If you’re going to sit down – then do it around the conference table
By Bo Tranberg, chairman of the mathematic/physics student council and former chairman Christian Kraglund Andersen.
Back in the spring of 2013 something amazing happened at the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Particularly motivated students got the chance to supplement their normal lectures with a voluntary honours programme that was open to all. The first issue of Omnibus in 2014 included an article on the programme, and to make a long story short, the students have been extremely satisfied with it. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not shared by everyone. The Student Council originally protested loudly about these programmes, but unlike our main organisation, we at the Math/Phys. student council decided to engage in a dialogue with the management at Science and Technology (ST). The result is a programme that a lot of students – even those in the student council – think is good.
Looking ahead you can see that Aarhus University is facing a number of challenges, both internally and in relation to national policy agendas. That is why we think it’s important for the Student Council to tone down the rhetoric and instead work more constructively with both the local degree programme councils and the senior management team to ensure the best solutions. As former and current chairpersons of the Math/Phys. student council respectively, we have, together with our degree programme council, a long tradition for dialogue and cooperation with the management at ST that has also resulted in solid results.
An example of a current challenge for AU is the ever-increasing intake of students. Our experience is that ST will soon be completely full up. There is simply no more space in the buildings, which is why we are pleased with the debate that was started by the University of Copenhagen at the beginning of March. The University of Copenhagen proposed a general minimum mark requirement for all study programmes that were not already subject to restricted admission. The proposal is not the optimal solution, but it is a good starting point for a debate aimed at finding a solution that all parties can accept. Unfortunately, the debate never even began at AU. Our representatives at the top of the student organisation were quick to give us some cheap rhetoric about such proposals being elitist and not belonging at the university. That approach doesn’t exactly encourage debate and dialogue.
The student representatives on the board voted 'no' to AU's budget for 2014 just to send a signal saying “we do not accept the large-scale cutbacks”. The management tried to accommodate the employees and students, but unfortunately, the student representatives declined to accommodate the management. That kind of reaction is not going to make the cutbacks disappear. But it might make the students' influence disappear.
The next big challenge will come with the Quality Commission. The commission has presented a number of radical proposals that are never going to be realised, such as the proposal for a four-year Bachelor’s degree programme that would hinder the internationalisation of the Danish universities. But the idea of ties to the business community and the proposal about commercial graduates should not necessarily be ignored. Which is why it’s so crazy to hold a large demonstration against all of the committee's proposals full of simple clichés and smart headlines. The discussion of the committee’s relevant proposals must be taken up. To arrive at the best results management and students must engage in constructive dialogue.
We therefore urge you to hold fewer demonstrations and sit-downs in future and instead replace them with more informal discussions with the management about the challenges of tomorrow facing the university. Debate and discussion about the university of the future is more important than shouting out clichés in the middle of town.
Translated by Peter Lambourne
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