ETH Zurich

© ETH Zurich/Gian Marco Castelberg

ETH Zurich starts process to dismiss professor accused of bullying students

ETH Zurich in Switzerland has set in motion a procedure to dismiss astronomy professor Marcella Carollo. The university announced the move today after receiving the results of an independent investigation into allegations that she bullied students. “The final report confirms this is a case of unacceptable behavior which we do not tolerate,” ETH President Lino Guzzella said in a statement

The allegations came to light a year ago, when a Swiss newspaper reported Carollo had mistreated students over more than a decade and that the university had ignored complaints about her behavior. A few months earlier, the university had quietly dissolved the Institute for Astronomy where Carollo had worked. (Her husband, astronomer Simon Lilly, had been director of the institute for several years.) Carollo was on sabbatical for the second half of 2017, and she has not returned to her duties as a professor.

Carollo issued a statement through her lawyer saying that she had been the target of a smear campaign started by a student whose performance she found inadequate. The statement says it is “noteworthy” that “the university has not found it necessary to take similarly serious measures” after investigations involving male professors. She said she “will use all means at her disposal” to defend herself against attempts to dismiss her.

The final decision on Carollo’s status rests with the university’s board of directors. According to university regulations, the university will now appoint a committee to “review whether a dismissal is appropriate” and make a recommendation to the board. The university president will also weigh in.