Judge decides that university may fire Täuber
The University of Groningen may terminate the contract of associate professor Susanne Täuber because of a 'disrupted working relationship'. The court ruled that yesterday. Täuber: “The scenario that I was so afraid of has come true. If you raise inappropriate behavior, you will be fired.”
A day later, the scientist is still reading and interpreting the verdict. “This statement mainly achieves that the culture of fear is getting worse. It shows that people who function well and have been in permanent employment for a long time can be eliminated. People no longer dare to say anything critical in this way,” says Täuber, who does a lot of research and is an expert in the field of social safety.
'It shows that people who function well can be eliminated'
The lecturer has worked at the University of Groningen since 2009 and was awarded a permanent contract at the Faculty of Economics and Business in 2015. She is also a member of the national advisory committee on diversity and inclusion, for which she was appointed by the minister of education. According to the court, the germ of the conflict with the university started a number of years ago when Täuber missed out on a promotion and filed a formal complaint about discrimination.
She then wrote a scientific publication about the Rosalind Franklin Fellowship program, which mainly aims to improve and promote the position of female scientists. “In the publication I wrote critically about this program at my university. The program undermined the position and therefore equality of women precisely because it does not address inequality practices in the workplace," says Täuber, who sees a causal link between this critical publication and her dismissal. “I have documents that can prove that.”
'For me, this dismissal touches the core of academic freedom'
Nevertheless, the court decided yesterday after reviewing the law that the university may dissolve the contract. The assistant professor is now considering an appeal. “For me, this dismissal touches the core of academic freedom. And the judge says nothing about that. I want this matter of principle to be tested so that a decision can be made for the whole of higher education and for all students, PhD candidates and colleagues after me.” Last February, Täuber won de AOb-price Academiekus for her commitment to academic freedom.
Täuber received many statements of support on Twitter and there was a protest at the Academy Building in Groningen in which colleagues used the hashtag 'AmINext?used. Leonie de Jonge, assistant professor at the RUG, was present. She worked together in the Young Academy Groningen with Täuber and is worried. De Jonge: “I went there because I am in solidarity with Susanne. Her efforts to improve social safety and diversity make a university better and safer. You should cherish someone like that.”
I stand in solidarity with my colleague Susanne Täuber and @casualgroningen. Should I be afraid to loose my job for speaking out against discrimination, harassment and unacceptable behaviour?@univgroningen #AmINext for taking a stand on social safety? https://t.co/x7sStpJ3OB pic.twitter.com/8QRvIiuSeM
— Léonie de Jonge / @L_deJonge@akademienl.social (@L_deJonge) March 7, 2023
There is AObsector director Donald Pechler agrees. He believes that this case shows the need for a national central reporting point for transgressive behavior and social safety at universities. The Ministry of Education published this at the end of last year an advice. “Unfortunately, as a messenger of the bad news, Täuber suffers the same fate as so many other whistleblowers, namely being fired. Students and staff rightly wonder if they are safe at the university, are they next? This case has only losers, of which Susanne is the biggest because she loses her job.”
The University of Groningen does not want to respond substantively to the lawsuit, spokesperson Anja Hulshof said. “The verdict speaks for itself.” About yesterday's demonstration, the spokesperson says that the RUG is on the same side as the people who gathered at the Academy Building. “There were people there with a sense of social insecurity, which is something that should not be done. We will soon start a campaign to learn how to recognize and prevent this behavior in time. But that is a process together.” Incidentally, this subject has been on the agenda since 2019, when the new board took office, Hulshof emphasizes. “We have been reporting on it for years.”
On March 15, 2023, the AOb a webinar on academic freedom where columnist Rosanne Hertzberger, Susanne Täuber and AObsector manager Ceren Pekdemir will consider how you can guarantee this freedom.