Summer message from Johnny Laursen

The dean hopes that all students and staff have a great summer holiday.

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day…..

But we in it shall be remembered—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

Arts may not be Shakespeare’s Henry V, and we may not have faced the French Dauphin and his mighty army at Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day in 1415, but it is the same feeling of appreciation of courage, sacrifice and perseverance – and the will to remember and honour it – that permeates my experience of the spring semester on which we can now look back. Like the rest of society, we have been through a period of great uncertainty, major upheaval and personal challenges in the encounter between our work and home life. I am full of admiration for how everybody at the faculty has dealt with these challenges. This applies not only to converting teaching and exams into online forms but also to handling the other changes and obstacles we were faced with in the spring. Then followed a sudden and partial return to campus, which has only recently included the students. I would like to thank all of you for your commitment during this period.

In the faculty management team, we are very aware that the autumn semester will also be characterised by extraordinary circumstances and that there will continue to be many uncertainties, including whether it is possible to travel or hold events. Yet we are also determined to endeavour to make everything as normal as possible whilst adhering to health authority’s guidelines. Many of you are concerned that the spring’s emergency online teaching will be made permanent. At the moment, with the health authority’s guidelines in mind, we expect that some of the teaching in Autumn 2020 will still need to take place online. How much depends entirely on how the one-metre distance requirement develops over the summer. At the faculty, we will also consider how, in the future, we can retain those things that have proved to be valuable. But teachers and students also need to continue to meet in person – that is clear. Considerations about digital teaching will take place in dialogue between the schools, teaching staff and students as part of the normal development of teaching. There should be no doubt that the encounter between the teacher and the student is still at the heart of the faculty’s teaching activities.

The faculty expects a loss of revenue in 2020 as a result of the lockdown and its consequences. This would have been much worse if the faculty’s staff and students had not made such an effort to maintain the highest possible level of student activity. We are also in dialogue with the union representatives about the extraordinary situation, which will be discussed at the liaison committee and the occupational health and safety committee in the near future. Prior to the Corona disruption, we had managed the faculty’s finances prudently, and we are therefore in a position to cope with this drop in revenue in 2020. However, it is also clear that, in the long-term, we are dependent on the wider national socioeconomic development. 

Over the last few months, many of you have highlighted the situation that PhD students find themselves in. A deadline has been set for applications for extensions from those PhD students who have been particularly affected by the Corona disruption, and, in dialogue between the PhD school and the schools, these applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Throughout all of this, we have also been working on the faculty’s and schools’ strategies. I would like to thank you for the many valuable comments, suggestions and consultation responses. It would not be wrong to say that many of them lived up to the strategies’ words on critical thinking – something the strategies will benefit from. Together with advice from the faculty's Advisory Board, your input resulted in a number of changes to the original faculty strategy draft. In the introductory description of the faculty, we have returned to the consensus from the major debates on the faculty's identity and cohesion in 2014-15. We have also ensured that the faculty strategy did not expand and overtake school initiatives or become a straightjacket for local ideas. We have therefore retained the strategy’s very general character. Some of the specific proposals have been ‘woven into’ the text, while others have been stored as possible concrete actions.  None have been forgotten. I realised that, for unknown reasons, sustainability and climate featured a little too thinly in the strategy, and, since the faculty management team believes that Arts should play its part in this area, and, since we know – from consultation responses at AU level – that there is a strong desire and willingness to make an effort in this area, we have inserted this as a more prominent ambition in the text. I am confident that the strategies will act as a good starting point for our efforts in the coming years, provided we are careful that the follow-up is not bureaucratised but that the strategy is maintained as a flexible framework.

I am writing this greeting on my first day back in the dean’s offices, which, after the Corona lockdown, were inaccessible due to necessary window replacements. We have been waiting impatiently for this day. Please be assured that the faculty management team and I are determined to work to regain as much of our everyday professional life as possible – whilst harvesting the benefits of our new experiences – once we return after the summer holiday. Perhaps one of the most important things we discovered during the Corona lockdown was the value of being with colleagues, students and fellow students in our everyday lives. In Shakespeare’s spirit, this is modern academia’s Band of Brothers, which, thankfully, today, is of course a 'band of brothers, sisters and all'.

Thank you for the turbulent semester. Have a nice summer!