This question (Is my future mentor "harassing" me?) led to a lot of discussion in comments, chat and meta about whether it is on-topic. Its status also changed between on-topic, off-topic and undecided with every additional information provided by asker, until it was (eventually?) closed as off-topic.

There seemed to be a general consensus among users on two things:

  1. The question is off-topic because the asker is a student and hence, the solutions that would apply in a workplace (such as raising a harassment complaint with HR) may not work in academia.
  2. The issue described in the question is relevant to the workplace, and the question would be on-topic if it had occurred in the workplace.

We encourage askers to edit their questions to make them on-topic by pointing out why it is currently off-topic, and quite often some of us who have too much time on our hands ;-) do the editing ourselves.

For questions such as these, is it appropriate to edit it so much that the question is no longer relevant to the asker, but is nonetheless useful to the community?

  • 1
    related: Aggressive Edits
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 20:32
  • This question seems like a related example: the OP asked 4 different questions and his entire post is basically a rant against bad management but the core question in his title is both useful and on-topic.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 15:35
  • Do you have some idea of how you would edit it? I see two different options: 1. concentrate on the title and answer if this is harassing or not (+why). 2. give advice how to make the relationship more professional. The first one would keep most of the answers intact, but I think the second one would be more useful.
    – Chris
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


My belief is that it's okay to make a question more generic so that it may be more applicable to other people, however we should not edit it so that it's no longer useful to the OP.

This is how I would suggest handling it:

  • If it is specific but on topic, answer it.
  • If it's off topic (and cannot be salvaged to make it on topic), close it.
  • If it can be made more generic but still retain the original author's intent, then I would say this is okay to edit it.

I feel it undermines the integrity of the site to change the intent of the original poster.

  • 1
    The current site mechanics support this: Low(er) level user can only suggest edits and one of the rejection reasons is conflicts with the author's intent. In other words: the contents moving too far from the author's intent is not supposed to happen.
    – user8036
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 14:48
  • @JanDoggen Yes, exactly! :)
    – Jane S
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 11:54

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