Prominent psychology professor officially reprimanded following transgressive behaviour
A Radboud psychology professor has recently received a warning for transgressive behaviour towards a former master’s student. He bombarded the student with text messages and told her that he was in love with her. This is evident from a report in radio programme Argos from earlier today.
‘Inappropriate and unprofessional’ – that’s what Radboud University called the behaviour of one of its prominent psychology professors. The professor exhibited transgressive behaviour towards a master’s student. According to reports by the radio programme Argos, the professor has received an official warning that has been added to his personnel file.
Instances of the transgressive behaviour took place between 2017 and 2020, the now 29-year-old woman told Argos. The professor was her master thesis supervisor at the time and bombarded her with messages about her appearance, amongst other things. In 2020, the professor confessed to being in love with her.
Following an earlier report by the student to the programme coordinator, the coordinator approached the professor regarding his behaviour. That resulted in little change – the professor responded laxly and continued to make inappropriate comments.
The programme coordinator stated in the radio programme that it is difficult to confront a well-respected professor who brings in research funds, sells a lot of books, and is a personal friend of the director. Only much later, when the former student was at home with a burn-out, she reported to a confidential advisor.
She didn’t file an official report, she told Argos, because she did not have the energy to follow through with that at the time. This was additionally advised against by the confidential advisor. The confidential advisor did, however, file a report that was received by the faculty.
Following a conversation with the involved parties, the professor received a warning. In an official letter, signed by the dean and submitted to rector Han van Krieken, the professor was told that his behaviour had been unprofessional and inappropriate. This letter, reviewed by Argos, was added to his personnel file and is considered a ‘yellow card.’
In the radio report, the victim expressed satisfaction over the reaction from the Executive Board. She is, however, dissatisfied with the possibilities of reporting this kind of behaviour. She additionally questioned whether it would not be necessary to launch a broader investigation into the professor’s behaviour and how he can be prevented from making the same mistake in the future.
The fear is not unfounded: in the radio report, a second woman described being inappropriately approached by the professor. She, too, was bombarded with messages. This happened while she was working for a company that was co-founded by the professor. Following a report by the woman, the company launched an independent investigation and gave the professor a formal warning, additionally to a ban from the company’s work floor for two years.
Argos has reached out to both the professor and the Executive Board of Radboud University for a response. The professor states to be ashamed of his behaviour and admits in a lengthy reply to having been unprofessional, overconfident, and naïve.
On behalf of the Executive Board, vice-president Agnes Muskens admits that the university struggles with reports of transgressive behaviour, because of its obligation to also protect the privacy of the accused.
Muskens believes that the university has done enough in the case brought to light by Argos. According to her, the fact that a second person has now come forward with complaints about the professor does not justify further investigation; after all, this instance took place outside the university.
The radio programme also invited Marijke Naezer. The expert in the field of transgressive behaviour called the professor’s actions sexually transgressive behaviour, despite the professor not physically crossing a line. She also questions the handling of the case behind closed doors. The university should better be transparent and open when it comes to those kinds of issues, she says. ‘It’s better to wash and air your dirty laundry outside for everyone to see.’
The Argos report can be listened back to via NPO Radio 1 (in Dutch, ed.). Next week, the second part of the programme, addressing social safety at Dutch universities, will be broadcast.
Update (September 19): An earlier version of this article stated that the official letter to the professor, informing him that he had behaved unprofessionally and inappropriately, was signed by Rector Han van Krieken. That is not correct, the university announced today. The letter, signed by the dean, was submitted to the rector.
Translation: Antonia Leise