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Climate — A large number of computers and printers at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) are to be scrapped and replaced with new ones in the near future. This is to allow for a new, and more secure, operating system. Ludicrous that UCPH does not have a more sustainable plan for replacement, says employee.
A former director of the Nordic Institute of Asian studies under the Department of Political Science, Geir Helgesen, is surprised that a public institution such as the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is scrapping perfectly good computers and photocopiers with no consideration for the environment.
“It seems absurd and grotesque that they are replacing functioning computers and photocopiers and then sending it all to the rubbish dump,” says Geir Helgesen.
You should not just scrap new machines. Especially when you are a university that takes pride in being environmentally conscious
Geir Helgesen, former director
He retired on 31st December. But shortly before he departed, he, and other employees, had to change their computers and the department’s own copy machine which the department had purchased and paid for itself.
“The whole department is astounded by the fact that the university has chosen to scrap something that worked flawlessly, and which was not yet run down. The university should, at the very least, have given the computers to others who could benefit from them. It would have been a more sustainable solution than scrapping all of them at once,” says Geir Helgesen.
He believes that a public knowledge institution like the University of Copenhagen should take the lead on the environment.
He is not alone in taking this point of view. 606 Danish researchers signed an open letter to Danish universities’ management teams in November 2018 demanding a much more ambitious climate policy at Danish universities.
“You don’t just just scrap new machines. Certainly not at a university that takes pride in being environmentally conscious. We want to be oh-so-green, but is this not just chit-chat? When it comes down to it, we do nothing,” says Geir Helgesen.
Geir Helgesen calls for a sustainable plan for the replacement of the many computers and photocopiers, and an answer to why UCPH does not simply replace the machines that are no longer up to date.
It seems absurd and grotesque that they are replacing functioning computers and photocopiers and then sending it all to the rubbish dump.
“We were happy with what we had. It worked well. It therefore seems all the more pointless, that it at the same time has to harm the environment,” says Geir Helgesen.
Vice director for IT at UCPH of Klaus Kvorning Hansen confirms that a replacement of the old operating systems on all computers is being carried out at the University of Copenhagen at the moment.
The university should, at the very least, have given the computers to others who could benefit from them. This would be a more sustainable solution
Geir Helgesen, former director
“It is a decision, management has taken in connection of the set-up of UCPH IT. It is mainly to improve IT security. We are rolling out a standardised UCPH computer, which makes it harder for hackers to take over the devices. It is only older computers, however, that are to be replaced,” says Klaus Kvorning Hansen.
At the same time, all printers that cannot have their software upgraded will be replaced, so that staff can print and copy from all the university’s printers without having to change the computer’s settings.
“The new setup, and homogenisation of the computers and printers, will mean an increase in user-friendliness. In the future it will be much easier to provide IT support to employees. Apart from this, it will be easier to keep track of which licenses the individual employees have so that we do not inadvertently breach existing contracts,” says Klaus Kvorning Hansen.
He expects that the roll-out of the new standardised UCPH computer will be completed over the next 18 months. So far, the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Faculty of Theology, HR on South Campus, and the UCPH central administration have a new set-up, and have had their printers replaced. And while it may sound like a large outlay, the budget for the renewal of the equipment is pretty much the same as in previous years.
“The employees’ computers that are over a certain age had to be replaced anyway. A computer typically has a lifetime of no longer than three to four years,” says Klaus Kvorning Hansen.
He points out that the IT department regularly looks in to options for a more sustainable solution than scrapping the old computers. But until now uncertainly over the legal issues involved has kept UCPH from giving the computers to, say, students in developing countries, or to other charitable purposes.
It hurts for me too when I see a pallet with functioning computers being sent to scrap. But things are not so simple.
Vice-director of IT, Klaus Kvorning Hansen
“It hurts me too when I see a pallet with functioning computers being sent to scrap. But things are not so simple,” says Klaus Kvorning Hansen.
“We are not, in principle, allowed to give away government property, and we also need to be absolutely sure that the equipment does not contain data that can be restored.”
Klaus Kvorning Hansen has not given up on trying to find a more sustainable solution:
“I have just spoken to Green Campus about finding out how we can be more environmentally conscious when we switch our machines. This is certainly something that is important to me,” he says.
This sounds sensible, according to Geir Helgesen:
“But perhaps we should, as a university, take a hard look at whether the rules currently preventing reasonable behaviour could be replaced with ones that are more up-to-date?”
Translated by Mike Young