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Associate Dean responds: We have little sympathy for this debating style

Inclusive forms of address — The Faculty of Social Sciences management has been criticised for not responding to the fact that non-binary people were publicly shamed in a mail thread sent to all the faculty. Associate dean Andreas de Neergaard responds to the criticism.

This is a response to the opinion piece ‘Spiteful attack on student in mass email sent to the whole faculty’ by Sannah Højgaard Møller, a student of political science.

Dear Sannah

Thank you for your comment and for your enquiry last week. The email thread that went round the Faculty of Social Science last Thursday was, like you said, unpleasant to follow for everyone involved, and was not OK. For this reason, we closed down the email list as soon as it could be done.

But it is not correct that we just informed the students that the mailing list was shut down. In the message to all the students at the Faculty of Social Sciences, we also wrote that:

»…the design of surveys and questionnaires is part of your academic methodology, and discussions about the form and content are important. However, these discussions should be taken in class, not in an e-mail.

We all get plenty of e-mails every day, and it is a joint responsibility to consider the use of e-mails and only very rarely to press reply-all.

Surveys and questionnaires may be distributed via various groups on e.g. Facebook, but regardless of what you think about each other’s questionnaires – and how these are distributed – it is always important to maintain a gentle and respectful tone of voice in the debate.«

In this way, we also comment on the principles at stake in the case:

– Yes, it is important to debate the design of questionnaires. I am sure that this will give rise to academic discussions about categories, etc. in the methodology teaching at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

– No, it should not take place in an email with all students at the faculty as recipients. In general, the faculty-wide e-mail should only be used in special circumstances.

– And no, we do not approve of the harsh tone in either the debate over identity politics or in any other debates.

We have received many enquiries from students who drew attention to the ironic and uncompromising character of part of this email discussion thread. It is clearly my impression that there is very little sympathy at the Faculty of Social Sciences for this debating style, regardless of their attitude to binary gender categories in questionnaires. As I said, we believe that it is the teaching that is the right place for this academic and methodological discussion, and that it should be constructive.

Kind regards,

Andreas de Neergaard
Associate Dean for Education at the Faculty of Social Sciences