To the UvA CvB,

Last week the NRC reported largescale sexual harassment and numerous other improprieties at the Law Faculty of this university, giving public voice at long last to some of Prof. B.’s numerous victims. These colleagues’ silence and silencing is symptomatic of a hierarchical system that enables abuse of power, and as such is hardly limited to one faculty. Indeed, research done by the national network of female professors and the labor unions underlines this as well, as have internal reports by the D&D committee and repeated calls by the COR and action groups. Your shocked reaction and the measures announced for dealing with this ongoing and painful situation do not amount to much, however, since to our mind they are not based on a true understanding of the cultural and historical forces of marginalization behind it. For instance, your plan to implement obligatory diversity training and only to those higher up on the managerial ladder ignores the corrupting power of hierarchies, market radicalism and labor precarity. Likewise, the declared intention to establish an Ombuds Office, while a potentially helpful element in building a new infrastructure for an inclusive workplace, lacks the particulars which would determine its relevance and effectiveness. Indeed, considering recent events and official reactions to them, trust in a broken system that you have long defended is unlikely to be reestablished by a top-down dictate. Last but not least, the unwillingness to share with the university community the full facts about abuses perpetrated and decision making in the Law Faculty is deeply worrying; it is reminiscent of whitewashing and a culture of upwards-only accountability that results in meaningless and literally empty reports.

We therefore call on you to:

Apologize for your ongoing complicity in prioritizing the propagation of a false image of our university above caring for the basic needs of its members;

Reveal the full scale of the structures, mechanisms and officials enabling and participating in the forms of harassment in and beyond the case of Prof. B., including through making available the existing reports generated by the faculties’ Vertrouwenpersonen-network. Otherwise the UvA community will never be able to learn about and collectively decide how to address the scale and nature of the problems we face;

Declare plainly that discussions on workplace safety and how to implement them must begin at the lowest level possible in the organization, led by those directly affected by harassment, and not through obligatory training whose form and content have not been tailored to the issues in their direct lived environment; and

Commit unreservedly to establishing an Ombuds Office: a) after open and broad consultation led by affected members of the university community; b) before 1 September; c) with power to sanction proven violators; d) that will deal in a timely, anonymous and safe manner e) with complaints going back at least 15 years, including people who have left the UvA; and f) will produce and share its reports regularly with the entire UvA community. g) The UvA community will moreover have power to recall the office head through an agreed-upon procedure.

We hope that this nadir in our trust in the system’s ability to protect us will mark the beginning of a real change that addresses the core issues behind the abuse of power at the UvA. We look forward to hearing of your intentions within a week. However, if you remain at a loss as to how to proceed, we will find ourselves compelled to act in co-governance with you to ensure systemic change is underway.

ReThink UvA

Commoning UvA

Humanities Rally