Forty-nine complaints on a single subject, that is an unusually high number, says Cyriel Triesscheijn, director and board member of the antidiscrimination agency RADAR. “Most of the complaints have been made by men who are complaining about the fact that women are being given preference and they themselves are being excluded. As far as I can tell, few of those directly involved have submitted a complaint.” Cursor knows that at least one TU/e employee has submitted a complaint to RADAR.
At RADAR's Eindhoven offices, twenty-five complaints were received following the announcement of the preferential measure. Another twenty-four were received at similar organizations based in the Netherlands. RADAR is acting as coordinator and has asked the Human Rights Board to pass judgment on whether the measure is compatible with the Equal Treatment Act. “Forty-nine complaints is a fair few, this is not something we often see,” says Triesscheijn. “The measure is causing social unrest. We are not a body that passes judgments, our role is to request clarity and transparency concerning discrimination. What is permissible and what is not? Ultimately, it is for the Board to decide.”
The RADAR director stresses that the university's aim of doing something about the disadvantage suffered by women is a lofty one: “Disadvantage is an intractable phenomenon and you must not shy away from taking unorthodox measures. But it's tricky to pursue a preferential policy and it would have been wise for TU/e to have run its plan by the Human Rights Board beforehand. Anyone can request that, but it didn't happen. If you check in advance whether it's likely to conflict with the Equal Treatment Act, you can avoid people lodging complaints.”
TU/e spokesperson Ivo Jongsma discloses that the university studied the case law pertaining to similar cases (this matter has arisen previously in Delft and Groningen) and, based on its findings, decided to introduce the measure. “So we are confident that when we are put to the test by the Board, we'll pass,” says Jongsma.
The Board generally passes its judgment within eight weeks. “But this case could well be a complex one,” anticipates Triesscheijn. Asked about a similar case that was brought against TU Delft seven years ago - and which was decided in the university's favor, he says, “I don't know whether that case involved the same preferential policy. In addition we are keen to build more case law on this subject.”
The Board's judgments are not binding. “But 90 percent of its judgments are complied with. Suppose TU/e doesn't comply with the judgment, then you could decide whether to take legal action. It sometimes happens that we see this as a possibility, but in all the thirty-five years that RADAR has been operating, I don't think we have ever taken a matter to court.”