Letter from the Dean

Last changed: 17 June 2021
Johan Meijer, photo.

Pandemic – have we learned a lesson?

We have now lived for just over a year in conditions we probably could not imagine. The pandemic has changed our lives and habits and made us reflect on what we value. For SLU, this has meant extensive and quickly forced change work and many times unplanned extra work. However, we have avoided redundancies and to a large extent had the opportunity to work at home, which has reduced the spread of infection and travel, and become better at digital media.

The fact that SLU employee are creative and adaptable is well illustrated by the rapid transition to digital working methods for teaching and different types of meetings. We must also be grateful for the patience shown when technology swayed. By extension, we have also been reminded of the importance of physical personal encounters for socializing and creative processes.

Our students have shown a high degree of understanding of the changes that have been implemented in order to be able to achieve the course objectives, despite the fact that certain practical skills, study trips, field trials and more could not be implemented. It must be especially sad for new students who cannot get to know their classmates in the usual way.

For doctoral students and researchers, it has in many cases been frustrating to realize that the original plan could not be followed. Canceled conferences, courses and collaborations, restrictions on travel, delayed deliveries of material, data or services, limited access to archives and libraries, etc. have put the brakes on. These challenges have in many cases been counteracted by re-prioritizing projects and by taking many new initiatives. The experience of social isolation has unfortunately become a sad consequence of the recommendations that apply to limit the pandemic. Commendable initiatives have been taken to increase cohesion and it is important that we continue to support each other.

Prolongation of postgraduate education has been discussed as a result of the pandemic. A general prolongation is not relevant as many projects have not been significantly affected or could have been reoriented. A change process becomes evolving as creative solutions can be discussed. The project groups must analyze the need for the necessary extension and pass it on to the head of department, who makes decisions. Limited funds for prolongation will be central and it will soon be decided how these will be handled.

Pandemics have existed in the past and will occur in the future. Even if we are temporarily living under a sword of Damocles*, we must look ahead and maintain momentum. The academy is a crucial factor for societal development through education, research and collaboration. The importance of nature experiences and a good and healthy environment has become clear to many during the pandemic. SLU is a leading player in analyzing the environment and proposing and developing solutions that ultimately require political decisions. The changes that the pandemic has caused have shown the strength of the employees who have shown flexibility and loyalty due to the new demands and expectations that have come, not least in teaching. Over time, it has emerged which strategies are better than others and the importance of clear guidelines. I think we can handle the next crisis (which will hopefully be delayed) better, while realizing what we value most. So yes, we have probably learned a lesson.

In the certainty of brighter times

Johan

*Symbol of imminent danger. After an ancient story about the courtier Damocles who was allowed to eat a princely meal with a sword hanging over his head in a horsehair. Source: Wikipedia.

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