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Symposium Social Safety

19 October 2023 11:00 - 17:00

Towards a Restorative University

In the last five years, countless incidences and research reports have raised problems around social safety in academia. The academic environment is known by high competition, temporary contracts and power imbalance, which can lead to undesirable behaviour, such as (sexual) intimidation, (micro)aggression, bullying and discrimination. When interpersonal conflicts are reported, the current solution is a legal route. Dialogue, learning and prevention are often lacking. An alternative route to explore is restorative justice. Restorative justice is an alternative for criminal law with better and more sustainable outcomes for both victims and offenders. Supported by an NWO Aspasia grant, the goal is to implement restorative practices at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in relation to interpersonal conflicts. A kick off symposium will be held on 19 October 2023 to bring together staff, students and support networks to create dialogue on social safety and a restorative university climate.


11.00 - 11.10   Opening  

  • Fleur Souverein (Moderator; Restorative Justice Nederland / PhD candidate VUmc) | Welcome
  • Nieke Elbers (Associate prof. VU Law; researcher NSCR) | Aim of today

11.10 - 12.00  What is the problem? Social safety in academia

  • Marcel Nollen (Executive Board)
  • Renée-Andrée Koornstra (VU HRM Director)
  • Lies Poesiat (VU Ombudsman) | Ombuds view on social safety issues
  • Susanne Tauber (research fellow University of Amsterdam) |  Power imbalance and social safety: implications for policy

12.00 - 13.00  How does it feel? 

  • Het Acteursgenootschap #MeTooAcademia: The Learning Curve | Theatre and discussion

13.00 - 14.00   Lunch

14.00 - 15.00   What is the solution? Restorative practices in academia

  • Carla-Maria Verwer (School of narrative leadership; Catalyst social safety TU/e) | Culture of accountability. About ownership and leadership in Academia
  • Mara Schiff (Associate prof. FAU College of Social Work & Criminal Justice) | Challenges and Opportunities of Integrating Restorative Practices in Educational Settings
  • Heidi Mertens (Diversity Policy Officer KU Leuven) | Social safety policy: lessons learned at KU Leuven

15.00 - 15.45   How to proceed? Panel discussion

  • Mara Schiff, Heidi Mertens, Carla Maria Verwer, and Fleur Souverein (Moderator) | What are the barriers and facilitators for restorative practices at universities? How can restorative practices address power imbalance? How do restorative practices relate to punishment? 

15.45 - 16.00   Closure and reflection

  • Marcel Nollen (Executive Board)

16.00 - 17.00   Drinks

The event is free, but you do need to sign up, please fill out the google form


11.00 - 12.00 What is the problem? Social safety at the university

12.00 - 13.00 How does it feel? Theater play Metoo academia + discussion

13.00 - 14.00 Lunch

14.00 - 15.00 What is the solution? Restorative justice in academia

15.00 - 16.00 How to proceed? Panel discussion

16.00 - 17.00 Drinks

About Symposium Social Safety

Starting date

  • 19 October 2023


  • 11:00 - 17:00


  • VU Main Building
  • Agora 1


  • De Boelelaan 1105
  • 1081HV Amsterdam


  • English