After bullying allegations at the ETH: Commission recommends not to dismiss controversial professor

For years, a renowned professor of astrophysics at the ETH Zurich humiliated her students. The elite university wants to dismiss them - but a commission advises against.



The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich has taken an unusual approach this Wednesday: the elite university has published a confidential report by an administrative commission. It contains spicy details on the behavior of a renowned professor of astrophysics.

The scientist had exaggeratedly controlled her graduate students over the years, treated them condescendingly, and expected them to be superhuman. After the allegations became known in 2017, ETH Zurich had the woman released and had the case investigated. The "NZZ" had first reported about it.

The document makes the university now public, because details of it had already reached the public. The study says: The behavior of the professor weighs heavily. Among other things, she is accused of "weak leadership, disrespectful interaction with employees, a strong need for control, (too) high demands for performance, the (continuous) expectation that employees also have to be available on days off, lack of willingness to discuss and their ability to perform as well as other things" ,

"Hardly willing to question your own behavior"

She has "significant deficits in social skills". It should also be noted that the professor maintained "a very pronounced 'closeness relationship' with certain of her doctoral students, which sometimes turned into a strong mutual rejection.The sense of a reasonable distance between the teacher and the doctoral student did not always seem to exist. "

In addition, the report states that the professor said in her hearing "no awareness of the problem and little willingness to question one's own behavior". The professor also described herself as a victim of a campaign initiated by an unsuccessful doctoral candidate.

The Commission notes that many of the allegations are "largely accurate" and that the professor's behavior is "unacceptable". Derailments such as these must be detected early, consistently punished and prevented.

She continues to receive her salary

Nevertheless, the Commission is in favor of not dismissing the professor. The report states that there is no "viable legal possibility for dismissal". However, she should no longer supervise doctoral candidates alone, participate in coaching and she would have to complete a probationary period of two years. However, the Commission recommendation is not binding.

The future of the professor is now decided by the supervisory board of the ETH, the so-called ETH Board. Gian-Andri Casutt, spokesman for the Council, told the SPIEGEL that the scientist will be questioned again. Only then, if all the processes were legally correct, the Council will make its decision. This is expected to be expected in the summer.

Until then, the professor is indeed exempted from their duties, as the ETH confirmed the SPIEGEL, but she was still employed and therefore receive their full pay - and that is likely to be more than 200,000 euros a year.

ref: spiegel