After a deluge of criticism

[Update] Executive Board will not go to court: ‘Full attention and energy will go to creating a safe environment for everyone’

The Executive Board will not file a case against the Inspectorate of Education. This was stated in email to all staff on Wednesday morning, 20 March. Delta talked to Rector Tim van der Hagen about it.

Supervisory Board Chairman Tijo Collot d'Escury, Executive Board member Marien van der Meer and Rector Magnificus Tim van der Hagen (from left to right) on 1 March at the staff meeting on the inspection report. (Screenshot video recording TU Delft)

Update 21-3, 15:02: Response from Tim van der Hagen.

In the message, the Executive Board says that it ‘embraces’ the Inspectorate’s recommendations as ‘they are part of the change in culture that is needed to create a safer working environment’. The Executive Board says that it ‘gratefully listened to the signals from the faculties and management bodies’.

The Executive Board also recalls that ‘the Inspectorate’s report, and our reaction to it, created a stir’. The announcement that the Executive Board intended to take the Inspectorate of Education to court that was issued on 1 March, did indeed trigger a deluge of criticism. The Executive Board referred to an ‘improper investigation’ and a ‘big steps fast home report’. It believed that a judge needed to review it.


The Executive Board seemed to be alone in this stance. Staff members started a petition that has been signed 1,150 times. Trade unions, Works Council, Student Council and internal representation bodies all spoke out against doing this. Among their comments was that the Executive Board had ‘little empathy’ and lacked self-reflection, and was ‘overly defensive and even revengeful’. According to them, the Executive Board ‘did not care’ about the 148 people who reported incidents to the Inspectorate of Education, ‘took on a victim’s role’, and gave the impression that ‘every form of criticism leads to punishment’.

The critics believed that the Executive Board would be better off working on improving the social safety than spending money on a court case. The Executive Board is now of the same opinion. It writes that it shares the position that ‘starting a court case to have the investigation methodology checked for legitimacy would not move the transition process forward’. ‘Let us all put our energy into creating a safe working environment.’

Tim van der Hagen’s response

For now, the big question is why the Executive Board decided not to take the Inspectorate to court after all. Rector Tim van der Hagen, when asked, states that the inspectorate’s report ‘has stirred up an awful lot’. For instance, he has received ‘an enormous number of signals from people who have been treated badly’. He also says that he listens carefully to people who disagree with the board’s strategy. “It is clear that we have an awful lot to do together. We need to focus our full attention and energy on creating a safe environment for everyone. We still have a long way to go in this and a judicial approach only distracts from that.”

‘We too are learning in this process, which must be done extremely carefully’

How is it that the Board did not think of this earlier, but that it took three weeks full of criticism from staff and participation bodies to do so? Was that a misjudgement? Van der Hagen prefers to speak of TU Delft as a ‘learning organisation’. “We too are learning in this process, which has to be done extremely carefully. Initially, we genuinely thought we had a critical nut to crack about that report. In it, people – the entire HR department, all managers, all full professors – are put with their backs against the wall. We thought that was unjustified.”

According to Van der Hagen, the Board also now recognises that it is ‘better to focus on improving social safety, and to become a leading university in that area as well’. “That gives a lot of energy, among directors, among deans, among pro-vice-rectors, among the Works Council, the Student Council. We will simply put our shoulders to the wheel.”

And now?

For the first time, the Executive Board gives greater clarity on how it will do this. There will be a series of four meetings to be held over the next month that will be facilitated by Berenschot, an external consultancy firm. All employees, students and alumni are invited to attend. They may share their thoughts on what needs to change and how.

There will also be several smaller meetings with experts and ‘a select group of colleagues’. The Executive Board plans to incorporate all the input in a plan of action that should be submitted to the Inspectorate of Education by 19 May. The Executive Board promises that more information will soon be made available on the intranet.

The Works Council is also organising a series of meetings for staff to get ideas for greater social safety at TU Delft. The first will be held on Wednesday 20 March in the afternoon. At the same time, the Executive Board will be meeting the Student Council. It will be the first public consultation between them since the Inspectorate’s report was issued.

This is an updated version of the article that appeared on 20 March at 2:57 PM.

  • Delta is looking for current and former TU Delft employees who are willing to share their experiences. This can be done anonymously if preferred. Email

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.

The inspectorate reports that TU Delft’s university administration has a lot of information regarding what is happening in terms of social safety, but that they ‘omit to add everything up so as to create a complete picture’. ‘The management’ also ‘does not adequately manage in terms of appropriate measures’. The Inspectorate believes that this is mismanagement.

Read the news and background articles on the Inspectorate’s report in our dossier.

Editor in chief Saskia Bonger

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