Anna is one of six students suspended from CBS because of a private invitation to a Facebook event that the management at CBS considered sexist and non-compliant with its ethical guidelines and values. Anna is a fictional name used by CBS WIRE to preserve the anonymity of our source.
Together with her fellow students, Anna was informed on December 6, 2019 that she was suspended with immediate effect and for nine months ahead. Her student grant was suspended, and she was excluded from her education program.
It was a shock when my primary source of income was removed
“It was a shock when my primary source of income was removed. The student grant (SU) covers most of my expenses, so I had to try to work more hours at my part-time job. Also, we were five days away from an exam and I’d been preparing for weeks. I just couldn’t believe what had happened. I was really angry to tell you the truth,” Anna explains.
CBS stated that the students had acted in a way that could be viewed as offensive and had violated the rules and regulations on academic conduct and ethical behavior at CBS. Also, the Senior Management stressed the fact that the students had previously been intro guides and intro administrators, which gave the students a special responsibility.
Anna and the five other students immediately appealed the suspension to the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, claiming that the Facebook invitation was private and nothing to do with their earlier role as intro guides.
The Ministry dismissed their case, emphasizing the students’ roles as former intro guides. The students then presented the case to the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman, who recently published a statement agreeing with the students that the suspension was implemented without proper grounds.
“I don’t think I have ever cheered so much. After two years of battle, we are so pleased that the ombudsman sided with us and ruled that CBS lacked the legal grounds to suspend us,” says Anna.
Even though the battle has been won and the students have returned to their education programs, the feeling of wrongful, unjustified treatment remains with Anna.
“We have wasted so much time trying to explain that we had broken no laws and that the Facebook event was private. Other than that, we have lost four months of our student grant (SU-klip) and have paid for a lawyer out of our own pockets. Furthermore, one of us couldn’t get a student residence,” she explains and adds:
“Therefore, I really think that CBS should give us a formal apology for the way it treated us. CBS disrupted our lives, left us with no financial security, and we had to say goodbye to many of our friends and classmates because suddenly we no longer shared everyday lives.”
We were made into scapegoats for the management
The CBS management has reacted to the decision of the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman in a written response to CBS WIRE, stating that it “definitely takes into account the Ombudman’s decision regarding the proportionality of the sanction”. But that is just not good enough, according to Anna and her suspended classmates.
“I think it’s embarrassing that they have yet to give us a genuine apology. Saying that they will ‘take it into account’ for me just reinforces my view of the management as people who do not take criticism very seriously and do not look out for their students,” she says.
Felt like a witch hunt
Back when the case started in 2019, the students tried to explain their side of the story to the President at CBS, Nikolaj Malchow-Møller.
“We tried setting up a meeting with the President, but he didn’t wish to talk to us. So, we felt like we were being judged in advance – almost like a witch hunt. It never felt like an objective decision process where all sides are heard. Instead, we were made into scapegoats for the management, who needed to set an example of what would happen if students violate the ethical codes,” believes Anna.
Instead, she and the other five students would have thought a written reprimand was more appropriate if sanctions were warranted.
“Looking back, we recognize that the wording could be misunderstood, and we are sorry for that. It was meant as a joke, but we see that it could be interpreted differently. That is also why we immediately changed the wording when we were made aware that it might offend people. We take responsibility for our mistakes, but we are still waiting for the CBS management to do the same,” Anna concludes.