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Universities take a stand: every threat against academics will be reported

Dutch universities want to crack down on their academics being threatened or intimidated. They want to report every single case and they created a joint platform: WetenschapVeilig.

Overarching university organisation VSNU announced the news on Monday. They decided to take actions because of the increased threats and harassment aimed at academics who work in the public domain or who engage in debate on sensitive issues.

Some people harass these academics at home and others threaten them or yell at them on social media or via email.

Freedom

‘We support our academics using their knowledge and insights to help society’, says VSNU chair Pieter Duisenberg. ‘But when that leads to harassment and threats, we consider that an attack on academic freedom as well as freedom of speech.’

From now on, universities will have a zero-tolerance policy: every type of threat, physical or sexual violence, stalking, and break-in will be reported. Universities will also support their academics with courses on online resilience and psychosocial help.

The universities will also create the joint platform WetenschapVeilig. The platform will be an independent foundation with the objective to improve information services, information gathering, actions, and interactions with the law and police across the country.

Target

In April, UG lecturer Léonie de Jong became the target of a harassment campaign by far-right platform Vizier op Links. De Jonge studies populism, radical right and far right politics. Just after the election in March, she talked on various media outlets about the twenty-nine seats that the parties PVV, JA21 and the Forum voor Democratie had gained together.

In part because of this, the Vizier op Links website mentioned De Jonge by name on their website in April. They said that De Jonge ‘spread disinformation in a broadcast about disinformation’. On Twitter, De Jonge wrote that she’d become ‘the target of a far-right harassment campaign resulting in intimidation, insults, and bullying’. She wouldn’t say if anything happened besides her name being mentioned on the website.

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