More complaints about harassment at the RUG
A total of 144 complaints were reported over the past year. Of these, twenty-one detailed harassment. A year earlier, only thirteen complaints concerned harassment. In 2016, the number was ten, and eight in 2016. The complaints aren’t about sexual harassment – there were eleven separate complaints about that issue – but about verbal abuse and scientific harassment, confidential adviser Marjolein Renker explains. ‘People being undermined by their supervisors, for example.’
Renker thinks the increase in the number of reports might also be an effect of the #MeToo movement. Fifteen of the twenty-one complaints were made by women. ‘Women might feel more motivated to speak up when they’re uncomfortable with something. That’s what lies at the core of #MeToo. It doesn’t have to entail sexual harassment.’
Then again, Renker has worked hard on her public profile over the past year, ‘so maybe people just know where to find me now. And the RUG has also been devoting attention to the subject. They organised workshops, put on a play, and the university put out a zero-tolerance statement.’
The total number of complaints in 2017 was 114, but 129 in 2016. Renker says it’s difficult to discern any patterns in numbers this small. But what is striking is that a third of the complaints were made by internationals. Of the eleven complaints of sexual harassment, seven are from internationals students and employees.
‘I can only guess as to the cause of that, but I think it might have something to do with cultural differences’, says Renker. ‘In America, for example, harassment is a much more serious offence. Here, we tend to dismiss it more quickly, wondering if it was somehow warranted.’
What happens with the complaints depends on what the complainant wants. ‘We ask what someone wants to do and what their options are. I could join them in a conversation, for example, or I could take action or spur someone else into action. Some people just want to make a complaint and nothing else. And I won’t do anything without their permission.’