Next Monday the winter semester starts at the Berlin universities. Because of Corona, many things are still different here: Instead of a full U3 at VU University and well-stocked libraries all over the city, you need to be prepared for home office and digital education for the next six months.
For many students this increases the feeling that they have been forgotten. If it was previously vague, it is now becoming concrete thanks to last week’s resolution by the federal and state governments. Economics, professional sports, but also day-care centers and schools are explicitly mentioned, not a word is said about the operation at universities.
After all, Berlin’s Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family shows a bit of concern about the universities. She has amended her infection protection regulation. The few face-to-face events are even further limited: in large, sufficiently ventilated lecture halls, only 25 or 40 people are allowed per room.
This is a radical difference from everyday life in most Berlin universities. Many seminars have been overcrowded for years and recently some gatherings took place where the students sat on the floor or on the stove. Numbers of 80 or more students are not uncommon.
Buffalo on the couch of the fellow student
Analogue introductory events, which are especially important for freshmen in a new city, can hardly be held under these conditions: in the winter semester of 2019/20, more than 3,500 new students were enrolled at the Free University of Berlin. So online now, studying from the room in a shared apartment or from the couch of your fellow student – the living conditions have not exactly improved.
At least efforts are being made at smaller universities in the rest of the republic to enable classroom teaching. Berlin universities have the disadvantage of their size. The semester becomes particularly problematic for students who – before November at least – have lost their already precarious jobs in cafes or bars. You must now reapply for comprehensive emergency assistance from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
While Lufthansa is being funded by billions, students are struggling to find money: a third of the applications for 500 euros a month in emergency aid submitted in the summer semester were rejected because the financial emergency was not directly related to the pandemic.
But what if you need to buy a computer with the latest operating system to be well-equipped to participate in the online semester? During your studies it is anything but natural to have reservations about this. Olaf Scholz’s bazooka blocks students.
‘Creative semester’ label fraud
According to the experiences of the summer semester, students have low expectations of the winter semester. The summer semester that was proclaimed ‘creative semester’ was not above all: creative. Tutorials and lectures generally had the same content and scope as usual, except that technically often completely overwhelmed lecturers did not speak in the full lecture hall, but with their laptop. Taking the changed circumstances into account, being open to creative achievements? Nothing.
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Although the discussion about the resumption of the Bundesliga was almost ubiquitous, hardly any concepts for resuming regular university business were discussed. Infection protection measures are useful and important.
However, the latest federal state resolution once again shows that the priorities are not higher education. This feeds the suspicion that the renewed enthusiasm for digital education is only intended to mask the negative effects of the austerity measures of recent years. The ideal of good higher education seems to have been forgotten.