19 August 2020

Welcome back

RETURN TO CAMPUS

The corona crisis is not over. On the contrary. It may just have begun. SAMF is prepared for act two, but the only way to avoid a shutdown, is if everyone meets the health authorities’ guidelines.

Students in front of building 35, CSS campus. Photo: Jens Markus Lindhe

In my mind, Kommunehospitalet is always bathed in a soft, late summer sunshine at study start. I know this is not the case, but I reserve the right to romanticise about the beginning of the academic year, because it is a beautiful time of year – no matter whether the sun is shining or not. University life has a certain degree of inertia to it – we enjoy thorough deliberation, long run-ups and live with deadlines that we keep pushing. But the day the first-year students arrive, we meet hundreds of young people who want to make a difference – today. Almost all of our study programmes have some of the highest GPAs in the country as well as some of the strictest requirements for completing, so arriving on the first day is a dream come true, and when you look into the eyes of the new students and recognise this dream, how can you not want to help them realise it?

Turbocharged research and learning

In many ways, the corona crisis has enhanced this feeling that we here at SAMF can make a difference by realising the students’ dreams as well as the dream of an even better society. When the corona crisis struck last March, we seized the opportunity and turbocharged our research and learning. It was hard work, but we managed to mobilise forces and to shift focus from individual interests to society at crisis. This is also where we find the source of a method that we need to teach new and old students. It is a way for researchers and students to approach society’s great crises and challenges. And the corona crisis is not the only challenge we are facing today – climate change, flows of refugees, international power balances, new technologies. There is enough to study and try to solve. We must put our knowledge at play.

Reinventing how to work and study

Each year, it is the same dream, and in my mind, the light will also be the same (rain or no rain), but this year, the way we meet here at SAMF differs from last year. The corona crisis is not over. On the contrary. In fact, it may just have begun. Even though the shutdown was the most dramatic part of the crisis so far, it was after all a simple solution. We could not enter campus, but had to meet online. Now we have been allowed onto campus again, but must observe a series of strict rules concerning physical distance and hygiene. This semester, we can expect some classes, sections, departments or even the entire faculty to be shut down for a short or long period of time – and probably for all semesters to come, until everyone has been vaccinated. It is anything but simple to operate within a framework that may thus change from one day to the next. We are used to planning far into the future and to building on carefully acquired competences within teaching and research, but this may not be possible in an environment that requires constant readjustment. So we are not back this year to do what we usually do. We are back to reinvent what we know how to do and what we know works in order to make it work in a corona-stricken world as well.  

Reopening campus, prioritising activities

We are better prepared now than we were back in March. A lot of the staff will continue to work from home, and a lot of activities will still be held via Zoom and other online platforms. All the classrooms have been equipped with cameras, making it possible to stream the teaching. We will be developing our online teaching formats based on experiences from the spring semester. And they are positive experiences, just as the students’ exam results were equal to past years’ results. Now that we are back on campus, it is easier to solve the issues that were difficult to handle during the shutdown – supervision, study group meetings, supporting mentally challenged staff and students. Therefore, we hope to be able to open the campus to as many as possible for as long as possible. To do this, we must carefully prioritise activities and observe the authorities’ guidelines. Even though it may seem awkward, we must keep a safe distance, use hand sanitiser and keep the campus clean. And some things we simply have to do without because the risk of infection is too big. But we also have to observe the authorities’ guidelines when we leave Kommunehospitalet. We can all help keep the disease down, and if we do so, we may be able to avoid another shutdown. SAMF has a staff of 7,000. And if we act correctly, together we can make a huge contribution to reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Take interest in your colleagues and fellow students

Everyone here on campus comes with unique baggage – we face different challenges, which may not always be visible to others, and which many would prefer to leave at home if possible. But the changeable situation we find ourselves in also makes us more fragile. Those who belong to one of the risk groups or whose family does, arrive on campus with a different level of risk and more concern than others. For those of you who have young children and live in a small flat, working or studying from home can be more difficult than for those who have plenty of room and whose children have moved out of home. And those who are healthy and ready for virtually anything, well, we need to make room for them too. We should always be interested in each other’s background and show consideration. But it is especially important in the current situation. So please observe the guidelines found on posters throughout campus: Smile and say hello (even though you cannot shake the other person’s hand or give him or her a hug), do something good for one of your colleagues or a fellow student, and take an interest in their view on things. We welcome each other to a challenge that we can and will handle.