Universiteit Leiden

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Universities adopt national measures to combat threats made to academics

Academics are increasingly facing threats, harassment and hate speech following public appearances. The Dutch universities – united in the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) – is now adopting a number of national measures, from a zero-tolerance policty to psychosocial help for victims.

The VSNU has agreed that as of now any threats, physical or sexual assualt, stalking and burglary will be reported immediately to the police. All the universities will also adopt a broader range of measures, both preventive and reactive. These will include providing online resilience training and psychosocial support.


The universities will also set up a joint platform: WetenschapVeilig. This will be an independent foundation (based on the PersVeilig) that will work nationally to improve existing measures, the collection and provision of information, and the interaction with the justice system and police.

‘We applaud the way our academics use their knowledge and insights for the benefit of society,’ said VSNU chair Peter Duisenberg. ‘But if these efforts are met with harassment and threats, we consider this to be a direct attact on academic freedom and freedom of expression. With these measures we aim to protect and support our academics and to show that we will not tolerate such threats.’

Threats and verbal attacks

Academics are more frequently facing more overt threats and harassment after public appearances than they did in the past. Academics have had strangers show up at their homes, members of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) constantly receive threats and academics are regularly subjected to verbal attacks on social media or by email if they take part in sensitive debates. 

The VSNU has also issued guidelines on ‘Addressing threats to and harassment of academics’ (an English translation will be available soon). These include good practices that universities can folllow to support staff who have been threatened. Al 14 universities have committed to the guidelines, which were presented to Minister Engelshoven (Education, Culture and Science) and academics Roland Pierik (UvA), Afshin Ellian (Leiden University) and Aya Ezawa (Leiden University).

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