UU won’t fire ‘Volkert’ teacher

Fotobewerking: DUB

Utrecht University announced on Tuesday that the teacher will be given one more chance, after a discussion with said teacher. The faculty board of the Faculty of Humanities, in consultation with the Executive Board, has decided not to fire the employee.

Both boards feel immediate termination disproportionate, as the teacher has ‘credibly explained he didn’t mean his remark literally’, has apologised, and the public prosecutor’s preliminary judgment is that the remark is not deemed against the law. A spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s office says two charges have been filed against the teacher, but there’s a fair chance he won’t be prosecuted for his comment.

Conditional termination
Still, the UU feels ‘the teacher should have been aware that his comment could be interpreted as a threat, is deeply hurtful, and could do damage to the university’. That’s why the university has chosen a different disciplinary measure: a conditional termination, with a two-year probationary period.

This means the teacher will keep his job, but will still be fired if he slips up at any time in the next two years. UU spokesperson Maarten Post says the teacher won’t resume his classes immediately. “The teacher himself is very upset as well, so we’ll have to see when he can start working again.”

Flow of angry responses
The Facebook comment from the Humanities teacher led to a flow of angry responses after The Post Online paid attention to it. Twitter and Facebook users felt Utrecht University should take harsh measures against the teacher, whose comment referred to the man who murdered Pim Fortuyn.

Even though the teacher offered his apologies a day after the post, the UU decided to temporarily relieve him of his duties until they’d scheduled a conversation. The university didn’t want the teacher to teach any classes in the meantime, because the comment raised a lot of questions and its impact was large.

Utrecht University received more than 450 written responses relating to the teacher’s Facebook post. People from both within and outside the UU expressed their dismay. Some of them called for the UU to fire the teacher, as did the people who started an online petition. Newspaper AD started a poll about the situation, and 78 percent of the nearly 17,000 voters felt the teacher should ‘no longer work there’.

Responses Facebook post ‘shocking’
At the same time, many people felt the university should take a stand against this culture of dragging people through the mud on social media. “One wrong comment, a bad joke, a remark meant to be ironic that’s misunderstood by someone, and people take screenshots and share these things en masse. Social media storms can lead to employers, due to the many responses and the fear of damage to their institute’s reputation, decide to fire someone or relieve him of his duties.” That comment was widely supported in the responses below the DUB article.

UU spokesperson Maarten Post says that aside from these comments pertaining to the content of the situation, there have also been a number of threats addressed to the teacher. “The university feels it’s important to note that it wasn’t just this teacher’s comment that was shocking – this also applies to the tone of a number of the responses that followed it,” the UU writes on its website.