Rector invited students and staff to a debate on interdisciplinarity

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On Thursday, 29 January, Hanne Leth Andersen hosted yet another so-called ‘dialogue seminar’ – this time to discuss interdisciplinarity. Both staff and students were invited, but it was mostly members of staff that had shown up.

Paneldebat i fuld gang. Bemærk den orange kastemikrofon. Foto: Team Kommunikation.

The panel debate in full swing. Note the ‘throwable’ orange microphone. Photo: Team Communication.

The large auditorium in Building 01 was buzzing as it slowly filled up the closer it got to 10 am.

‘Here we are, at the very last minute,’ said a woman with bright red hair, a matching red scarf and jacket, and a long, black skirt – a woman better known as Hanne Leth Andersen, RUC’s rector. She greeted several of the audience members and sat down on a blue chair in the front row.

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The large auditorium had been screened off so that the audience could only sit close to the podium. To the left of the podium was a long banner with the word ‘Interdisciplinarity’ written on it, surrounded by multiple question marks, indicating the topic of the day’s debate.

There aren’t any students interested in interdisciplinarity.

 

Dagens værtine, rektor Hanne Leth Andersen. Foto: Team Kommunikation.

The host for the day, Rector Hanne Leth Andersen. Photo: Team Communication.

At 10 am, Andersen welcomed the audience and briefly introduced the event – the third of its kind – and the programme for the day.

‘How can we strengthen interdisciplinarity at RUC, and how can interdisciplinarity strengthen us?’ was the opening talking point of the debate. Kristian Syberg of RUC’s ENSPAC department took the floor and gave a brief talk on interdisciplinarity. He was followed by three other speakers, among them two students who had handed in their thesis on the subject of interdisciplinarity less than 24 hours before.

Both staff and students had been invited to the event, but students were few and far between. It did not escape the notice of the staff members in the audience that students had mostly stayed away:

‘There aren’t any students interested in interdisciplinarity,’ a male member of staff opined. But this was not entirely the truth: once the debate had begun, and the rector told the audience about the input she received before the debate, it turned out that one student had actually sent her something in writing about it.

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After the various speakers, the audience was divided up into small groups in which the debate continued. In Group Room 4, Associate Professor Sine Lehn-Christiansen of PAES moderated the debate among a handful of attendees. Katrine Lindvig, a former RUC student currently working towards her PhD at the University of Copenhagen, had made an interesting discovery. She said that there had been a lot of talk about interdisciplinarity at RUC, but it was not necessarily put into practice on an everyday level. At the University of Copenhagen, she said, it was the other way around: just hearing the word ‘interdisciplinarity’ seemed intimidating to people, but, on the other hand, interdisciplinarity was actually ingrained in day-to-day activities to a far greater extent without people realising it. Through the glazed door to the group room, the event moderator, Silas Harrebye, a lecturer at ISG, used gestures to signal that time was up.

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Back in the auditorium, the scene was set for a panel debate: a long table covered with a white cloth and microphones set up and ready to use. There were six panel members: one from each of RUC’s departments plus one PhD student. An orange, square ‘ball’ with a built-in microphone was thrown about in the audience, which meant that whoever had the ball, had the floor. It’s not very often one sees people in suits throwing microphones.

‘Our approach here at RUC is actually quite unique – it’s our backbone,’ said Associate Professor Kim Esmark of CUID on the topic of interdisciplinarity.

A man in a suit was fortunate enough to have the orange ‘ball’ thrown to him, and he used it to ask whether interdisciplinarity was a means to achieve an end, or was interdisciplinarity an end in itself? He then threw the microphone back to the moderator, who gave the panel the floor. The general consensus was that interdisciplinarity is a means to an end, but Associate Professor Kristine Samson believed that interdisciplinarity was so important that it could be both a means and an end.

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Dr Harrebye attempted to end the debate after an hour’s time, but Associate Professor Michael Bruun Andersen of CBIT made one of the final comments. In his experience, he said, students were not focused on interdisciplinarity but, rather, saw what was taught at RUC as something superficial: ‘They transfer to the University of Copenhagen if they want to study something more in depth. Whether this is true or not is one thing, but it’s relevant to bear it in mind.’

Pro-rector Peter Kjær ended the debate by thanking the audience for attending. A car somewhere outside had become stuck, and the noise of the engine was quite some distraction. Finally, Dr Kjær was forced to comment on the poor stuck driver, and there was joking about whether perhaps some form of interdisciplinarity could help get the car going. Three or four people got up to go help the persistent driver before the pro-rector ended the debate, and people moved slowly to the foyer to enjoy a bite of the delicious food that had been laid out for them.

The entire debate was filmed, and you can watch it here.

Dialogseminarerne slutter alle med lækker mad. Foto: Mie Jensen.

All dialogue seminars end with a delicious buffet. Photo: Mie Jensen.

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