UM professor Marcelis exonerated after complaints about social unsafety

UM professor Marcelis exonerated after complaints about social unsafety

Jim van Os: "GGzE and the RGS should hold moral council, in which they consider their earlier decisions"

15-02-2023 · News

No evidence has been found that Maastricht professor of Psychiatry Machteld Marcelis has behaved in a socially unsafe manner towards her PhD students. They had filed a complaint to that effect. 

Last summer, five PhD students, two of whom wanted to remain anonymous, complained to UM about their supervisor Marcelis being socially unsafe towards them. No evidence was found in the independent investigation carried out by the Bing agency, commissioned by the Executive Board. Bing interviewed the PhD students and Marcelis, as well as other researchers who worked with the professor. 

In the press release, UM states that “different expectations” constituted the basis of the conflict. “For example, PhD students each having different expectations about supervision,” says president Rianne Letschert. “In this case, it is all about communication.”

Not just at UM but also at the GGzE (Mental Health Care) institute in Eindhoven, where Marcelis worked as head trainer, complaints had been made about social unsafety. After a hasty investigation by the supervisory authority RGS (Registration Committee for Medical Specialists), Marcelis and two other trainers at the GGzE stepped down from their positions as requested by the interim manager. The RGS initially shut down the entire psychiatry study programme, but reverted that decision later on.

The complainants and the complaints in Eindhoven are partially the same as in Maastricht, says former Maastricht Psychiatry professor Jim van Os, who carried out his own investigation. “Except, now the case has been investigated by a professional agency, and not by the RGS, which tried to hastily put things right.”

Van Os reckons that the Bing agency’s findings should also have consequences for the GGzE and the RGS. “Those two organisations should hold moral council, in which they consider their earlier decisions. Did they do the right thing? Or did they needlessly sacrifice Marcelis and the other two trainers?”

The GGzE sees that differently, spokesperson Jeroen Hurkens states. “Maastricht University’s investigation and decisions are separate, as far as we are concerned, from those of the GGzE. The role that Marcelis had at the GGZ institute, and its context are different to that of the university.” Marcelis says that she is in contact with GGzE’s interim manager about the Bing investigation. She also has a talk lined up with RGS.

Marcelis is relieved that she can continue with her work at UM. She sees the clear outcome of the investigation as an end to a difficult time. “Many untruths were told, some based on anonymous reports, which were given full scope in the media. I was at times bewildered and thought: how dare you write something that is so demonstrable and factually incorrect. You feel very vulnerable, certainly when the process of listening to both sides is not applied.” 

Like president Letschert, Marcelis is very pleased with the Bing investigation, where both the complainants and the accused were treated equally and listened to extensively. Although Marcelis did argue for both parties, after consent, to be brought together before starting an enquiry or hasty investigation.