How to move forward?
In early June, Cursor published an interview with concerned professor Remco Tuinier, and an article in which victims talked about what happened to them with regard to racism, intimidation and transgressive behavior at our university. Those who dared to share their stories, albeit anonymously in many cases, were praised, and Tuinier too received declarations of support. How should TU/e move forward from here?
Of all the stories published on our site on June 1, it was the one told by ‘Grace,’ who suffered shocking incidents of undiluted racism within her research group for a prolonged period of time, that most impressed our readers. Our Executive Board also expressed its dismay and said in a statement that it will not tolerate this kind of behavior.
I myself wondered – somewhat naively perhaps – how this could have happened at the institution I’ve been a part of for so many years. I have immense respect for Grace, whom I’ve talked with extensively on two occasions. During those meetings, I saw how much pain and indignation she felt, but she still managed to muster the courage to talk about it lucidly and to make clear how she had tried to deal with it.
She was confronted with racism in the Netherlands constantly in her daily life. But she was still surprised by the fact that she had to suffer such crude incidents of racism in academic circles as well. I’m also baffled when I read the stories. I can’t image how an entire group can allow this kind of behavior to continue, and how much fear bystanders must feel that they don’t dare to finally speak up. Fear of losing their current jobs and, in the long term, their careers in a field they once decided to pursue full of conviction and passion. But even then…
The Executive Board asked an external research agency to find out what exactly happened in Grace’s case. With regard to the other cases, the board wants to talk with the victims. The outcome of these talks still remains unclear at this point.
But looking beyond those concrete cases: what rapid steps should be taken to tackle this kind of behavior at the root, and to prevent it from occurring in the first place? As a news outlet, Cursor would gladly like to play a role in this, and we hope to enter into a discussion with the Executive Board soon on how to approach this issue. Because the editorial board was contacted several times these last few weeks by people who suffered similar acts of racism, intimidation and transgressive behavior, and who seemed relieved that it was finally addressed at our institution.
Let’s make sure that we don’t let months pass by during which we wait for a final report on past incidents, no matter how important that process may be. The university will hopefully appoint an independent ombudsperson soon who can serve as an authority for victims who want to share their stories, and as a clear sign that a wind of change is blowing to those who are guilty or have been guilty in the past of transgressive behavior at out university.