– Neither students nor staff agreed with the accusations of sexual harassment, says Ragnhild Henriksen, leader of the student committee by the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Oslo.
Last year the faculty was the victim of much attention, after newspaper Dagbladet revealed accusations of sexual harassment. Safety deputy at the university Mette Børing raised the alarm about harassment and bullying, and a previous Ph.D. Research Fellow came forward and said her supervisor had sexually harassed her for years.
– Such accusations are stressing, and a few single cases were given attention, says Anders Mosgren, student by the Faculty of Dentistry.
The students are tired of how the faculty is being branded as a scandal faculty, and thinks it can lead to a decrease in the number of people who will want to work at the faculty.
– No one wants to be verbally abused
An external survey of the learning environment by the Faculty of Dentistry shows that forty per cent of the students have either experienced harassment, or know about other students who have. Incidents of sexual harassment were not mentioned in the survey, but the numbers still speak for themselves.
– There is not any doubt that things that are not good have happened here. Some people are very direct in the situation of teaching, and not all students can handle that, says Henriksen.
She thinks that members of staff sometimes can be inconsiderate when giving students feedback.
The students claim that the faculty’s problem is that the milieu is little and intimate, and that this can more easily lead to harassment.
– If you are a student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, you will be one of 150 participants in a lecture. That is a large contrast to how our lectures are, where we might be eight students, says Anders Mosgren.
A culture for harassment
Mette Børing thinks the faculty has a problem when it comes to harassment. Dean Pål Brodin says that the problems are due to both the culture by the faculty and the behavior of individuals. He confirms the accusations of harassment.
– We have had some teachers who have been behaving harassingly, but we will do something about it.
He adds that the learning environment at the faculty is hard, since the faculty is in a bad financial condition that pressurizes both students and staff, and the specific teaching situation.
– It can be easy to feel offended in a situation where the supervisor has to give feedback while the student is still present. We want to prepare teachers and students better on this field, says Brodin.
Worried about recruiting
– The dangerous thing about all the negative attention is that it can contribute to less people wanting to apply to the school, and that again leads to a problem about few teachers. The school gets frowned upon, and that results in poor teaching for us who already study here, says Anders Mosgren.
He thinks it is important that the staff are happy with the students, seeing that the salary is higher other places. Dean Pål Brodin thinks the wrong focus makes it even less attractive to work at the faculty.
– It is obviously a problem; we have 125 clinical teachers, of which many are in part-time positions. The salary is also better outside the faculty. I am worried about the prospective recruiting of students and teachers. Kim Kantardjiev in the executive committee to the student committee says that they want to establish a commission to maintain the students´ rights.
– I would be surprised is harassment is a problem here, exclusively. We want a specific commission that maintains the students´ rights. As of today, the division of power is unfair between the students and the staff, he says.
Mette Børing emphasizes that the university management has done a good job following up the accusations, and that the work with the improvement of the milieu is already started. The students hope that the focus is turning.
– The student milieu is really good. Most of them have a good relationship with their fellow students and supervisors, says Anders Mosgren.
University director Gunn-Elin Bjørneboe was not available for commenting on this case.