UG confidential adviser received fewer complaints in total, but more from female students

The confidential adviser at the UG received fewer complaints in 2020. And that makes it even more striking that female students actually submitted more complaints than in 2019.

In 2019, 171 people turned to UG confidential adviser, Marjolein Renker. The annual report, which will be discussed by the university council this month, shows that only 134 people complained to her in 2020. Reason for this is most likely the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Staff and students spent most of the year at home, which means there were fewer problems in the workplace’, Renker writes.

However, female students complained to her more often. Out of a total of twenty-nine, seventeen reported inappropriate behaviour by others.


Renker thinks the pandemic is partially to blame for this, too. Because of corona, interactions increasingly took place on social media, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. That’s exactly where the problems took place. 

‘People will quickly say something less than subtle about Chinese people, Jews, or black people’, says Renker. ‘Stuff like that. Sometimes people speak up, but not always.’

Incidents like these occur in groups consisting only of students, but also in groups that include lecturers, or staff group chats. ‘Social media is completely enmeshed in our lives’, says Renker. ‘But a lot can happen in that virtual world.’

In her report, she argues for clear rules about what people are allowed to say and do in group chats. She’s aware that it’s difficult to control people’s behaviour. ‘But I want to have the discussion and figure out what might work.’

Look away

As in previous years, the majority of the complaints to the confidential adviser, 52 percent, were about personal issues. ‘It appears that a relatively large number of employees feel unsafe and uncomfortable in their work’, writes Renker. The ‘work stress they experience, combined with working from home and communicating online, have seemingly made this worse’.

For the first time ever, the confidential adviser also got reports from bystanders: people who haven’t experienced inappropriate behaviour themselves, but who’ve witnessed it happen. A few years ago, the UG started providing training for students and staff to teach them to prevent inappropriate behaviour. 

‘People sometimes make remarks when getting coffee, or you’ll see someone being treated wrong’, says Renker. ‘Most people look away. After all, others stay quiet, too. But we want to show people what they can do when that happens. We’re all responsible for each other’s safety.’



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