Over a year and a half ago, on June 1, 2021, an article appeared in Cursor under the headline 'Approach to abuse of power, intimidation and racism not adequate enough'. The situations described in that article deal with transgressive behavior, both experiences of racism and an unsafe work climate. In the statement that the Executive Board put on intranet yesterday and that refers to the investigation which Berenschot started in June 2021 and that was commissioned by the Executive Board, it says that the ‘specific purpose of this investigation was to verify whether the alleged racism occurred in the past or still occurs’.
The investigation by Berenschot showed that a number of individuals confirmed that racism had occurred within the department, which is not named in the Cursor article to guarantee the anonymity of the victim. According to the investigators this related ‘to the period 2011-2013 and as far as we know, one person made racist remarks’. The Executive Board states that this person is no longer working at TU/e and the investigation revealed no signs to suggest that racism is still occurring’. Whether measures have been taken against that person, or whether his conduct was the reason for his departure, is not stated in the statement.
The Cursor article did show that that person was not held accountable for his behavior during that period, not even by the professor who led the department at the time, and that the person who was the target of his racist remarks, who is anonymously portrayed as Grace Prince, also felt abandoned by the other members of the department. In the statement published today, there is no reference to the victim of the racist treatment. It is not clear whether she actively participated in the investigation, or whether the Executive Board has been in contact with her as a result of this issue and the results of the investigation, and whether she is still working at the university.
Spokesman of the Executive Board Ivo Jongsma informed Cursor that, for reasons of privacy, no further explanation can be given on whether measures have ever been taken against the person who was guilty of racist remarks. Jongsma: "It concerns personnel matters of the former employee in question. For privacy reasons, we cannot make any announcements about this."
For the same reason, he says that no answer can be given to the question whether the person who was the victim of those racist remarks has been cooperating with Berenschot's investigation, or whether the university tried to contact her and/or offer her help. "But it is so that our social safety assistance facilities are open to both current employees and former employees who encountered problems during their appointment at TU/e," says Jongsma.
The investigation also revealed a number of recommendations for improvements in social safety as a university, the Executive Board says in the statement. The main recommendations relate to improving the visibility and awareness of confidentiality advisors, the ombudsman, complaint mechanisms and codes of conduct; learning together from case histories and courses of action, so that if something occurs on the work floor, action can be taken quickly and appropriately; continuing activities to create awareness of how to jointly ensure a socially safe working and learning climate; structurally embedding talking about social safety and desired behavior (by paying frequent attention to this within a department); increasing the knowledge and skills of everyone to recognize and discuss social safety and undesirable behavior; and (further) investing in leadership that contributes to a healthy and safe working environment.
In the coming period the Executive Board will have further discussions with the deans, wellbeing committee of the University Council, confidential advisors and ombudsman, on how to give concrete substance to the above advice. In the statement, people who have their own ideas about how social safety within TU/e or their own department can be further improved are called upon by the Executive Board to enter into discussions with the management of the department or service, with the HR advisor, the confidential advisers or the university secretary.