Misconduct complaint against professor embroils prestigious College of Europe in controversy

Several complaints from young women about the behaviour of a prominent professor have surfaced at the prestigious College of Europe in Bruges, known as a breeding ground for European diplomats and senior officials. This was reported by the European news website Politico this weekend.

The professor and director of European political and administrative studies has been placed on leave following complaints from several (former) female students about his intrusive and inappropriate behaviour. The Frenchman, who is in his fifties and has been at the college for 24 years, calls it a 'witch hunt'.

Shrimp risotto-gate

One of the complainants, a doctoral student, has printed out 62 emails, which she says show that the professor, active in numerous European institutions, has crossed professional boundaries.

For example, he sent her late-night photos of a shrimp risotto while philosophising about their walks in the rain. He would also express a desire to have a drink with her or take her to a restaurant that a student would typically never be able to afford. According to some students, this pattern repeated itself over the years.

Meanwhile, the professor realises his career in Bruges is over, although he initially laughed when the "shrimp risotto-gate" broke, writes De Standaard. "As I wrote in emails to students, I knew certain writings could be inappropriate, unprofessional and offensive. I may have tried too hard to play the popular professor. For that, I apologise," he said.

I didn't touch anyone, I didn't have affairs, I didn't approach anyone sexually

"But the reality is what it is: professors communicate with students, and sending an email is not necessarily punishable. I didn't touch anyone, I didn't have affairs, I didn't approach anyone sexually. My only mistake was that I tried to be too social, perhaps in a clumsy way. Twenty years ago, nobody would have stumbled over that."

Ethics committee

Shortly after Politico published the story on Saturday, the professor appeared before the university's ethics committee via video link at his request. He is awaiting his fate. Officially, the college refuses to comment.

The College of Europe is an independent university institute offering a range of postgraduate master's degrees in specialised European studies. It has three campuses in Bruges (Belgium), Warsaw (Poland) and Tirana (Albania). Founded in 1949, it is the oldest institute for studying European affairs.





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