August 27, 2007

Two mathematicians forced to resign at Uppsala University, Sweden

On Thursday February 8 2007, Oleg Viro and Burglind Juhl-Jöricke, two tenured professors at the Department of Mathematics at Uppsala University were called in for interviews in connection with an investigation carried out by the university administration relating to an ongoing difficulty at their department. To their surprise, instead of being interviewed, they were presented with an ultimatum: either to resign voluntarily and to receive damages approximately equivalent to salaries for three years or to face the due process of a dishonourable discharge. Under duress they signed and were then almost immediately deprived of the possibility to use their e-mail accounts. The Rector of the University did not present any explicit charges in public to justify the rather extreme measures.

In a press statement and in a letter to the president of the European Mathematical Society, the rector mentions work environment problems at the Department as the reason for his action and then states: After having been formally cautioned, the two professors tendered their resignations. This allegation is not in agreement with reports by the two professors: they ask in vain to be given indications of what they are accused of, they are not given a chance to defend themselves, and they finally sign their resignations only after the rector’s strong demand under conditions which seemingly give them no choice. That is the conclusion from a documentation provided by Oleg Viro which is based on voice recordings taken by the professors during the interviews.

Numerous European and American mathematicians have since protested against the treatment of Professors Viro and Juhl-Jöricke by Uppsala University in letters both to the University and to the European Mathematical Society. In his reply to the rector, EMS-president Ari Laptev expresses his grave concern with respect to the procedure chosen by Uppsala University; he states that the incident has been seen as a danger to the entire mathematical community. Laptev asks the rector to reconsider his decision regarding the expulsion of the two professors.

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