Dean Victor Bekkers and Public Administration programme director Brenda Vermeeren have expressed their ‘severe shock at the transgressive nature of these messages’ in a message to Public Administration students on Canvas. The students have been called to account by the dean, who gave them a formal written warning.
The fact that the students were only given a formal warning by the dean is striking considering the consequences of a similar incident in Erasmus University College in February. The students involved in that particular episode were called into the office of Executive Board Chair Hans Smits for a conversation. Furthermore, the university yielded information to the police and Smits said that he would report the incident with them as well. “We take such incidents very seriously and will take fitting measures, like preparing our report for the police,” Smith said at that time. As of yet, that report has not been filed, because of the coronavirus crisis.
In this case no report will be made to the police because of the ‘time span between when the messages were typed and when the incident was reported’, says a faculty spokesperson. The messages were posted in a WhatsApp group in September 2019, and the faculty received the report in March of 2020. A source within the study programme states that racist messages were shared on at least three separate instances, spread out over multiple months. Allegedly, fellow students didn’t criticise them very much.
In a written response, the ESSB has told EM that it doesn’t tolerate ‘any racist, antisemitic and discriminatory expressions from its students or staff in the context of their studies or work’. “Fitting measures will be taken if such appear to be in evidence. They constitute a wider societal problem. Diversity and inclusion are highly valued by the Erasmus University Rotterdam. It’s important to make this topic discussable within the university. Conversations and programmes from the Diversity and Inclusion Office are contributing to that within the academic community.”
A pilot project has for instance been started for IBelong, a programme for inbound first-years that ‘highlights the importance of inclusivity’. Furthermore, the faculty is collaborating with the D&I Office on a protocol for lecturers to identify and report such expressions.