Tim de Zeeuw, a former observatory head with Leiden University, has been removed from his post after allegations of "extremely unacceptable behavior," a report claims
In a statement given to Physics World on Wednesday, Oct. 26, Zeeuw acknowledged the removal. The astronomer reportedly "cannot agree" with the executive board decision of the university, but he will nonetheless abide by "all measures imposed," according to the statement.
De Zeeuw continued by claiming that it was "never his intention to hurt or harm" people.
"I am very sorry that people have experienced my behavior as negative. For that, I sincerely apologize," the astronomer said in the statement. "I do recognize that in the past period I have now and then been unpleasant and impatient in an old-fashioned way, which no longer fits in the current spirit of the times. I will comply with all the measures imposed."
Leiden officials issued a statement indicating that the findings of an investigation led to the dismissal of a professor who "subjected various colleagues to intimidating and unacceptable behavior for a longer period.
"The professor will not be allowed to return to the university [and] will no longer be allowed to supervise Ph.D. candidates," Leiden officials wrote, saying they would "look critically at the lessons that we as a university must learn from this, and how we can ensure that unacceptable behavior is addressed sooner in the future."
According to officials, the professor was suspended during the investigation. He was also the former director-general of the European Southern Observatory from 2007 to 2017, as well as the former director of the Leiden Observatory from 2003 to 2007.
The Leiden probe began after several members of staff complained to the dean about the professor in question, according to university authorities, who noted that the investigation involved an independent complaints committee as well as the institution's executive board.
His behavior included "intimidation, systematic vilification, and unwelcome physical contact with one of the staff members," according to Annetje Ottow, head of Leiden's executive board.
The intergovernmental astronomical organization ESO and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, both severed connections with the former Leiden professor. Physics World reported on the removal from Max Planck, and on Wednesday, ESO officials released a statement of their own.
"We express our deep support and sympathy for the victims of this harassment. ESO is strongly against all forms of harassment, bullying, and other unacceptable behavior," ESO officials said.