Before the summer, NRC Handelsblad accused the former interim dean of the faculty, Dymph van den Boom, of plagiarism in speeches and in her dissertation. The Executive Board suspects that ESHCC staff tipped off the newspaper and asked Hoffmann Bedrijfsrecherche to investigate, including accessing the staff’s mail communications.



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The scholars who signed the open letter feel that the investigation is creating a ‘culture of fear’, that it ‘undermines academic freedom’ and that it ‘violates the employees’ privacy’. They have serious concerns whether the Executive Board is acting in accordance with ‘the spirit and possibly also the letter’ of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights.

In addition, they feel that a member of staff who may have leaked the information should be protected. “Even if such leakage did indeed take place, it is debatable how an employee disclosing possible plagiarism of a higher-ranking colleague can be accused of severe wrong-doing. Given that the Executive Board was explicitly informed of the strong suspicion of plagiarism and decided to discard this information, behaviour of such employee appears legitimate and deserves to be protected.”

Full disclosure

For that reason, the signatories are appealing to the Executive Board to immediately halt the investigation, provide full disclosure about the investigation and the accessed mail addresses and offer their apologies. They also appeal for better protection of whistleblowers and a review of the ICT regulations, to ensure that they are in line with the GDPR and academic freedom.

Response Executive Board

“Everyone is free to have an opinion about an ongoing investigation”, the Executive Board said in a response to Erasmus Magazine. “We regret that there it has caused commotion, but as a board you sometimes have to make difficult decisions.”

The university board also emphasizes that it values ‘a safe working environment where employees interact with each other in a collegial and professional manner’. “We started this investigation because we think it is extremely serious if things are played through the media rather than through the appropriate procedures, for which there is plenty of room. We assume that once the investigation has been completed, we can continue to work together towards a safe and transparent working environment.”

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Read the open letter here

Statement opposing forensic research of academics’ email accounts at Erasmus University Rotterdam

We, members of the Dutch academic community, are deeply concerned about the recent…