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Universities take nationwide action against threat to scientists

Published: 11th October 2021 Last updated: 11th October 2021

Scientists are increasingly facing threats, intimidation and hate reactions in response to media and other public appearances. The Association of Universities (VSNU) is now taking a number of national measures that should be of support to every university and employee. These measures can be found in the guide 'Tackling threats and intimidation against scientists'. It also contains examples of good practices that universities can implement to support threatened employees.

Vice Rector of TiU Jantine Schuit, together with VSNU President Pieter Duisenberg, presented the guide to Minister Van Engelshoven (OCW) and several threatened scientists on Monday, October 11. All fourteen universities are committed to the outreach. Jantine Schuit: "Everyone should be able to feel safe. Also our scientists who share their knowledge and insights with society. If they are threatened or intimidated, it is our task to protect and support them. The handbook helps us do that."

What's going to happen?

The guide lists a number of measures that will be introduced nationwide:

  1. Universities will adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to threats and intimidation of scientists. Threats, physical or sexual violence, stalking and burglary will be reported as standard.
  2. All universities are committed to broader support measures, both preventive and reactive. This is done, for example, with training in online resilience and the provision of psychosocial support.
  3. The universities are setting up a joint platform: WetenschapVeilig. This will be set up as an independent foundation on the model of PersVeilig to improve information gathering, information provision, measures and interaction with, for example, the judiciary and police nationwide.

Why now?

In recent times, scientists have had to deal with threats and intimidation more often and more emphatically as a result of public appearances. For example, scientists were summoned to their homes, OMT members receive ongoing threats, and scientists regularly receive abusive comments on social media or by email when they engage in sensitive debates. Universities actually encourage their scientists to be active in the public domain and to stir up debate. But because of these threats, this is less and less obvious.