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University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Staff and management quarrel over new e-mail

Staff reps are angered by a University of Copenhagen plan to harmonise the e-mail addresses of all faculties. But the new system is only common sense, says the University's IT head

Employees at the University of Copenhagen are unhappy with a management plan to merge the e-mail system of all faculties. Each faculty is used to having its own system. But problems could have been avoided, if employees had been involved in the decision making, argue staff.

Staff representatives in the University’s co-operation committee HSU suspect that the changes will be the cause of technical problems, as this has been the case in the past.

»The new system isn’t user-friendly, and many problems could have been avoided if the administration had involved the staff reps, as it rightfully should have, and consulted staff,« says Poul Erik Krogshave, staff representative and deputy head of HSU.

An administration with a university attached to it

Under the new system, it isn’t possible to forward mail to an existing account with gmail, yahoo or hotmail. Also, only employees of the university are able to have an email account. An employee can, however, request approval for an associate researcher, foreign lecturer etc. to get a temporary account. But this still means that they will not be connected to the university as they have been previously.

Lecturer Bjarne Andresen, is head of the IT committee and responsible for information security at the Niels Bohr Institute. He discussed the changes with many of his colleagues. None had anything positive to say.

»One of my colleagues put it like this: The University of Copenhagen used to be a university with an administration. Today it is an administration, that believes it has a university,« he says.

Renowned for scientists, not management

All employees are to have a new e-mail address, that is to finish with the name of the faculty followed by The Dean can, however, permit local departments to use their department name followed by

»A scientist’s identity is closely connected to their e-mail address, as it is a name under which they are known throughout the world. Just as each department domain is a fully developed brand. Any change will break many ties. It would be as if I suddenly had to be called Niels Hansen. But the branding of the University of Copenhagen is apparently more important to management than listening to the wishes of staff,« he says.

»Academics are individualists, carefully chosen for their need to question authoritarian claims and seek new ways. We don’t submit to this ‘modern’ culture of management, because we can think for ourselves. The administration has to stop treating a brilliant university, rich with tradition, as if it were a private company with an omnipotent owner,« says Bjarne Andresen.

IT head: Common sense

Bo Bendsen, University of Copenhagen’s vice director for IT, believes it is only common sense to have a common system, as money can be saved on equipment, staff and maintenance.

To add to this, a new system will make it easier to call in meetings throughout the University. All staff will be made visible in a common address book, and security will be increased.

»Clearly, the decentral solution is more expensive than the central one. Local systems vary in quality from the hobby level to the top professional, and there are examples of staff e-mail being unavailable in long periods of time. Now, we say, an e-mail that works is a basic service to University of Copenhagen staff, and we will take care of it. Then staff can take care of their research and teaching. And there are many staff that have wanted this solution,« says Bo Bendsen.

He debunks the myth that old e-mails will be lost, and that e-mails sent to the old address will not reach the recipient. None of this is true, he says.

»We have prepared carefully. 45,000 students have been using the system for a year now, putting us up in the premier league among Nordic countries, and it is stable and works without interruptions,« says Bo Bendsen.

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