Design Academy culture based on ‘fear’, report finds

Design Academy Eindhoven Credit: IK's World Trip/wiki commons.

The Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) draws students from across the globe.

Yet students say they’ve been sexually harassed, discriminated against and threatened in the past. They say the culture at the school is based on fear and domination. According to an investigation, some lecturers aren’t competent to teach.

This is what Bezemer & Schubad concluded. This is an agency that addresses undesirable behaviour in the working environment. The agency launched an investigation at DAE in December.

That was after people brought the Design Academy into disrepute on social media platforms. These posts were about teachers’ inappropriate behaviour.

‘Address experiences’

“The goal of this assessment is to address experiences you may have had,” wrote the DAE on its website on 15 December. “These may be of intimidation, sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, aggression, non-inclusion, violence, or other forms of social insecurity.”

“We’re also interested in more subtle, silent or hidden aspects of a culture that makes you feel unsafe. We want to stress that we’ll take all allegations of misconduct seriously. But our larger goal is to understand what we can do to make DAE a better environment for all — students and staff alike.”

The Bezemer & Schubad investigation shows that there isn’t a general unsafe culture. But there is an atmosphere that could lead to that.

Health issues

Extreme study pressure has also led to stress and health problems among students. They say some lecturers and coordinators have said things like ‘”You have to be available 24/7″ or “Shut up and get on with it.”

Some students allege staff even advised them to take drugs. “Because they seem to be convinced that you can only be creative when you’re on drugs.” Students say they were also sexually harassed, intimidated and threatened.

Male teachers are said to behave condescendingly toward female students. There has been favouritism too. That’s according to the students.

Small sampling

Less than five per cent of all students and staff took part in the study. That’s 31 students and 21 faculty and staff members. Nevertheless, the stories they relayed were troubling.

“We’re deeply shocked,” says a Board of Trustees member. “I want to be very clear – drugs and an educational environment don’t mix,” says Raf de Keninck, an Executive Board member. “We will take action.”

The previous Board of Trustees supposedly received complaints years ago. But they never took action. Some students sought help but found that the Academy did nothing to resolve the issues.

New Board

A new Executive Board has since been appointed. Students say they have more confidence in it. They feel the DAE’s now taking their remarks seriously.

There will also be further investigation into other outcomes. “We’re, of course, going to do our utmost to make sure that such things don’t happen again,” Keninck says.

“Improving the DAE learning and working environment is a process that won’t be completed in a few weeks,” write Joseph Grima and Raf De Keninck on the DAE website. “It needs constant attention from everyone.”

“We all need to learn from this experience and build a sound system of governance together. Above all, we need to pay attention to all signs of concern. And show respect to those who step forward to share their worries.”

Source: OmroepBrabant

Translator: Melinda Walraven

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