Swiss university dissolves astronomy institute after misconduct allegations

first_imgThe ETH Zurich in Switzerland dissolved its institute for astronomy in August. The statement adds that the institute was disbanded because having a married couple—hired together to launch the institute in 2002—serve as professors in the same institute “was not ideal,” and reorganization was necessary “to reform the inappropriate personnel structure as quickly as possible so as to rectify the situation.” Carollo and Lilly were given separate professorships, and other staff were reassigned to a new Institute for Particle Physics and Astrophysics. The external inquiry “allows us to take an even closer look at the facts and decide whether further measures still need to be taken,” ETH President Lino Guzzella said in the statement.The accusers’ identities have not been made public, but—according to the NZZ report—students charged that Carollo expected “superhuman commitment,” including being reachable on weekends, rarely taking vacations, and participating in evening meetings that would sometimes go until midnight. According to the report, Carollo would criticize students’ postures and tell them to spend less time on makeup and more on research. The article says that one-third of Carollo’s Ph.D. students failed to graduate, and many of her postdocs left the field after they failed to publish enough papers. An accompanying article says a key problem is the Swiss academic system, in which Ph.D. students are selected and essentially hired by a single professor rather than being accepted into a department, as is common in the United States. When conflicts arise, students have few places to turn.Carollo and Lilly have said they can’t comment on the situation, but several colleagues and former students have come to their defense. In an open letter of support, they write that Carollo and Lilly are leaders in the field who have “built an absolutely world class astronomical institute in less than a decade.” The letter notes that Carollo’s first five Ph.D. students all are now in tenure-track positions—something that happens to only about 15% of Ph.D.s, the letter says. It adds that a 30% dropout rate is not unusual in prestigious Ph.D. programs. “She has been unusually dedicated to her students,” the letter says. “If at times she comes across as a relentless task master, this owes to her commitment to her students and desire to maximise their career chances.”Two colleagues from the ETH physics department note that Carollo is one of two women among 50 physics professors at the university. “Thinking that any woman can function well without issues at ETH is … folly,” says George Lake, a physics professor who signed the letter. “If they aren’t as aggressive as males, they get steamrolled. If they are even half as aggressive as males, they are witches.” Carollo could be tough on her students, he says. However, “I could list 5% to 10% of my colleagues who are guilty of the same and get no blowback.”Ursula Keller, a physicist at ETH and another signatory to the letter, agrees. “We need to realize that unconscious bias plays a role in how behavior is perceived,” she says, especially in such a predominantly male department. She also says the university exacerbated the situation because it has no standard procedure for dealing with misconduct allegations. She urged the university in May to launch a formal inquiry and give Carollo a proper chance to defend herself. She says today’s announcement is a step in the right direction. “It is great that they have started a process that can accommodate this complexity and give everyone a fair hearing. Something like this can make a university stronger.” Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe In August, ETH Zurich in Switzerland quietly dissolved its institute for astronomy. Today it launched an official investigation into allegations that led to its closure: that a leading professor there mistreated graduate students for more than a decade, while the administration ignored complaints against her. The professor’s spouse had been head of the institute.The allegations came to light Sunday in a story in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, which did not name the professors involved. The former head of the institute was cosmologist Simon Lilly, and his wife is astrophysicist Marcella Carollo. Both are now on sabbatical.The university administration today issued a statement describing how several students brought complaints to the university ombudsperson early this year, charging that “a female professor” had “demonstrated inept management conduct toward many of her graduate students.” The university’s executive board took on the case in February. It decided in March that the affected students would be reassigned to a different supervisor and that the professor would be given “close support” if asked to supervise students in the future. Email Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Countrycenter_img ETH-Bibliothek/Wikimedia Commons Swiss university dissolves astronomy institute after misconduct allegations By Gretchen VogelOct. 25, 2017 , 6:15 PM Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*)last_img

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