The University of Groningen (RUG) may dismiss Professor Joost Herman. That was determined by the subdistrict court in Groningen on Thursday. Herman is accused by the judge of ‘very reprehensible and therefore seriously culpable’ behavior.
Herman (whose lawyer has announced that his full name may be used) was suspended last year after the University of Groningen used 1.2 million euros in university money outside the official channels. The money came mainly from European funds and was deposited in a bank account of a foundation that Herman, professor of globalization and humanitarian aid, had set up himself.
During the February session, Herman defended himself by stating that he was not acting to favor himself or to disadvantage the University of Groningen. The money would go to an international study program that he led. Nevertheless, the subdistrict court judge that Herman “has made any control by the RUG over those funds impossible” and that he has denied the RUG “the opportunity to decide for himself how these funds would be spent”.
In March 2019, doubts arose for the first time about the financing of the NOHA (Network On Humanitarian Action) program, a joint international master’s program of the Faculty of Arts. The subsidy and tuition fees of students ended up with the NOHA Groningen Foundation, of which Herman was the chairman. The university then brought in forensic experts.
They discovered, among other things, that the foundation had entered into contracts with external partners for which the RUG stationery and stamps had been used, but which had the Hermans foundation account number. He flew more than 8,000 euros in business class from that money. He also submitted double declarations for 800 euros. He himself called it “an incredible stupidity.”
Herman worked for the University of Groningen for 25 years and, according to the court, had “a great track record” and “meant a lot to the University of Groningen”. But the decisions that Herman has taken and implemented are “contrary to the interests of the University of Groningen” to such an extent that the university has rightly terminated his employment contract.
Also read this interview with President of the University of Groningen Jouke de Vries: “We now want to clean the ship”
Clean the ship
In an interview with NRC in response to this case, the recently appointed chairman of the board, Jouke de Vries, stated that he wanted to ‘clean the ship’. Herman is, according to the subdistrict court judge, through that NRC-interview, in which Herman’s name was not mentioned, “more in his honor” and “good name tarnished than was strictly necessary”.
In response to this case, the university will carry out random checks. The RUG previously had to deal with a major fraud case: in 2016, it appeared that the university’s facility manager awarded family assignments to befriended family members and entrepreneurs for more than 1 million euros.