On Tuesday 27 October, Måns Wrange announced his resignation as rector of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO). Wrange shared his reasons in a letter published on the school’s website. In it, he states that he had considered leaving his position for many months, even before the summer – partly to spend more time with his family, who live in Stockholm, and partly due to the additional challenges imposed on commuters by the pandemic – but that he bided his time due to the fierce debate recently surrounding the school. Now, however, his family requires his full-time presence, he states.
The aforementioned debate arose last spring when research fellows and students at the school called upon the institution to intensify its efforts against racism and sexism. Wrange responded by referring to a plan for inclusion and anti-discrimination work which he drew up prior to taking over the rector’s chair some eighteen months prior, and which he believed represented exactly the types of measures called for in the appeal.
Following this, another small group of students entered the fray, publishing an open letter in the newspaper Morgenbladet where they expressed concerns that identity politics was replacing academic content in the academy’s programme. Throughout the autumn, the conflict has been the subject of a number of articles in Norwegian media, with newspapers Morgenbladet and Klassekampen following the matter particularly closely. Concerns over the conditions for freedom of speech and expression at the school have also been voiced.
Wrange also attributes his resignation to allegations of bias prompted by this conflict. Despite his efforts to add greater nuance to the discussion and emphasise that working for diversity and equality ought to be a democratic process involving all students and staff, he realises that to many it appears as if he has taken sides and affiliated himself with a specific group of students. He believes that this entails a risk that his future proposals for the development of KHiO will be “interpreted through a political filter.” “Therefore, I have concluded that it is probably better for KHiO if a person who can be considered more neutral in this debate takes over as rector,” he writes.
Wrange has been rector at the academy since August 2019 and will serve out his three-month notice period. A plan for the election of a new rector will be drawn up at an emergency board meeting held today, Thursday 29 October.