Independent inquiry exonerates Professor Machteld Marcelis

Professor Machteld Marcelis can continue her work at Maastricht University, the university’s Executive Board has determined. An independent inquiry commissioned by the board and conducted by the agency BING found no evidence of an unsafe social environment within the Psychiatry section of the UM Department of Psychiatry & Neuropsychology, where Professor Marcelis works. Complaints about working relationships with the professor chiefly related to diverging expectations that cannot be attributed to the behaviour of only one of the parties involved, the inquiry found. BING investigated the complaints and interviewed the professor’s PhD students and other members of the department, as well as Professor Marcelis herself.

The UM Executive Board commissioned the inquiry last summer after receiving complaints about Professor Marcelis. The investigation found no evidence of a lack of social safety attributable to Professor Marcelis, either at present or in the past, and found no indication that there was a lack of social safety within the Psychiatry section in the department to which the professor belongs.

The researchers confirm the general notion that PhD students find themselves in an ‘inherent position of dependency’, but note that Maastricht University has adequate ‘infrastructure’ in place to prevent any abuse of this position. A key factor is the communication to clarify expectations on the part of PhD students, especially external PhD students.

‘The results of the independent investigation are clear,’ says UM president Rianne Letschert. ‘There is a clear conclusion on the basis of which we were able to make a logical decision: Professor Marcelis can continue with her work at UM. Care in the investigation and towards all parties involved has been paramount during the past months. This will continue. It is good that the position of the current PhD candidates has also been considered. Care is also needed to monitor their position of dependency. The position of PhD candidates receives sufficient consideration in the section of the department that has been investigated. At the same time, constant vigilance and effort are needed to ensure that this is in order throughout the university.’

In consultation with Professor Marcelis, the Executive Board has decided to name her in this press release, rather than maintaining her anonymity. Given that Professor Marcelis has already been mentioned by name in media reports, including those on the inquiry commissioned by UM, she now prefers to opt for transparency.

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