Confidential Counsellor - finding next steps that are right for you

Klaartje Thierry & Anke van Oostveen are the new confidential counsellors for students at WUR. Their door is always open to students who have experienced transgressive behaviour of any kind or have found themselves in other socially unsafe situations.

We spoke to Klaartje for the Student Training & Support newsletter.

Making a difference in difficult situations

“As a confidential counsellor I can make a difference for students in very difficult situations. People who report to us are often upset by what is happening; they no longer see the wood for the trees and feel powerless. By listening and thinking along I can help someone to look at the situation from a distance. Ioffer perspective and help them regain control. Even though the steps may be very small, this makes them feel better. That makes this a very rewarding job.

Research shows: 64% of students who are (or have been) victims of a socially unsafe situation, do not report this* Reasons given include "complaint not serious enough", "don't know where to report" and "no confidence that something is being done about it”.

When is a complaint serious enough to report?

WUR aims to offer students a safe place to study and live; the University takes social safety very seriously. This also means that no one can determine for another person what is 'serious enough'. If you experience the behaviour of a teacher/employee or a fellow student as unpleasant or transgressive, if your limits have been exceeded and you do not feel safe enough to discuss this with that person, you are always welcome. We do not do truth-finding; we are here to help you and you alone. Our door is always open. But, beware, that does not mean that the confidential counsellor will solve the problem for you; We stand by your side and help you to look at the possibilities and what may be the right next step for you."

"I expect nothing wil be done about it"

“I find it very unfortunate and distressing that this would prevent students from reporting complaints. After all, if you don't report it, WUR can't do anything either.

But, I can't say it often enough, the confidential counsellor won't solve the problem for you. Our job is to help the reporter regain their strength and to be able to take action themselves. This may result in supporting you in submitting a formal complaint, but we usually advise you to start with talking to the other party. That may already be half the solution to the problem. If you don't feel safe enough to start such a conversation alone, we'll come along. Not as a mediator, but to support you.

On the other hand, if you feel unsafe, it is understandable that you cannot or do not want to talk to the other person. In that case, we will look for other ways together. For example, you can also talk to a teacher, student dean or your study advisor. You always remain in control.

New confidential counsellors; what has changed?

“For the students who knock on our door, nothing changes at all. As a confidential counsellor you must be able to be completely independent. We stand next to the person who experiences inappropriate behaviour and try to help them. We look at the events; what is bothering you and what are the possibilities to take steps yourself. This requires an independent and objective view which was an extra burden for our predecessors – in their dual role as CC & student dean. Understandably it can sometimes be hard to clearly define both roles. Because we do not fulfil any other roles within WUR, we never run into this dilemma.”

Finally, “Where can I report social insecurity?”

“Hopefully this interview- and the Social Safety infographic - will help to better put the available support on the map. You can reach me and my colleague Anke via e-mail, telephone or WhatsApp 06-36463811, or you can visit our page on de WUR website to learn more about Anke and me and about the way we work. Don't hesitate, our door is always open, both physically and online” and everything you discuss with us is strictly confidential.”