Petition for fired professor: ‘RUG’s attitude in NOHA case is shocking’
Petition for Joost Herman
‘RUG’s attitude in NOHA case is shocking’
Both former rector magnificus Frans Zwarts and former rector Doeko Bosscher support the petition, which was disseminated on Monday. ‘I feel the reporting on Joost has been extremely one-sided’, Zwarts explains.
‘It’s complicated, because as former rector I shouldn’t be meddling in administrative affairs. But what’s happening to this family is just terrible. They’ve been given a social death penalty’, he continues. ‘I’ve known Joost for a long time, and he’s done so much for the university with the NOHA programme. No one will interfere with the case in any substantial way, because that’s a case for the judge. But I refuse to believe that he’s a criminal.’
Professor Joost Herman was fired by the RUG in January of this year and accused of fraud and falsification of documents. The university also started a civil procedure against Herman, demanding he pay the institute nearly 1.2 million euros.
Herman is alleged to have used Stichting NOHA Groningen (SNG) to gain access to European subsidies that were intended to go to the Groningen NOHA programme. Allegedly, SNG was set up outside of the RUG’s knowledge, with the funds being used outside the RUG’s purview. The RUG says this enabled Herman to expense ‘large amounts’ of money and give this to other employees and third parties.
‘We’re not denying that he did anything wrong, but this is character assassination’, says professor Pieter Boele van Hensbroek, who helped set up the petition. He and other (former) colleagues have access to the confidential accountant report the RUG based its decisions on, as well as other documents, such as the supplementary appeal to the cantonal judge.
The petition was based in part on these documents. ‘We find your attitude in the dismissal case and the terms you use simply shocking’, the (former) colleagues write to the board of directors at the RUG. ‘We read (…) demeaning discrediting of a colleague, namely lack of ‘integrity’ and ‘moral awareness’. It is plainly stated that professor Herman “violated every conceivable standard expected of a good employee”. (…) We, members of the academic community, emphatically disagree with the severity of your reproaches and your use of language.’
‘The papers the RUG has submitted to the court are full of unabashed mud-slinging’, says Boele van Hensbroek. ‘I don’t understand how an institute like the university can do something like this.’ For a while, he feared the petition’s words were too harsh. ‘But I guess they aren’t, because even people of stature agree that our university shouldn’t be acting this way.’
The petitions by former employees and students emphasise these words. Several versions of the petition have gone up online. The petition for (former) employees is available in both Dutch and English. Another petition was set up by (former) students of the NOHA programme.
The first court case against Joost Herman will come up in court this Thursday, when the Groningen judge will look at his dismissal.
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