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The attention devoted to the inappropriate behaviour of a lecturer from our Faculty has stirred up lots of reactions in the past week. To begin with, we want to emphasise that a safe study environment for students is of the utmost important to us; we are very sorry that we have not been able to offer that safe environment to these students from the Conservation and Restoration programme.

There has been a lot of anger about the events and rightly so. It has also become clear that as an organisation we need to be better equipped to offer students a safe study environment, and that the procedures in place, in the event that this goes totally wrong, need to be more easily accessible. It is good that we are facing up to that; this is the first step towards being able to improve this. At the same time, there has been substantial engagement with this subject from the entire Faculty community and there are many ideas about how we can increase social safety.

This week, we had various discussions with students and staff from the degree programme and the Faculty. These were emotional, but also constructive discussions. It is important that we continue to have these discussions, as difficult as they may be. New discussions have been scheduled for Wednesday 24 June. The Conservation and Restoration programme is also maintaining close contact with their students.

It became clear to us during the discussion that there are major concerns about social safety at all levels of the Faculty. We have heard that people do not feel safe and do not know who they can turn to with their story, and that if someone does take the brave step to point out undesirable behaviour, the response is not always good.

There is also a lot of anger about the manner in which the UvA responded to this matter. Many people have interpreted this as us believing that it was more important to protect the lecturer than the students, as well as us being more concerned about the reputation of the Faculty than what had happened to the affected students. The opposite is the case. It is of paramount importance to us that students feel safe enough to tell their story, that they are taken seriously and that they feel heard. We should have made that much clearer and we are sorry that this was not how it came across.

During the discussions this week, lots of proposals were made about how we can increase social safety within the Faculty, and in particular how we can create an atmosphere that will mean these types of situations never come to this again. The UvA will, among other things, scrutinise the existing procedures and ‘contact points’; we are happy to contribute ideas about this. A code of conduct will also be drafted in the short term. In addition, and equally important, we want to start working on a culture change. We want to ensure the discussion about desirable and undesirable behaviour is a permanent fixture in all degree programmes, so that as soon as students start studying with us they know what to expect from their lecturers, which behaviour is not OK and how than can be immediately raised at an early stage. In order to be able to do this properly, it is important that we are all sensitive and self-aware; we support the creation of an open atmosphere in which colleagues within a team can immediately and easily call each other to account for inappropriate (or awkward) behaviour towards each other or towards students. This will not always come naturally; we therefore want to train lecturers in this.

In short, we notice that this case has stirred up a lot of emotions. We can and will draw lessons from this for the future. We would very much like to hear your suggestions and thoughts about possible improvements.

Finally, we would like to draw your attention to the current facilities, while realising that these still need to be improved

Fred Weerman (dean)

Remieg Aerts (department chair History, European Studies and Religious Studies),
Lex Bosman (department chair Arts and Culture),
Jeroen de Kloet (department chair Media Studies),
Caroline Kroon (department chair ACASA),
Judith Rispens (department chair Dutch Studies ad interim),
Beate Roessler (department chair Philosophy),
Jeannette Schaeffer (department chair Literary Studies and Linguistics),
Arjen Versloot (department chair Modern Foreign Languages and Cultures)