NRC spoke with students and graduates who were enrolled in the prestigious ‘book and paper’ specialisation of the Master’s programme in conservation and restoration at the University of Amsterdam between 2012 and 2018. The article states that students had complained about sexist remarks and unsolicited touching from one of the most important lecturers in the specialisation.
According to the NRC article, the students reported to programme management, the faculty, and the university board on multiple occasions, but ultimately decided against submitting a formal complaint for fear of the consequences for their future careers.
It is not until 2016 that the degree programme decides to address the lecturer’s unwanted behaviour and from then on, the lecturer stops touching students but continues to make sexist remarks. When new complaints arise in 2019, the lecturer is given an official warning.
The faculty commissioned former chairman of the board Karel van der Toorn to conduct an investigation. Conclusion: “The degree programme’s small scale and intensity put students in a position where they become dependent on a limited number of lecturers. Students are hesitant to be critical so as to avoid irreparable damage to relationships with faculty members.”
The faculty will appoint an interim programme director who will be instructed to put a halt to ‘inadequate communication’. Every year during the staff meeting, the theme of ‘how to interact with students’ should be discussed.
The lecturer is still working at the University of Amsterdam and is teaching classes this academic year. His classes are now supervised. As far as programme management is aware, the new batch of students has no complaints about this lecturer.
The University of Amsterdam is critical of the NRC article. The board “deeply regrets the experiences of these students”, as stated in a response. “Social safety should be up for discussion, both within the organisation and in the media.”
But based on anonymous sources, the board thinks the NRC article is “highly unbalanced”. The lecturer and his immediate colleagues were not given enough opportunity to explain their side of the story. The board also denies that not enough was done to follow up on the complaints.
University of Amsterdam students were outraged this weekend after reading the article in NRC. They claim that the university board has been sweeping the lecturer’s behaviour under the rug. They have scheduled a protest on Friday.
The Dutch Labour Party, PvdA, intends to ask Minster Van Engelshoven parliamentary questions. The party has advocated for a national hotline where university students can submit complaints about unacceptable behaviour.