An example of academic bullying that doesn’t really seem to have been dealt with very well.
The complaints that launched the investigations allege that the pair — Sofia Feltzing and Melvyn Davies — bullied colleagues using their positions of power, and that Lund University officials failed to act strongly enough following multiple reports over the years. Although bullying and harassment are rife in academia, this case is unusual because it pits many members of an academic division against two of its most senior professors, alleging long-lasting and widespread harm.
Because of the case, Davies moved to Lund’s mathematics department in January; Feltzing has been working from home, but is expected to be reintegrated into the observatory. The plan to bring Feltzing back has not gone down well with many there. Over the past year and a half, representatives of PhD and master’s student groups have sent letters to Lund’s dean of science and vice-chancellor, requesting that they take additional action. Faculty members have also weighed in: “Insisting on a reintegration plan of a factual harasser without taking the safety and concerns of victims seriously puts astronomy [at Lund] at risk of collapse,” reads a January 2021 protest letter signed by 11 senior staff members and addressed to Erik Renström, the university’s vice-chancellor.
Jesper Nielsen, a representative of the master’s students at the observatory, says that things might go relatively smoothly if Feltzing is brought back into the department in such a way as to avoid those in direct conflict with her. “But if it is being handled sloppily, and if her victims come into contact with her, then that’s where the big problems will arise,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s possible to reintegrate her nicely enough.”
Others say that the Lund Observatory experience is one that other institutions should not repeat. “If there is a zero-tolerance policy,” says Johansen, “there has to be some form of consequences or accountability.”