Basic values at Umeå University

Basic values are a collection of norms or values that together form a common ethical platform for the daily work within an organisation. The aim of such basic values is to create a common approach for the employees and to provide guidance in their treatment of each other and of people outside the organisation.

The Umeå University common basic values are based on those for central government employees, on legislation applicable to our activities and on academic values. To keep the basic values alive and useful to everyone at the University, we must together work to give them meaning. Working with common basic values is not a task that will ever be completed, instead it is an ongoing activity.

All departments and offices have had the opportunity to bring up examples of dilemmas that can arise when different interests, principles and values collide. The result forms the basis for the working material that is presented below. By discussing the dilemmas exemplified in the material, employees at the University can together develop their ability to handle difficult situations and build a good climate that coincides with our academic core values.

Articles and news about basic values at Umeå University

This month's dilemma (Nov 2019) – Only half showed up

This month's dilemma (Oct 2019) – A fun evening with colleagues

This month's dilemma (Sep 2019) – compliments at work

"Dilemmas to contemplate" - interview with the project coordinator Anna Mothander

"The common basic values — something you have to work on" - article in the staff magazine Aktum

Working material

Umeå University has developed working material that departments, offices and teams can use at workplace meetings or planning days to discuss dilemmas that can arise in regular working life. The material consists of a book containing 47 dilemmas, four films and a brochure. All are available in Swedish and English.

Common basic values for Umeå University – book and folder.

Photo: Ulrika Bergfors

The book "Everyday dilemmas – Working with basic values in practice at Umeå University"

 

Photo: Ulrika Bergfors

The book "Everyday dilemmas – Working with basic values in practice at Umeå University" contains 47 dilemmas on various themes designed to arouse emotions and discussion. Some dilemmas have been illustrated by Erik Domellöf. Each dilemma also comes with a number of questions for group discussions. The book also contains a description of what the common basic values for central government employees is to Umeå University and what academic values characterise our organisation. The book is available in both English and Swedish.

One copy of the Swedish book has been posted to all managers at the University and one copy to all departments and offices. You can also request an English version of the book per department or office.

"Dilemman i vardagen" for download (Swedish)
"Everyday dilemmas" for download (English)

Guidance and presentation

The guidance is aimed at managers and group discussion leaders who want to raise dialogue with the help of the book "Everyday dilemmas – Working with basic values in practice at Umeå University". The presentation is available in two versions. The introduction can be used when launching common basic values exercises at a workplace meeting or similar. The overall presentation is intended to provide a general overview of our basic values. The guidance and presentation is only available in Swedish.

Guidance to basic values exercises (Swedish)
General presentation of the basic values (English)
Introduction to the common basic values for exercises (English)

Dilemma films

There are four films available that present examples of different situations that can arise. You can watch one of these films together and then discuss the situation in small groups. The questions below can be used as basis for discussions. The speech in the films is in Swedish, but all films are available with English and Swedish subtitling. Subtitling can be enabled in Vimeo once you have clicked the link and accessed the film.

Film 1: Researcher above the law (based on dilemma 31 in the book)

Subjects for discussion – Film 1

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • Have you experienced something similar?
  • How do you feel the librarian should act?
  • Do we treat all occupational groups equally at the University?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Film 2: Freedom of speech or lack of respect (based on dilemma 19 in the book)

Subjects for discussion – Film 2

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • Have you experienced something similar?
  • Within academia, there are differing views on professional competence and scientific methods. How can we create constructive discourse on this?
  • How can we work to ensure respect and tolerance for different occupational groups' roles and competence in our meritocratic environment?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Film 3: After-work with a bad aftertaste (based on dilemma 16 in the book)

Subjects for discussion – Film 3

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • The situation arose outside of working hours but has affected the work environment. How can the situation be dealt with?
  • Should the head of department do something, and if so, what?
  • Should the group that reacted have acted differently that evening?
  • What view should we have on socialising outside of working hours when alcohol is consumed? When are we private?
  • Would the head of department's responsibility and actions have been different if a similar situation would have occurred on a break at work?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Film 4: An open or elitist university? (based on dilemma 13 in the book)

Subjects for discussion – Film 4

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • How should we welcome new students regardless of their background?
  • How far should the University's support extend?
  • Should we more frequently help students with insufficient educational backgrounds move on to other programmes or professions?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Brochure

 

Photo: Ulrika Bergfors

The brochure describes the work on the common basic values at Umeå University and has been submitted to all employees.

 

 

Swedish brochure for download
English brochure for download

 

Examples from the book

Here follows some of all 47 dilemmas presented in the book "Everyday dilemmas – Working with basic values in practice at Umeå University".

Dilemma 1: Researcher and politically active

 

Photo: Illustration Erik Domellöf

Beata is a senior lecturer who is actively involved in a current local political issue, although she is not an active member of a political party. She has recently been seen taking part in demonstrations and she has posted some critical comments of the issue on social media.

Beata's head of department, Christopher, lives next door to Kristina, who is a municipal politician in charge of this matter. When they have a neighbourly chat, Kristina asks whether he thinks it is appropriate for a university employee to take up a position in the way that Beata has done. Should she not rather devote herself to her research?

Christopher feels uncomfortable and calls Beata to a private meeting where he asks her to tone down her engagement in the issue.

Subjects for discussion

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • How do you feel about teachers and researchers being politically active?
  • Is the head of department correct in having opinions on employees' commitments outside of work?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Dilemma 6: Protests against the course literature

 

Photo: Illustration Erik Domellöf

Tine is teaching a course. Recently a group of students has refused to read a book on the literature list saying that it portrays an antiquated view of a specific ethnic group based on current identity politics. The students have been vocal in their protests, not least on social media where they have gained the backing of students across the world. They have now written an appeal to the head of department where they threaten to boycott certain lectures. And that is not all. They have also contacted the University Library and demanded that the book should be immediately removed from the library collection.

Tine is now considering changing the literature list out of fear of causing offense to the students and attracting negative publicity.

 

Subjects for discussion

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • To what extent should we meet the students' demands for politically correct literature?
  • What responsibility do teachers have for the content of the course literature?
  • How do we handle sensitivity or the questioning of material when it is associated with, for example, religion?
  • How can teachers present and problematise the literature selection?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

 

Dilemma 17: Do I dare report it?

 

Photo: Illustration Erik Domellöf

Johanna and Petra are colleagues and also socialise privately. One evening during a friendly conversation over dinner at Johanna's place, Petra says that one of their colleagues had made unwelcome sexual advances on several occasions. Johanna was horrified and thought that Petra should report the incident, but Petra dismisses it. She absolutely does not want to, and asks Johanna not to tell anyone about it. The colleague she is referring to is respected and Petra is scared that it will be she who gets into trouble if she tells.

Subjects for discussion

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • Where is the boundary between issues that can and cannot be handled confidentially? When are we as employees obliged to bring matters to the attention of the management, for example, with regard to discrimination, victimisation or harassment?
  • How can we determine the boundary between information that can be kept private and information that should be brought to someone's attention?
  • How would the situation have been different if Johanna had been a deputy head of department?
  • Would you have acted differently if alcohol abuse or research fraud had been involved?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Dilemma 21: Everyone knows everyone

 

Photo: Illustration Erik Domellöf

A department is conducting research within a small research domain. There are a handful of professors in all of Sweden and a few more within the Nordic region. When a professorship is to be advertised, the department wants a recruitment process that is as fast, efficient and effective as possible. Subject specialists are appointed and it appears that they know the majority of the applicants well. They have collaborated on various projects and have met at scientific conferences, in addition to socialising privately in some cases. Three of the applicants are internal, of which two have family ties to other colleagues at the department.

Subjects for discussion

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • What can the University do to reduce the risk of conflict of interest in the review process?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Dilemma 29: Whose working environment is most important?

 

Photo: Illustration Erik Domellöf

One department has invested in new creative environments for the students. On the floor there are soft rugs and the furniture is modern and inviting. The students are also really enjoying the pleasant environment. The cleaners and service assistants, whose work environment has suffered as a result, are less pleased about it. The floor takes a lot longer to clean and the work also requires more physical exertion. Furthermore, the new furniture leaves ugly marks on the floor. The Service Office is disappointed that they were not consulted in discussions about the premises. 

Subjects for discussion

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • Is the working environment of the students and different staff groups equally important, or should one group be prioritised?
  • How can we ensure that important target groups are given a voice in the planning of premises?
  • Who should act and what should they do?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Dilemma 32: Time to get these bastards out of Sweden!

 

Photo: Illustration Erik Domellöf

Mats works at the University Library. One day while standing in reception, a man comes up to the desk. He is obstinate and loud and demands access to a private archive that is accessible for research purposes.
"Time to get these bastards out of Sweden!" says the man.
Mats knows that the archive contains information that may be sensitive if it ends up in the wrong hands.

Subjects for discussion

  • What do you think is problematic in this situation?
  • How should Mats act?
  • What basic value principles are being challenged?

Common basic values for central government employees

Common basic values for central government employees was formed in 2013. These values are common for all civil servants at all governmental organisations and are based upon six legal principles:

  1. Democracy
    We work on behalf of the citizens and comply with decisions made by the Swedish Riksdag and the Swedish Government.
  2. Legality
    Everything we do must be supported by law, and we are familiar with and comply with the legislation applicable to our organisation.
  3. Objectivity
    We are objective and impartial and treat every case equally. We do not accept bribes.
  4. Free formation of opinion
    Transparency and freedom of expression are pillars of democracy and everyone is entitled to insight into government activities. Employees are entitled to talk about what goes on at their government agency, with the exception of confidential matters.
  5. Respect for all people's equal value, freedom and dignity
    We treat everyone equally and with respect.
  6. Efficiency and service
    We provide citizens with correct and comprehensible information as quickly as possible. We work efficiently and conserve our resources.

Dilemma film 1 - the library

About the researcher above the law. Subtitling can be enabled in Vimeo once you have clicked the link and accessed the film.

Dilemma film 2: the corridor

Freedom of speech or lack of respect?

Dilemma film 3: After-work

After-work with a bad aftertaste.

Dilemma film 4: Introduction of students

An open or elitist university?

contact

Project manager: Anna Mothander
Office for Human Resources
Phone: +46 90-786 66 78

Ulrika Bergfors
12/6/2019