Helpline to more quickly aid threatened academics

Academics who through their work are confronted with hate, threats, and harassment, can now report this to the national platform SafeScience.

Reason for the helpline is the increased number of threats and harassment aimed at academics who work in the public domain or who engage in debate on sensitive issues. 

Last year, Dutch universities decided they would report any form of threats or harassment to the police. ‘It’s our first response when we hear that someone is being threatened’, says UG spokesperson Elies Kouwenhoven. She confirms that the university has filed police reports in the past year.

She won’t answer any questions on how many reports or their nature. ‘That is akin to sharing personal information, so I can’t say anything about that.’

But it’s true that UG academics have been threatened. Léonie de Jonge, who studies populism, the radical right, and far-right politics, became the target of a harassment campaign by far-right organisation Vizier op Links in April of 2021. That year, she often talked to the media about the 29 seats that political parties PVV, JA21, and FvD had gained during the elections for the Dutch Lower House.

In part because of her media appearances, the Vizier op Links website mentioned De Jonge by name on their website. According to the website, she had ‘spread disinformation during a broadcast on disinformation’. On Twitter, De Jonge wrote that she’d become ‘the target of a far-right harassment campaign resulting in intimidation, insults, and bullying’.

Ecology professor Han Olff, who studies, among other things, the Oostvaardersplassen, a topic which he speaks on publicly, has been the victim of online harassment for years, although in an interview with UKrant in 2018, he wouldn’t say whether he’d ever been threatened.  

Proper resources

Academics confronted with threats and harassment can now more easily file a report and be referred to the proper resources through the use of this new helpline. People can file a report at any time, and if the situation is urgent, they can call a phone number that is available 24/7.

Reports filed through the website will be forwarded on a secure connection to the relevant employer. The person who filed the report will receive an answer from their employer within one working day, after which they’ll figure out together what kind of help is needed. 

The UG also has its own email address people can use to report threats: [email protected].


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