the theories we were studying in his class. I felt extremely uncomfortable, and vowed never to go to his office hours again.
But in spite of my efforts to avoid one-on-one time with this professor, I fell into his snare again a few weeks later. I was packing up my bag and was the last to leave. He stopped me at the door and asked, with a creepy twinkle in his eye, if I’d “reconsidered expanding my repertoire of beaus” to different demographics. He stood way too close to me and it felt like a romantic proposition. I was really embarrassed and stunned, and didn’t know what to say.
The worst part of this whole situation is how it distracted me the entire semester. Instead of focusing on the material, I was focused on avoiding Professor Mullen. I started dreading going to his class – which I had been so looking forward to taking – not knowing what he would say to me next.

 

Lena’s Story: Ogling and Inappropriate Comments
I was a sophomore when I took a class with Prof. Mullen and didn’t know what to expect. Nobody told me anything was off about him, and I was interested in learning more about American Studies. The first time Bill Mullen was inappropriate was when I ran into him near Heavilon Hall. He approached me, acted very friendly and asked if I would be interested in attending a pro-Palestine event he organized on campus. I told him I had plans and couldn’t make it. He said something like “Such a shame. Our movement really needs a beautiful face like yours.

Do you have a boyfriend?” and lightly touched my arm, making prolonged eye contact.
It might sound like a harmless compliment, but it really bothered me for a long time. I got other weird vibes from him throughout the semester. He seemed more interested in my looks than in my ideas. For such a liberal professor, he didn’t seem to view women as equals at all. Honestly, we were more like pretty ornaments he used to stroke his overinflated ego.

 

Jenny’s Story: Under Mullen’s Male Gaze and Touch
Once I had a meeting at Professor Mullen’s office. The entire time he spent with his eyes darting to my chest. I was wearing a simple tank top because it was a hot summer day, and he made me feel dirty. I could tell he had trouble concentrating on the subject we were talking about because apparently my “provocative” outfit was distracting him. It was so ridiculous and overt, he made no effort to hide his wandering eyes.
Towards the end he suggested a book to me, and I stood next to him while he was looking for it. He quickly brushed his hand against my butt when he stepped away for a second and came back. It was very obviously intentional, and I was humiliated. But he didn’t stop there. As he went to take a book off the shelf, he brushed his hand against my chest! It was so disrespectful and infuriating. I left the office abruptly so I’m sure he knew I noticed. How could I not?! I’m still angry, and this happened early last semester.
Karen’s Story: After-Hours Groping
When I think of Mullen, the first word that springs to mind is “hypocrite.” This is a man who can lecture for hours about equality and women’s rights, but in practice he has ZERO respect for women. I will never forget how he groped me after class one day. I had a question for him and as he was answering me, he went off topic to discuss my belt, which he thought was from Africa and was very intrigued for some reason. He touched it supposedly to feel the fabric, and lingered way too long. Then he started tracing the belt around my hips for NO reason necessary. The whole time he was smiling. When he touched my skin I moved away but for the longest time I was frozen.
Bill Mullen, you love to talk about the abuses of the powerful over the vulnerable. Don’t you realize you’re doing exactly the same? This is why you’re a hypocrite.
It was just so awful. I really hope nobody else has to go through what I did, and that female students stay away from taking classes with him.
Are You a Victim of Bill Mullen? We’re Here for You.
If you are a current or former student of Professor Bill Mullen and have been a victim of his inappropriate behavior, you are encouraged to contact me. In the form below, please explain the incident that made you feel compelled to reach out, and whether or not you give permission to share your story on this website.
This is completely anonymous and no personally identifying details will be revealed.

Why I Started This Website

I’m a former Purdue University liberal arts student, and decided to create this page as a platform for the women of this university to warn others about American Studies professor Bill Mullen. Like many of the girls whose stories I’ve collected here, I have been made to feel highly uncomfortable by this professor.
Only when the semester ended did I really reflect on what I had experienced. I spoke with my mom about it and she suggested I go to the school guidance counsellor. But I was concerned it would blow up into something big and he would find out I had reported him. The last thing I wanted was to be part of some administrative investigation, which could have unknown repercussions.
After graduation I decided to check if there were other female students who felt uncomfortable with him. It turns out, there were many who did, to varying degrees. The following are the ones who agreed to share their stories on this platform. All names have been changed to protect the identity of these Purdue students who bravely shared their experiences with me.
This is their chance to release the stories and feelings they’ve kept inside, to warn prospective students, and to hopefully alert university authorities who can then take action.