Existential Tuesday | Can people be socially safe in a hierarchy?

[note – this event was originally planned for March 26th. This is the new date]

Big news at – and about – the TU Delft: the Dutch Inspectorate of Education has written a scathing report about social safety and transgressive behavior at our university. The response to the report by the university’s board of executives has caused further uproar. In turn, groups of disenchanted employees are calling for their leaders to radically change their approach. If you’re not up to date on this news yet, have a look at various news sites – NRC, Volkskrant, NOS, Delta, Delta, Delta, Delta, and more Delta on their website.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, as a student or as a staff member, there’s a sociological problem at the heart of it that I’d like to analyze together. It’s a problem that all individuals in all societies face. It is this: how can there be open and safe communication between unequals?

When a person who has misbehaved has more power than the victim, can society guarantee that the victim can speak up safely and that justice will be done? And similarly, when someone in a leadership position is wrongly accused, can society guarantee that they are protected?

On paper, we have laws, rules, and support systems for victims. Sometimes we have trust, courage, and shared values. And still it seems that a place like TU Delft fails to be safe, especially for women and people of color. So, with our own university as a core and pressing example, how would you tackle this problem? What measures can you imagine (or do you know of elsewhere) that could be put into place? Let’s get together and discuss.


Existential Tuesdays are small bi-weekly discussions in the Nook of the TUD Library. Practice your critical thinking skills, learn to see the world from different perspectives, and hang out with your fellow deep thinkers in Delft.

Interested in other events in the Nook? Sign up for the newsletter to find out what else we’re planning.

Visit the location's website here.