“A deeply-rooted, broad social problem like inappropriate sexual behaviour and sexual violence requires a thorough, coordinated effort by the government”, says Dijkgraaf.
To help the government, Mariëtte Hamer will become government commissioner for ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour and sexual violence’ in April, he writes in a letter to the House of Representatives.
Hamer is currently president of the Social and Economic Council (SER) and is a former group chair of the PvdA and a former chair of the Dutch Student Union. She was one of the inquirers in the recent coalition formation process.
According to the government, a “fundamental cultural change” is needed to put an end to inappropriate sexual behaviour. A lot has been done since the emergence of #MeToo in 2017, says Dijkgraaf, but the recent revelations show “that extra efforts are needed”.
It is not yet clear what this will mean for higher education and scientific research. This spring the government will give the House of Representatives further details of the outlines and elaboration of the action plan.
Dijkgraaf does mention teaching and research, however. In that sector there is, he believes, “a lot of attention being paid to this problem”. He refers for example to the forthcoming advisory report ‘Breeding ground and prevention of inappropriate behaviour in the academic world’ by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).
“In addition, the Inspectorate of Education is carrying out an investigation into social safety in higher education”, says Dijkgraaf. “Particular attention is being paid to art and fashion schools.” Several incidents have indeed occurred there.
In Flanders too some cases of inappropriate behaviour have been in the news in recent weeks.