Students claim bias after examiner refuses to shake hands

Female students in Jutland town worry they won’t get a fair chance after being told of teacher’s unwillingness to shake hands with women

Students in the Jutland town of Herning preparing to take their final exams earlier this week were left trying to make sense of an unexpected message on their school's intranet on Sunday.

The message, posted by a maths teacher at the Herning upper secondary and adult education school, told students that if they were a woman taking an oral exam, they shouldn't expect their examiner to shake hands.

“Our external examiner has stated that he does not want to shake hands with women, so it is best not to try to shake his hand. You have been warned, so there should be no confusion. Good luck with the exam.”

The school itself didn't become aware of the situation until two female students asked for a new examiner to be found. 

One of the women was Michala Mosegaard, 20, who was due to take a maths exam later that week.

"A woman seeing a message like that feels like she has already lost points before she even starts the test," Mosegaard told Information newspaper. "No matter how well you know the material, you feel like you are not being looked at fairly."

Oral exams are typically administered by two people: the student's teacher and an external examiner. The school, after receiving the students' complaints, said it was too late to find a new external examiner.

"Not shaking hands is his business, but it is annoying that he has not said anything before now," Marianne Dose Hvid, the school's education manager, told Information. Hvid said religion should not be a factor when exams are on the line and sought counsel from the Education Ministry.

The ministry said there were no rules about whether an examiner should shake hands with a student, and that it was up to the school to make sure exams were properly administered.