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2035 — That's the year I can run for the board if I were to wait until I (hopefully) have a permanent contract. However, the problems I aim to contribute to solving won't wait for a couple of election cycles. Moreover, as a Ph.D. student, I can bring perspectives that permanent employees may not have. That's why I'm running for the University of Copenhagen's board, even though my contract expires in 2024.
Why would a Ph.D. student with less than a year left on their contract run for the board at a university where the term is four years? It may seem paradoxical, but it’s a condition in a workplace like UCPH. Temporarily-employed VIPs are a central and valuable part of the university environment, but due to our limited contracts, we might be overlooked in committees and positions of trust—precisely where decisions about the future of the university are made. This needs to change. That’s why I’m running for the University of Copenhagen’s board.
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As younger researchers, we are well aware that we face many years in uncertain positions. In Denmark, it takes an average of 8.8 years from when a researcher finishes their Ph.D. to they secure a permanent position at a university. It would be a long wait if we hold off engaging with the politics at our workplace until we have permanent employment.
As younger researchers, we are well aware that we face many years in uncertain positions.
If I follow the statistics and wait until I have a contract matching the four-year term, I must wait to run for the board until the election in 2035.
But the crises of our time won’t wait for me to be permanently employed. It’s clear that the ecological crises we face require immediate action. A new study estimates that we only have six years left with current emissions before we exceed the global CO2 budget that can keep us within the 1.5-degree temperature target of the Paris Agreement. Climate change doesn’t wait for an election cycle or two. It’s now, in the upcoming board term, that we need to work on reducing UCPH’s emissions and take leadership in the green transition.
Challenges are not lacking within the university walls either. Issues of stress and well-being are well-documented among researchers, and unsurprisingly, it’s especially a significant challenge for Ph.D. students facing an uncertain professional future. Additionally, there’s pressure on academic freedom and the democratic culture of universities, as a DFIR study earlier this year highlighted. Researchers dealing with controversial topics, in particular, fear threats and pressure on their academic freedom — also internally from colleagues and management. One must assume that such pressure hits researchers on temporary contracts harder than permanent employees.
While we work to make UCPH a more sustainable and free university where employees thrive, it’s also important to remember that diversity in the university’s decision-making bodies has inherent value. Ph.D. students, postdocs, and other temporarily-employed VIPs face different challenges and bring different perspectives than our colleagues on permanent contracts. Both are essential to include in the spaces where crucial decisions about UCPH’s future are made.
As a temporary employee, it may seem inconsequential to participate in decision-making in the workplace. Voting in elections may feel irrelevant when we don’t know if we’ll be here in a year or two.
As a temporary employee, it may seem inconsequential to participate in decision-making in the workplace.
But we must remember that both the workplace we have now and the one we dream of having in the future are shaped by decisions made in meeting rooms today. We must actively participate in that process — whether by seeking influence ourselves or by voting for candidates who represent our views. We must do it for our own sake but also for the temporary employees who come after us.
That’s why I’m running for the University of Copenhagen’s board despite my contract expiring in 2024. I am running as part of the list ‘A Sustainable University’, which focuses on three main issues: 1) sustainability as a strategic ambition, 2) well-being and mental health among all staff, and 3) strengthening academic freedom and researchers’ freedom of expression.
In addition to the list’s main issues, I personally advocate for a greater focus on including and representing temporarily-employed VIPs in all decision-making bodies at UCPH, so we can contribute to addressing the challenges of our time and shaping the university’s future.
Therefore, I encourage you to vote—regardless of your employment status.