MAASTRICHT. A foreign PhD candidate who submitted a complaint about her supervisor to Maastricht University's ‘Complaints committee for Inappropriate Behaviour’, is invited for a hearing in Dutch. This to her amazement, a language she barely understands, let alone be able to express herself in adequately. An interpreter is permitted to join in, but she has to arrange that herself.
English is the prevailing language at Maastricht University. There are many foreign students and employees; policy documents and meetings are usually in English. But when it comes to the hearing of the ‘Complaints Committee for Inappropriate Behaviour’, an advisory council that deals with emotional topics such as discrimination, aggression, intimidation and violence, the language is Dutch. Regardless of whether the complainant speaks the language or not.
The reason? That is unclear. According to the PhD candidate, the committee is convinced that a proper investigation [hearing the complainant and the accused, ed.] will be ensured if such occurs in Dutch. The PhD candidate feels like it is already one-nil against her.
In this case - which is confidential (hence the editor cannot mention any names or subject field) - she is allowed to make use of an interpreter to prevent any miscommunication.
A composite ‘chamber’ of three members, all from outside the UM, is investigating the complaint; it will hear both parties, as well as any witnesses and experts, and subsequently advise the Maastricht Executive Board. This is stated in the ‘Collective Complaints Committee Regulation for Inappropriate Behaviour’ regulation, an agreement from 2012 by Maastricht University, the Open University, and Zuyd Hogeschool. In addition, the UM has its own regulation. Neither of these two documents mention anything about the language to be used during hearings.
The PhD candidate has more doubts about the procedure. The point of departure in cases like this is that the hearing will be with both parties, in one room. But the committee has decided to hear her and her supervisor separately. It refers to its “discretionary power” to take independent decisions. In addition, the PhD candidate wasn’t given the opportunity to inform the committee on her own preferences about the hearing procedure (separate or not), as had been promised to her in an earlier stage.
The secretary of the complaints committee was approached for further explanation, but refers to the regulation on the website and gave no other answers.