A struggle is currently going on with Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) regarding the faculty’s future. Before stepping down in June, interim dean Dymph van den Boom wrote a new outlook for the faculty, which has fallen on hard times in terms of budgets.

According to Van den Boom, the faculty should stake its cards on a merger with Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences – a proposal that was subsequently adopted by EUR’s Executive Board. These merger plans were vehemently opposed by a large share of the faculty, including ESHCC’s Management Team (MT).

Pressure and intimidation

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Hein Klemann (l) en Ben Wubs (r).

According to the statement’s signatories, ESHCC has a ‘very turbulent period’ ahead of it. Van den Boom’s departure has led to a power vacuum, write Wubs and Klemann. That the current MT, made up of the professors Jeroen Jansz, Susanne Janssen, Filip Vermeylen and Maria Grever, has taken over the dean’s tasks is an undesirable situation, according to the two. Staff members are the victims of ‘improper pressure and intimidation’ by the MT. While this has been going on from some time, now that Van den Boom has exited the stage there’s ‘nothing to hold them back’.

Another reason why Wubs and Klemann no longer have confidence in the MT is because they believe a ‘small group of people’ have eliminated the dean to gain a free hand within the faculty. This ‘group of people’ may refer to several members of the MT, but could possibly include other people besides. In addition, the authors suggest that there is evidence that someone within the faculty tipped NRC Handelsblad about Van den Boom’s alleged plagiarism in her outlook, as recently reported in the national daily. While the statement once again doesn’t give any names, in both cases the signatories censure the MT for letting it get this far.

Manipulative behaviour

The professors also believe that a departmental head who is up for retirement within five months – a reference to Maria Grever, the head of the History department – shouldn’t be involved in charting the faculty’s future. They explicitly withdraw their confidence in Grever ‘due to manipulative, intimidating behaviour and her focus on personal gain.’

The signatories ask the Executive Board to intervene post-haste and place the faculty under guardianship. “The present departmental heads have shirked their responsibility too often. We demand a breath of fresh air,” they write. They believe the university should suspend the current members of the MT and call in an outside party that can determine how to get the faculty ‘back on track’.

Trembling in their seats

Maria Grever declined from responding to the statement for EM. According to her fellow departmental heads Susanne Janssen and Filip Vermeylen, the statement is ‘unheard of’. Janssen: “People were shocked. Colleagues attending the departmental meeting were trembling in their seats. This behaviour shows a complete lack of restraint. Apparently that’s what can happen when there’s no dean.” Vermeylen can’t say at present which consequences the letter will have. “We need to look into it further. This just happened, and we weren’t there when it did.” Janssen and Vermeylen say they don’t recognise themselves in the picture Wubs and Klemann paint of Grever and the rest of the MT. Janssen: “And if you have something like this to say about your managers, the appropriate route would be to contact a confidential adviser or integrity officer.”

The Faculty Council has also condemned the statement. In an e-mail sent out to the History staff, Council chair Ana Uribe Sandoval writes that it frowns on a public rejection of the management team. Moreover, Sandoval stresses, the MT hasn’t actually stepped in the departed dean’s shoes – rather, these tasks are presently handled by the Executive Board. The Council calls on the department to keep working together as a team – particularly in view of upcoming visits by the research and education assessment committees.

The Executive Board was not in the opportunity to comment.

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