When 25 students were temporarily suspended from CBS in December 2019 for violating the intro rules, an additional 44 cases were still waiting to be processed. A statement about the temporary suspensions stated that decisions on the additional cases were expected in January.
In fact, the students involved in the 44 cases were forced to wait until the end of March or the beginning of April for their decisions, explains Sarah Diemar, President of CBS Students.
While some students had their cases postponed once due to the collection of new information about the case, others had their cases postponed up to four times.
“I know that CBS Legal has been under a lot of pressure, but it’s problematic that the processing takes so long. The affected students have been treated like criminals and ignored, even if their cases were unsubstantiated. It’s just a very unusual way to treat intro guides and coordinators who put hours and hours on end in the intro program,” says Sarah Diemar on behalf of CBS Students.
She explains that the deadline for when they could expect their case to be closed was postponed many times. This means the students did not know whether to begin their studies and carry on as usual, or whether they would be temporarily suspended overnight like some of their fellow students in the fall. The uncertainty left the students under considerable mental pressure.
“It would have been much better if the students had known from the beginning that they could expect an answer on a specific date, even if it wasn’t until March,” she says and continues:
“The affected students have been under mental pressure and suffered palpitations brought on by not knowing whether they would wake up the next day to an email saying that they had been temporarily suspended.”
CBS Students has received several enquiries from affected students who were willing to speak out and criticize the process. However, upon reaching out to them, “no one dared to be interviewed” – not even anonymously, as they were afraid of “losing out on their degrees”. And this is a very unfortunate development, argues Sarah Diemar, who has never experienced anything like this before.
“CBS is spreading a very unfortunate and unhealthy culture. We are trying to shift to a culture where there is trust and openness to express one’s opinions and experiences about intro. And only if people do so can we make it better, so it’s very unfortunate that students have become afraid of doing exactly that,” she says and explains that this could well be a consequence of the management style.
“Ultimately, the management style shown in this process seems to be built on punishment and fear, which will consequently harm the democratic process, though we do not believe is the general case at CBS. If the students are afraid to speak up about conditions at CBS, we are on our way towards destroying democracy.”
An aim to improve or aim to punish?
Sarah Diemar explains that recent years’ evaluations from the intro programs continue to show improvement, and that the comments of concern “are not even close to what we saw in 2015”.
In the fall of 2015, new CBS students stepped forward and talked about insulting activities during their intro week at CBS. Activities such as licking whipped cream off bananas placed between men’s legs, quizzes asking the students to reveal private details about their sex lives, and building vaginas out of condoms and kitchen utilities.
The process has been beneath contempt and the tone of voice has only become harsherSarah Diemar
The incident caused CBS to form a committee tasked with revising the intro week concept, and they devised a set of rules that were introduced before the semester start in 2016.
“If you talk to former intro guides and coordinators, they will say that CBS has been undergoing a huge cultural change. Right now, we see very few extremely negative comments about intro, though naturally we aim to have none. But these evaluations are some of the best at CBS, on the whole,” she says.
However, rules are rules. And when CBS WIRE talked to some of last year’s intro guides, the rules appeared to be clear. No alcohol before five, no hard liquor, and participants shall not expose other participants to any form of sexual harassment, are among the rules and ethical guidelines.
Sarah Diemar agrees that if students have been found guilty of breaking CBS intro rules, consequences must follow, but that can be handled in a much smoother manner.
“Of course, violating the rules must have consequences. However, this also involves having a fundamental idea built on the aim to improve, and not an aim to punish. The process has been beneath contempt and the tone of voice has only become harsher,” she says and continues:
“Every case seemed to be treated on the same terms. We also saw that the assessment of what was enough to form a case changed along the way. And not for the better. Small things, comments and mistakes were scrutinized. There’s a big difference between doing something punishable, and making a mistake, and that difference has not been taken into account.”
Apart from students being unwilling to be interviewed about their experiences of this process, other consequences are already showing, according to Sarah Diemar.
“A lot of the talented intro guides have not wished to run for the positions again due to downright fear and uncertainty. Although the positions have been filled, finding intro guides has been tough, I’ve heard,” she says and adds:
“My deepest respect goes to the new intro guides and coordinators, who are walking into unknown territory, and we are here to help those students, but the lack of clarity concerning the intro format is absurd, and I believe that it will have consequences for the new students too, as it will be harder to create a social environment.”
Erosion of trust
Sarah Diemar hopes that CBS will evaluate the process used for the 100 or so cases and change it, so that if cases appear among the new intro guides, they will be treated with more care.
“The intro guides and coordinators put so much time into making the intro programs, and they deserve to be treated with respect, and with a fair process with an appropriate time frame,” she says.
Moreover, CBS has failed to provide adequate help for the affected students when they had accepted the decision.
“Many of the affected students have turned to us in search of guidance and support. I’m sure that CBS wants these students to return, so it would only seem fair to inform them of where to get help, but instead, CBS Students has done so,” she says.
Has confidence in Senior Management suffered a blow?
“Yes. I hope that they will do what they can to restore that trust. But they also need to show confidence in the students. I really hope that they will wish to restore the trust. I would be disappointed otherwise,” says Sarah Diemar.