Social Safety

Goal 1: Process the impact of social safety case

This action plan has been developed to address and enhance social safety within our department, and was initiated in response to the dismissal of a senior professor for unacceptable behaviour towards colleagues. This behaviour included bullying, abuse of power, and sexual harassment. This has been, and still is, an impactful case for many individuals and for the institute as a whole. The long term nature of the behavior that has led to the complaints implies that signals have not been recognized and/or not responded to in an effective way. Our aim is to create a more respectful and secure environment for all colleagues moving forward.

The first goal of the Social Safety Action Plan has been to process the impact of the case and deal with the many emotions involved. We hired a specialist coaching team, Kracht Ontwikkeling & Advies, to help us.

  • An institute-wide Kick-off meeting was organized and attended by 100-150 colleagues in February 2023, with the aim to explain how a case like this can impact a group like us (mourning, pain, anger, sadness), and how the coaching team operates.
  • For those individuals most closely involved (including Observatory management), three individual sessions were scheduled to help to process the impact of the case. These ~25 session were scheduled between March and June 2023.
  • For the permanent scientific and support staff, three sessions for groups of eight people were organized. These ~15 sessions were arranged in the same period.
  • For other Sterrewachters, mostly postdocs and PhD students, single sessions for groups of 25 people were arranged. A total of ~5 sessions.

The main part of Goal 1 has been concluded in the Summer of 2023, with feedback from the coaches to management about the process, current situation, and forward look. An anonymous questionary was organized for Sterrewachters by our Wellbeing Committee Wellbeing Committee. We wish to thank everybody for their openness and commitment to this process (after some initial skepticism). Talking from person to person about how we feel is not easy.