Open letter to the NTNU Board

«I wish to put questions to NTNU regarding the following story now making headlines in Norwegian media, Tone Sommerfelt writes in this open letter to the NTNU Board, published at her Facebook page.

Tone Sommerfelt er postdoktor ved Institutt for sosialantropologi.
Publisert Sist oppdatert

As a temporary employee at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), I wish to put questions to NTNU regarding the following story now making headlines in Norwegian media. One of NTNU's academic staff members, hired in the Institute for Social Work, is, most likely, participating in social media under an anonymous Facebook profile that links to videos claiming that 'white extinction' is underway, orchestrated by a 'treacherous government'. This employee is also known as a keen participant in public media (under his own name), 'explaining' criminal activity and violent behaviour with reference to cultural differences. My four questions to NTNU go as follows: 

1. How does NTNU deal with the distinction between private and professional when staff members participate in media using their NTNU-title, voicing opinions that are not based on research or documentation? 

2. In extension, how does NTNU understand the term 'Academic freedom' as distinct from 'freedom of expression'? As NTNU sees it, is the right to academic freedom accompanied by a duty to make explicit how stated opinions relate to research findings and ongoing scholarly debate? 

3. How does NTNU ensure that staff's teaching, course composition, and supervision of students is not influenced by racist opinions? In this particular case, the staff member teaches Social Work to students of all ethnic backgrounds, who will enter a world of social work including the Norwegian Child Care Services (Barnevernet). Is NTNU demonstratively satisfied that its values are honored (see quote from NTNU's strategy document below)? 

4. According to the Norwegian system for research information (Cristin), this particular staff member has no - zero - publications in scientific journals (apart from one obituary from 2006, one book review in a Norwegian Journal). Is it possible to get tenure on such merits at NTNU? As the person in question has a PhD in anthropology, it seems that clinical experience cannot be the merit. Given previous critique of hiring processes in the social sciences and humanities at NTNU, how is NTNU (centrally) ensuring that hiring processes follow protocol? 

NTNU is an international institution, and seeks to employ excellent researchers. 

In their strategy document for the period 2018-2025, entitled "Knowledge for a better world", it is stated that NTNU is guided by the following values (p. 9):

"Every employee and student has a responsibility to contribute to a work and study environment characterized by respect and consideration. We facilitate personal growth and professional development. We contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in society and in our own activities. We promote equality and tolerance. At NTNU, we show respect for varying attitudes and opinions."

NTNUs response to this case should be highly relevant for scientists who plan to apply for positions in the humanities and social sciences at NTNU.

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