U of U replacing physics chair following graduate student’s suicide

File Photo: Ben Bromley

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is replacing physics chair Ben Bromley following an investigation into the suicide of one of the university’s graduate students.

The student, a Ph.D. candidate, committed suicide in October 2017, which sparked an independent legal investigation into the student’s experience at the school, according to a news release from the university.

Administrators have also closed the school’s physics graduate program to new enrollment for the 2018-19 school year and possibly longer, the news release said. Professors in the U of U’s physics department called this measure “rare and extreme,” a report by the university’s newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle, said.

The investigation found several issues within the University of Utah’s Physics and Astronomy Department, including insufficient oversight in advisory committees, inconsistent enforcement of department policies and disputes within the department “to the point that certain faculty members refuse to speak to one another,” the news release said.

The investigation also found specific issues the student experienced, including a lapse in the student’s visa, an unorthodox delay in her progress through the program, a workload with “significantly more rigor” than typically projected for a Ph.D. program and other breaches of the department’s policies, the news release said.

More details about the specific issues the student faced are expected to be released later this week.