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Dispute — A large group of students responsible for the start of studies in 2023 at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics (NorS) were suddenly ignored by management. Now they have got their apology. »They were justified in most of their criticism,« says the administration manager.
»It is incomprehensible to us that things could get to this point.«
These are the words of a large group of tutors responsible for planning a good study start for the 2023 year cohort on the courses Danish, Audiologopedics and Linguistics. It turned into a real headache.
The University Post has seen a letter of complaint to management, listing a process from March to November 2023 in which the cooperation and communication between the tutors and the administration at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, NorS, broke down completely.
»You left us to handle financial matters that students should never be forced to handle. You forced us to put up our own money because you left us in the lurch. You forced us to borrow money from the department’s party committee, even though we had consistently asked for your help,« the letter states.
The complaint was signed by 25 students and sent to the department’s administration manager Morten Tang Petersen and others on 9 January. The essence of the two-and-a-half-page letter is that the department has, according to the students, failed in its task of providing tutors with the administrative support needed to plan a good and safe start to their studies.
The students do not wish to comment on the record to the University Post. The University Post has spoken to several of them, but only as a background briefing.
To understand the students’ criticism of the process, we have to go back to March 2023, when the person who is normally the administrative coordinator for the study start at the department went on maternity leave. This meant that one student counsellor was left with the responsibility for supporting the subject’s total of 35 tutors and approximately 250 new students.
In the letter, the tutors write that the head of administration ignored numerous attempts to provide administrative assistance to open an intro week account to finance the expenses associated with the many activities:
Since it was not possible to activate the intro week account on time, the tutors could neither receive money from the new students nor spend money on planned activities. This had the direct consequence that the students had to make a DKK 15,000 outlay and ended up borrowing DKK 50,000 from the department’s party committee.
Several tutors were — and still are — so mentally run-down that they have had to postpone courses and assignments, seek medical and psychological assistance, and take leave from their degree programmes.
»We have tried in vain to get into dialogue with you since the summer. And we are therefore now handing the matter over to the media,« it states in the letter. And in a sequel to it, it states:
»We don’t want to harm NorS or UCPH. But if we don’t speak out now, the damage will only increase in the long run. And the consequences for students will only get worse.«
The students describe how it became increasingly critical that no one answered the phone or answered their emails: Intro week was approaching fast, and the tutors needed to get in touch with their department.
Their contact person was not present at the department at all in the days leading up to the intro camp. The person in question had been sent on a course in artificial intelligence:
»It is hard to imagine worse timing for an employee course considering all the things that we tutors needed help in sorting out before intro week at the time,« the students write in their complaint.
Part of the complaint is about finances. No tutors had been paid for their work when the letter was sent, even though they had sent reminders for their pay several times. The number of hours the tutors work varies, but those of the tutors who are employed as tutor coordinators with specific responsibilities have an agreement with management on 80 hours of work in the period. But the salary, which had been announced for payment on 1 November 2023, had not yet been paid when the letter was sent. This has resulted in the students’ trade union DM intervening in the case.
The University Post has seen the email exchange between the students and DM.
The tutors believe that the root cause of the problems lies in the failure to replace the study-start coordinator who went on maternity leave. They describe it as devastating for the project that all responsibility ended up with one particular student counsellor who was not equipped to cope with the task.
The students say they need to evaluate their experiences with a management that is responsive. They worry about the intro weeks of the future, and they write that ‘the incompetence of management’ has had psychological consequences for several of them:
»Several tutors were — and still are — so mentally run-down that they have had to postpone courses and assignments, seek medical and psychological assistance, and take leave from their degree programmes. We have asked to evaluate this gruelling process in a way that we are entitled to. And not even this have you been able to offer us,« the letter of complaint states.
»Where are the managers of the study administration who are to take responsibility for this and apologize to those who have gone through this process?« they write.
Two days after the letter was sent, on Thursday 11 January, two student representatives were invited to a meeting with faculty director Kristian Boye Petersen, administration manager Morten Tang Petersen and the head of study and career guidance at the Faculty of Humanities Stine Due Hansen.
The meeting resulted in an agreement on a new, clear strategy for the collaboration between students and management at the start of studies in the future.
It was as if one brick would fall, then the whole structure would come crashing down. I have not been good at responding either. And this is unacceptable
Morten Tang Petersen, Head of Administration
The tutors were offered professional psychological help, and they were guaranteed that their non-paid salaries would come through in mid-January. A spokesperson now confirms to the University Post that the salary has been paid.
Administration head Morten Tang Petersen is satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.
»I think it was a really good meeting. I got the letter from the tutors. And it became clear at the meeting, that most of their criticisms were justified. All I could do was listen and apologize,« he says.
When asked how it got to the point where students had to be offered psychological counselling, the head of administration replies:
»We in management have been very unhappy about the financial part of things. Some things were resolved too late. And there has also been a set-up that has been too fragile, because far too much responsibility ended up with individual tutors. In this way, there has been no systematic support for them. It was as if one brick would fall, then the whole structure would come crashing down. I have not been good at responding either. And this is unacceptable.«