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A safe study and working environment

The UvA is comitted to providing a positive study and work environment in which we treat each other with respect, nobody feels unsafe and everyone can develop their talents. Students and staff must have the opportunity to address concerns, dilemmas and complaints within the UvA. They must feel they are safe to do so and that their report or complaint will be taken seriously. We want everyone to be assured they have a safe basis for their work or studies and, if necessary, to conduct difficult or critical conversations.

Update on actions relating to social safety

It has become increasingly clear over the past year that the safeguards put in within the UvA for the purposes of flagging up and subsequently addressing lack of social safety need to be tightened up.

Social safety is a broad concept, ranging from a strong culture in which people can hold others accountable, to transparent, accessible complaints procedures and the establishment of clear boundaries for conduct. Overstepping these boundaries is never acceptable. Students and staff must have a means at their disposal to raise concerns, dilemmas and complaints at the University. They must feel safe in doing so, and have confidence that their report or complaint will be taken seriously.

The (recent) past shows that improvements are required. The Executive Board is fully focused on responding effectively to reports and complaints. Consequently, we are making great strides with various actions already under way. These are outlined below.

  • Actions

    Over the previous two years, we have reviewed and improved our system and procedures surrounding complaints and reports of inappropriate behaviour in various ways. In that respect we also drew on the recommendations of the External Commission on Social Safety and the Social Safety Taskforce, the representative advisory bodies, the Senate, the Chief Diversity Office (CDO) and various other groups. The Social Safety Memo (March 2021) contains an overview of the current state of affairs concerning social safety initiatives between 2019 and 2021, as well as the actions that will be taken from 2021.

    Examples of actions that have been taken:

    • A new code of conduct has been drawn up.
    • The confidential adviser system has been critically examined and recommendations have already been partially incorporated
    • We have appointed an acting ombudsperson (to lay the groundwork for its definitive role).
    • There is now an external reporting point for undesirable behaviour.
    • We have improved the availability of information on social safety, including social safety support guides for students and staff.

    The following actions are expected to be completed in the very near future: 

    • The suitability of the complaints procedure for social safety complaints will be improved. Among other modifications, this will include a specific complaints procedure for social safety, widening the scope for investigation and including extended deadlines, greater accessibility for international students and options for former students and staff to submit complaints.
    • The role of ombudsperson is now a permanent fixture and as of 6 September, Samera Ouchene will start as ombudsperson at the UvA.
    • The regulations vis-à-vis the confidential persons have been revised and amended, and presented to the representative advisory body.
  • Directing social safety strengthening activities

    From September 2020, Lucienne Kelfkens has been appointed to coordinate activities aimed at strengthening social safety at the UvA.

    Lucienne Kelfkens
    Lucienne Kelfkens

    On the one hand, the focus is on improvements to our system and our procedures for dealing with reports and complaints of undesirable behavior. In addition, more emphasis is placed on prevention and awareness. Social safety is a broad concept, ranging from an ethical culture in which problems can be discussed, to transparent and accessible complaints procedures and the setting of clear boundaries for behavior. In addition to good procedures, recognizing, discussing and preventing undesirable behavior is essential. That is why work is also being done on a study and work environment in which we hold each other accountable for behavior and managers are equipped to respond adequately to signals.

    For an overview, see social safety actions and the overview memorandum with spearheads and actions for 2021. In doing so, we make use of recommendations from studies and reports, such as those from the Social Security Task Force and from the external committee.


    You can send an email with general questions or comments about strengthening social safety.

    Lucienne Kelfkens is in contact with, among others:

    • Samera Ouchene - Ombudsman and quartermaster a.i.
    • Saskia Voortman - Legal affairs and HR a.i.
    • Chief Diversity Officer Team
    • Peter Boelsma - HR policy and strategy


    • Iris Kingma - Project assistant
    • Karen Wansink - Board Secretary
    • Leontine de Klerk - Internal communications