In the past month, Hoffmann was commissioned by the Executive Board to investigate the e-mail of 22 faculty staff members, to find the employee who ‘leaked’ about plagiarism in the work of the former dean, Dymph van den Boom, to the NRC Handelsblad.

‘No serious infringement occurred’

“I find the entire e-mail investigation unacceptable,” said Reijnders. “A moral boundary has been crossed.” According to Reijnders, the means is not proportional to the offence. “It is disproportionate to infringe on the privacy of correspondence for this. That might be allowed for a serious legal violation, but contact with a journalist is definitely not that.”

As the faculty’s integrity coordinator, Reijnders is the first contact person when infringement of scientific integrity is suspected. That is why he expected at the very least to be consulted in advance about the e-mail investigation. This did not happen according to him. “As far as I know, even the dean (interim-dean Frank van der Duijn Schouten, ed.) was not aware of it.”

Even more distressing

Reijnders finds even more distressing the fact that his own e-mail, thus that of the integrity coordinator, was also investigated. “Employees approach me in all confidence that they will remain anonymous. Certainly if you are submitting a complaint about a senior person, like the dean, then you must be completely assured that your identity will remain confidential. That trust has been damaged by the Executive Board. I am now considering setting up an external e-mail address for integrity issues.”

In Reijnders’ opinion, the next logical step is for the Executive Board to publicly admit that it made a mistake. “I also believe that it should apologise individually to each of the investigated employees. Their trust and well-being have been seriously violated. If you are investigating more than twenty employees, you must have at the very least clear evidence of a serious violation. I have not seen either evidence or a serious violation in this case.”

‘Leak is not the problem’

For the sake of completeness, Reijnders denies having had any contact with the NRC about the plagiarism case. “I would never take that route. But the big problem at this moment is not the question of whether there was a leak or not. The big problem is the e-mail investigation itself.”


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