Newsportal - Ruhr-Universität Bochum
What happens next at Ruhr-Universität
Dear students and future students, dear academics and researchers, dear employees of Ruhr-Universität Bochum,
over the past six months, the Covid-19 pandemic and the hacker attack have required a lot of patience and hard work on your part. Thank you so much for all you’ve contributed!
Despite serious limitations, you have kept research, teaching, studies and technical and administrative operations going. Our researchers have once again demonstrated that they are highly capable and motivated. Laboratory and library closures, caring for family members and home schooling under pandemic conditions slowed down projects, and yet research didn’t come to a standstill. You have continuously achieved outstanding results in all fields, not least in pandemic research. Both lecturers and students successfully mastered the sudden transition to online classes – and, subsequently, the transition to lab internships where highly complex safety requirements have applied. Despite the adverse conditions, you’ve made it possible within a short space of time to take exams and finish degrees once again. All this has been underpinned by the tremendous efforts on the part of our dedicated technical support and admin staff, without whom none of this would have been possible.
In demand: smart and resourceful minds
In difficult times like these, there is a high demand for smart and resourceful minds. This is a good time to be working at a strong university like RUB. We have every reason to feel motivated and confident about the future!
Still: The last semester with Moodle, Zoom and working from home has cost us all a lot of energy and nerves, and we all long for normality. This is perhaps why many students may be wondering: How is it possible that swimming pools and schools are reopening, but RUB remains closed to students for the most part? Why are the rules on campus much stricter than outside? What will happen next semester?
And more questions arise following the transition to regular operations under Covid-19 conditions that mean that more employees are present on campus: Isn’t it too soon? some of you will ask. Others may think this is still not enough, as they see the progress of their research threatened if they won’t be able to access the campus without any restrictions any time soon.
We would therefore like to outline to you what decision-makers take into consideration and why they act in a certain way – at RUB as well as at other universities. And we would like to involve you more deeply in the debate. Because your questions and your constructive criticism are important to ensure that we continue to factor in the different perspectives of all people on campus.
Why do universities have to comply with exceptionally strict regulations?
Unlike schools and smaller educational institutions, large universities are particularly at risk of spreading the virus. With its 43,000 students and its large catchment area, RUB is a permanent mobile mass event. The most important rules apart from wearing masks, namely keeping distance and the traceability of infection chains, are impossible to comply with for this number of people. Under normal operating conditions, RUB could thus become a hotspot. The immediate consequence would be a lockdown of large parts of the university.
This is how we want to ensure in-person classes next semester
Regular courses for the coming winter semester start on 26 October 2020, while first-semester students take up their degree courses one week later, on 2 November. The faculties and their lecturers are currently developing new concepts for in-person classes to ensure that as many students as possible will be able to study, discuss and exchange ideas on campus. Most importantly: the right to attend in-person classes should be primarily reserved for those who need it most! First and foremost, this means first and second-semester students. We want to enable them to attend at least one, if possible two, in-person classes to give them the opportunity to experience and be integrated into the university community. Equally important are in-person experimental and practical courses in the natural sciences, many engineering courses, medicine and sport.
Taking all this into consideration, we are currently calculating how many other in-person courses for BA and MA students in later semesters can be accommodated without overstretching the public transport and campus capacities under coronavirus conditions.
We plan to have no more than 4,000 students per day on campus in the winter semester. This is the limit of what the campus can hold in the rooms and on routes, subject to current regulations. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacities to accommodate more in-person classes. And if the infection rates in our region exceed the limits and the public health department imposes even stricter regulations, we would have to switch back to online classes.
Broad range of courses for all students
Students of all semesters and all disciplines can generally find a wide range of online courses to continue their studies in the winter semester 2020/21. The study guidance services provide comprehensive academic and psychological advice to help you draw up your individual timetable. In addition, we continue to upgrade the technical equipment on campus. All buildings will be equipped with WI-FI routers. In 100 seminar rooms, it will also be possible to attend classes via Zoom, if any of the seminar participants can’t be present on campus. New workstations have been set up in the Mensa galleries and in the Blue Square, in addition to the ones already in place in the UB and in the SSC cafeteria. And we are also currently working out concepts to make group projects possible once again.
Why different rules apply to employees
In contrast to our 43,000 students, the number of our employees and their interaction in offices and on route is manageable. Following the implementation of adequate staff deployment concepts, employees were therefore able to return to campus some time ago. The overall workflow and our collective performance have improved noticeably as a result. And the fact that more employees are now able to work on campus is important to ensure that students will be able to attend online and in-person classes in the coming semester.
Join the debate: You ask questions, we answer them!
Weighing up risks and benefits is a daily balancing act – both at our university and in the whole country. No-one can say whether the coming semester will bring even more freedom or whether more restrictions will once again be implemented due to the infection rate. But you can all help to make the best of the situation. Whether as students or as employees – your constructive criticism and your questions help us a lot to make the right decisions. Tell us what’s important to you: the staff at our Rectorate and other RUB representatives will be happy to discuss any issues. You can find us here.
Axel Schölmerich, Christina Reinhardt, Kornelia Freitag, Uta Hohn, Andreas Ostendorf
3 September 2020