From The Netherlands Astronomy Equity and Inclusion Committee

RvdA Statement on An Harassment Issue

October 2022

The RdvA is deeply distressed at the announcement made this past week (w/b October 17, 2022) by Leiden University. As leadership representatives of the astronomy community, we want to extend our support to the anonymous members of our community who experienced unwanted, inappropriate, and damaging abuses, and our admiration to them for coming forward. This abuse is all the more shocking coming from a senior member of our field who should have provided social safety, inspiration, and learning.

We commend Leiden university for conducting an investigation that has been concluded and has led to consequences. We stand with Leiden University in our commitment to breaking the cycle of acceptance and silence on inappropriate and unsafe behaviors in our community at all levels. We fully support our colleagues for taking the necessary actions to protect their staff and stand behind our agreed community code of conduct and no-tolerance policy for such behavior.

The bad behaviors reported in this case are inconsistent with what it means to be a teacher and mentor, a responsible member of our astronomy community, or to hold positions of leadership and responsibility on behalf of that community. One of the actions Leiden University has taken has been to ban the professor in question from coming to the institute and from interacting with PhD candidates and students. We support this action and will instate similar actions at the other Dutch astronomy institutes, meetings, and conferences against any person that has been sanctioned in such a procedure.

This disturbing situation serves as a clear reminder of the importance of efforts to improve the culture and atmosphere in academia. These ideals must be upheld through concrete actions, and the activities of the Netherlands Astronomy Equity and Inclusion Committee (NAEIC) are one example in astronomy. We must renew our commitment through action to create a safe and supportive environment in which all of us in the astronomy community can thrive and in which we can take pride.

Nederlands Raad voor de Astronomie / Netherlands Council for Astronomy

  • Prof. Jessica Dempsey, ASTRON General and Scientific Director

  • Prof. Carsten Dominik, Scientific Director, Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy

  • Prof. Amina Helmi, NOVA Scientific Director

  • Prof. Jörg Hörandel, Scientific Director, Department of Astrophysics, Radboud University

  • Prof. Leon Koopmans, Scientific Director, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute

  • Prof. Huib Jan van Langevelde, RvdA Secretary

  • Dr. ir. Michiel Rodenhuis, NOVA Executive Director

  • Prof. Ignas Snellen, Scientific Director, Leiden Observatory

  • Prof. Michael Wise, SRON General and Scientific Director, RvdA Chair

Statement on Zwarte Piet

September 2020

Starting mid November, Sinterklaas will visit the Netherlands again until December 5th. This period of celebration, treats, and presents for children, as well as poking fun at friends and family, has over the last years become increasingly inclusive and diverse. Nevertheless, in some areas the blackface image is still clearly present, which can cause pain and discomfort for minority groups, especially for people of colour.

The statement of values of the astronomical community in the Netherlands is clear that racism is not acceptable under any circumstance. This includes the blackface caricature of Zwarte Piet. We unreservedly support those who have experienced negative impact and choose to share their stories. In addition, we ask our colleagues to be respectful and considerate when discussing this issue, especially in public. This way, we can make Sinterklaas a joyous time for everyone.

RvdA Statement on Racism and Inequality

June 2020

On behalf of the Dutch astronomical community, we unequivocally condemn the brutal killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor and countless others and instances of racism. We stand with the Black community because Black Lives Matter, and we affirm our unwavering support for all those affected by racism. These terrible and outrageous events in the US have once again highlighted the continued oppression and inequity that systemic and structural racism inflicts on minorities and people of colour, in particular, on Black people. Unfortunately, such racism is prevalent throughout society, in many parts of the world, including here in the Netherlands. It is the role and responsibility of each and everyone of us to ensure racism and systemic inequity have no place in our community.

We recognise that inequity and racism prohibits, damages and limits the scientific careers of individuals throughout their lives, and also deprives science of their valuable contributions. It must be acknowledged that members of our community experience bias and racism regularly, often in ways that are hidden or unrecognized by the majority of us.

We are committed to actively dismantling systemic and structural discrimination in our own community and we are preparing for the tasks ahead that must be implemented to achieve this. In addition to our recently established Code of Conduct, the committee for Equity and Inclusion in Astronomy is urgently pursuing new routes to address these issues and we will work with other communities to learn from each other. We will report back to you in the very near future with further actions to increase, support, and retain an equitable, diverse, and representative astronomical community in the Netherlands.

In the meantime, we stand in strong solidarity with our astronomy community members and everyone affected by racism and discrimination.