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Law Lecturer Sues University Student For Libel After He Complains About His Teaching

TodayNewsReview / General / Education / Law Lecturer Sues University Student For Libel After He Complains About His Teaching 233 Views

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A student from Denmark is being sued by his lecturer after he made a private complaint about the quality of his teaching.

Kristian Hegaard, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Copenhagen, is accused of making false statements and causing “moral damage” to his teacher, Michael Bjorn Hansen.

In a written complaint sent to the head of his Tax Law course, Mr Hegaard expressed concerns that he and his fellow students were leaving each class confused about the content.

The message was passed on to Mr Bjorn Hansen, however, who filed a lawsuit against the student for libel.

“I sent the complaint to this one person,” said Mr Hegaard, “for example I wrote: ‘The teaching is in a mess’ and “he seemed to be unprepared – and does not bring notes”.

The student, who is a disabled rights campaigner and active within Danish politics, added that the specialist teacher did not appear to use group work within his teaching, which is mandatory at the college.

Danish media have reported that Mr Bjorn Hansen is suing the student as a “matter of principle” and so as to prevent future students making similar complaints.

Speaking to Danish student website, Universities Avisen, the teacher said: “The key is that there is a complaint of false fact and thus a very unpleasant matter for me”

He also accuses Mr Hegaard of making a political stunt by complaining.

Referring to the student’s political activity, Mr Bjorn Hansen told the publication: “”I would never have raised a lawsuit if the complaint came from a normal student“.

It is believed to be the first time a student at the University of Copenhagen has been sued by a teacher.

“I had written a normal complaint, so I was very surprised by the reaction,” said Mr Hegaard, who has been studying at the university since 2010.

”It's him who started this whole case, all the big fireworks. It is he who has wished that there should be a trial.”

He is due to appear in Elsinore District Court on 5 September, and if found liable could be made to pay 2,000 Krone (£230 in damages).

Commenting on the court case, Kristian Dam Hove, president of the largest student law organisation in Denmark said: “Personally, I think that it is incredibly silly. But on a fundamental level, it is also crazy if there would be a precedent for that as a student you can be sued for complaining about someone’s teaching,

Mr Hegaard said: “In Denmark it has been called a matter of principle, because it is a question of students’ rights to request improvements within their education or criticise teachers constructively without fearing to be sued for libel.

“It is also a general question of the reputation of lawyers. When others hear about this case, they think lawyers just sue each other all the time. A lawyer’s role should be to solve disputes, not to start them.”

A spokesperson for the University of Copenhagen said the institution was not able to comment at this time.


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