“Non-semester” required at universities

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the summer semester 2020 must be a zero semester: Where possible, teaching should take place, but the semester should not be formally valid. This is demanded by professors from numerous universities in an appeal to universities and university policy.

In an open letter, the authors explain that it is unreasonable for teachers and students to simply continue the status quo of conventional teaching and examination operations using digital means.

Instead, the universities would have to be able to react sluggishly to the hasty pace of public developments and measures.

Not familiar enough with e-learning

“Students who are unable to complete a course must not be disadvantaged,” says the letter written by Munich sociologist Paula-Irene Villa Braslavsky, Hanoverian Americanist Ruth Mayer and Trier Literary scholar Andrea Geier initiated.

Neither the lecturers nor the students were sufficiently familiar with the tools and methods of e-learning to simply relocate classroom teaching online. In addition, the technical infrastructure and the necessary resources for research and teaching had suddenly suddenly broken away.

Libraries are now closed, computer pools are inaccessible, internet access is severely restricted by the universities, and rooms are no longer accessible. In addition, relevant online platforms are already overloaded many times.

No disadvantages for the socially disadvantaged

Especially the socially disadvantaged would suffer serious disadvantages here, according to the authors of the letter. Many students would have already lost their jobs and would have to look for new sources of income.

In addition, researchers, teachers and learners would be faced with the new challenge of being able to tackle care activities such as childcare, homeschooling or caring for relatives in parallel with the requirements of everyday university life.

They are Colleges and universities continue to be asked to carry out their educational and research mandate – but solidarity management of the Corona crisis, which is unpredictable in every respect, is a priority.

Higher education policy is mandatory

“Apart from an adjustment of the Bafög and regular study requirements, a clear signal must be sent to students and teachers that the institutions are fully aware of the extraordinary situation,” write the initiators of the appeal (in the wording here) .

Modified formats are therefore essential. So students could use the zero semester to cope with any legacy issues from the previous semester. University employees with fixed-term contracts, on the other hand, had to be offered an extension of their contract by at least one semester.

The initiators of the letter now see higher education policy as being obliged to implement the necessary plan from the non-semester. Over 1400 members of the university have already signed the letter.

Objection comes from the presidents of HU and FU

The contradiction comes from Sabine Kunst, the president of the Humboldt University. “In the sense of our social responsibility and in the interest of the students, I do not consider this requirement to be practical and therefore not a good suggestion,” Kunst told the Tagesspiegel.

A non-semester would be an “interruption means the education chain and lead to many organizational problems. “She would like to advocate holding an incomplete, maybe only half a semester:” We want and will find creative solutions to carry out the semester and not write it off. ”

“We don't want a missed opportunity”

FU President Günter M. Ziegler made a similar statement. “Our goal is to offer a full summer semester, for everyone who can and want to take advantage of it. We don't want a non-semester,” Ziegler told Tagesspiegel: “We don't want a missed opportunity.”

In the summer semester, the university itself will become an experimental laboratory, “in which we all work together to develop and test new study, teaching and research formats.”