EUR has a network of confidential advisers. This network consists of nineteen advisers who process reports of inappropriate behaviour submitted by both staff and students. Each faculty has its own confidential adviser. But what exactly constitutes ‘inappropriate behaviour’, and what do you do if you’re unfortunate enough to experience any such behaviour? EM sat down with network coordinator Martin Blok and asked him five questions.

What constitutes inappropriate behaviour?

“Basically, inappropriate behaviour is any type of conduct that is perceived to be threatening, intimidating or humiliating, such as discrimination, intimidation (sexual or otherwise), aggression, violence, bullying or stalking (both in real life and online). If you find yourself in a situation where other people’s behaviour is constantly making you feel unsafe, that too can be considered inappropriate behaviour.”

What is the first step to be taken if you encounter inappropriate behaviour?

“Obviously, it depends on the seriousness of the situation. For instance, if a colleague has made a one-off remark that made you feel bad, and if you feel safe discussing it with said colleague or your manager, that’s obviously the right way to go about it.

“But if you don’t feel safe bringing up the subject, no matter how huge or trivial it is, you may feel better discussing it with someone in confidence. This will allow you to speak freely, without being judged in any way. That’s where we come in.

“If the harassment is severe and potentially a criminal offence, you may wish to report it to the police, as well. Our confidential advisers can help you do that.”

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What exactly does a confidential adviser do?

“A confidential adviser will listen to your story and advise you what to do. For instance, if someone decides to file a complaint, we will explain the consequences of such a complaint, and how this will affect the person filing the complaint. EUR has several types of complaints procedures, depending on the nature and context of the case, but in all cases, our main focus is on ensuring that the person reporting the harassment is safe.

“The main thing is that you feel safe enough to tell your story. We’ll help you make sense of what happened, but we don’t decide how to respond to what happened. It’s up to you to indicate what you want. We will then check together whether it’s possible at our university to solve the problem that way. If necessary, our confidential advisers can also refer you to a psychologist, occupational health physician, social worker, dean or lecturer. In other words, there are several options open to you, but many people aren’t aware of that.

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“You may have got the impression that reporting harassment will always result in a formal complaint with an official procedure, but reports can be processed in other ways, as well. In many cases, the problem can be solved in a conversation with your colleague or manager. Students may benefit from a conversation with a lecturer or dean. Obviously, we do encourage people who have suffered severe harassment to file an official complaint. We can help them do so.

“Sometimes, for one reason or another, people will tell us a story without wishing that story to be acted on. We will then document the story in a confidential portfolio. This allows us to act quickly if more reports are filed about the same person, or in the event of a similar case. So be sure to report inappropriate behaviour anyway.”

‘Generally, if you feel someone’s harassing you, they really are harassing you. You are the judge’

Martin Blok

What’s the difference between a confidential adviser and an ombudsperson?

“A confidential adviser handles cases related to inappropriate behaviour and harassment, while an ombudsperson handles cases relating to work or degree-related questions, dilemmas or conflicts. A confidential adviser can advise and guide people who report cases but cannot conduct their own investigations. An ombudsperson, on the other hand, can conduct impartial investigations and issue recommendations on how to resolve troubled employment relationships. In some cases, a confidential adviser may refer you to an ombudsperson.”

Do you have any particular message for EUR’s students and staff?

“Generally, if you feel someone’s harassing you, they really are harassing you. You are the judge. Sometimes the culprit is not one single person, but actually a whole group of people. We can figure it out together. So, again: do come and see us.”

EUR currently has nineteen confidential advisers: twelve for staff and seven for students. Debra Young and Martin Blok process complaints filed by both staff and students. Each EUR faculty has its own confidential adviser, but you don’t have to see your own faculty or department’s confidential adviser. You can see any confidential adviser you wish to talk to.

A list of the university’s confidential advisers can be found on EUR’s website.