SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 08, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Groningen

Region & Country:Europe | Netherlands

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 8, 2023, the University of Groningen (RUG) dismissed Susanne Täuber, a professor of economics, following a years-long dispute. The dismissal was issued after a district court ruled that the university’s decision was legal.

The dispute centered on Täuber’s critiques of RUG’s implementation of its policy on gender equality. As a member of RUG’s university council, Täuber reportedly frequently raised issues related to discrimination and harassment at the university. In 2018, Täuber alleged that the university had discriminated against her, submitting an official complaint of bias in the university’s failure to promote her despite her record of publications and grants.

The dispute escalated in 2019, when Täuber authored an article in the Journal of Management Studies in which she criticized a RUG fellowship program created to support female scholars, saying that it actually had the reverse effect of damaging equality. In the article, Täuber referenced her own experiences as a fellow. Following the article’s publication, administrators reportedly pressured Täuber to retract and apologize for the article. According to Täuber, when she refused, her working environment became increasingly tense. The university also asked her to participate in mediation and a coaching program to build her “soft skills.” Täuber reported that she participated in mediation, but the coaching program never took place.

In 2021, Täuber co-authored another report on harassment at the university—this one with Young Academy Groningen (YAG), a collective of RUG researchers.

On December 16, 2022, RUG submitted a request for the dissolution of Täuber’s contract, on the basis of a disrupted employment relationship. According to RUG’s lawyer, the university alleged that Täuber had created a strained relationship by accusing her supervisors of discrimination without providing any evidence to support her allegations. The university also pointed to Täuber’s lack of participation in an “improvement process.” Following a hearing on February 3, 2023, a district court ruled in favor of RUG and Täuber was instructed to leave the university by May 1, 2023.

In May 2023, it was reported that Täuber had taken a guest researcher position at the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the termination of a faculty member in apparent retaliation for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Higher education faculty have the right to criticize the institutions where they work without fear of reprisal, and university administrators have an obligation to refrain from retaliatory actions intended to punish, restrict, or chill academic activity. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, such actions undermine academic freedom.

Sources:
https://www.nltimes.nl/2023/03/22/university-groningen-students-stage-sit-demanding-return-fired-professor
https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/economie/artikel/5371843/vrouwen-promotie-universiteit-groningen-docente-ontslag-susanne-tauber
https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/#!/details?id=ECLI:NL:RBNNE:2023:854
https://ukrant.nl/protests-against-potential-firing-of-social-safety-expert-susanne-tauber/
https://ukrant.nl/magazine/susanne-tauber-has-been-fired-if-we-stay-silent-now-the-systems-wins/
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-01286-5
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/court-rules-groningen-free-fire-critical-lecturer
https://www.folia.nl/international/157434/fired-groningen-researcher-susanne-tauber-now-a-uva-guest-researcher