“Can I call you back in just one minute,” says Sarah Diemar, President of CBS Students, when I call her for our planned interview.
“Yeah, sure,” I reply.
The phone rings one minute later.
“Sorry, I just had to find a place with a little more peace and quiet. The whole presidency, which totals four people, has been working from and living in an allotment garden with basic accommodation since Thursday March 19,” she explains.
Because although CBS Students’ office and the campuses have closed down, CBS Students has never been as busy as right now, explains Sarah Diemar.
“People are worried about their exams, some are concerned about hand-in deadlines for theses or bachelor projects, and earlier on, we had a lot of international students calling about whether they would lose their rights to SU. The SU has already been fixed, and we’re working very hard to find a solution for the deadlines. We are trying to answer all the other questions as best we can and are directing them to the right people at CBS,” she explains.
Not long after the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen (S), closed down the universities on Wednesday March 11, the presidency realized that it was far easier to coordinate their work and support students if they were together, but keeping a social distance, rather than dispersed in four different apartments. So they moved to an allotment garden with accommodation.
“The most important thing to us right now is to give our students the best scope for continuing their educations under the present circumstances. We are in dialogue with the study boards and students on how the digital learning environment is functioning,” she says and continues:
“And for the most part, it’s going really well. Teachers are far exceeding what’s expected of them to make it a success, and the students are very patient if something is not working. But, of course, the quality of the online classes varies, and that’s not due to ill will. But we are also here to help and smooth out the obstacles, especially if the situation continues for some time.”
Creating an online social life and helping Spisestuerne and Café Nexus remotely
Sarah Diemar explains that they had foreseen the CBS lockdown to some extent, as various events were cancelled, including oikos Copenhagen Green Week, which should have started on Tuesday March 10.
“It was surreal to close down events like that which we are so proud to host,” she says.
However, now, half of the presidency are doing their best to make online events available for the students to maintain a feeling of campus life.
“These are hard and frustrating times because the situation effects the students so much. There are no on-campus activities anymore, and I’m especially worried about any lonely or depressed students who enjoyed campus life. That is why we are reaching out to the student organizations to ask them to host events online. Events such as wine tasting, yoga or activities like that. Just recently CBS Dance arranged a whole online class. Just to give a feeling of campus life, but online,” she says.
Not only is CBS Students concerned about the students. It is also working hard to make sure that campus businesses, Café Nexus and Spisestuerne, both non-profit organizations, will avoid taking a hard hit because of the crisis.
“We are doing everything we can for them. And we are definitely looking into the initiatives that the government has launched for businesses. It’s our job to protect the facilities the students use every single day and to take care of the good personnel as much as possible,” she says and explains that they’re doing what they can to protect people’s jobs.
“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”
Although these are desperate times, Sarah Diemar has witnessed a willingness to team up and help each other out more than ever before.
“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. No one feels obliged to adopt a counterproductive attitude or criticize anything. When we have asked for assistance, everyone has given a helping hand,” she says.
Right now, everything seems to be up in the air, but Sarah Diemar believes that some good will come out of the current crisis.
“For a long time, CBS Students has been pushing for more online tuition, and hopefully teachers will see the advantages of providing online classes and will appreciate how they can use the different tools for teaching in the future. And then I hope that the collaboration we are seeing right now will continue,” she says, adding:
“And when all of this is over and done with, I can’t wait to host a great semester start party after the summer break and revive our great on-campus life for the students.”