Leader of WOinActie protest movement has to give up her fight

Ingrid Robeyns departs from protest movement WOinActie. Photo: DUB

“With great regret”, Professor Robeyns explained on Twitter that she is withdrawing from her work for WOinActie, citing stress and health problems, partly due to the case involving the forced resignation of another professor of the UU Ethics Institute, who was accused of inappropriate behaviour.

Professor Robeyns has been one of the three figureheads of the protest group, alongside Professors Rens Bod and Remco Breuker. Together, they wrote a manifesto setting out forty arguments against the high workload that academics are having to cope with.

A year ago, the protest group made an inventory of complaints concerning cases of stress among university teaching staff and researchers and sent them to the labour inspectorate. “Academics are prepared to work very hard – so much so, that we often take on more work than is good for us”, Professor Robeyns said at the time. “The government is taking advantage of that dedication.”

But it seems that she has now reached her own breaking point. In her statement, she refers not only to the high workload and the effects of the coronavirus crisis, but also to the case of ‘inappropriate conduct’ reported by DUB last month. She says she's witnessed the case herself, and now she's ‘collateral damage’”.

“Anyone who knows how universities deal with cases of inappropriate conduct will understand what an ordeal this is”, she tweeted. “Witnesses often experience considerable trauma themselves – sometimes so much that they are overwhelmed.”

With the parliamentary elections approaching in March, Robeyns says she would have preferred not to quit now. This is precisely the time when maximum political pressure is needed. She has also called on others to help lead the struggle.

For Rens Bod, her departure is a "terrible blow", but he understands her decision, as does Remco Breuker, who tweeted: “This case involves so many different factors that can and should have been handled differently – how many times do we need to learn the lessons from practices that are crying out for a different approach?”