[Update] Executive Board member Van der Meer: ‘I feel a responsibility to do the right thing’

Executive Board member Marien van der Meer has ‘the fullest confidence’ that TU Delft can take ‘steps forward’ to ‘also become a top university in social safety’. She said this during her first public appearance since the Inspectorate of Education’s crushing report on social safety was published.

(Photo: Marjolein van der Veldt)

Van der Meer was speaking at a meeting in honour of International Women’s Day of Dewis, the women’s network of TU Delft. There, she confessed to being nervous about of what would come. “I was advised to wear light colours today. I told my colleagues Tim (rector Tim van der Hagen, ed.) and Rob (vice-rector Rob Mudde, ed.) that I hoped they wouldn’t turn red because of all the tomatoes thrown at me.”

Very seriously

As a member of the Executive Board, Van der Meer’s portfolio includes the University Corporate Office. Standing behind a lectern on the podium in the auditorium, she said she understood the “emotions about what is happening”. “We are a top university of which I am very proud. But it would be wonderful if we could also be a top university in providing a social, safe environment. The report shows that TU Delft is not yet a safe place for everyone. Colleagues feel discriminated against and neglected or have experienced unsafe behaviour. People in leadership positions have not done well. The board and I take this very seriously.”

‘We have done a lot, but it is not enough’

The board member said she had heard many stories in recent days. She shared three, with the permission of those involved: from a female researcher whose authority was not accepted by a male colleague and a Dean who let that slide, from an employee who has sleepless nights and feelings of anxiety due to the bullying of his Director and other colleagues, and from a member of a management team (MT) who, during a meeting about the Inspectorate’s report, told another MT member to stop asking the latter if she had had sex last weekend.

“That gives me goosebumps and makes me humble. I feel so sorry this happens”, said Van der Meer. She told her audience that they must be hearing more stories than her. “Talking to each other about behaviour is difficult but very important.”

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She said she felt a responsibility to ‘do the right thing’. “We have already done a lot. We have regulations, contact points, ombuds services, HR advisers, offices for integrity, inclusion and diversity, the employee survey. But it is not enough. We need more and different things.”

In the coming months, Van der Meer and others have to write an action plan, as required of them by the outgoing Minister of Education. “If anyone has suggestions, let us know. I am confident that we will be able to take steps forward to become a top university in social safety as well.”

The way the Executive Board has so far responded to the Inspectorate’s report is generating a lot of resentment among employees. Dissatisfaction is high, a petition and a harsh response from unions show. In her talk, Van der Meer did not go into all that. There was no room for questions from the audience immediately afterwards. No questions could be asked later either, as Van der Meer was not present at the rest of the event.

Update 11 March, 2.36 PM

The above examples from Marien van der Meer’s speech raise the question of what the Executive Board will do for people who come to them with such stories. She answers that question through a spokesperson. “In a general sense, we will inform whether investigations have been carried out and whether the right measures have been taken,” he quoted.

In the speech, Van der Meer cited three examples. Of two of them, the spokesperson has more information. The female supervisor who was not accepted by a male colleague is said to be considering filing a complaint after all. Where she would do so is not clear. The TU Delft spokesperson reports that the Dean who did not support this supervisor is no longer working at the university.

The case of the member of a management team (MT) who accused another MT member of making sexual remarks was ‘immediately taken up by their director’, according to the spokesperson. “This complaint is being investigated with the help of an external supervisor.”


The Inspectorate of Education investigated transgressive behaviour at TU Delft from December 2022 to November 2023. In the resulting report, the investigators speak of intimidation, racism, sexism, bullying, exclusion, gossiping, social insecurity due to lack of leadership and a culture of fear, among other things. For instance, employees are said to be afraid to voice their opinions and hold each other accountable for behaviour.

The effects among TU Delft employees who have reported to the inspection are often long-lasting and hampering. The inspectorate speaks of psychological and physical health complaints, absence from work and a general feeling of insecurity. Stress, burnout, depression and PTSD, crying and tense home situations also occur, as do illness, vomiting at work, panic attacks and heart palpitations.

Foto © Sam Rentmeester . 20231019  .
Delta Profielfoto

Saskia Bonger

Marjolein van der Veldt

Marjolein van der Veldt

Editor Redactie

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