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Professor Raul Eamets addresses University of Tartu colleagues

Raul Eamets (photo taken April 2023).
Raul Eamets (photo taken April 2023). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Professor Raul Eamets of the University of Tartu, who has been at the center of controversy over obtaining data on childless women in Estonia, as part of a study, issued an explanation of and apology for his actions, earlier this week.

Excerpts from the lengthy letter to colleagues follow.

Professor Eamets wrote: "I would like to apologize to all my colleagues that my name and actions have turned out to be one of the most tarnished points of this story, which will inevitably offend you and the University of Tartu academic family."

"We all make mistakes from time to time, that or we do not behave in the best possible ways (at with hindsight), be it due to lack of experience or knowledge, undue haste, an improper assessment of circumstances, or simply an unfortunate set of coincidences. 

"Errors are given an assessment – for example, a drop in grade, in order to draw your attention to doing better next time. You also learn from your mistakes, and it is especially good to learn from the mistakes of others," he went on.

Eamets conceded he had made mistakes in relation to the University of Tartu study, which reportedly polled childless women in Estonia on their reasons for not having given birth, rejecting that he had done anything "evil."

As a result, "my years of work at the university and, in many ways, my personhood, will be irrevocably canceled," he went on.

"But this is exactly what the Rector of the University of Tartu's notice of the extraordinary termination of my employment contract on Monday means," Eamets added.

The following is the process or procedure for my censure as Dean of Social Affairs of UT. 

As to the university terminating its employment contract with him, Eamets said: "Whether these steps are motivated by a deep, inner sense of justice, or whether it is a yielding to public or media pressure, or an attempt to save one's own skin, or the reputation of the university's, I will let you be the judge of."

Eamets noted that a proposal he made to resign from the position of dean but remain as a professor was rejected by Rector Toomas Asser. A vote of no confidence in Eamets requires a two-thirds majority of the Faculty of Social Sciences board to pass, he said.

Eamets rejected the claim that he knowingly violated regulations, adding that he took legal advice before signing the contract on behalf of the university, but had not had any "clear answer" not to do so, or, later, that the signature was invalid or an overstepping of the boundaries of the role of dean.

The survey was part of a larger study also conducted among women with children, he added.

"The survey of women with three or more children had already received permission from the Ethics Committee of the University of Tartu, so neither I nor Pere Sihtkapital had any reason to believe that the contract with the University of Tartu would be invalid," Eamets went on.

As to Pere Sihtkapital starting the survey without receiving permission from the same ethics committee, "you should ask them (ie. Pere Sihtkapital)," he added.

He also rejected claims the cooperation agreement infringed the law.

"In summary, a clearly ideological/political attack, or ideological cancellation if you will, has been launched by the media, as a result of which my years of work at the university were watered down, and which the university, unfortunately, went along with in its decisions. I have always acted in the best interests of the University of Tartu, and I think that this punishment is disproportionate. Therefore, I plan to challenge the university rector's decision in the relevant instances," Eamets said.

Eamets has also stepped down as chair of the Fiscal Council.

Pere Sihtkapital obtained the data in a survey that polled 2,000 women on why they had not had children up to that point in time; over 1,000 women responded to the questionnaire.

Raul Eamets also sits on the Pere Sihtkapital board.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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