I'm a prospective student currently considering PhD position offers from a couple of top-5 programs.
A friend/colleague who is currently at one of these programs has informed me of a brewing scandal with one of the faculty I'm considering working with. Apparently there has been a long history of various abuses, ineffective internal university sanctions and cover-ups followed by continuing brazen abuse. This has been going on for years, though many in the department remain (intentionally?) unaware. The perpetrator continues to take on advisees. Things have reached a boiling point, and for the first time a formal external law suit is in the works.
This all sounds very serious and off putting. I trust my source. Obviously, regardless of where I decide to matriculate, I will avoid working with this particular faculty member. It's a large department with numerous proven faculty advisors.
My question is about the wider departmental dynamics in which such a scenario plays out. My friend/colleague seems relatively satisfied with their experience in this particular program, though obviously they don't have much basis for comparing these dynamics with those within other PhD programs in sociology. They acknowledge that departmental culture isn't amazing, but say it's easy to get what you want from the program if you know who to trust.
Is this kind of chronic personal and professional misconduct by senior faculty just par for the course in academia? On the other hand, what kind of institution doesn't have a zero-tolerance policy clear cut repeated cases of abuse? My intuition is that it signals a wider problem of dysfunction in this particular department.