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Happy holidays from the dean

Dean Johnny Laursen sends a christmas greeting to all staff and students.

Dear colleagues,
Dear students,

It’s time once again to write my Christmas message to you all. I normally do this in the final days before Christmas, when the corridor outside my office has grown a little quieter and people occasionally poke their heads around my door for a chat. My bookshelves are normally full of Christmas cards from the faculty’s partners and contacts, and the rector always sends one as well. But 2020 is not like any other year. It’s not exactly quiet, because people have a hundred questions about the latest lockdowns. But nobody pokes their head around my door any more, because like everyone else I’m working from home (in my case up in the attic). And I know that most of us will be celebrating the holiday season without seeing all the family and friends that are normally such an essential feature of our Christmas holiday.

But although it’s been a strange year, one thing remains unchanged: I want to thank you for all your hard work. It’s been a difficult year, full of turmoil in our lives and jobs, marked by concern and the constant struggle to overcome the coronavirus. I know I’ve said this before, but let me just say it again: our staff and students have coped admirably with the rollercoaster ride that 2020 has been. People have managed brilliantly – not only during the hard lockdown in the spring, but also throughout all the difficulties encountered in the late summer, at the start of the autumn semester, and now again as we head towards Christmas. If you have been ill, I hope you make a speedy recovery. And my thoughts go out in particular to anyone who is at risk, and anyone who is concerned for the welfare of their friends and family.

So yes, it’s been a strange year. We have coped with the challenges by standing shoulder to shoulder. But we have also had different ideas about the best way to handle the crisis. Some people want to work from home, while others prefer to work at the office. Some people want online exams, while others prefer to meet face-to-face. Our strong sense of community and collegiality has passed the test. But we are really starting to miss our daily contact with colleagues and students.

When we come back to work in January, I am going to have to ask you to hang on a little longer. Fortunately, Statens Serum Institut now has the freezers ready to store the first Corona vaccine. So things will soon start improving gradually, even though we will need to remain on our guard for some time into 2021. Last Friday the senior management team had its usual online emergency response meeting at 8 in the morning. My colleague Lars Bo Nielsen, who is Dean of the Faculty of Health, turned up on the screen in a dinner jacket and bow tie, holding a small champagne glass and claiming that it only contained sparkling spring water. He had read an article in an international medical journal about how effective the new vaccine is, and he wanted to raise a glass to science and the promise of a brighter future. I thought I’d like to share that moment with you – it was a messenger of hope.

My Christmas message this year is winging its way to you at the time of the winter solstice. And there’s always something hopeful about the return of longer and lighter days. The British people experienced something similar during the Second World War. After the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, Churchill announced that this was not the end, and not the beginning of the end. But that it was perhaps the end of the beginning. It’s the second of his three options that applies to us now. We can truly say that we are at the beginning of the end. And as the light returns after a long, dark Danish winter, let me leave you with a translation (courtesy of Nick Wrigley) of one of the best loved of all the Danish Christmas carols (Juletræet med sin pynt):

The Christmas tree in all its glory
Tells again the wondrous story
The sun blows all the clouds away
The light grows stronger day by day

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. And by the way, all I want for Christmas (apart from Obama’s memoirs) is the return of normal life at the Faculty of Arts.

See you in 2021.

Best wishes,

Johnny