Photo of the Maria Montessori building
Photo of the Maria Montessori building

Response from the Dean following Argos broadcast

Last Saturday (16 September), the Argos radio programme reported on a professor from our Faculty who had displayed transgressive behaviour towards a student in the past. I understand that this news was shocking to hear and that it provoked reactions and questions. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to explain how the Faculty dealt with the report at the time, and how we are working together to ensure a safe study and working environment for our students and our staff.

The Dean received the original report in January 2021. Immediately after the report, the Dean launched an internal investigation, including a hearing of both parties and a context analysis, to check whether there were any other signs of transgressive behaviour. During the investigation, the professor acknowledged that his behaviour had been unprofessional and transgressive and he expressed regret.

Based on this investigation, the Dean anonymously coordinated the case with the Rector, following which the Dean imposed a disciplinary sanction on the professor. The measure in question was a formal warning, which was added to the professor's personnel file. If such behaviour occurs again, it may be grounds for heavier measures. During the change of dean, the file was handed over to the new dean. Even before the report was filed, the professor had already, at his own request, reduced his working hours at the University. He also no longer mentors students.

Following the formal warning, we have not found or received any signals that the behaviour in question reoccurred, also not in the wake of the Argos broadcast. We considered reopening the investigation, but since there have been no new signals, the Faculty Board and the Executive Board see no reason to do so at present. Incidentally, new signals on any file can always prompt us to launch a new or additional investigation.

As Faculty and University, it is our intention to always keep learning how to do our work even better, including in response to the notifier's story in the Argos broadcast. We are therefore keen to talk about these matters to notifiers and any other people involved. 

This is important, because social safety is high on the agenda of the University, but also of our Faculty, and this includes both prevention and proper handling of reports, in the interests of all concerned. As a University, we have a code of conduct, and 11 confidential advisors who have worked as a single centralised team since 2020. We also have an ombudsperson for staff and an ombudsperson for students. Within our leadership programme, we devote attention to social safety, and we have developed training tools and meetings in which we can engage in dialogue around these themes, for example in response to a theatrical performance.

We are also working together within the Faculty to create an even more familiar environment in which students and staff feel safe. Creating a culture of accountability, displaying exemplary behaviour, and providing action perspectives at both individual and team level are key points of focus in this process. In this context, we organise sessions with training actors and bystander training sessions. A number of teams within the Faculty have also taken part in a pilot of the Fearless Organisation programme focusing on social safety within teams.

In addition, the Executive Board, together with the faculty boards, is exploring what we can do to lower the threshold for filing complaints.

Despite all our efforts, we are aware that, as a student or staff member, you may unexpectedly be confronted with undesirable behaviour. It is important that you are not left to cope with it alone. Try talking about it to the person responsible for the behaviour in question. If you are not willing or able to do so, please know that you can also talk to your colleagues, other students, or a confidential advisor. Don't hesitate to take advantage of this; these people are there for you. And, of course, you can always come and see me or one of the other Board members. We would love to talk to you some more about the topic of social safety.

Therefore, we would like to invite all students and staff of our Faculty to a meeting about social safety on Monday 25 September from 12.20 noon to 1.20 p.m. in the Maria Montessori Building, Room 00.025. The confidential advisor and ombudsperson will also be attending this meeting. You do not need to register. The meeting is next week, by which time we will also have had the opportunity to listen to the second episode of Argos (Saturday 23 September 2.00 p.m.) on social safety at Dutch universities.

On behalf of the Faculty Board,

Evelyn Kroesbergen
Dean Faculty of Social Sciences

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Faculty of Social Sciences