However, the Executive Board has announced that there was ‘active contact’ between the faculty and the newspaper. “This was therefore a choice to seek publicity rather than follow the procedures which are appropriate in the university world,” the EB announced in a statement published on the university’s intranet. The Board feels that the procedures in place to deal with potential violations of academic integrity were not followed in this case.

E-mails examined

As part of Hoffmann’s investigation, 22 employees had their e-mails examined. They were all notified of this examination after the fact. The Executive Board emphasised in its statement that no one at the university, ‘including the Executive Board’, was given access to the investigation file containing e-mails.

The investigation was conducted in response to a publication by Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad in which then ESHCC dean Dymph van den Boom was accused of plagiarism in work she had produced while working at the University of Amsterdam. In mid-September the university’s Executive Board announced that Hoffmann Bedrijfsrecherche had been hired to identify the source of that NRC article, as the Board suspected that the newspaper had been tipped off about Van den Boom’s alleged plagiarism by employees of the faculty who disagreed with the merger plans she had proposed. Among other things, the forensic science agency was allowed to inspect the e-mails sent and received by employees.

Furious

Academics were furious about the investigation. The president of ESHCC’s faculty council called the university’s decision ‘deeply shameful’. NRC journalist Van Kolfschooten called the investigation into the alleged leak ‘very strange’ and ‘outrageous’. For its part, the University Council believes that the Executive Board violated applicable legislation in ordering Hoffman Bedrijfsrecherche to investigate the employees, because the Board failed to consult the Council on the matter. And this week, an open letter asking for the investigation to be halted was signed by more than four hundred academics from all over the country.

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