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Election time at the University of Copenhagen: Here is what it is about, who you can vote for, and how you can vote
It is time to exercise your rights and elect representatives at the University of Copenhagen.
Monday 23 November all those with a right to vote will receive a mail with a link to the electronic vote.
But what is the Board … and what on earth are the Academic Councils? This is to tell you all about it.
The Board is the University of Copenhagen’s (UCPH) senior authority, responsible for the university budget and strategy etc. Most noticeably, the Board is responsible for hiring the University’s top man, the Rector.
The Board consists of 11 members, five of which are elected by staff and students. The technical-administrative staff (the so-called TAP’s) have one representative on the Board, while the scientific staff (the VIP’s) and the students each have two.
(By the way: VIP in Danish means ‘Scientific Staff’, and not, repeat not ‘Very Important Persons’ even though they act that way!)
TAP and VIP representatives are elected for a four-year period and are allowed to stay in office for up to eight years. The student reps are elected for two years with a max period of four years. One student rep is elected each year.
This year, two of the University of Copenhagen’s research superstars – astrophysicist Anja C. Andersen and evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev – are going head-to-head this year in a larger field fighting for two VIP representative positions. While Willerslev campaigns ‘for the elite’ or what he calls excellence in research and teaching, Andersen has argued that there is not enough resources for that.
When it comes to TAP (Technical-administrative staff) positions, the big fight is between Joan Sonne Lykkeaa and Signe Møller Johansen, who in featured comments and e-mails to staff and colleagues have been battling it out over whether budget cuts should be the centre of the election, and over who is the most eligible for the prestigiuos seat.
Students, on the other hand, are battling it out between three groups: The Student Council, Frit Forum and Conservative Students. The Student Council currently (and historically, always) has held both seats on the Board, and the debate about Student Council being a power monopolist still continues (see separate section about this debate below).
The Student Council’s candidate Alexander Thorvaldsen says his highest priority is to fight against the consequences of the government’s Study Progress Reform that is aiming to speed up Danish students’ passage through university.
Frit Forum has two main candidates Mikkel Skjoldager and Anna Aagaard. Their platform is alot like the Student Council and they will fight for quality in education. The difference is, they say, that they will fight for a form of democracy where it is not always the Student Council that wins the seats.
Conservative Students also believe in giving other groups (apart from the Student Council) a real chance at getting elected. Leading candidate Esben Ø. Eriksen also says he is against the way the Student Council always calls for demonstrations. Instead he believe the students are best served through a kind of lobbying at the negotiating table.
Each Faculty at the University has an Academic Council, advising the Deans (the heads of faculties) on funding, research, education and strategy.
The Councils are responsible for offering PhD’s and doctorates, as well as recommending people to the committees that appoint lecturers and professors.
The Councils consist of students and VIP’s, elected in a 1:2 ratio. A minimum of two TAP’s are also elected as observers. These and the VIP reps are elected for a three-year period. Student reps are elected for one year only.
The Study Boards are found in each of UCPH’s departments and are there to help put curriculums together, develop new ways of teaching and decide which exam types are to be used for the different subjects.
The Study Boards also affect student life in general: They take care of applications for extensions (whether for illness or lateness etc.) and merit transfers for students who have done internships or studied abroad.
The Deans at the different Faculties decide the amount of members on each Study Board. They do, however, require a minimum of four and a maximum of ten members, made up of an equal number of students and VIP’s for one- and three-year periods respectively.
Like the Faculties each have their own Academic Council, they also have local PhD Committees, each of which deal with (you guessed it!) PhD-related matters.
Among other things, the Committees approve PhD courses and advise the Head of the PhD Section on course structure.
The Committees consist of 4-14 members made up of an equal amount of VIP’s and PhD students from the relevant Faculty. The chairman is a VIP and the deputy a PhD student.
VIP reps can stay on for three years and PhD students for one year only, so PhD students elect their representatives annually. This year, VIP’s are elected for the PhD Committees at the Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Theology.
The Department Councils are an advisory body in and for each department. The councils consist of 6-12 members made up of VIP’s, TAP’s and students.
One of the parties/factions running for election, the Student Council, currently has both seats on the Board. This they have had ever since the current university democracy system was started.
The reasons why they always have both seats:
1) They have a historic wide network at the University;
2) The Student Council is a voting coalition of the local academic councils, so when you vote for the Academic Council you automatically vote for the Student Council. (In actual historic elections however, the Student Council would have won without this effect anyway)
3) The university elections is a first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system, and as one seat is up for the vote each year, they as majority winners have always got the seat. Alternatives to the Student Council – like Conservative Students and Frit Forum – have so far neither collectively or individually – been able to muster enough votes to topple the Student Council monopoly of Board power.
If the alternatives were able to mobilize a candidate with a majority, they would get the seat, effectively toppling the Student Council monopoly. But this has not happened yet, up until now this has made the university elections a rubber-stamp election for the Student Council’s prior selection of their top candidate. Their selection of a top candidate (effectively deciding who gets the Board seat) happens outside the process at their own general assembly prior to the election itself.
The Student Council does not conceive itself as a monopolist of power, but rather as an interest organisation. It does not keep out other representatives and viewpoints. But like a trade union, it represents all its members – in this case all the students – and that other viewpoints should be represented within the Student Council. If students want influence, in other words, they should act through the Student Council.
Opposition groups will have none of it. Opposition student candidates argue that the monopolisation of student power through the Student Council is the real problem, and that they undermine the democratic process and are one of the reasons behind the dismally low student turnout at the elections.
You can vote from your couch with the university electronic voting system. A link will be available for electronic voting during the actual balloting period on the main election site here (needs log-in).
The UCPH’s own election site doesn’t have much information about the candidates. This is where we at the University Post (and our Danish-language colleagues on Uniavisen.dk) try to help you out!
So who do you agree the most with? On this Election Test we match your responses with those of the candidates, and show you whose opinions correlate the most with your own. The test isn’t perfect. But it should give you a good idea.
The test is the same as on the Danish-language site Uniavisen.dk. Take the election test here.
If you are a candidate we we wish you a happy campaign! As for all other University of Copenhagen students and staff, happy voting!
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