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Academic freedom

SDU to establish a set of values

During the next few months, a task force will draft a set of values that SDU, among other things, can apply with regard to future cases of the liberty of SDU employees to conduct research, teach, discuss and express themselves as they please.

The past has seen a number of cases where academic freedom became the subject of debate. We need look no further than the political debate in spring 2021 about freedom of research and activism in research, and there is no reason to believe that we will see fewer ‘cases’ concerning academic freedom in the years to come. 

With this as a starting point, the executive board of SDU’s last week approved a terms of reference for a task force. It will now begin working on a common set of rules for SDU and closely involve the collegiate bodies of the University.

The task force will draw up 1-2 pages that will serve as a framework or a compass that SDU, among other things, can use as a guiding principle in cases of freedom of research, freedom of teaching as well as freedom of debate and speech.

A healthy discussion and future help

According to Jens Ringsmose, Rector of SDU, it is crucial that everyone enjoys freedom in line with the basic values of the universities; values that date back to the Age of Enlightenment. For many years, academic freedom has been the basis of the universities’ ability to generate new knowledge. According to Jens Ringsmose, a written set of rules will make it easier for SDU to navigate in a beneficial and consistent manner in the future.

- Without an express and explicitly worded basis that can serve as a compass or map and provide general answers to what the basic values of the University are, it will be difficult to come to a decision as to the specific cases that without any doubt are lurking around the corner. That’s why we are getting to work on laying down a brief, basic set of rules that largely will be formulated by SDU’s staff, he says.

Jens Ringsmose refuses to elaborate what the draft will or should contain. This will be for the task force and the collegiate bodies to decide and define. But overall, he is pleased that SDU’s staff will be discussing which values the University rests on.

- At the end of the day, it’s a good thing to have an internal discussion of what our internal values are. In the specific application of the set of values, there will certainly be a number of contradictory considerations and grey areas that need to be addressed, but it is important that we as a university consider a set of fundamental values. I am confident that they will serve SDU well in the future, Jens Ringsmose says.

The process of the task force

Convening for the first time in January, the task force consists of the following people:

  • Sten Rynning, Dean (interim), the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences (Chair)
  • Vice Dean Lars Grassmé Binderup, the Faculty of Humanities
  • Head of Department Jakob Møller-Jensen, the Faculty of Science
  • Associate Professor Casper Sylvest, the Faculty of Humanities
  • Professor Rolf Fagerberg, the Faculty of Science
  • Professor Mette Præst Knudsen, the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences
  • Professor Henrik Dimke, the Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Associate Professor Thomas Schmidt, the Faculty of Engineering

The task force is responsible for involving the University Council, the Central Liaison Committee, the academic councils of the faculties as well as De Studerende i Centrum (DSiC) in its efforts towards drafting the set of values.

The ambition is to have the set of values approved at the board meeting in June 2022.

Editing was completed: 20.01.2022