The Executive Board asked the company to investigate 22 faculty employees’ e-mails, as it suspected that they may have had contact with an NRC journalist. The Executive Board had hoped this would enable them to determine who had tipped off the newspaper about plagiarism by former ESHCC Dean Dymph van den Boom. In doing so the Executive Board invoked the Use of Internet and IT Facilities Regulations for Erasmus University Rotterdam employees, which states that such an investigation is possible in cases of ‘negative publicity for the EUR’. The trade union consultation body entirely refutes this justification.
In a letter, EUROPA1 accused the Executive Board of ‘wrongful conduct’. “We dispute the foundation you put forward”, wrote Chair, Roel Pieterman. “It is in no way clear to us how [the NRC item about Van den Boom] could have resulted in ‘negative publicity’ for the EUR.” The article was actually about plagiarism in activities carried out by Van den Boom in her time at the University of Amsterdam and not about Erasmus University.
‘Entirely attributable to Van den Boom herself’
“The fact that the provision states that it must concern the ‘prevention of negative publicity’ further supports our analysis”, continued Pieterman. “Of course there can be no ‘prevention’ in relation to an already published article.” According to Pieter, any reputational damage resulting from the NRC article only applies to Van den Boom and not to EUR. And this damage is ‘entirely attributable to Van den Boom herself’. “After all, the actions involved can expect general and legally-underpinned condemnation.”
Pieterman also contests the Executive Board’s position that those reporting plagiarism did not follow the correct procedures for reporting integrity violations. “You, as Executive Board, were informed by the ESHCC Faculty Council of plagiarism in Van den Boom’s reorganisation advice. This is a correct report according to the Dutch Whistleblowers Authority Act as well as to the EUR whistleblowers legislation.” In Pieterman’s opinion, the Executive Board should have forwarded the complaint to another body. Instead of this, the Executive Board ignored the report, using the argument that the merger advice was not a scientific publication. EUROPA disputes that this meant that there was no plagiarism.
EUROPA is asking the Executive Board to openly admit that the decision to conduct an e-mail investigation was incorrect and that the investigation of ESHCC Integrity Coordinator Stijn Reijnders’ inbox violated a prohibition in its own regulations. The trade union consultation is calling on the Executive Board to offer its apologies to all involved employees. It also wants the IT regulations invoked by the Executive Board to be amended. The regulations ‘must go further than protecting confidential inboxes’. Negative publicity as a foundation for an investigation should also be removed. Finally, EUROPA is demanding the establishment of a legal aid fund to which employees can appeal in these kinds of situations.
The Executive Board has received the letter but does not wish to comment on this to EM ‘while discussions with EUROPA are ongoing’.