Ilustrație de Simina Popescu

Horea-Mihai Bădău is a Ph.D. lecturer who has been teaching at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences (FJSC) of the University of Bucharest since 2008; he is 51 years old, and since September 2021 has been on unpaid leave. Almost everyone who has passed through FJSC has heard rumours about him coming on to female students. This investigation, based on the testimonies of such former students, shows that the what was heard in the halls was true. 

From their stories, a pattern of behaviour emerged: over the years, Bădău picked students whom he contacted privately, and if they responded to his messages, he took the conversation in a direction where he repeatedly suggested they needed a man like him in their lives. Because most were afraid to tell him to stop, he went further: he called them at night, asked them out, invited them to his home or to the beach in Vama Veche. He hired them, coordinated their internships, sent them poems, told them what he considered “feminine,” showed up with flowers outside their dorms, told them he loved them, and ultimately came onto them. He turned into a bully when he became romantically involved with some of them, emotionally and psychologically abusing them, as several experts have confirmed for RISE Project. 

The psychologists, lawyers, and activists we spoke to say that Bădău stepped far beyond the boundaries of a proper teacher-student relationship, violating the provisions of the University Code of Ethics and the Education Law. The experts also say that he abused his power, and that most of his behaviors are sexual harassment.

When contacted by RISE, Horea Bădău asked to receive the reporters’ questions via email. Describing them as “malicious and biased,” he did not specifically respond to those addressing the behaviours described in this text. In an email, he wrote, “I have never abused anyone, I have never harassed anyone, neither sexually nor otherwise.”

Antonio Momoc, the current dean of FJSC, claims that he has not received any complaints about Bădău’s behaviour during his tenure and has no information about previous years. He offered an “I’m sorry” when presented with details of Bădău’s transgressions and added, “If this information exists, it must be investigated, and measures must be taken to ensure such things never happen again.” 

Bogdan Oprea, spokesperson for the University of Bucharest, says that the Ethics Commission has received “no complaint” against Bădău. Oprea adds that the university has “zero tolerance for any forms of abuse,” and “all the means to sanction such acts, ensuring protection and support for victims.”

Studies conducted by gender equality NGOs indicate that half of the female students in Romania are aware of instances of sexual harassment in universities, and a third have experienced them themselves. However, institutions are moving too slowly to address the phenomenon. (One report by the University of Bucharest even calls sexual harassment the “elephant in the room.”)

For years, students did not speak out because they were either afraid or ashamed, because they did not understand what was happening to them, because they thought they were alone. But they are speaking out now.

This investigation is part of the “The Abuse Department” project, which is aimed at monitoring harassment and sexual abuse in schools, high schools, and universities across the country.

ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION. Over the past eight months, we have spoken with over 40 women from more than 10 generations of students who majored in Journalism, Advertising, and Communication at the University of Bucharest. Every one of them had heard the rumours, and one-third confirmed that they themselves had had experiences with Bădău that they described as “unpleasant”, “harassment” or “abuse”. 

In this text, they speak under the protection of anonymity, using pseudonyms, because they fear harassment from Bădău or his associates after publication. They also fear repercussions, the stigma that others might feel they did not do enough to put a stop to his behaviours, that they did not file complaints, and thus indirectly allowed him to continue teaching. They have now chosen to share their stories in the hope that their testimonies will serve as a resource for future students, who will know what kind of people and behaviours to watch out for and avoid.

The text tells the stories of five women with different experiences, confirming the pattern of Bădău’s abusive behaviour. (They are supported by testimonies from nine other women.) Some provided us with screenshots of exchanges on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and email. We listened to voice messages sent by Bădău. The written and audio messages illustrated in the text were sent by him; in some places, we corrected their grammar for easier readability. We decided not to publish them as screenshots in order to protect the victims.

In October 2018, Andreea recalls being out with friends when she received a message from Horea-Mihai Bădău, her online journalism professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences in Bucharest (FJSC).

Andreea, 21 years old, was in her third and final year, and had chosen FJSC because she strived for a career in communications. Bădău was 46 years old, and Andreea was just one of the students with whom he initiated private conversations every year. “It seemed very strange that a professor would write to me, but I thought, ‘if he doesn’t say anything bad, I’ll just reply somewhat curtly,” Andreea recalls.

At first, she says, it seemed like a normal conversation, albeit a little unsettling, considering he was her professor. In class and during seminars, Bădău treated her no differently than the other students. “He didn’t look at me in any particular way, didn’t raise suspicions. It didn’t feel strange until he started asking me out.”

She remembers rejecting the invitations, but continuing to answer his calls, and at some point, she began to think that Bădău was hitting on her. “I thought, ‘hey, it’s not okay for him to call me,’ but I still didn’t know what to do. I was working on my Bachelor’s thesis. I also got a job. I didn’t know how to handle the situation any better.”

She decided she would let him call her as long as he didn’t cross a certain line. “If he doesn’t want to meet, doesn’t stalk me, doesn’t threaten me, I’ll let him talk.”

Excerpts from the messages received by Andreea

The phone calls were 10, 20, 30 minutes long, and he usually called her late at night to tell her about his day, what he’d eaten, what he’d read, how his childhood had been in a village in the Apuseni Mountains. “I’d leave my phone on the bed and go about my business in [the dorm room] or go out on the balcony,” Andreea says. “I’d occasionally drop a ‘yes, yes’, but I didn’t pay attention to what he was saying and just minded my own business.” 

Asking him to stop calling her did not seem like a solution. “All kinds of thoughts went through my head: I’m in my final year, he might fail me, I won’t be able to graduate, what will I tell my parents?”

Excerpts from the messages received by Andreea

She didn’t talk to anyone about what she was going through, not even her friends or dorm mates; if they were there when he called, she would leave the room. “If I tell the girls I hang out with, they might misunderstand, if I tell my friends, they’ll say ‘don’t mind him’, if I tell my teachers, I don’t know who’s on his side or against him and I might get in trouble because of it.” 

The calls and messages, both written and audio, had begun to worry her. “He was telling me what our kids were going to look like, running on the beach in Vama Veche.” He was telling her that he loved her, that he missed her. “I was like, no, I had nothing to do with you, I just answered your calls, let you talk, didn’t cut you off, and all of sudden you love me,” Andreea thought at the time.

His declarations are confirmed by screenshots and recordings. 

“Nice people are rare. That’s why when they meet, they should start a family. Teeeseeeeeee, mededeteee.” (“I kiss you, I miss you.”)

“You’re beautiful. Thank you, thank you for existing. Kisses. Smile and have a wonderful day.”

Andreea had come to believe that he was following her. “He could tell when I was home, often said things that really fit.” She plucked up the courage to tell her dorm and college mates about the calls and messages that she was receiving, and they made sure she was never left alone with him at university.

In early November at around 2 AM, Bădău sent her several messages, saying that he had an important day ahead, and that he “is a strong person. But I need a caress on my eyelids” He went on, adding what he wished for:

In the face of a day like tomorrow
I wish the girl I love
I love you, Horea
That’s all
That’s all
I love you, Horea
That’s all I would like her to say
The girl I love
In the face of a day like tomorrow (today).

Andreea remembers asking him to stop telling her that he loved her or talk to her as if they were in a relationship. “He kept saying that ‘you won’t be my student anymore,’ and that afterwards we would be able to walk hand in hand through the hallways.”

Audio excerpts and transcriptions
of 10 voice messages that Andreea
received from Horea Bădău
in a single day

She did not tell her professors at the time. She even remembers that the current dean of the faculty (who was then still a lecturer) was held up as an example by Bădău, even during class. “He married a student too, and look what a beautiful family they have,” Andreea remembers him telling her. “How was I supposed to find the courage to tell anyone, who was I supposed to tell, who was ever going to listen to me?”

When asked about this, Dean Antonio Momoc said: “If Mr. Bădău made such a comment, it is totally inappropriate, offensive and harmful to my privacy and my family. I did not marry a student, even though I met my wife during my studies. We reunited long after she had finished her undergraduate program and the masters she attended at a private university. My marriage to her occurred more than 10 years after she had completed her Bachelor’s degree.” 

Andreea is not the only one. 

Over the past eight months, we have spoken to over 40 graduates from different generations of FJSC, who have confirmed Bădău’s inappropriate behaviour through evidence or stories. One third, whose experiences are recounted in this text, have told us about the violation of teacher-student relationship boundaries, while others simply knew victims or had heard rumours about his behaviour. We also heard from sources who said that he behaved similarly when he taught at Hyperion University between 1998 and 2008, and when he led various news websites, from to

From the testimonies of former students we learned that he asked them out or sent them poems. To those who were afraid to ask him to stop, he made advances; he sent them voice messages, called them at night, professed his love, invited them to his home or on trips to Vama Veche, Bulgaria or Nice. Some of them he hired at the news websites he ran, and even became romantically involved with them while they were both his employees and his students, or just students.

The psychologists, lawyers and activists we spoke to say the students were victims of sexual harassment, as well as psychological and power abuse, behaviours that are insufficiently described and sanctioned by university regulations and national legislation in Romania.

However, all these behaviours, say the experts, are manifestations of gender violence: “verbal, social, psychological”. “We are talking about an abuser,” says Adela Szenteș, a psychotherapist who specialises in counselling people who have experienced abuse and works with the ANAIS association. “It is a person who crosses someone’s healthy lines and boundaries, abusing them through words, attitudes, gestures, language, yelling.”

Identifying and classifying these behaviours as sexual harassment is important, say the experts, because the long-term effect on victims triggers anxiety, impacts self-esteem, affects academic performance, causes students to blame themselves or, at worst, may lead to depression or even suicidal behaviour. What’s more, sexual harassment depends on the impact the behaviour has on a victim, not on the intention of the harasser.

Adela Alexandru and Andrada Cilibiu, gender equality experts at Centrul FILIA, say that Andreea’s and other students’ decision not to file complaints is natural. “In your final year you’re scared to do anything,” says Alexandru, “because you think to yourself ‘that professor is on the committee who is going to evaluate my thesis, I’ll never graduate from this university if I don’t play his game to the end’.”

Cilibiu adds that we need to be aware of the power imbalance between teacher and student. “You’re afraid that you don’t stand a chance against him, and you’re afraid of what might happen to you,” she says. Even if you say you’re going to do something once you graduate, most of the time it doesn’t happen because the trauma and fear remain. “And then,” Cilibiu adds, “you keep your mouth shut, hide and hope that future generations will have it easier than you did.”

There’s evidence that other professors were aware of at least some rumours about Bădău’s behaviour, but did not intervene. The fact that no official complaints had been filed allowed FJSC, much like other faculties where such behaviour has come to light, to ignore it and thus protect the perpetrator, not the victims. Cilibiu says this is an avoidance of accountability that she keeps coming across. “If we create mechanisms to address this [in universities], it will become a problem,” she says. “We’re going to see our colleagues disappearing one by one, because we’re going to find out that so many of them have been aggresors for so many years. Silence is complicit in violence.”

In January 2019, Andreea says she had a conflict with Bădău, after she asked him what the consequences would be if she did not submit her seminar project on time. “If you were expecting me to say more than I said in the seminar, that means you were asking for preferential treatment,” he wrote her in a message.

Andreea says she went to the presentation, passed, and remembers that afterwards she received a low passing grade on her final exam. It didn’t bother her; she felt relieved that she would no longer have to interact with Bădău, and says that during that time they blocked each other on all communication channels. She doesn’t remember who blocked whom where, or whether it happened before or after she found him outside her dorm with a flower bouquet.

Excerpts from the messages received by Andreea

She was going home one day and he was already there. He had come to apologise, says Andreea. She wouldn’t take the flowers, even if he insisted. “I was outraged that he’d come, that he’d reached that point where he would come and wait with flowers outside my dorm. But the rebellion was on the inside,” she adds. “I didn’t express it in any way.”

From that point on, he stopped trying to contact her. They would occasionally run into each other in the hallways of FJSC, where she stayed on for her master’s degree. Looking back, Andreea says she felt it was her responsibility to handle everything on her own, not to respond to him too directly so that a conflict wouldn’t break out and jeopardise her graduation. Her fear was heightened by conversations in FJSC about how Bădău was hitting on students, and by an article and comments on Vali Petcu’s (Zoso) blog, who had known Bădău since he was a teaching assistant at Hyperion University. 

? In 2016, Bădău sued Zoso in an attempt to have several of his posts removed, including the one in which the blogger talks about Bădău making advances to students. The court ruled in December 2017 that the texts did not meet the conditions for removal, and that, although the blogger’s vocabulary was deemed “inappropriate”, “bringing such a discussion into the public space would serve the interest of society.”

“I was searching for things about him to convince myself that I could do something or that someone could help me,” says Andreea. But everything, including what she found online, seemed to confirm to her that Bădău had had this kind of inappropriate behaviour for generations, and the faculty was turning a blind eye, since he was still teaching there. 

FJSC is often criticised by former students in press articles, posts and social media comments: many complain that the school does not prepare them for present-day jobs, that there are professors with no record to show in the profession, that some don’t even show up to class, while others are verbally abusive, especially in the classroom, yet keep on teaching for years. Moreover, throughout the course of this investigation, we have heard of other FJSC professors who have made advances to students: some are no longer teaching, others are still there. 

? FJSC Dean Antonio Momoc says he hasn’t received any such testimony, but “it’s unfortunate if it has happened. If such information exists, it must be investigated and measures must be taken.”
Andreea would have wished for someone to tell Bădău: “Stop calling her, leave her alone”. Or for more students to get together, show the evidence they had and try to move forward with it. Now, she feels that, alone as she was, she simply resisted him. “I didn’t tell the dean and was always embarrassed to voice these complaints or talk about these situations,” says Andreea. “I never knew how to handle a really big problem. I needed to get it under control, and I already had all sorts of scenarios in my head of what might happen and how bad things might get if I were to start this huge scandal.”

Andreea’s story did, however, reach at least one FJSC professor, investigative journalist Emilia Șercan. In January 2020, Șercan received an assignment from Diana, a colleague of Andreea’s, for the Academic Ethics and Integrity seminar, mandatory for all master’s and doctoral students.

The paper, which included screenshots, presented details of the experience Andreea had gone through. It was called “Case study: university professor seeks love in college”.

“Rumours about Professor Horea Bădău”, wrote Diana in the paper, “are flying around the halls of the Faculty of Journalism. Some of his colleagues know that Professor Horea-Mihai Bădău, who teaches online journalism to third-year students, seeks to develop friendly relationships or even more with his female students, but in the absence of official complaints, they cannot intervene”. Attached were seven screenshots of Andreea’s conversations with Bădău.

When she wrote the paper, Diana did not necessarily expect Șercan to do anything, but hoped the information in the paper would reach someone who would take action. Șercan remembers encouraging Diana and then Andreea to file a complaint with the journalism school or the university’s ethics committee. The students did not.

Around the same time, Șercan says she turned down an offer for a leadership position from Antonio Momoc, dean at FJSC since 2020, precisely because the faculty had this history of abuse.

On February 4, 2020, Șercan also sent Diana’s paper to Marian Popescu, then director of the University of Bucharest’s Center for Action, Resources, Training for Academic Integrity (CARFIA), an institution whose mission is “to raise the level of awareness in the university environment regarding the issue of academic integrity.” Since 2018, Bădău is also a member of this institution and coordinates the Online Ethics Action Group. In an interview with RISE, Popescu said he had no recollection of that email. He found it during the conversation with RISE, with the paper attached, and told the reporters that it was a mystery to him why he did not react. “I mean, it’s clear I did not react in writing, but I must have spoken to Emilia. I don’t remember, though.”

Of the paper, which he called “a complaint disguised as a seminar project”, he later said in an email, “The screenshots indicate intent, that’s clear. Intent is contrary to the rules of ethical behaviour of a professor in relation to a student”.Popescu adds that neither his email nor his work diary indicates that he ever replied to Emilia Șercan. About Bădău, he says he welcomed him to CARFIA in 2018 because his CV showed he was an expert in social media and online behaviour, but that he did not do any further research on him. As to why Bădău is still a member of CARFIA, he says that the decision is in the hands of the current executive director.

Popescu, who was himself a lecturer at FJSC and headed the ethics commission of the University of Bucharest from 2012 until 2016, has for years been vocal about how “our universities do little to nothing to develop a culture of ethics and integrity.” (Including in this interview with RISE Project.)

“Unfortunately, the system is so built to protect professors,” Popescu says. “Not those for whom professors exist. Namely, the students. It sounds harsh when you put it that way, but, how can I say, sometimes you have to be harsh because otherwise nothing really happens.”

Șercan, as well as Anamaria Nicola, dean of the faculty between December 2018 and November 2019, say that some professors and faculty leaders had also heard rumours about Bădău’s behaviour, but had not received any official complaints.

“If there is no written complaint, you can’t do anything,” says Nicola, now a lecturer at the master’s level at FJSC. Even if, in theory, there are other mechanisms in place, such as department head evaluation or student feedback, the system is dysfunctional enough that none of these is taken into account. Nicola says that a department head generally doesn’t evaluate lecturers with a grade lower than “very good” because they can dispute it and often win, while “student evaluations are considered irrelevant because very few fill them out”.

Antonio Momoc, whose term as dean will end in February, did not run for another. He declined to speak to RISE by phone, saying that Bădău is “employed in the Journalism department” and the reporters should thus address its leadership. 

Later, via email, he said he had not received any complaints during his term, and if we wanted to know about the past, “you’d better ask the deans of the last 30 years.” Asked how he comments on the students’ reluctance to file complaints with a faculty that does not seem to listen to them, Momoc said that “complaints should have been filed, and the information they had should have been exposed. They could have reached out, even informally, to me or anyone in the journalism department. No institution can act other than on the basis of regulations and procedures.”

The former head of the journalism department, Raluca Radu, and the current interim head of the department, Bogdan Oprea, say they were not aware of behaviours such as Bădău’s and neither received any official complaint. Radu said she found the situation “very sad” and was sorry that students had had such experiences. Oprea called them “absolutely appalling. I had no clue of their magnitude or that things went this far. I had no idea, I didn’t know.”

Of the evaluations Bădău has received from students over the years, Radu says “I can’t say he had the best evaluations in the department.” She adds that her definition of abuse of power is broader than other colleagues’ – even asking a student to pick up a key from the custodian would be a manifestation of it. However, she says: “I don’t think any of my colleagues are criminals. The University of Bucharest would not tolerate behaviour like that.”

Whatever happened, says Radu, “the student has to put pen to paper, to acknowledge that this behaviour is unacceptable and that it must be stopped. And if they can’t stop it by talking directly to Horea Bădău, they should stop it by following the steps indicated by the university. Not just say something. Because if you just say something, it’s a word in the wind. You have to take responsibility and write [a formal complaint]”.

Bogdan Oprea, who is both the interim head of a department at FJSC and the spokesperson for the University of Bucharest, says, “Personally, while I grant the presumption of innocence until the charges are resolved by the competent authorities, to the women who have decided to tell their story, I say this: be strong and do not hesitate for a second to report anything you consider to be an abuse against you.” He adds that, in his capacity as head of department at FJSC, he will handle “all reports of abuse” with “the utmost responsibility.”

“Your courage means that other people will not go through the same suffering,” he says.

Nicola believes that it is a habit of Romanian institutions not to seek solutions for internal dysfunctionalities and to hide behind bureaucracy – in this case, justifying the lack of action through the absence of official complaints. Partly out of convenience, partly out of fear. “Everyone has problems hanging over their heads,” says Nicola, who no longer wanted a leadership position after seeing the reality from within. “In the system, there are more people who would have a problem than those who would sit quietly and say, ‘I can’t think of anything they could catch me with.'”

Therefore, the responsibility to protect oneself seems to lie with each student, as the faculty will not take action in the absence of formal complaints. “The student is only brought up when nasty things happen or when there are conflicting interests between professors,” says Șercan. “Then they remember: wait a bit, our main client and our main responsibility is the student.”

Marian Popescu, for his part, says that he once spoke up in a meeting of the FJSC council, saying, “Let’s not forget why we are here. We are here because [students] are here, not the other way around. I didn’t attract a lot of fans with that particular  statement.”

Radu, who was head of the journalism department until the end of last year, disagrees: “The student is always a priority for us. This is a matter of major civic interest, in which we are personally involved. Of course the student is a priority, otherwise why even come to work?”

Around the same time that he was calling and texting Andreea, Bădău agreed to supervise the theses of some of her fellow students, including Cătălina and Maria. (As well as a third student, who did not respond to our request for an interview.) 

Maria chose Bădău as her supervisor after she saw that in his online journalism seminar she would learn how to create a blog. She already had one, and wanted to use it as a case study for her thesis. “We write the thesis and grow our blog. We combine the two.” During classes, Maria says, Bădău was respectful and made jokes. “He spoke very nicely to both men and women, addressing us with ‘dumneavoastră’ (a formal way of addressing someone in Romanian). He tried to help everyone who came to him.” Cătălina had known Bădău since her second year, when he had been her internship coordinator. She recalls him being somewhat intrusive during classes. “He would sometimes come up from behind, touch our shoulders, and say ‘you wrote very well.'”

Several former students told us that he had an “odd behaviour” during seminars: licking his lips, laughing uncontrollably, and shifting quickly from one mood to another.

The first meeting about her thesis that Cătălina remembers was in the Old Town, after Bădău refused to meet at the university. They discussed her topic: turning her blog into a marketing and personal branding tool. “He told me he would teach me how to make money online, and in two months, I could make thousands of euros,” says Cătălina. “He wanted to turn us into influencers,” says Maria, whose thesis was also about a personal blog.

Subsequent meetings that Maria and Cătălina had with Bădău took place at the university, at Starbucks, at restaurants in Herăstrău Park or the Old Town. They started out by writing a few pages, then they met for corrections at the university, where both say Bădău crossed out entire paragraphs in red:  “He made Xs all over the page and told me it wasn’t any good,” says Cătălina. “The problem was that I hadn’t quoted much from his works on online journalism.”

Bădău wanted the students to use more of his works on online journalism, including two textbooks, one of which was about social media and heavily criticised by practitioners. They argued that the information was outdated, the content was not original but rather translated from English, and that Bădău used the books to attack bloggers with whom he had conflicts. Cătălina was asked to write a chapter on “marketing journalism,” a term found in Bădău’s textbook but not used in the profession. 

? In the chapter on marketing journalism, Bădău gives tips for Facebook posts. One such tip says: “Fashion social media rituals. Every morning, women perform the ritual of makeup. Be there for them, offering tutorials and inspiration. This is a task for the female reporter in the newsroom.”

“It didn’t sound like something real, so I said I didn’t want to do it,” recalls Cătălina. That’s when Bădău started yelling at her, and at one point she felt he was getting too close. “I told him to stay away from me. He screamed for a sheet of paper. He wrote on the paper, ‘I told you to write a chapter on marketing journalism.'” He asked her to include the term in the title of the thesis, and Cătălina complied.

Excerpt from a conversation in which Horea Bădău is explaining to his students why Dalboka is an excellent starting point for a road trip.

Psychotherapist Diana Safta says all of this constitutes “abuse of power, harassment, and grooming.”

“The relationship between the victim and the aggressor is often characterised by a significant power imbalance,” says Safta, and this is hard to observe from a distance. “The pattern,” the therapist adds, “involves attempting to establish inappropriate relationships with female students by gaining their trust, trying to be pleasant, offering attention, academic validation, and apparent emotional support.” In this entire dynamic, however, the student ends up feeling ashamed, guilty, intimidated, and socially isolated.

At one point, claiming that the girls had to create content for their blogs, Bădău invited them on a trip to Bulgaria. “Dalboka is 30 minutes away from Vama Veche,” he wrote in the Facebook group created by Maria. “A good place for a road trip that can powerstart the personal branding campaign.” The plan was to leave in the morning and return in the evening. At first, the students were excited about the idea, as shown by the conversation we saw, but after the weather turned bad, they cancelled and didn’t reschedule.

Maria remembers Cătălina as the one who privately told them that she didn’t think it was a good idea and that they should reconsider. After several messages exchanged over a week about a future meeting, Bădău wrote in the group that he hoped their reaction “is not related to the rumours spread by a student who last year plagiarised 100% of her bachelor’s thesis and spread malicious (and false) rumours about me. If they reached you, I would like to make it very clear that those rumours are false.”

? We spoke with two students who started working on their theses with Bădău in 2018 but eventually changed supervisors because he took to calling them at night and talking about his work, his books, and his past relationships. ‘I realised he was weird, and shortly after I ended any and all conversation,’ one of them told us. ‘I assume that if I had continued, it would have gone further.’ To the other student Bădău said that it was not polite to change her supervisor, and that her request was strange. The students did not inform the professors with whom they eventually completed their theses about the reasons why they switched to them.

We contacted Horea Bădău for a reaction. We requested a phone conversation, but he asked us to send the questions via email, which we did.

? These are some of the 15 questions we sent: “Have you called students at night to talk about their theses, but then changed the subject to zodiac signs or whether they had a boyfriend or how their relationship was?”, “Have you invited students to your home, Nice, or Vama Veche?”, “Have you refused to have thesis meetings at the university, forcing students to come to meetings in the city or at Restaurant Pescărușul?”, “Have you told students – in written or audio messages – that you like them, that you love them, that you miss them? Have you sent them poems?”, “Do you know what the Code of Ethics says about a professor’s behaviour towards his students?”

In a series of emails, he asked to see evidence and questioned the reporters’ professional conduct. He also considered a clarification question about his CV to be “political” and asked with “ill intent”; we wanted to confirm if Victor Ponta was the prime minister whose “community manager” the professor claimed to have been in the CV provided on his website. He told us, “The question about Victor Ponta has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the interview (unless you’re wondering if I sexually harassed Victor Ponta, which is about as true as the rest of the accusations) and shows the real motive behind the publication of false accusations against me in RISE Project.”

Eventually, he decided not to respond point by point to the questions but to post in a faculty Facebook group that “smear campaigns are once again being orchestrated against him.” He sent us the following message as a statement, which we present in full:

“As we exchanged a series of messages in which you insisted on my answering questions that I considered malicious and tendentious, and you mixed questions whose source was ‘someone from FJSC’ with a question about my alleged activity as a political consultant for Victor Ponta, I see no point in answering these questions anymore. As I have already told you, I have never abused anyone, never harassed anyone, neither sexually nor otherwise. I have never directly or indirectly imposed or suggested to any person in the process of education, be it a male or a female student, the necessity or obligation to provide any type of benefit, either material or immaterial, as a precondition, condition, or equivalent for the assignment of grades or for any other academic advantage.

If your sources are sufficiently documented, it means you are not afraid to present them in court.”

As previously mentioned, former students have always talked about Bădău’s behaviour. A former student from the private university Hyperion, where he worked as a teaching assistant, recalls him kissing and publicly displaying his relationship with a student in the late 1990s. Another Hyperion student from around the same period remembers accepting his offer to work for him at, and Bădău telling her that the problem would be that he was sexually attracted to her. A few weeks later, he sent her a sexually explicit message while they were both at work. FJSC graduates from the last 10 years say they knew about him “hitting on students” and described him as “lecherous.”

Students also told us about Bădău’s habit of inviting girls on vacations. “I remember he invited me a few times to Nice, where he was a visiting professor,” recalls another. His name also appears in a Facebook group where women discuss predatory men.

Other students tell stories about his inappropriate behaviour during classes and in work relationships. “During a seminar, after a classmate’s presentation,” a student told us, “Bădău stopped after a few seconds and said, ‘Very nice, it reminds me of my mother. My mother is dead. HAHAHA.’ Followed by the weirdest laughter I’ve ever heard.”

A graduate who did an internship at one of Bădău’s websites remembers that he called her one evening to give her some advice on a news story she was going to write. “The professor mentioned, as I recall, the following: ‘This condition [cervical cancer] occurs when the partner is too big. I know because my ex went through this with me and I had to take her to the hospital.'” (The conversation was confirmed by her roommate and two other students who later heard the information.)

To others, Bădău seemed like a friendly and engaging professor, and they don’t recall inappropriate behaviour at the university or elsewhere. Over the years, FJSC has also boasted about his work – the works he has published, an initiative of his to create a code of ethics for social media, and the fact that he teaches and conducts research in social media and artificial intelligence at universities in France.

Horea Bădău in November 2012. Source: Dana Alecu

Bădău talks a lot about himself and often brags: about the courses he teaches in France, about a role as digital innovator, which he claims is not acknowledged by his Romanian colleagues, and about overcoming a difficult start in life. A blog post he wrote is titled “What I Have Done for Romania.”

He chronicled his life in a series of seven blog posts made in 2017 and 2018, which are no longer public. He says he is from Cluj, that his father died when he was a child, and his mother fell into depression. In the eleventh grade, he moved to a dorm, where he was beaten, “cut with a knife, threatened, hung upside down from the top floor window.” He then came to Bucharest, where he completed his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at FJSC. He was married for two years.

He repeated this story to many of the students he tried to have a relationship with.

He worked in radio, television, and online since the early 2000s, at, Realitatea TV, and others. Between 2005 and 2014, he was the president of the Media Consumers Association, which he founded because, as he writes on his personal blog, “I noticed that in many decisive moments in the journalist-public relationship, the public was practically nonexistent.” Under its umbrella, he organised debates, protests against TV shows, and meetings between journalists, writers, politicians, and bloggers. Among the politicians invited were former president Ion Iliescu and former prime minister Victor Ponta.

He founded, a news website where FJSC students did their internships. The work involved rewriting news from other media outlets, clickbait headlines, and generating traffic by promoting articles on dozens of Facebook groups.

“He put quite a lot of pressure on us and tried to instil this idea that we always need to look for sensational topics, otherwise they’re worthless,” said a former FJSC student who did an internship with Bădău. By December 2015, was attracting more than 600,000 visitors per week. “ surpassed (one of the major news websites in Romania),” Bădău tweeted at the time. The sheer quantity of news, not quality, was his main concern, say former team members. Momoc, the dean of FJSC, says that even then he didn’t “think much of that style of journalism: unverified information, rumours, gossip, suspicions, all were published there.” (In parallel, Bădău created, a website identical to, where he also hired FJSC students.)

During the pandemic, Bădău appeared on TikTok and in Facebook live streams with a message bordering on conspiracy about COVID-19 and the reasons why governments wanted to impose restrictive measures. He wrote numerous blog posts about the pandemic; most of them have been deleted, including those in which he boasted about their traffic. In one such post titled “I suggest we stay at home for two years,” he wrote: “That’s how long the pandemic will last, two years. Let’s call our houses ‘bordeie’ (a type of pit-house native to the Carpathian Mountains and Eastern Europe) and read Miorița every evening. Let’s ignore the fact that the Czechs sued the authorities, won, and as of today the restrictions have been lifted.” To one student he sent messages ridiculing mask-wearing: “Let’s create a secret society of people who don’t wear masks.”

But we’ve got to be very secret, ‘cause those with the masks, the society on whatever, they’re really bad. Oh, these people are gonna eat us alive. If they find out, they’re gonna hang us.”

A series of audio messages sent by Horea Bădău
to Miruna during the pandemic in which he talks
about how he does not want to wear a mask.

His posts from that time puzzled the students. “I’m looking for a wife,” he said at one point in a TikTok video. “It’s not a joke. I am a university professor in France, and I’m posting this TikTok, and then, if nothing happens, I will post one in French also on TikTok.” (In recent years, Bădău has created and deleted accounts on several social media platforms; most are no longer accessible today.)

For the past three academic years, he has been on unpaid leave from FJSC (though he can still vote in faculty elections).

According to higher education law, this is the last year he can request this, says Raluca Radu, who until recently headed the journalism department to which Bădău belongs.

All the while, Bădău has conducted research and taught in France, currently on a 12-month contract at the Université de Lorraine. We asked the French universities he worked at if they ever received complaints about him: the one in Bourgogne said it didn’t, and the one in Lorraine only confirmed his presence. So did the Université de Franche-Comté, adding that Bădău only taught there for four days in 2017.

During the time they were working on their Bachelor’s theses, Bădău often called Cătălina and Maria. “He would call me at 10, 11pm,” says Cătălina. He would ask about her zodiac sign, if she had a boyfriend, and how well she got along with him, checking if they were compatible. “He’d say, ‘I’ll hang up if you talk about the thesis now’,” she recalls. “There was a time when he called almost every day, and the conversations lasted at least two hours. He’d say, ‘No, this is not thesis time; we’re just talking, getting to know each other’,” says Maria.

After five days of what she remembers as daily calls, Cătălina says she asked him to stop. “I told him I didn’t think it was normal for him to call me at this hour.” She claims he responded by saying that she was panicking, “and that they had a strictly professional relationship.”

But Cătălina felt he was coming on to her. “I was stuck and didn’t know how to handle these late-night calls,” she says. “That’s why I didn’t immediately go, ‘Why the hell are you calling me at 11 at night?’” She remembers having to tell him several times to stop calling her; at some point, he stopped. “But since then, our relationship during the editing sessions soured.”

Andrada Cilibiu from Centrul FILIA says that one of the most common harassment tactics is isolation from the group. “The professor chooses his favourite students and then engages them in various activities after hours,” she says. “We drink beer together, and we talk about various projects we do or don’t do, but in fact, these conversations often revolve around personal life, romance, relationships, people.”

After Cătălina took a step back, Maria felt that it was up to her to keep the supervisor happy. “I was the one who had to kiss his ass to make sure he wouldn’t fail us, because he’s a very proud man,” says Maria.

So Maria, too, answered the phone when he called her at night on his way home from Restaurant Pescărușul in Herăstrău, where he often went to work. She remembers him telling her about zodiac signs, that he was a DJ at Club A and in Vama Veche. “He asked me what my zodiac sign was, told me we were a good match, and that if I weren’t in a relationship, he would marry me,” says Maria. “He asked if I wanted to do a master’s degree in Nice because he had an apartment there that I could stay in.”

Today, Maria believes that Bădău was trying to suggest that he was available “and that it was up to me whether I wanted the life he offered.” Most of the time, her boyfriend was with her when the professor called. “We were at the table, eating, and he was on the phone, telling some story. I was on mute.”

At some point, Maria also met him alone, during the day, at a restaurant on the bank of the Dâmbovița River. “We were all supposed to meet, the other girls couldn’t make it, and I didn’t want to keep postponing it,” she says. Once there, she wondered what other people might make of them. “Maybe they thought, ‘She’s definitely involved with him,”’ says Maria. “I felt like a slut. That was the moment when I felt bad around him.”

The group’s last meeting with Bădău took place in the Old Town, where, according to Cătălina and Maria, he drank two or three bottles of wine. He edited Cătălina’s paper, which took about half an hour, and then she left. “That’s when he demanded we use the titles he wanted for our theses,” she remembers. “Each one was three lines long and made no sense. He said he wouldn’t approve our theses if we didn’t use these titles.'”

He then edited Maria’s paper. “By the time he reached the third girl’s paper, he couldn’t make out the writing anymore; he was drunk,” recalls Maria.

On the day of the thesis defense, Bădău did not come to support them. (He was not on the committee, but as a supervisor, he was allowed to participate.) He told them he had broken his finger and was being hospitalised, but the girls didn’t believe him; they had heard there had been years when he hadn’t shown up. The committee told Maria and Cătălina that their papers did not have much to do with online journalism and gave them a 7, the lowest grade given that time. “Don’t be upset that the president of the committee didn’t know what marketing journalism is,” Bădău wrote to Cătălina on Messenger. He repeatedly told her that he would support her in filing an appeal. “I saw the grade. It’s unfair and doesn’t reflect the quality of the paper,” added Bădău in a series of messages portraying himself as a victim of circumstances. “I don’t want to appeal,” Cătălina replied. “I got a high grade on the written exam, and I don’t want to overcomplicate things, given the stress I’ve been through these days.”

Immediately after, both Cătălina and Maria say they blocked him, and he didn’t contact them anymore.

Now, Cătălina says she would have filed a complaint if she had known she wasn’t all alone. “I feel like there is this fear of authority, and you just tell yourself , “I have to finish my studies,” she says, ‘but when you finish, you think it’s not your problem anymore.” Maria says it would have helped her if the university had printed, in writing, the measures it would take if a student were to report a professor’s behaviour: his texts, calls, allusions, and invitations.

On the faculty website there is a link to the Code of Student Rights and Obligations. Article 10 states that students have the “right to report abusive and wrongful behaviour, and to request the verification and evaluation of these reports by specialised bodies provided by the current legislation.” How you can do this, however, is vague and unclear. 

Equally vague and unclear are other regulations of the University of Bucharest, also linked on the FJSC website. In fact, they are vague across the entire academic sector in Romania, says Centrul FILIA, whose team worked on a research project and proposals for solutions to prevent and combat sexual harassment in universities. They analysed the Codes of Ethics of 85 universities in the country, focusing on the clarity of the existing information, and implicitly the willingness to do more for the safety of female students. They concluded that universities show little interest in preventing and sanctioning sexual harassment, which “in the long run only contributes to increasing gender inequality and a patriarchal society that tolerates violence.”

For more about Centrul FILIA’s work and why universities are not taking the safety of their female students seriously, read this text on Scena9.

Cătălina and Maria say they wouldn’t define what they went through as “harassment,” but it was certainly an abuse of power. “The fact that he had me ‘kissing his ass’ made me feel bad about myself. I felt like a prostitute,” says Maria. “It feels like a relationship that was anything but professional,” says Cătălina.

“I think harassment would entail more than that,” said Andreea, the student Bădău waited for with flowers. “Blackmailing, stalking, an aggressive person who coerces you, but [Bădău] being harmless and only needing attention, I don’t think it was necessarily harassment.”

That sexual harassment is often associated with physical violence is one of the stereotypes we need to debunk, experts say. Cristina Praz, an expert in gender equality at Centrul FILIA, says that some students do not realise how serious it is for a professor to comment on a student’s clothing, body, or relationships. “We met with students and always asked them what they understand by sexual harassment,” says Praz. They would define it as mugging, theft, groping, or being pushed into a corner.

In fact, jokes, calls at inappropriate hours and texts with sexual undertones are all forms of harassment. Especially considering the student-teacher power dynamic. It is this discrepancy that makes many students think, “nothing will change anyway.”

Physical contact or coercion are not the only forms of sexual harassment. Experts say that this idea is both a myth and an obstacle, downplaying more subtle and pervasive manifestations of abuse.

Psychotherapist Adela Szenteș is optimistic that younger generations will change this paradigm. “Our generation didn’t have the courage to speak out because we said to ourselves, ‘forget it, even your mother got beaten up, now you’re moaning because someone called you fat and ugly.'” However, for social change to occur so that we understand that harassment is not acceptable, “a continuous process is needed,” says Szenteș. “Clear codes of ethics, implemented in every faculty, with full transparency.”

Daniela met Bădău during an internship at When he first called her, she remembers him saying she had a special voice and “I can’t wait to meet you.” This was followed by late-night calls, invitations to Nice, Vama Veche, photos with plane tickets, and attempts to hold her hand when he drove her home from work. “He kept asking if he could hold my hand, which scared me even more.”

Adriana met Bădău in her first year of journalism school, at the Press and Current Affairs seminar. She recalls that he invited her to intern at, saying, “I want to work with you.” This was followed by calls and invitations to go out. “Once, he said: ‘if you want, we can meet for coffee, we’re neighbours.’” In the same neighbourhood, she saw him holding hands with another girl, a student from the same year. “Everyone knew she was his girlfriend and our classmate.”

Alexandra joined a project coordinated by Bădău in 2015. He started out by texting her, then took to calling. “I wouldn’t answer, and he would berate me,” she recalls. “Ugh, stress, stress. You need an older guy by your side,” Bădău wrote to her one day. “How’re you doing? Want to meet up?” he wrote another time. “In the old days, when people were still sending letters, I would get a faster response than I get from you.”

Georgiana is one of the students who interned at in 2013. She remembers that Bădău often called her to talk about news topics, but “he didn’t seem to care about the time.” Once, he called while she was cooking. “I told him I’d go back to my laptop after I finished cooking, and he said something like: ‘you cook too. You’re the perfect woman.’”

Raluca was a student at Hyperion University and met Bădău when he was a teaching assistant, then at Although Raluca told him she had a boyfriend, she remembers that Bădău wrote to her on mIRC while they were at work, asking her to stay after hours. He then sent explicit messages about what he would do to her once they were alone. A few days later, she left, while he stayed. “I lost my job, a guy called me a few days later, claiming to be Horea-Mihai Bădău’s lawyer, and warmly recommended that I resume the friendship.”

Laura met Bădău in 2016, when she was an intern at “He was always pushing us to share articles on dozens of Facebook groups to generate traffic,” she says. Bădău called her, but they never talked about work, only about zodiac signs. “There were also the usual rumours,” says Laura, “about students going on vacation or having relationships with him.”

Nicoleta met Bădău in her final year of journalism school, when she chose him as a supervisor for her bachelor’s thesis. She recalls that everything was fine until he started calling her. The conversations lasted about an hour, and he told her about his daily life or childhood. However, he also “invited himself to my place,” says Nicoleta. “He kept declaring his love for me.”

Elena met Bădău in 2016, when she was interning at “He was coming up with new targets to deliver every day. We had to write 3-5 news pieces, then a minimum of 10,” she recalls. As with the other students, Bădău started calling her too. “I was a kind of diary he could confide in,” Elena says. “He would keep us on the phone, pretending that he wanted to tell us what we should do next, and in the meantime, he would go about his day to day chores. He’d go to the restaurant, eat, sit in traffic, go home to walk his dog or meet his girlfriend.”

Ruxandra started talking to Bădău near the end of the semester when she took his class in online journalism, but he continued to write to her afterward. “He told me not to address him with ‘dumneavoastră’ (a formal way “you” in Romanian) anymore, as I’m no longer his student,” she remembers. Referring to her engineer boyfriend, he said, “two partners cannot understand each other if they work in different fields.” And about age differences in a couple, he said “he admires Macron and his wife for loving each other, even though she is much older.”

Miruna decided not to remain silent because she finds Bădău’s behaviour unacceptable, as he used the same methods with her. The difference is that Bădău met Miruna in 2019, when she was 18 years old and preparing for the entrance exam. It happened in the “Admission to FJSC” group, where faculty professors posted books to read, exam topics from previous years, narrative and argumentation exercises, while high school students solved them in the comments. They received feedback from several professors, but Bădău was the most active.

Miruna initiated a private conversation seeking clarification after a live session conducted by Bădău about the exam. At first, he replied, “Please ask your questions in the group.” Then, he wrote back to her in August, telling her that she had “very nice posts” that he “resonated with.” Later, in September, he wrote to her again on Messenger: “Let me know when you arrive in Bucharest so I can give you a tour.”

Miruna felt the invitation was inappropriate, “like I’m talking to a boy my age and he wants us to go on a date, get to know each other better for a potential relationship.” But she wanted to respond politely, knowing that she would meet Bădău at university in just a few weeks: “No need. Thank you very much, but I’ll decline,” she wrote.

But Bădău did not stop. “You said it as if something bad might have happened, and I find that quite upsetting,” he replied. “Because nothing bad can happen. Nothing bad is going to happen because of the faculty professors in Bucharest. We are more communicative and open than professors from other faculties, which is a good thing.”

Miruna says what also got her thinking was the fact that she was the only one he had invited. “No matter how communicative you are, why not suggest this to a group rather than one single person?”

Messages in which Miruna, not yet officially a student, was being asked out by Bădău, who was saying that „nothing bad could happen”

Once the COVID lockdown was imposed, the conversation resumed. First, Miruna asked for the name of a song that Bădău had posted in his feed and then deleted. “I thought he would tell me what the song was and that would be it,” she says. But that’s not what happened. “Can we address each other with tu (an informal “you”)?,” he wrote to her on the same day. “After all, I’ve never been your teacher, and I don’t think I’ll get to be, because I only have classes in the third year, and when you get to your third year, that’s exactly when I want to move to Nice for good.”

Then came conversations about articles and books, and at some point, the shift to using “tu” when addressing each other. At first, Miruna wasn’t bothered; this was during the pandemic, when she was isolated from her friends and classmates. “Any conversation helped me,” she says. “I didn’t mind talking to him about Vama or other things like that. As long as it didn’t go in a certain direction.” Especially since she had similar conversations with other professors too; admittedly, during class, rather than in private. Miruna began to worry only when Bădău started sending her poems, including one he had written himself:

I move into the living room where, among
paintings and herds in statuesque groups
(wonderful, wonderful),

I have a palm trace on my cheek
you liked my hands
I caress the desk snail

the curtains begin to burn.

“I thought it was weird,” says Miruna. “The poems were a bit too intimate and got me thinking this wasn’t okay. If it were to happen to me now, I would end the conversation much sooner.”

Then came messages in which he was asking how she was doing or suggesting music at 10:00 PM, 11:00 PM, 2:00 AM, or 3:00 AM. And then a voice message that made her feel uncomfortable:

“How cool. So now we would have a nice atmosphere with books. If we were in the same room, I have a lot of books too, you would read, and I would work. I’m writing a book now. And it would be such a nice and warm atmosphere. With a scholarly vibe of sorts. Books would float in the air. The air of books.”

If, until then, Miruna had replied out of politeness, at that moment, she felt like she had just received the most awful voice message: “It seemed so inappropriate. It had a clear sexual undertone.” She checked with her mother and other people she knew, and they all told her it was too suggestive.

“The ball is in your court,” Bădău told her in another voice message. “You decide when you want to talk. I don’t know if the ‘like’ is a sign. That’s why I came back and said the ball is in your court. You kick it.”

The voice messages from Bădău that
made Miruna feel uncomfortable

The conversation ended in May, with one last song sent by Bădău. After that, he removed her from his friends list. Looking back, Miruna believes that Bădău did everything on purpose. “It disgusts me that you, as a professor, target precisely the people who are just starting university, who you know are kids,” says Miruna. “If I come from Galați (city in the south-east of Romania), and I’ve only been to the mountains, and maybe it’s the second time I’m in Bucharest, clearly, any help from an adult who lives here comes as a plus.” The risk, she says, is that you might end up believing that all professors have hidden intentions like Bădău and lose trust in all of them.

“There is a huge difference between your position in relation to your teachers in high school and to your professors in university,” says Andrada Cilibiu from Centrul FILIA. “The person standing in front of you at a seminar might be almost the same age as you, and often friendships develop.” Friendships that sometimes end up in a grey area which allows the other person to tell the victim everything was in their head. This is what experts define as “grooming”, a manipulative process of building trust with the intention of exploitation, manipulation or later sexual relationships.

What Miruna would have needed was more transparency from the faculty, more initiatives about harassment from the Association of Communication Students (ASC), and a set of clear rules for both teachers and students to know which lines cannot be crossed.

“Your professor shouldn’t ask you if you want to go out with him on your own in Bucharest,” says Miruna. “And they shouldn’t text you late at night. Or send you poems.”

Three former presidents of ASC say that over the years, students have reached out to them to complain about abusive behaviour from professors. They tried to find solutions together, but most of the time, the students backed out for fear of repercussions. “Being a newly established association, there were no cases where ASC had defended any student and won,” says Elena Gușă, former ASC president and former student senator at the University of Bucharest.

As such, in the past few years, they’ve focused on informing students about their rights and holding workshops, including one on street harassment in collaboration with Centrul FILIA. “We tried to inform them so that they feel safe. So that they’re not afraid anymore,” says Ciprian Lazăr, current president of ASC. However, Lazăr believes that, regardless of ASC’s efforts, the success of the association depends on the students’ courage to speak out and, most of all, on the relationship they have with the faculty and its leadership. A relationship that so far has been fraught.

This is the change that Răzvan Angelescu, former vice president of ASC and current student representative in the Ethics Committee of the University of Bucharest, hopes to achieve. “People didn’t trust what we were doing and didn’t believe the association could solve things, precisely because they were told [by the faculty] that it’s not possible, that it cannot be solved, that the ASC is useless.”

In universities, codes of ethics should regulate what is allowed, but as the FILIA report shows, they are vague when it comes to inappropriate behaviours with a sexual undertone. None of the 85 codes analysed defines gender-based discrimination, 38 mention sexual harassment, but only 12 provide a definition, often abstract and hard to understand. (Definitions are mostly derived from laws, such as this one from the Penal Code: “Repeatedly demanding favours of a sexual nature within a work relationship or a similar relationship, if the victim has been intimidated or put in a humiliating situation.”) Almost nowhere are the definitions accompanied by examples of inappropriate behaviour, this being the main obstacle that female students face in defining what happens to them, filing complaints and seeking sanctions. Universities abroad have much more detailed and clear university codes and policies, writes Scena9.

Psychotherapist Adela Szenteș says that professors must conduct themselves ethically regardless of what a student wears or says.

 “We infantilise teachers if we hold a 50-year-old professor to the same standard we hold a student who has just come to Bucharest and doesn’t know what university life is about,” says Cristina Praz from Centrul FILIA. “It feels like you’re actually doing a disservice to the professor too. How can we hold them to the same standard? A professor is no longer a teenager who doesn’t understand certain personal boundaries.”

Some voice messages that Bădău sent to a student from the Advertising school on Facebook show that he was aware of the acceptable boundaries in a teacher-student relationship: “We couldn’t have talked, because I would’ve been your teacher,” he said. “But now… since I don’t teach Advertising, we can talk. There are advantages and disadvantages.” The message ends with him laughing. “If we had a teacher-student relationship, we would only talk about school on Messenger. I don’t talk to my students on Messenger.”

In these voice messages, Bădău explains
why it is acceptable for him to initiate
conversations with students from the
Advertising school, but not from the other ones

For its research, Centrul FILIA also asked for information about the complaints made to the ethics committees of 52 public universities between 2016 and 2021: there were 44 complaints in total, 22 concerning discrimination, 15 concerning sexual harassment, and 7 that did not fall into any specific category. In 93% of cases, the perpetrators were men. The experts we spoke to, however, say that such cases do not get reported. Gabriela Manea, an experienced domestic violence lawyer, says that victims don’t have many options. In theory, if you have been subjected to physical assaults or explicit repeated advances, the law is on your side, especially if you have evidence. If you cannot prove an offence, a lawyer can help you build a case where you seek damages, but you will need to prove in court the psychological impact of the harassment and other problematic behaviours such as those described in this text, often by means of an expensive psychological assessment. So, if you are very determined, you may be able to get some compensation in a civil lawsuit, but you have to fight hard and be willing to expose yourself.

Precisely because national law is still weak and does not sufficiently protect victims, says Manea, universities need to regulate grey areas more carefully. “It’s important for [them to be regulated] in universities because there is a risk of them happening again, and [this] would be the way to stop it,” adds the lawyer. “Universities need clear measures and definitions. Not just general ideas about [violating] moral norms.”

Precisely because national law is still weak and does not sufficiently protect victims, says Manea, universities need to regulate grey areas more carefully. “It’s important for [them to be regulated] in universities because there is a risk of them happening again, and [this] would be the way to stop it,” adds the lawyer. “Universities need clear measures and definitions. Not just general ideas about [violating] moral norms.”Because university codes and the sanctions for violating them are unclear, professors accused of harassment get to keep their jobs even after their stories have hit the press. It’s what happened after RISE Project wrote about several professors from the National University of Theatre and Film. What has changed, among other things, is that the university’s code of ethics has been amended so that it now explicitly prohibits relationships between professors and students, the period in which you can file a complaint has been extended from 30 days to six months after the incident, and there is now a section on the website with “conduct policies,” which includes a glossary of terms and a guide for filing complaints.

Only 1 out of the 85 codes analysed by FILIA lists the steps a student can take if she has been the victim of any type of harassment – who to address, when, what to say. None of them provides a template. (FILIA has created one.)

Andrada Cilibiu says that the institutional resistance to a minimum of clarifications and additions by which professors can be held accountable sends a clear message: “Your safety is not a priority for us. It never has been, and you’ll have to make do with what you have. You’re on your own.”

The problem is that if universities do not have mechanisms in place to intervene when inappropriate behaviours are limited to allusions and advances, these behaviours can escalate and leave long-term scars; which is what happened in Bădău’s case.

Lavinia met Bădău in October 2013. She was 19 years old, in her first year at FJSC, having just moved to Bucharest. Bădău had recently turned 41 and was her professor in the Press and Current Affairs seminar, where students learn about how national and international institutions work.

From the first semester, Lavinia and several of her classmates started working at – a news website that Bădău founded in 2013. “The articles we were writing were not of the best quality,” says Lavinia. A colleague left after Bădău told him that he wasn’t a good journalist if he didn’t go talk to the woman he had seen crying next to a shrine. Of the approximately 10 students who worked or did internships at, Lavinia recalls that only half remained by the end of the year, including herself. “I had just come to Bucharest, and he showed faith in me,” she says. “That’s how he also ended up abusing me.” 

Lavinia says she worked 12 hours a day and earned 1,000 lei (about 200 euros). “I didn’t have a contract. He paid me in cash – yet another reason to see me.” did not have an office, so everyone worked from home or from the city. Sometimes, Lavinia and Bădău worked together, until one evening when Lavinia remembers him saying that he liked her. “He said, ‘Think about it, see how you feel,'” she says. “I was like, ‘Okay, thanks, what can I say?'” At the time, she was still addressing him formally, with “dumneavoastră”. “I didn’t know what to do, how to handle it, considering the power dynamic was a bit strange.”

Back at the dorm, Lavinia remembers searching for him on Google, finding the same blog posts as other students over the years. She told him she didn’t like what she had found and wanted him to leave her alone. Bădău explained that the articles were not true, that people had a problem with him. “He has this talent for saying that everyone is against him,” says Lavinia. A few days later, when they met at his place to finish an article, Bădău told her that “he thinks I don’t want to be with him because I see him as an institution, but he believes that if I touched his penis, the problem would be solved.”

He had prepared the ground beforehand. “He told me that what he was about to say was really bad, really difficult, and that if I wanted to run away, the door was wide open.” According to Lavinia, that was the moment when they became a couple. “It was a tacit agreement.”

For Christmas, Lavinia went home. They had been together for a few weeks, and she remembers that Bădău didn’t agree to her leaving. He blamed her for having to buy an Xbox because she left him on his own, and berated her for wanting to dance with her high school ex at an upcoming holiday show. Lavinia says she was writing news while her mother was cooking for Christmas, and crying so much from the stress that she decided to go back for New Year’s Eve, giving up the show as well.

In early 2014, Lavinia and Bădău were in a teacher-student, employer-employee, and boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. These overlaps continued, on and off, until March 2016, when Lavinia left Today, she says she is convinced that Bădău manipulated her, isolated her from her friends, and that the relationship was an abuse that she only came to terms with after going to therapy. She decided to speak for this article after consulting with her family and therapist. “I wouldn’t call it a ‘relationship,'” Lavinia says about what she went through, “because a relationship is something that both partners are comfortable with and agree on.”

Excerpts from emails received by Lavinia from Bădău

They spent most of their time working together and occasionally met at his apartment because Lavinia lived in a dorm. She remembers that she often wrote over 10 articles a day, which she also edited and uploaded to the website. (At, the team was paid based on traffic.) Bădău was constantly checking the site, especially at night. “He had the night shift because he didn’t like to sleep, so he was there from 12 until around 5 AM, after which I would wake up,” Lavinia recalls. Sometimes he would call to ask her why she wasn’t at a certain place, why a certain news article wasn’t on the website, why she hadn’t put her colleagues to work. She’d even take her laptop with her to the club, so that at midnight she could send a report on how many articles she had published and the traffic they had generated. “Just so he wouldn’t accuse me of anything,” she says.

One day, she recalls, he sent her to photograph girls in the university toilet. “That was the brief. I went to the toilet with my phone, stayed there for an hour, and then told him there was no one I could photograph. I think he gave me the brief just to see how far I’d go.'”

As her professor, Lavinia says that “Bădău had no business with me, didn’t give me any preferential treatment. I only went to his classes to get the attendance points and write the exams, because I didn’t feel comfortable seeing him there.”

Bădău asked her to change his name when talking to others about him; to say that she was in a relationship with Boris, who is a doctor. (DJ Bhoris was his stage name as a DJ at Club A.) “I don’t think we ever talked about it in a straightforward way, but we both knew we weren’t going to show ourselves in public,” says Lavinia. “He was the one setting the boundaries anyway.”

Even so, other students did talk about the alleged relationships that Bădău was having with students from FJSC. We tried to get in touch with some of the women several people told us had long-term relationships with Bădău. One of them refused, saying that their relationship was consensual, “even though, unfortunately, I was too young to know right from wrong.” She added that she worked a lot in therapy on her relationship with Bădău and that “it was one of her worst traumas.” (In conversations with Lavinia, Bădău often said he would go back to his “ex”.)

Excerpts from emails received by Lavinia from Bădău

The work relationship continued uninterrupted, though the personal one went through several breaks, as shown by the emails we have seen from Bădău. These are the last pieces of evidence that Lavinia held onto. When they were not in a romantic relationship, the emails were more formal, and Lavinia addressed him with “dumneavoastră” (the formal “you”). When they were together, he wrote to her about the site, traffic, or what the interns were doing, but the tone was informal, and there were pet names or declarations of love.

Bădău’s criticism of Lavinia also continued uninterrupted. He told her that he would cut her salary or that she would end up selling cucumbers at the market because she couldn’t do any better. “He was trying to get it into my head that I had an attention deficit and that I should do something about it,” says Lavinia. He even told her mother that her daughter’s inattention was probably due to the woman’s smoking during pregnancy. “My gut was telling me that things shouldn’t be like this, but I didn’t realise how sick and wrong they were,” says Lavinia. “I kept asking myself, ‘why do you keep seeing this man if he hurts you so much, and you’re so anxious every time you see him?’ I felt that I shouldn’t be afraid or have panic attacks every time I see my partner.”

Psychotherapist Diana Safta says, “A victim’s reactions to abuse are influenced by how the nervous system responds to danger and stress.” To prevent violence and survive, victims try to please the abuser (often through praise and excessive attention to his needs and desires). Thus, they may have difficulty identifying abusive behaviours as dangerous, says Safta, “especially if they have been exposed to them for a long time.”

“Whenever he felt that I wanted to break away from him, he’d tell me that I was the best journalist, that was where it was because of me.” He raised her salary from 1,000 to 2,000 lei, which she still received in cash. At one point, he made her editor-in-chief and the coordinator of students coming in for internships.

She was sometimes the best, sometimes at fault for everything. If he was late for a meeting, it was Lavinia’s fault because she had written a poor text. If he stumbled on the stairs, it was because he’d been staring at his phone to reply to her. If he was cold, it was because Lavinia hadn’t told him what the weather was like outside. “To avoid any more arguments, I’d just say ‘yes, that’s right.'”

Over time, Bădău pushed away the people around her: classmates, friends, her mother, with whom she had a close relationship. He said that her dorm friends were stupid and dragging her down, and the calls with her mother were too frequent. “Don’t you have anything to do? You sit all day and chat instead of working, growing in your career,” Lavinia recalls him saying.

He was not a thoughtful partner either. He sent her home at night, even at 2 in the morning. “He had those moments like ‘Can I sleep alone? Go home,'” she remembers. He did this even on New Year’s Eve. “We went to Constitution Square, where we saw the fireworks, came home, worked a bit more, and then he sent me home.” Today, looking back on what she went through, Lavinia says that Bădău was one of the loneliest people she knew. He had no friends, “he had no one. That’s why I felt so important in his life.”

While he set boundaries, Lavinia became more and more dependent. “I felt that if I left him, I would be all alone.”

“The dynamics of the aggressor-victim relationship are marked by interdependence,” says psychotherapist Adela Szenteș. “The person who is traumatised and has these inner destructive feelings is forced to resort to defence mechanisms in order to survive. Meanwhile, the aggressor exerts power over the victim’s psyche by manipulating her and trying to induce feelings of guilt and shame.”

One day, Lavinia was on her way to meet Bădău when he called to berate her for misspelling a word and saying he was sick of pointing out her mistakes. Maybe a beating would help, “same as with a cow,” Lavinia remembers him saying. At first, she thought he was joking, but when she arrived at his place, she found him waiting with a slipper in his hand. “Bend over here,” she recalls him saying. 

“I remember he bent me over from behind and made to slap my butt with the slipper, to teach me a lesson about paying attention,” says Lavinia. “He didn’t slap me, just the furniture, but when I heard the blow, I burst into tears.”

“There, there,” he said as he cradled her in his arms.

“It’s hard to understand that a man kept me by his side through sheer [fear and terror],” says Lavinia. This made her blame herself for years that she didn’t leave, even if she felt the relationship wasn’t right and things shouldn’t be like that.

This dynamic continued, on and off, until the beginning of 2016. Bădău warned her that he would go back to his ex and told her not to write to him. He encouraged her to find someone else while he was away but appeared puzzled and offended when she did.

“It’s not that I was expecting to find you single and pure,” Bădău wrote in an email. “I pushed you to do it with someone else. But I thought it would be just for fun. No problem, move on. I gave you my love, hold it in your heart as something bright and precious. And let’s turn it into a beautiful and lasting friendship for life.”

Communication between Lavinia and Bădău ended in the spring of 2016, after Lavinia resigned from the news sites he ran. Around the same time, he asked her to help him get some files from the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) to search for evidence against the then-dean of FJSC, Mihai Coman. When Lavinia mentioned Bădău’s name in a conversation with a friend who was going to request the files, Bădău sent her a final stream of furious emails written in all caps: “I really can’t believe you’re this stupid!!!! I can’t believe it! I asked you to get this done without my name being mentioned, I trusted you immensely, and you pissed on me!!!! (…) Get out of my life, I don’t ever want to hear from you again. As of now, you no longer mean anything to me; you no longer exist.”

Excerpt from an email received by Lavinia from Bădău 

These days, Lavinia says that their relationship was based on fear. “I was afraid when he called me, I was afraid when he was in a good mood because his mood would sour and he’d berate me for it, I was afraid when he was in a bad mood because he’d take it out on me. I was afraid of him 80% of the time.” So afraid, in fact, that a few years after they stopped talking, she saw him through a bar window and ducked under the table. So afraid that she thinks if he called her now, she’d have a panic attack. 

Lavinia is 29 years old and has been a mother for almost a year. She says she decided to speak out not to get revenge, but because she hopes that other girls won’t have to go through what she went through. At 19, Lavinia only found rumours on the internet, but she believes that reading other girls’ stories might have helped her stop him. “You write this truth, so they can read it.”


  1. Complaint to the faculty (dean or vice-dean) and/or the Ethics Committee. (Check out the template provided by Centrul FILIA.) The procedures and deadlines for filing a complaint can be found in the universities’ codes of ethics.

At the University of Bucharest, there is no specific deadline for submitting a complaint, says spokesperson Bogdan Oprea, but “labour law, as well as specific legislation in the field of combating discrimination and harassment,” sets a deadline of six months from the moment of the incident. In theory, if the Ethics Commission is informed of the perpetrator, their behaviour and any available evidence, it can initiate an investigation. 

  1. Criminal complaint to the police or to the prosecutor (i.e., the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Court where the offense was committed). In the case of offenses such as harassment, threats, destruction, and sexual assault (any touching of a victim’s intimate parts, forcing the victim to touch their own intimate parts or the assailant’s, forced kisses), the victim must file the complaint within a maximum of 3 months from the incident if they want the offender to face criminal charges.

In the criminal complaint, the victim must name the person who committed the assault, describe what happened, present evidence (messages, photos, witnesses), and may request compensation, even in the complaint itself.

In the case of sexual assault, if the assailant exploits the authority of their position, the police can be notified even after the 3-month deadline. If a student is asked for sexual favours by a teacher, a complaint can also be filed for misuse of position. In this case too, the police can be notified even after the 3-month deadline.

  1. If you feel like you can’t trust anyone with your story, seek counselling or psychotherapy. You can also reach out to women’s rights NGOs. They usually provide psychological and legal counselling: ANAIS, FILIA, ALEG, Girl Up Romania.
  2. Share what you went through with your personal support network (friends, family, partners, close acquaintances).
  3. Notify the press. If you have experienced inappropriate behaviour from Horea Bădău or other professors from FJSC, contact the authors.

AUTHORS’ NOTE: Carla Lunguți graduated from FJSC in 2017. In 2014, she interned at Bădău’s website, and in 2017, he was her professor. She did not experience any of the behaviours described in this text, but she heard about them for years, and last year, after publishing a series of articles about FJSC in Libertatea, she decided to investigate them. Cristian Lupșa graduated from FJSC in 2003 and has occasionally been teaching there as a collaborator since 2015. Over the years, he has heard rumours about the abusive behaviours of some FJSC faculty members; in 2023, after a new cohort of students told him about the oppressive atmosphere at the faculty, he decided to verify which rumours were true.

Editor: Luiza Vasiliu
Graphics: Simina Popescu
Contributors: Lavinia Niță, Ioana Moldoveanu
Fact-checking: Roxana Jipa
Special thanks to: Dana Alecu, Ana Maria Ciobanu, David Muntean