Rector intimidated employee, university was silent about incident
Rector Han van Krieken made sexually charged, inappropriate comments towards a female university employee in 2017. A complaint regarding sexual intimidation that the woman filed in 2018 as a result, was found well-grounded by an independent committee. The university had been silent about the incident until today when newspaper De Gelderlander published its own findings on the front page.
The woman filed a complaint with the foundation board – the former supervisory body of the university – in 2018, reads the article in De Gelderlander. The complaint concerned two comments made by the rector during an event in January 2017, where he had a brief conversation with the employee.
The supervisory body set up an external committee to investigate the complaint. That committee confirmed the employee’s report. According to the committee, the comments made by the rector could be experienced as sexually intimidating. Following this, the foundation board gave Van Krieken a warning. The university did not make the case public.
In a response on the university’s website today, Van Krieken expressed regret about his behaviour. “I have become aware of the full extent to which two remarks, which I made in quick succession during an informal conversation at an event in January 2017, impacted an employee,” says the rector. “This affects me deeply. Although I had no intention of coming across as sexually intimidating at the time, that is unfortunately what happened. I’ve been deeply shocked by this.”
Van Krieken, who will hand over the rectorship on October 17, states that he is aware of his function as a role model. “That is part of the reason why I am particularly sorry about this incident. This has been a hard lesson that reminds me every day of the importance of my words and actions. We must continue to enter into dialogue about undesirable behaviour, also at our University.”
Safe work environment
In addition to confirming the employee’s complaint, the external committee that investigated the incident also issued recommendations for the university. The person who reported the incident had to be offered a safe working environment and guidance – without close proximity to the rector. In addition, the university had to investigate to what extent the confidential adviser can do their work. The procedure for submitting a complaint regarding a member of the executive board was also advised to be adjusted. According to the university, this has been implemented.
The complaint was not included in the university’s annual report in 2018. Over the last years, Han van Krieken has spoken out several times regarding social safety on campus that, he believes, should receive more attention.
The university’s website states that the woman who had filed the complaint left the university in 2019. In January 2022, she got in contact with the supervisory board. During a conversation following this, the board’s chair, among other things, confirmed that the former employee was free to make public that the complaint had been confirmed and to talk about what had happened.
Translated by Antonia Leise