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TEST: Can you get around CSS campus with a pram?

Accessibility — If you have your baby with you at the Faculty of Social Sciences, you have to change its diapers on the floor. Two students do not understand why the facilities for new parents at the University of Copenhagen are so bad.

»There is not one changing area on the whole campus here. So we change our child’s nappies on the floor,« says master’s degree student Oskar Buus.

He has four-month-old Johanne with Caroline Buus, who is a student of anthropology at the CSS campus in the old municipal hospital buildings.

They are first-time parents and have decided to follow the WHO recommendations and let their baby only get milk from their mother for the first six months of its life.

The university is not the kind of place where you should bring your baby. But for us it is a necessity.

Anthropology student Caroline Buus

The couple therefore carefully plan their day so that they can take on the different challenges. And they do this while they both attend to their studies. They don’t find it easy.

The University Post has checked up on the accessibility of wheelchair users on different campuses, like here and here. This time, we have been invited to City Campus by Caroline and Oskar Buus, who need to manoeuvre a pram around the CSS campus, which in one campus guide has been called the »campus where navigation goes to die«.

READ ALSO: TEST: Can you get around Frederiksberg Campus in a wheelchair?

Caroline and Oskar Buus’ combined parenting and student life has given them lots of joys. But it has also given them a few headaches. In addition to the practical problems, which we will look at in a minute, they have had to keep track of Danish student grant rules, rules on study programme activity, and rules on support for new student parents.

»I cannot understand why there are not better conditions for student parents. We are of the childbearing age, and politicians want us to have more children. But they don’t make it easy for us,« says Caroline Buus, who is studying on her eighth semester.

When she is at class, Oskar Buus is there with Johanne in a small room near Caroline Buus’ lecture hall, so she can be breastfeed when it’s time. She gets a text message from him. But this is not an optimal situation for the couple, who feel the stress and challenge of making sure that they can get everything to work.

»The university is not a place where you should bring your baby, but for us it is a necessity,« says Caroline Buus. She emphasizes that her fellow students are very understanding of, and interested in, her situation.

She has chosen to study half-time this semester, in order to have time to care for, and breastfeed, Johanne. But this is only possible because Oskar Buus is a student of theology on the last semester of his master’s degree programme and does not have Friday classes.

10 steps mean they have to take a long detour

One example of a practical and physical challenge for Oskar Buus is the staircase that leads up to building 7 at CSS, where Caroline Buus has teaching on Fridays between 10 am and 1 pm.

Every Friday morning he comes to CSS with Johanne in the pram so they can be near Caroline Buus for the three hours where she has class.

But Oskar Buus cannot get up the stairs to building seven himself with the pram. So he has to take a walk through the courtyard at CSS before taking an elevator down to the basement. He then has to take two more elevators before finally showing up at the right building on the right floor.

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»I spend a lot of time going back and forth. And I wish there was a wheel track on the stairs so I could pull the pram up myself. This would make things manageable. Of course, I would also have liked there to be an elevator at the entrance. Or that there had been some arrows in the floor of the basement to show the way,« says Oskar Buus.

This last point about the arrows is because it has been like working through a labyrinth for the two master’s students, just to find their way in the first place.

»It took us about a month just to figure out how to coordinate the three elevators. Caroline was of course familiar with the place. But she usually just takes the stairs,« says Oskar Buus.

It is not just them who have challenges in getting around, he reckons. And he would like to help draw attention to this.

»The problem is repeated elsewhere at CSS. Accessibility is poor in all buildings out here. And this applies to whether you have to move around with a pram or if you use a wheelchair,« he says.

Parenting is just difficult

Caroline Buus managed to reserve a small room for Johanne close to her classroom, but the new parents did not feel that there was any help available on site.

For them, this is just another practical problem in the series of challenges they’ve had to solve themselves since Johanne was born in December 2023.

»It’s actually been extremely difficult to navigate. We booked meetings with both the Danish SU student grant office and the student counsellors’ office to get help. And everyone was nice. But also unaware of the options for taking maternity/paternity leave as a student. And we have been told several different things in different places,« says Caroline and adds:

»For us, it’s really hardcore teamwork to get it all to work.«