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UNIVERSITY ELECTIONS - Meet Niels Havndrup Kraaer and Aslak Alexander Schou - candidates for the student seat on the University’s Board
Why are you standing for election?
Niels: My campus is CSS (Centre for Health and Society), and I joined Frit Forum [Free Forum, ed.] to change the environment in which I study on a daily basis. I have experienced the tight restraints of this institution, and I’m unhappy with the physical study environment.
Frit Forum is a huge social network with contacts inside the Social Democratic Party in the Danish parliament at Christiansborg, so when we talk about SU study grants and the lack of student housing, we can petition our politicians and put in for a shared agenda.
Aslak: I like Frit Forum’s idealistic approach. It is about solidarity, and that there should be space for everyone at university. This is the mindset I would like to see, also at the University’s Board.
What are your key issues?
Niels: My big key issue is getting the reading rooms upgraded at CSS. I study economics, and it cannot be right that diligent students can’t find a place to sit down. It is a problem that the reading room is always jam-packed. There are also not many group rooms, so it is difficult to find a place to work in groups. The only place is the canteen in the basement, where the acoustics are bad and its noisy, so it’s really hard to get a job done at CSS. I know that there are similar problems elsewhere in the university.
My second key issue is loneliness among students. The latest student satisfaction survey showed that 17 per cent of students feel lonely, so this is a huge problem. It is a complicated problem, so I do not have the answer to how to fix it, but we need to take the debate to the Board.
UCPH needs to be better at getting hold of the lonely students and bringing them back into the community because you learn better together, and because loneliness leads to low academic performance. In some study programmes it is mandatory to join a reading group at the start of studies. This is an initiative that should be rolled out throughout the university. Each student is responsible for their own learning, but the university is responsible for creating the best possible conditions for this to take place.
Aslak: My key issue is that everyone should be able to orally defend their dissertation. The dissertation/thesis takes up so much of your study programme effort. So it is unfulfilling to just give in your dissertation and get your grade. It would give a much better experience to go through the whole works with a defence. And this would at the same time allow students who have particular oral abilities not to be disadvantaged.
My second key issue is that there should be a greater focus on ensuring the social element during the course of the study programme.
Students take on a large responsibility for the university’s social activities and management should take this seriously. They should respect and support it rather than, say, cancel the study programmes’ introduction weeks to save on finances.
Management should remember that students put much more effort into it voluntarily and without pay.
How will you get going with the Board work?
Niels: We should look for solutions together. I am not going to be a protest vote on the Board. I fully recognize that you should be able to get a job after you have finished at university, so it makes good sense to listen to the business people on the board. But I am sure that if we address my key issues it will strengthen the study programmes and improve the students’ subsequent job opportunities.
That said, we at the Frit Forum are a voice for students. So if there is any conflict, we will push for students and their satisfaction. We represent students.
Aslak: My approach is pragmatic. The Board is there to make good well-informed decisions. But my idealistic approach needs to be ensured.
Students and staff should not put up with everything. So I will voice my protest on the Board depending on the situation. Not all cuts are automatically justified, and I will decide in each case.
What do you think of the Student Council dominance on the student seats?
Niels: In Frit Forum, we do not outright disagree with Student Council policies. On many issues we stand on the same side politically. This applies, say, to the fight against the Study Progress Reform.
We see ourselves not as a direct competitor to the Student Council, and we are not out to destroy what they have built up. They have done a good job. But I think that it is problematic to claim that it [the Student Council, ed.] contains in itself all political opinions. You need to have a choice.
Aslak: The University Election is a cornerstone of our democracy. So it is important to have different choices to vote for on the ballot. But I am not interested in pulling down everything that the Student Council has built up.
Frit Forum also has Julie Weile, a law student, as candidate for the Board.