‘The UG didn’t fail Täuber; she failed the UG’

By Elisabeth Bobrova Blyumin and Gonçalo Hora de Carvalho

The backlash the University of Groningen has received in the case of Susanne Täuber is unjustified, argue students Elisabeth Bobrova Blyumin and Gonçalo Hora de Carvalho. They say it is not the university that has failed Täuber; it is her that has failed the university.  

We are writing this piece because we are afraid. The board of the university is desperately trying to remain professional about a private court case regarding the firing of an individual, while the media are trying – and succeeding – to shatter the image of our institution on what we think is a false basis. 

This past month, the voices of the uninformed activists outside of the Academy building grew to a crescendo, going so far as to demand that the board of the university step down, or reinstate Susanne Täuber at the university. But do they know why she was even let go in the first place? Let’s start from the beginning: Täuber’s 2019 critical essay published after the university did not grant her a promotion in 2018.

The essay is based on her personal experience as a Rosalind Franklin Fellow (RFF). Claims are made about other RFF beneficiaries, but she never specifies how many fellows were interviewed – if any. Täuber states that ‘the disadvantage for fellows of the RFF scheme is potentiated: they are often excluded by male academic elites who nurture mostly other men’. 

She makes a serious accusation about at least half of her co-workers on behalf of over a hundred women who, as far as we know, she never interviewed. 

She makes a serious accusation about at least half of her co-workers

Täuber mentions that the scheme has resulted in structural discrimination, that it undermined meritocratic principles, and has led to diversity without inclusion. This very well may be true, but this is not something that she has seriously tried to investigate. No data was collected, yet the accusations of structural discrimination were made and taken by many to be gospel.

The explanation for the claim that ‘male academics have access to a much higher number of PhD students’ is left up to the imagination of the reader. Can this be due to the (known) gender imbalance caused by the slow entry of women in academia that extends into this century? Could this be because there are more men in your field, because it is a field that (for many possible reasons) interests men more than women? 

One would hope that an essay from an academic examining this very topic as her main field of research would attempt to answer at least some questions. Alas, instead, we are left with non sequitur after non sequitur. That is all one gets from reading Täuber’s essay – a glimpse of her own assumptions about other people based on their gender.

This personal experience has been published without evidence in an academic journal and taken for real research when it is actually an accusation against members of Täuber’s faculty of illegally conspiring against her receiving a promotion.

It’s a personal reflection which gives false grounds for destroying the reputation of her co-workers and the university

We do not see how it is surprising that this caused work conflicts between Täuber and her supervisors and coworkers. Academics are typically free to allocate their time how they see fit to be doing their research, and this particular academic decided to spend her time writing this personal reflection, which gives false grounds for destroying the reputation of her co-workers and the university as well as a highly respected fellowship that is awarded to women in academia. 

If we were her colleagues, we would feel victimised and confused that we weren’t approached to discuss the issue before involving the public.

Overall, according to this essay, the University of Groningen is conspiring against all its female academics, all male academics are sabotaging the careers of their female counterparts, and the university’s attempt at providing an opportunity for women in academia to kick-start their careers through the RFF is a colossal failure, achieving the opposite of what was intended.

Yet the claims in this essay have been given without proof, hiding behind a veil of a strange part of an academic journal which values opinions and experiences more than data. 

We think Täuber has failed the university and has wrongly accused the very system that gave her a job. We do not think that the international backlash that the University of Groningen has received is justified, and it saddens us that this has recently become the topic of greatest interest. 

The worst of all is seeing the best of us: the young, free and strong – the students of the university – gathering by the hundreds and setting fire to their alma mater in the public square, for all to see, when they could’ve at least read the goddamn paper.

Elisabeth Bobrova Blyumi is a physics bachelor student; Gonçalo Hora de Carvalho is doing a master’s in artificial intelligence



  1. If we are going to accept prejudice, opinions, emotions, assumptions, and false accusations then the scientific academic world is in deep trouble. There is a cultural war going on by activists which undermines science fundaments. I applaud these two students who use reason, and facts. Many Täuber supporters can learn a lot from them. It is scary how many students can’t think academically, and it is even scarier how many employees of UG can’t even think academically. Their behavior undermines their case against actual social issues too, which surely are present in the UG. Concerns also should be taken seriously but in a academic way: reason, debate, facts, research. Peace.

    • I feel truly ashamed that we need students (and foreigners) to remind us of how to lead an academic debate.


  2. UG should be proud of these students who critically think in an academic way, which can’t be said of Täuber and her small army of so called social justice warriors. These people are playing a power game out of frustrations instead of having a thoughtful academic discussion. Let’s have the Psychology Faculty research this.

    Täuber benefited from questionable positive discrimination, but got the feedback that she should publish before getting another promotion. She turned against UG with her non academic publication which is just an emotionally loaded negative opinion, effectively falsely accusing her colleagues of discrimination.

    This is not about academic freedom. This is not about discrimination. This is about an work relationship which she sabotaged and damaged.

    Read the judge’s statement and read how utterly patient UG has been with Täuber. Lesson learned? Positive discrimination lowers the bar to sub-academic ‘talent’ and positive discrimination turns into false accusations of discrimination.

    Please people, read, think, debate, be honest and listen. Instead of emotionally responding to judgmental factless emotional and false accusations.

  3. Okay, let’s assume for a moment that Tauber’s JMS piece is complete nonsense.

    In this case, the points that she raised could have been easily discussed and refuted by the HRM&OB professors who took issue with it. Why did this not happen? There were repeated calls for a substantive discussion, but those professors refused to engage and to provide proper arguments. Instead, they sent a threatening email, then forced Tauber into a humiliating procedure and eventually out of the university.

    Those who have the facts and arguments on their side do not need to threaten, silence and fire their critics. Perhaps you can take a moment to think about that.

    Also, if you read the verdict, you will notice that it’s not true that it was Tauber versus everyone else. Certain members of the HRM&OB department and the dean of FEB are mentioned on the opposing side. The rest of us are not necessarily sharing their opinion. In fact, many of us are not so easily offended by criticism, and we are capable of respecting our colleague’s right to express her opinion. As the verdict clarifies:
    “[defendant] had the article translated and she consulted the ‘scientific integrity’ confidant and the
    employee participation body. The confidential advisor indicated that she did not see any personal
    attack in the article. On behalf of the faculty council, it has indicated that academic freedom exists,
    that the decision to have the article published is a decision of her alone and that there is nothing to
    discuss about her as a person.”

  4. I can only admire these students, and we should be proud of them. Unlike Susanne Tauber’s article, their piece is actually well argued, and they point to very serious failures of academic methodology. I write that as a researcher in the Humanities who believes that there too, standards of scientific rigor apply (just look up my cv or Web of Science citation score if you are not inclined to believe my credentials). As I wrote earlier, Tauber’s Yarn report was similarly lacking in methodological rigor. And I am not at all alone in this negative judgement.
    The situation poses an important larger question about RuG hiring practice: how could someone like Suzanne Tauber ever be appointed? Unlike leading American or British universities the RuG does not have a university wide code of best practise, to prevent such unfortunate hires. Of course, accidents happen, but we really don’t have a system in place to reduce the risk of this kind of issues, or a procedure that gives greater confidence that we hire the best people in the world, rather than just people we happen to like or know.

    • Expertise: Roman Social and Economic History, good luck interviewing dead Romans. Do I really have to explain to you why your academic opinion has little impact when judging Taubers work? Before you tried to impress us all with the size of your CV did you take the time to read hers? And how on earth are you concluding that nepotism must have helped when she was fired by the same people that hired her?

  5. Summary: a student in Physics and a student in IT think that the article published by a social scientist is unscientific, which, they think, nullifies all other concerns about the firing of an academic over her research.
    Thanks guys, much needed.

    • If you really are a philosopher, then you should be able to understand yourself that what you are doing here is an ad hominem/ad auctoritatem attack. That kind of reasoning has 0% scholarly value. Well done!

      • Very sexy use of Latin there, I had to Google it.
        It probably saved you from spelling out my *argument* in order to respond to it, and noticing that there was none. But here is one: even if we agreed that Täuber’s paper was not brilliant (which I am very inclined to think, I found it pretty bad), it would still absolutely not justify to fire her (or: to engage in a process of confrontation leading to firing her). Academic freedom and stuff, you know? So, attacking the scientific quality of her work is flat irrelevant except if we are ready to take the argument to the point of entirely disqualifying ANY scientific quality to her work. For instance, charging her with some sort of fraud (“did she conduct interviews like she SHOULD have??”). And such a drastic argument, indeed, I’m not going to take it from two students who wrote an op-ed in Ukrant, taking issues with general questions of methodology that are not even that of their field. If THAT’S an argument from authority, then I guess you don’t see much purpose to the fundamental academic principle of confronting researchers to the evaluation of their peers rather than to that of the general public (or, here, the management). If we drop that principle, please let me know because I’ll immediately write an op-ed to dismiss essentially all classical economics for relying on *obviously* absurd premises.

        • So funny that you, calling yourself a philosopher, had to Google the 101 of your own discipline.

          Another wrong assumption: Täuber wasn’t fired for her opinion article, but because the occupational relationship had been disturbed beyond repair, which already began in 2017, thus years before her opinion article.

          Didn’t Google tell you that?

          (And why am I not impressed if somebody with your severe knowledge gaps shouts “academic freedom!”?)

          • *sigh* why can’t people on this page stop making assumptions about what constitutes others’ disciplines?
            In philosophy, we learn to read straight rather than to fart out fancy words. Seeing your second critique, you should maybe consider taking a crash course. I wrote: “it would still absolutely not justify to fire her (or: to engage in a process of confrontation leading to firing her)”.
            The court ruled that the management’s reaction to the article was instrumental in escalating the conflict. Thus, Tauber was fired over the consequences of her article. QED.
            Plus, if you were right in suggesting that the article was irrelevant, then this entire op-ed is also completely irrelevant. Bye.

          • LOL, maybe I’ve been teaching philosophy for decades. Don’t blame your serious knowledge gaps on me. What you are calling “fancy words” are the age-old basics of argumentation.

            Nobody denied that the RUG contributed to the problem. Your hallucinated QED is a non sequitur. (Warning! Another “fancy word”.)

            Your “bye” reactions shows once more that you are unable to engage in an academic debate. Better return your degree in philosophy. If you really have one, that is, which I can hardly imagine.

          • Now THAT, dear lecturer, is a legit argument from authority, for lack of being an authoritative argument. Bye xxx

          • Complaining about an argument from authority against an argument from authority is like… fighting for peace… or like blocking public places and then rallying against the police. Short, it’s a nuisance, but not effective.

            My reply was valid. Yours not.

            I’m curious how many more byes and kisses you will send me. I’d rather suggest that you work on your own state of mind instead of continuously blaming others for your own shortcomings.

            Bye xox

  6. Statistics and other quantified data are not the only way in which knowledge is produced. If you think that, you are going to be dismissive of half the humanities. Fair enough if that’s what you think, but fortunately for many of us, what you think about that does not matter.
    Once that’s out of the way, there is not much left to your argument. And certainly not that ‘Tauber failed the RUG’.
    Here, I break it down for you: a) your point is that Tauber’s research is bad research (actually, it’s diffamation painted as research); b) however, you are not qualified to make this statement (journal editors are), and your basic argument reflects a straightforward misunderstanding of the methods of the humanities; c) there is no c, your argument is on the floor by now, and it wasn’t difficult.

    • Hilarious: Two young scholars take the courage to use their own mind… and you tell them to shut up and leave the decisions to journal editors, for only they are to decide what is science and what not.

      If that were true, we wouldn’t need any universities anymore.

      (And, by the way, if you’re no journal editor, then you are, according to your own argument, not competent to draw conclusion c.)

  7. The essay has references: there is a file called “Complementary File Tauber JMS 2019”. The JMS article is just one of many that must have caused huge discomfort for a small number of professors within the RUG. And there is a world of papers Tauber did not author that support her observations. This letter to the editor reads like another attempt at character assassination by proxy of 2 unknown FSE students to kick Dr Tauber while she is down. Wasn’t firing her enough? When will they be satisfied? How hugely disproportional is the professors’ reaction to peer-reviewed words that offended them? And doesn’t this behavior demonstrate how unsafe this university is? As for the opinion of these 2 students: Sutor, ne ultra crepidam

    • At this point in time, to still maintain that the opinion piece by Täuber is a peer reviewed article, is ridiculous. It was not published as a scientific contribution and it was not peer reviewed. You are either completely ignorant of the academic publishing process or acting in bad faith by suggesting that complementary file amounts to what is normally meant by academic referencing.

      • As I understand it the JMS article was editor reviewed, which is considered a higher form of peer-review because hey, you don’t just become an editor, do you ? And I suggest you take your complaints to Journal of Management Studies, but be careful how you word them, you might get sued for defamation. You are discrediting their judgment and I fail to see any academic substantiation.

        • Oh dear. No, editorial review is not considered better than peer review. Whomever gave you that idea? It was published in a section of the journal that is NOT meant for scientific contributions. Editorial review in this case just means: making it ready for publications, with maybe a few suggestions about the content.

    • “unknown FSE students”? That’s an ad hominem attack, which is contributing to an unsafe discussion sphere!

      At least these two students speak for themselves and don’t send a “Cheap Goat” that continuously spreads misinformation in their advantage.

  8. I commend the bravery of these two students for daring to making a point many will object to. Just because they raise these questions doesn’t mean that they don’t care about socal justice. For many of us, this isn’t as black et white as the activists would have it. Nice work!

    • Indeed – and for some weird reason the website doesn’t let me refer to the new findings of the students’ survey 2023 that actually the RUG scores almost the maximum average score on the point whether students feel safe to be themselves at their institution.

      “The activists”, as you call them, seem to present a small minority position. That doesn’t make theirs meaningless, of course, but still relativizes all the intention this conflict got so far.

      • yep I feel super safe knowing the university will respond to my peaceful protesting by callinng the police 🥰🥰🥰 your comment reeks of privilege bro

    • These students literally questioned gender discrimination in academia (without brining any data themselves and without having experience in working academia) and they suggest one should not complain to the ”system that gave them the job”.. I do not see caring for social justice here..

  9. I am sorry.. What???
    ”Academics are typically free to allocate their time”
    ”Could this be because it is a field that interests men more than women?”
    ”An academic journal which values opinions and experiences more than data”
    ”Accused the very system that gave her a job” (Are we back in a feudal system where people have to be grateful and stay in silence because they had the opportunity to work??)

  10. I would be more concerned about two students who seem to understand numbers and statistics so well, yet do not grasp qualitative research methods.

    Have you ever thought about _why_ some fields seem to interest men more than women? Could there possibly be underlying cultural reasons?

    Of course, seeing as this type of thing cannot be captured explicitly by numbers, to you, it’s as good as not existing.

    Have your disagreements, but please, make a better argument next time that isn’t just you demonstrating your lack of understanding of entire fields of research. I don’t pretend to understand physics and write opinion pieces about it….

    • It seems rather non-academic to me to simply state that others don’t understand the research method, without even explaining why/how.

      Do YOU grasp qualitative research methods? Then you might understand, perhaps, that you can get a deeper understanding of someone’s reality, but that you cannot simply generalize from that to what the whole world is like. Ideally, we’d have mixed-methods studies which both investigate phenomena in more depth AND provide information on how general these perceptions are.

      You ask the authors to “make a better argument next time” – but do you make ANY argument at all? Just like the commentator “:)” below.

      That you don’t like someone’s conclusions isn’t in and of itself sufficient reason to refute that conclusion as wrong.

  11. There will always be those who hold the sanctity and respectability of institutions over people whose labour keep those institutions functional. There will also be always those who would rather come to the defence of their opressors instead of having to admit that they are being opressed themselves, or are in any way subject to whims of social forces behind their control. The authors of this piece ask us to read the “goddamn” paper. I only wish they could have first read the “goddamn” room and considered what it would mean to publish a piece like this after all the violence and other events that had happened since the firing of Täuber instead of just coming to the aid of their Alma mater like good little sacrificial lambs

  12. Interesting new perspective. To be honest, when reading Täuber’s essay, as a German I was feeling uneasy about how Täuber, a German too, uses stereotypes about “the Dutch” – for instance, when she talks about the “tightly knit” (p. 1722), even “impenetrable Dutch networks” (p. 1723) or when she claims that “the Dutch (…) want to be the best in everything they do” (p. 1722). She also overgeneralizes in a stereotyping way when she assumes that “Non-Dutch academics are (…) oblivious to the widespread practice of influence peddling that is considered normative in the Dutch culture. Influence peddling means using one’s influence and connections to obtain preferential treatment for another person and is historically entrenched in the Dutch culture (…)” (p. 1721). I can’t imagine that she would have gotten away with this if she had talked in a similar way about other cultures.

    • Thanks, “German colleague”, for pointing that out. I had only read the court’s judgment so far, not Täuber’s controversial opinion peace.

      I even feel offended by such generalizations/stereotypes, although I’m not (born) Dutch. This helps me understand better why the conflict escalated that much. (Täuber once wrote a piece on “mediocre men” about which I have my own thoughts, too; but this is not the right place to discuss that.)

      (And, speaking more broadly, academic career paths are often very demanding, including moves to many different locations. This implies to build up networks from scratch, both socially and at the workplace, which may mean that one has to work harder to achieve the same result/position.)

  13. I’m quite not sure about this part: “If we were her colleagues, we would feel victimised and confused that we weren’t approached to discuss the issue before involving the public.” Discuss the issue? For what? To be told not to publish?

    To express the criticism is absolutely normal even to a system who gave her the job.
    That your project is funded by some system it does not mean that they bought your silence.
    And as a female researcher I have to say that we are still quite far from treating man and female in science in the same way , still a lot of stereotypes

  14. What a thoughtful essay. Accusations are treated as gospel and cannot be questioned, and RUG is stuck in a moral panic with knee-jerk reactions.
    There are many types of social injustice, and assuming that one version of the truth is THE truth, is damaging, too. Have we heard her colleagues’ side?

  15. A rather interesting take from two students who are not educated about this topic. It never surprises me when science students do not support social justice.

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