UU has its own point of contact

New website and hotline for academics under threat

Rode telefoon

Wetenschap veilig, which translates as Safe Science, is a platform launched by the association of Dutch universities (UNL) in cooperation with the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The platform was unveiled during a presentation attended by the Dutch Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, and the academics involved with the initiative.

The tool was announced one year ago in response to a rise in threats against academics, made by conspiracy theorists, radical groups and social media trolls. It is inspired by PersVeilig, a similar initiative for journalists.

“It is unacceptable for academics to be faced with threats, intimidation and hate speach while working,” states the chair of UNL, Pieter Duisenberg. “These threats affect our people greatly, so we regard them as an attack on academic freedom.”

The platform has been designed to ensure that academics are properly helped as fast as possible. They can sound the alarm through a 24/7 hotline and a website. The report is then forwarded to their employer, who will get in touch with the complainant within one working day, according to the announcement.

The academic under threat is then put in touch with security specialists, HR staff, lawyers, communication officers and other experts who can offer support and assistance.

Police report
Those who use the new platform will be redirected to UU's Contact Point Online Intimidation (social) media (website only accessible to those with a Solis ID, Ed), as instance that exists since October 2021. Since its inception, the contact point has received twelve complaints. 

The complaints vary from threats received via social media to stalking or letters left in a scientist's mailbox following a TV appearance. UU denounced two of these cases to the police, according to a spokesperson. 

Talking to the Chronicle of Higher Education, UU's Dan Hassler-Forest recollects how he found himself in hot water after publishing an op-ed on the American newspaper The Washington Post in which he argues that the movie The Lion King is a fascist story. "It made me understand better why people, for instance colleagues at gender studies, are often more careful and hesitant when it comes to public statements about their work."

In the same article, UU's Rector Henk Kummeling says it's "appalling" that scientists are being forced to hold back when sharing the results of their research.

The Executive Boards of Dutch universities have consistently manifested support for their academic staff. Last year, they made it known that they would report all instances of threatening behaviour, violence, stalking, burglary or theft to the police. In his inaugural public address as the Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf also stressed the need to ensure the safety of academics.

If you're being threatened or intimidated yourself, you can contact UU's contact point via wetenschapveilig@uu.nl. For situations that are not life threatening, you can also use the phone number 030 253 2533. Life-threatening situations should be reported to security via the phone number 030-253 4444. More information in this message on the Intranet (accessibly only to those with a Solis ID).