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University of Copenhagen
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'A Sustainable University' election list: UCPH must lead the way

The lead candidates — They both dream of sustainable communities and a life in the countryside. At UCPH, they will fight for a greener agenda and better well-being – because today, not enough is being done for either of those. Meet the academic list lead candidates from 'A Sustainable University'.

It should be the main thing on the agenda. But today, sustainability does not take up enough of the board’s work.

That is their message of Jens Friis Lund, Professor of Political Ecology, SCIENCE, and Sophie Wennerscheid, Associate Professor of Nordic Literature, NorS.

They are running as lead candidates for the UCPH board for the new list A Sustainable University and will fight for sustainability to permeate all UCPH activities in the future.

We have a unique and independent position at the university – we must utilize it to create knowledge

Jens Friis Lund

»Our mission is about sustainability in three different dimensions: Climate sustainability, human sustainability and academic freedom to create sustainability outside the university,« says Jens Friis Lund, who is ranked number one on the list.

Human sustainability is about people’s well-being being prioritized. According to the two leading candidates, this is a prerequisite for high-quality research and education.

And then there is academic freedom. The other VIP lists are also fighting to preserve it – including the list Involve the Researchers, which in connection with UCPH’s 2030 strategy argued that demands to include sustainability in research would compromise academic freedom.

»We agree that we should not micromanage research. But research always takes place within a framework. And as a university, we should actively work to create the best possible framework to ensure that we as a university contribute to creating a more sustainable society,« says Jens Friis Lund and continues:

»There is no point in us becoming a copy of the knowledge produced other sectors. We have a unique and independent position at the university – we must utilize it to create knowledge,« says Jens Friis Lund.

With the very broad understanding of sustainability, the two leading candidates also encourage the university to consider all disciplines and competencies in the green transition to a greater extent.

»The debate about sustainability often takes place in the natural sciences. But sustainability awareness is something that is part of our thoughts, values and beliefs. That’s why we need to include the humanities in the transition,« says Sophie Wennerscheid.

»And this is hugely important to emphasize at a time when humanists are struggling. We see great potential for interdisciplinary collaboration, because this is a task that must be solved together.«

Less talk, more action

Today, there is indeed talk of both green transition and greater well-being from UCPH management, say the two candidates. However, they do not think it is enough.

»Our university should be much more visible and do more to show that we as a knowledge institution are at the forefront of the green transition,« Sophie Wennerscheid.

In other words, there is too much talk and too little action on UCPH’s climate ambitions, according to the two candidates.

»It should be a democratic process, exactly how we translate ambitions into action. But I would like to see climate change expressed to a greater extent at all levels. We’re talking about everything from more vegetarian canteens to sustainable solutions in the university’s buildings,« says Sophie Wennerscheid.

This also applies to human sustainability, where talk of a well-being crisis should be transformed into real action.

»It is absolutely fundamental that people are not running around stressed or otherwise unhappy. It is a prerequisite for delivering the high quality research and teaching we want to be able to deliver,« says Jens Friis Lund, who believes that UCPH’s internal competencies should be drawn on to increase well-being.

»We have a lot of people researching well-being at UCPH. Why not bring them into play,« he asks.

Where did the green transition go?

Jens Friis Lund and Sophie Wennerscheid have each in their own way been actively involved in the green transition at the University of Copenhagen. For both of them, it was the feeling that not enough is being done that led them to run for the board this year.

»For me, the conversation about the green transition at the university started in earnest through the student strikes in 2019, but in recent years I think it has disappeared from the agenda again,« says Jens Friis Lund.

It is problematic that sustainability is not included as an independent strategic goal in UCPH’s action plan for 2030

Sophie Wennerscheid

As a professor, he has been involved in setting UCPH’s overall climate goals and in the sustainability process at SCIENCE, where he sat on the sustainability committee for three years. He has also contributed knowledge to the Green Youth Movement and helped organize their demonstrations.

»It is unfortunate and sad that the conversation has dwindled, and that is the main reason why I have now decided to run for the board myself,« he says.

Sophie Wennerscheid has been a member of the Academic Council since 2021, where she has often discussed the university’s green transition with her colleagues. She has also been a Humanities Fellow at the Center for Applied Ecological Thinking (note: new knowledge center under UCPH, where humanities research will be brought into play in relation to the green transition) last year.

»For example, I think it is problematic that sustainability is not included as an independent strategic goal in UCPH’s action plan for 2030. I very much agree with the students who have protested against this,« she says.

Too many men at the top

A Sustainable University is not the only one claiming to want to make UCPH greener. So how do they differ from the other VIP lists?

»We differ on the issue of sustainability. Even though the others talk about it, I don’t think it comes across very strongly. And if we look at how the board has worked with sustainability in the last election period, I don’t think it’s clear either,« says Jens Friis Lund.

Both candidates also point out that A Sustainable University has greater diversity among the candidates on their list – especially in terms of job categories. A Sustainable University has PhD students, postdocs and professors on the list.

»It’s a bit unfortunate that it’s usually only very well-established researchers who join the board. It gives a skewed balance when it comes to understanding the challenges we face as educators,« says Jens Friis Lund.

In one aspect, however, the three main lists look exactly the same, Sophie Wennerscheid points out.

»All the main lists on the VIP side have presented a male lead candidate from SCIENCE and a female candidate in second place. I think this is an unfortunate distribution, which clearly shows that we also need to work on gender equality at UCPH,« she says.

Jens Friis Lund agrees, but emphasizes that A Sustainable University wants to function as a collective despite the fact that they have put their candidates in rank order.

Fear of A and B teams

This year’s univalg comes in the midst of a comprehensive administrative reform. DKK 300 million must be saved, and according to UCPH management, the new administration must have greater cohesion, among other things through joint administrative service centers.

»We are not happy with the idea of huge service centers. It could result in both students and staff losing contact with their local administration. It is crucial that we maintain the close relationship with the administration that we have today,« says Sophie Wennerscheid.

According to Jens Friis Lund, a greater centralization of the administration could mean that VIP and TAP become further apart.

It is crucial that we maintain the close relationship with the administration that we have today

Sophie Wennerscheid

»If VIP and TAP are separated on a daily basis, I am afraid that it could result in UCPH becoming a workplace with an A and B team,« he says.

He also believes that management should hold back on the “reformism”.

»I can easily see that there may be a point in creating savings in the administration. But I also think you should be aware of the turmoil and stress that such a restructuring contributes to,« says Jens Friis Lund, who points out that the administration reform comes on top of a comprehensive graduate reform.

The dream of a life in the countryside

When the two candidates are not teaching, researching or fighting to be elected to the UCPH board, it is often a love of nature that characterizes their private lives.

»I go for walks in Amagerfælled while listening to podcasts. And I read a lot, but that may not come as a surprise from the associate professor in literature,« laughs Sophie Wennerscheid.

She has lived in Denmark for the past four years. Originally from Germany, she taught Nordic literature in Belgium before joining UCPH.

»I live in the city, but right now I’m actually dreaming of moving to the countryside. I’m looking at a small town near Roskilde, where there is a green cohousing community. I would like to live there one day,« she says.

»We’re on the same wavelength,« says Jens Friis Lund and continues:

»I’m actually going to look at an old farm tomorrow. We are a group of friends who hope to establish a collective, a sustainable and green community where we can have our third age.«

Today, Jens Friis Lund lives with his family in Nørrebro and spends much of his free time on activism.

»I am an active citizen in my community. Among other things, I have been involved in founding a voluntary green research network outside the university. In the past, I’ve also helped organize some of the big climate demonstrations in Copenhagen.«

You can vote during the election period from 20 to 24 November.