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Opinion

The University Post's smear campaign against the Faculty of Law

According to Ulrik Rammeskow Bang-Pedersen the University Post’s article about the situation at the Faculty of Law is an incoherent smear campaign

The University Post chose to fiercely criticise the Faculty of Law 6 October under the heading ‘All rise! This court finds Law guilty of a study programme mess’. There is nothing wrong with objective criticism. But the University Post article seems more like an incoherent smear campaign against the Faculty of Law.

You wonder why the University Post now feels the urge to write about our BA programme only getting a conditional accreditation – or in their words ‘a grumpy smiley’. This was more than a year ago, so it’s old news.

Secondly, it is hard to relate this to the cases of the two former associate professors Michael Bjørn Hansen and David Jenkins. The termination of their appointments had nothing to do with accreditation.

Michael Bjørn Hansen did not teach on the BA programme, but on the KA study programme which was accredited without reservations.

He chose as you know, to take a student to court, which was of course an unreasonable overreaction, irrespective of whether the student’s criticism of the teaching was justified.

Of course we cannot have a lecturer reacting like this towards our students. Michael Bjørn Hansen then writes in the University Post that our dean Jacob Graff Nielsen is a bad manager. The criticism is not supported by any specifics. It is almost as if Michael Bjørn Hansen is like the ghost driver on the motorway stubbornly insisting that everyone else is going in the wrong direction.

Jenkins draws a distorted picture

David Jenkins was one of the staff that the Faculty of Law had to lay off due to the cuts. He is understandably frustrated, making him believe that his dismissal is because he sees himself as outspoken in relation to management.

But there is nothing to substantiate this accusation. I have been employed at Law for more than 20 years and cannot recognize Jenkins’ characterization of management. Moreover, the two other lecturers who were dismissed as a result of the cuts could in no way be said to be outspoken critics of management.

This speaks against Jenkins’ assertion that management used the cuts as an excuse to dismiss critical employees. And you wonder why the University Post feels the need to repeat Jenkins’ allegations. There is nothing new in this case which has not already been featured in the University Post.

Three reasons for the grumpy smiley

As a lawyer, you have the professional habit of not only listening to what the witnesses have to say, but also to look at their credibility. And two former, bitter, lecturers are not the best witnesses to testify on how things stand at the the Faculty of Law.

What remains is the question about whether there really is a mess at the Faculty of Law. Our BA programme unfortunately only got a conditional accreditation – the so-called ‘grumpy smiley’. This is not the same as a mess at the Faculty of Law. There was in fact, also praise for the BA programme in the accreditation letter.

When it ended up with a conditional accreditation anyway, it was due to – as mentioned in the letter – three things: 1) Insufficient access for students to the research community, in particular that too few students received BA project supervision from research staff. 2) That the students in general did not get enough guidance on their BA projects, and 3) Insufficient administrative support for the programme.

Taking criticism seriously

The management, academic staff and the administrative staff have taken this criticism seriously. Since we received the decision last year, we have worked together to improve the BA programme. In particular concerning the three main points of criticism. And we have come far.

We have managed to increase student access to the research environment, and we have more than doubled the proportion of students who receive guidance from academic employees. The vast majority of students now receive guidance from research staff.

This has happened while the one-on-one instruction for individuals has been increased.

Work is also being done to improve the administrative support. We need to recognize at the Faculty of Law that it has not been good enough, and possibly may still not be good enough. This work is also being carried out by student representatives, which both Mikkel Wrang (Conservative lawyers) and Kristian Dam Hove (United Lawyers) have loyally reported in the University Post.

Backs up the dean

All this work has coincided with the Faculty of Law being exposed to other external challenges. In particular the cost reductions and layoffs, the Study Progress Reform and the impending costly move to South Campus, Amager. Something that certainly does not increase employee satisfaction among faculty members.

It is difficult to recognize the image drawn by the University Post of a Faculty of Law mess, plagued by mismanagement. Our dean Jacob Graff Nielsen leads the Faculty of Law at a time of many challenges. His due diligence on our finances has ensured that we, compared to others, could make do with relatively few layoffs from the cuts. And he has succeeded with a positive spirit to get research staff to put on a significant extra effort in the education programmes.

In my view, we could not have a better dean than Jacob Graff Nielsen. The strength of our faculty is that we – compared to other faculties – are a relatively small, homogeneous and independent unit, headed by a dean who has insight into faculty research. We can maneuver quickly – also when we have to act on criticism.

We should of course continue working on improving conditions in the areas where we were criticised. This includes continuing to work for improvements in the administration and ensuring that more research staff are assigned to the BA programme.

The University Post could have written an article about the great work that management and employees at the Faculty of Law had done since we got ‘the grumpy smiley’ and which going forward will continue to do to improve our education programme.

Instead, they chose an angle that almost seems like a smear campaign against the management and staff of the Faculty of Law.

uni-avis@adm.ku.dk

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