Former deans on rector harassment case: ‘We do not understand why this has been brought into the public eye’
OPINION - What justifies the public execution of former rector Han van Krieken? Former deans Lutgarde Buydens and Margot van Mulken wonder: who benefits from this? 'This is our concern: the administrator is fair game.'
It was with great surprise that we learned the news, through the Gelderlander and Vox, about the six-year-old incident that led our rector to resign early. All this three weeks before the centenary.
As former deans of the faculties of Arts and Science, we are concerned. We think it is an excellent development that social safety has now become a permanent item on the agendas of administrators. However, it is detrimental to both the women’s cause and, especially, to the public interest when anonymous allegations from the distant past are brought into the public eye by the media without any reservations. Administrators cannot defend themselves, as it would not only be inappropriate but also impossible: how can you defend yourself without compromising privacy obligations?
‘An administrator cannot defend themselves’
What happened must have had a tremendous impact on the woman in question. After all, she is still burdened by it six years later. However, we do not understand why this has been brought into the public eye. What purpose does it serve to air this otherwise muddy history in the press? Such a move can only be justified if there were no reparations. But there was acknowledgment, there were apologies, there was support in transitioning to another position.
So, what justifies this public execution? Who benefits from this? Future victims? Unlikely. The university itself? Does it need to learn from how this matter was handled? No, because it was handled exceptionally well. The reporting in the annual report could have been more careful, but that was corrected two years later. Society, then? Does society benefit from transparency at all costs? Does no one consider the unintended side effects? Are there other possible motives?
This is our concern: the administrator is fair game. In the future, it will be even more challenging, even more difficult, to find good, suitable candidates. They will be deterred because public condemnation can suddenly be part of the deal.
If a man were to make this argument, he would be ridiculed. We are women and former deans. What the rector is going through now could have also happened to us. Most likely for different reasons, but still. We deeply regret that De Gelderlander made this a public matter.
Lutgarde Buydens was the dean of the Faculty of Science until the end of 2021. Margot van Mulken is a former dean of the Faculty of Arts, who stepped down in early 2022.
This article was translated by Siri Joustra.