VUB professor contacted victims after being fired for inappropriate behaviour

VUB professor contacted victims after being fired for inappropriate behaviour
Credit: VUB

A professor at the University of Brussels (VUB) who was fired for inappropriate behaviour towards students and colleagues contacted his victims after his dismissal, despite it being forbidden to do so.

The 49-year-old archaeology professor was dismissed after some 20 students and staff members had reported transgressive behaviour, resulting in an internal investigation into his misconduct.

He was told not to come to campus or talk to his victims but has since contacted some of them, asking them to lie about the incidents. "He asked if I would say that he had never bothered me," one student who was a victim of the professor told De Standaard.

Another employee and victim said he asked her if she had filed a complaint against him. She reported this to the head of the personnel department, who said he would look into it, but she never got a response.

"The fact that there were no consequences hurt me a lot. I was in a very unsafe working environment and the VUB turned its head away from this."

A VUB spokesperson told The Brussels Times that he could only confirm that there was indeed a ban on contact with women who had reported such incidents and victims."

Delay in response after reporting incident

Many other victims criticised the lack of response from the university to the allegations of transgressive behaviour, intimidation and abuse of power. The man was reportedly behaving in this way for almost a decade.

Several women said the university did nothing until they contacted the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (IGVM), which is when “things picked up speed." Eventually, the professor was fired following an internal investigation by the VUB.

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This incident, as well as a similar case at the University of Ghent (UGent) of a student who reported having received inappropriate messages from a PhD student supervising her exams in January 2020 being left waiting years for a response from the university, has shone a light on how universities deal with harassment and transgressive behaviour among their ranks.

UGent confirmed to The Brussels Times that in light of this incident, its dean Rik Van de Walle urged the Disciplinary Committee to complete its work "very soon." The victim welcomed this decision and said she was confident that things would proceed more rapidly, but still laments the response from the university overall.

"I'm looking forward to hearing the decision, but I'm still wondering why I received the wrong information and why nothing was done about my report of being assaulted by a thesis student (who has since graduated) from April 2021 to a few days ago," she told The Brussels Times.

She added that, although it will take a while for this confidence to grow, she believes that in the future, such incidents will be dealt with better by the university.

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