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Annual University Celebration

Student speech 2023

An either/or need not stand in the way of a both/and.

Dear everyone. A joyous annual celebration to you all.

Life as a student is a roller-coaster ride. A ride that begins with a confusing search for the right amusement park.

In 2017, SDU became my amusement park. Not because I had heard that's where the best roller coasters were. But because it was the only amusement park that had exactly the ride I wanted to try.

In 2018, I had to reconsider my choice. But it wasn't the merry-go-rounds that made me stay. Instead, it was the people who filled the park with energy, smiles and memories.

Every visit to an amusement park causes your stomach to lurch. Lurches that we experience throughout our time as students. Pleasant lurches from learning and kissing in the Friday bar, and unpleasant lurches from failed exams and courses.

A particularly unpleasant lurch was felt by me and my new master's degree classmates last year just after our recently completed exam. A normal celebration with beer pong in the Friday bar and a party in the city turned into a real punch in the gut when we woke up to news that no one wants to wake up to.

Our celebratory toast on Friday night turned out to be our fellow student Sara's last. Her journey home, too dangerous and too close to the train tracks at Odense Banegård, was unfortunately Sara's last.

Although Sara had only been in our class for two months, she left a void. A void we had to fill together as classmates and friends. And we did. We came together. Talked together, cried together and grieved together. And precisely that community spirit confirmed to me that I am in the right place.

Sara. We still talk about you. We remember you. And we miss you.

Sara was a student who gave more than she took. The type who, with a cheeky remark, made a boring lecture fun, and who, despite her diminutive size, filled the large auditoriums. She is my inspiration for this speech.

Fortunately, there are many people like Sara at SDU. And they are important. But they are also overlooked. And they receive all too little recognition. So this speech is for you.

Tonight, we celebrate the scientific successes at SDU. Our doctors, honorary alumni, even our best teachers and research communicators. Congratulations to you.

But where is the tribute to the students who dare to go right when others go left, those who ask why when we just do as we usually do, and those who always put themselves in front instead of letting others take the lead?

The students who think about the student life and well-being of others before they think about their own?

I have a suggestion. Actually, I have several.

Tonight, I would like to pay tribute to:

Pernille, the chair of my programme's student council, and the rest of her student council team,

Ida, Sille and Marius - who shared responsibility with me for the social side of study start

Nanna, Mathias, Rikke, Aggi, Lucas, Thorbjørn, Maja, Yahya, Jonas, Victoria, Magda, Mathilde, Maria, Louise and Frederik - for your work for Students of Southern Denmark

The organising groups from both the Semester Start Party and the Battle of the Departments - also from Students of Southern Denmark

Theis, Mathilde, Karoline, Thomas, Mikkel, Sofie, Mads and Sille - for your great efforts in the SDU Ski Club

All mentioned - none forgotten.

Because otherwise you wouldn't have been mentioned. And you deserve it. And you are just the ones I know here at SDU.

The list is much longer. And everyone on it deserves at least as much recognition at an annual celebration at SDU as all the other award winners.

For me, you solve an equally important task for SDU. Without you, failure to thrive, loneliness and dropping out would be a significantly larger part of our student life.

That task deserves a helping hand. Therefore, four weeks ago, I proposed to SDU's Board to budget DKK 1,000,000 annually for social and academic communities at SDU.

A pool that could, for example, be used for study trips, a kick-start for a new association or just as support for some of the 41% of students who in the Study Environment Survey answered that they feel lonely to a greater or lesser extent due to a lack of social belonging.

I would like to see a Board that would embrace the good story, put that million on the budget and thus demand action right from the top of SDU's highest authority.

But they wouldn't. It was a decision that had to go through the daily management. A process I have personal experience with. And it's not fast. Far from it.

Something as simple as getting the Battle of the Departments into the timetables could not be done, even with many months' notice. And that is a day, what's more, that the management itself has made teaching-free for students.

But today the annual celebration is in my timetable. So where there's a will there's a way.

And I think that says something about how we students are prioritised.

If we hand in an exam one minute late, the hammer falls. Nothing can be done. Failed.

In return, employed student teachers must accept working without contracts and not being paid wages on time due to 'restructuring' - without being given a time frame.

Apologies that would never be accepted were the situation reversed.

The consequences affect the students who have to drop an otherwise planned autumn holiday due to the lack of wages.

It is unfair. Perhaps also bordering on illegal.

As I said, the Board did not want to allocate the one million. A million also sounds like a lot, but it is a drop in the ocean in a total budget of 3.8 billion.

It is 0.02%. Which corresponds to me having to find 20 kroner in my SU budget. Not per week. Not per month. Per year.

So I have done that. Dear Board, dear management. Here are my 20 kroner. They are here on the lectern.

I am tempted to quote from a speech I once heard: Is this really the best you can do?

An either/or need not stand in the way of a both/and.

Thank you for your attention. And have a great Annual University Celebration!

Niclas Vellier Nyegaard

Last Updated 30.10.2023