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Law student sued by lecturer for describing his teaching as a ‘mess’

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Tax law specialist Michael Bjørn Hansen has filed a lawsuit against the student for libel

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A Danish law student has found himself embroiled in a libel legal battle with his university lecturer after reportedly describing his teaching as a “mess”.

Kristian Hegaard, who is a 25-year-old law student at the University of Copenhagen, filed a written complaint about the quality of teaching he was receiving from his tax law lecturer, Michael Bjørn Hansen.

Writing to his course leader, Hegaard — who is active within Danish politics and a staunch campaigner for disabled rights — described Hansen’s teaching as a “mess” and said “he seemed to be unprepared — and does not bring notes”.

According to The Independent, Hegaard also “expressed concerns that he and his fellow students were leaving each class confused about the content.” That’s tax law for you.

But Hansen — who is also a qualified lawyer — has not taken the criticism well.

Claiming Hegaard has made false statements and caused “moral damage”, reports both in Denmark and here in the United Kingdom claim Hansen is now suing the law student for libel.

Defending his decision to take legal action, the tax lecturer said it was a “matter of principle” and would prevent other students making similar complaints in the future.

Speaking to Danish website Universities Avisen, Hansen said:

The key is that there is a complaint of false fact and thus a very unpleasant matter for me.

Describing the 25-year-old’s complaint as a political stunt, Hansen continued:

I would never have raised a lawsuit if the complaint came from a normal student.

Criticising his lecturer’s decision to sue him, Hegaard, who has been studying at the university since 2010, 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.

Hegaard — who could be forced to pay up to 2,000 Krone (£230) in damages — is due to appear at Elsinore District Court on 5 September.

34 Comments

Anonymous

Something is rotten in the district court of Elsinore.

(42)(0)

Anonymous

Very good.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

This should not be allowed. Students should not have to worry about getting sued when making complaints about the teaching provided by a lecturer. This could open a gate for many law suits like this to be filed with bad intentions just to stop teachers being fired for bad teaching. Students should have the right to excellent teaching especially at universities as it is more then likely that the students themselves are paying for it.

(61)(3)

Anonymous

Who ever disliked this is a bad teacher

(3)(2)

Aghast

Be careful what you write in this comment box fellow readers.. he might come after you too.

(18)(1)

Lord Harley

He would never dare come after me.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

Look at his picture. Just look at it. If you Google image the tax law lecturer, you can see he is a man over 45 years old and who should probably know far better than this – to treat any student like that is so bad.

initially I thought the tax law lecturer may have been brand new to the job or a rookie, clearly not.

(0)(1)

Kmc

So hang on, if he was a ‘normal’ student he wouldn’t have filed the suit? So he’s suing specifically because the student is disabled!? #DiscriminationAnyone?

(7)(16)

Anonymous

I think it’s more to do with his political status.

(28)(0)

Anonymous

His political activism is as a result of his disability, so the two are inherently connected.

(0)(7)

Nonce

Not automatically. Abled bodied people can support disability rights.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Of course they can, but he is disabled.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Read the article before getting all ‘lefty’!!

(13)(1)

Anonymous

What do you suggest was meant by “normal”?

(0)(1)

Aaliyah

The lecturer is most probably referring to the student being a bit more forward than the average student, no way will a lecturer discriminate against a student who’s disabled. So my thoughts are he’s one of those cocky loud students that claim to know it all.

That’s just my thoughts

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Lecturers discriminate against disabled students all the time. I don’t know any disabled people (myself included) who didn’t experience discrimination of some sort in academia.

(2)(1)

K

Properly translated the quote is “(…) if the complaint came from a regular student”. The use of the word “normal” in this translation is wrong. And the previous quote from the press release cleary points to the student’s political ambitions and activism. Nothing to see here.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

His activism relates to his disability, so actually there absolutely is something to see here. You just don’t want to see it.

(1)(2)

K

No, there is nothing to see relating to the use of the word “normal” in the article. I have said nothing about the case itself. There are very few good reasons why a professor would sue a student.
All I said was he didn’t say “normal”, but instead “regular”.
So, he is saying that the student isn’t a “regular” student in the sense that he did not complain because he was worried about learning output. He is not saying the student isn’t a “regular” student because he can’t walk or whatever.
He is suing the student (I, too, think this is quite the over-reaction) because the student made a very personal (and, if wrong, potentially very damaging) complaint to (allegedly) further a political cause (or so says the professor). A political cause the professor has nothing to do with. The specific political cause is irrelevant in this regard, and so is the underlying reason for the student’s activism. I understand you feel the need to stand on the barricades for the disabled, and I admire you for this, but please, step off.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I can’t stand in the barricades or step off it as it goes, my wheelchair doesn’t allow it. I have experienced this kind of behaviour in academia repeatedly so I know that discrimination is real. The article does not say what political point the lecturer thought the student was making but it does say that he his heavily involved in disability activism. There is then a fairly high likelihood that any political point he was making (if indeed it is political) was related to his disability. The word “normal” probably is a translation issue (I’m not convinced a lawyer would be so blatant) but that doesn’t mean that this is not a case of disability discrimination.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Oh and FYI, disabled people don’t generally like the term “the disabled”.

(0)(3)

K

Completely beside the point. The original Danish article said the student has personal party-political ambitions, not related to his disability at all. You, having read only this poorly translated piece, are free to take whatever stand, but you are wrong, and seemingly very narrow-minded.

And for Your little FYI there, I am sorry if I offended you. But everybody cannot be offended by everything all of the time – the world is a terrible enough place as it is. I do not divide the world in disability or not, I meant no harm, and I meet whoever with an open mind. I demand you do the same instead of immediately taking a defensive stance. In doing so you are killing debate and reinforcing any preconceptions one might have.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

That’s just nonsense. The piece is very light on fact, that’s not in question, but my point is that his activism is inherently connected with his disability. If the teacher has sued because the student is an activist then that is connected to his disability, whether you like it or not.

(0)(3)

Not Amused

“said it was a “matter of principle””

Any barrister will tell you that this is when the big red light starts flashing and the alarm klaxon sounds. It means that the party in question has lost all reason, will probably lose, but in any event will incur massive fees.

Some lick their lips with joy at the prospects of massive fees (or press attention), but most of us who are any good at what we do feel only pity.

(13)(2)

Dublin BL

Agreed. A bit like when a client says “I Just want justice” *Rolls Eyes*

(9)(0)

Chris Challoner

Nope, you roll your eyes when the client says “I want pro bono”

(8)(0)

Anon

At least the Danish courts have some sense of perspective when it comes to libel damages – “up to £230” suggests that the Danish legal system has a “get over yourself” approach to remedying hurt to the reputation of its citizens.

(8)(0)

Ho, Lee & Shiet LLP

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(2)

Lord Carley of Hounslow

What unfortunate timing for poor Kristian. Until last month Kristian would have been able to avail himself of a fantastic Rochdale-based legal charity, set up with the aim of securing justice for the poor, the disabled and the oppressed. Its founder, by coincidence a fluent Danish speaker, knows only too well what it is like to be discriminated against because of disability, and would have been happy to offer his services pro bono. As it is, prejudiced and blinkered regulators have sought to curtail this threat to the established legal system, but he shall return.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Hey, who the hell took this photo of me?!

(1)(1)

J Lo

Words hurt… You know what hurts more – being unemployed. Accept criticism with grace – use it positively – improve. Move on.

(0)(0)

Disabled but otherwise qualified student of law

“Normal” student?! Thankfully civil rights has come further here in the U.S. As a student w disabilities myself I take this “normal” student comment as offensive as being called the “n” word if I were a student of color…. I hope prof’s offensive verbiage allows this “abnormal” or as I read into “less qualified” or worse “less of a person” prevail….

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Absolutely agree. He should be ashamed.

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