The number of reports of sexual harassment at Dutch universities has doubled in four years, according to researchers for radio programme Argos.
Argos has been researching harassment and social safety issues at the 13 Dutch universities and found the number of reports of “me too” related incidents made to independent integrity officers rose from 141 in 2019 to 300 last year.
In total, there were 4652 reports of bullying and other forms of harassment and 812 covering sexually inappropriate behaviour during the four-year period, Argos said. Just 2% of reports went on to become formal complaints.
Mariëtte Hamer, who is investigating sexual harassment at institutions on behalf of the government, told Argos the increase in reports in three years shows universities “have a serious problem”.
Nevertheless, she told the NRC, the increase in reports may also reflect more willingness to come forward, rather than an actual increase.
In particular, Argos highlighted the situation at Radboud University in Nijmegen, which it described as “notable”. The number of reports of inappropriate behaviour rose from 69 to 225 in the four years under investigation.
The publication coincides with the rector of Radboud admitting to making two “sexually inappropriate” comments to a female colleague at an event in January 2017, which led to him receiving a formal warning.
Han van Krieken, who will retire later this year, was able to keep his job after the incident but the female worker eventually left the university, the Gelderlander reported at the weekend.
The woman made a complaint about the comments in 2018 which was upheld by an independent investigation. Her lawyer, paid for by the university, recommended she take redundancy, which she did at the end of 2019, nearly two years after the incident.
Van Krieken said on the university website on Saturday that as rector is is well aware of his duties to set an example and that he apologised publicly.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
A university spokesman told the programme that the Nijmegen-based institution is “doing all it can to create a safe place for staff and students” but admitted that “we don’t always succeed.”
Research by students’ organisation ISO published in 2022 found some 20% of Dutch students have had to deal with bullying, discrimination, blackmail or sexual harassment.
The research also showed that almost two thirds of incidents go unreported, primarily because students do not think the case is serious enough.
The ISO report was carried out shortly after education inspectors suggested some 4% of Dutch students have had to deal with unacceptable sexual behaviour and in half the cases the perpetrator worked for the college or university.
Bullying and discrimination were also an issue, the inspectors said.
In January 2022, the director of Amsterdam fashion institute AMFI resigned because he felt unable to achieve a culture change at the troubled school.
Students had earlier demanded his resignation for ignoring signals of abuse at the institute, such as the habitual humiliation of students by teachers, and comments with sexual and racial overtones.
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