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Onafhankelijk nieuws van de Hogeschool Rotterdam

University fails after complaint about sex apps from lecturer

Gepubliceerd: 24 April 2015 • Leestijd: 2 minuten en 29 seconden • English Dit artikel is meer dan een jaar oud.

The Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences could have taken a little more trouble for a student who was being harassed by her thesis supervisor with sex text messages, says the judge.

De uitspraak neutraal

A thesis supervisor who first brings up a student’s “nice body” and then starts talking about the relaxing effects of masturbation; the judge also believes that these things are not in keeping with ‘social standards’ or with the guidelines of the university.

For this reason, on Tuesday, the special provisional judge decided that the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool Rotterdam) failed in its duties when supervising a Chinese student at the Rotterdam Business School (RBS). Not only with regard to her graduation, but also when handling her complaint about the sex messages from the lecturer.

Misunderstood
In the summer of 2013, the thesis supervisor started sending the student all kinds of explicit sexual messages via QQ, the Chinese counterpart of WhatsApp. He told her he felt sexually attracted to her, but also repeatedly asked her whether she masturbated. “I have more feelings for you than I probably should…,” the supervisor later clarified once again.

The student did not react to the messages or tried to bring the conversation back to the original subject: her thesis. Once, she also wrote that she didn’t understand or couldn’t reciprocate the lecturer’s feelings.

Letter of apology
As the relationship between the student and graduation supervisor is one of dependence, the judge considers it plausible that the student tolerated the situation for as long as possible in order to avoid study delay. When the messages continued in the new academic year, she finally went to the confidential advisor of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and then to the Deans of RBS.

RBS assigned a new thesis supervisor to her and had the lecturer write a letter of apology. However, the Deans refused to consider another claim made by the student: a financial compensation for the damages she had incurred.

In his decision, the judge says he believes that this is very “scant.” After assigning a new supervisor, “the university mainly aimed for having the matter dropped [by the student].” The university did not want to compensate her financially, nor did it want to respond to “the sense of insecurity [the student] stated she experienced as a result of all this.” The university could, for example, have provided the student with extra intensive guidance in order to reduce the delay incurred, the judge suggests on top of this.

Adults
The university still put forward as a defence that this concerned “a relationship between two adults,” which is factually correct, but which is waved aside by the judge. With this, “the university denies that the relationship between a student and a thesis supervisor is always a relationship of dependence.”
The student claims compensation from the university. Due to the poor guidance provided, she claims to have incurred a delay. She graduated later than planned and therefore missed out on income. The special provisional judge goes along in this and believes that at least four months of delay (of the nine months claimed) can be attributed to the university.

The Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences is not lodging an appeal
The judge sustains little over six thousand euros of the original twenty-five thousand euros claimed for lost income. To receive any compensation for emotional damage, the student would have to start a more lengthy legal procedure. Whether she will do this is unclear.

The Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences announced in an internal statement that it will respect the verdict and will not be lodging an appeal against the verdict. The university “states that the court believes that more guidance should have been provided” and does not want to make any further statements on the case for the sake of the privacy of those involved.

Olmo Linthorst

This article was originally published in Dutch on April 22, 2015

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