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Help with individual issues

Carlotta Rudolph tells us how the student representative council is getting on with its work in the Coronavirus era

Freiburg, May 08, 2020

Help with individual issues

Photo: Sandra Meyndt

Financial problems, trouble with state exams, the double burden of studies and caring for children: Students, too, can be hit hard by the Coronavirus crisis. The University of Freiburg’s Verfasste Studierendenschaft student union is supporting fellow students with a number of different services; the work of the Studierendenrat student council is also continuing despite the Coronavirus pandemic – all the councils went back to work at the end of April 2020. In an interview with Pascal Lienhard, student union board member Carlotta Rudolph explains how the student union is dealing with the challenges of the current situation, how the needs of the students have changed and why she would like more support from the state of Baden-Württemberg.

The student union offices are at Belfortstraße 24. Photo: Sandra Meyndt

Ms. Rudolph, what effect are the restrictions surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic having on the student union’s work in Freiburg?

Carlotta Rudolph: We quickly saw that communication is important. So we agreed regular times to meet and talk and we are working at home, using phone or video conferences. We looked for ad-hoc solutions to continue with our work and to build new structures. These are in place for the start of semester. Areas like education work, in which we also organize lectures, are of course limited, and we are working to find solutions here. A lot of things have slowly fallen into place, but of course nothing works quite the way it used to.

And how does the situation affect committee work?

All our committees have been back at work since the end of April 2020 - the student union and the student council have been able to meet. The meetings take place online, but they are still open to the public - anyone wishing to take part will get the access data from us. The students’ situation has changed a lot. That means different things are needed. We want to be available and the first point of contact in these matters. We want to address the concerns of those students who are particularly affected by the epidemic.

What sort of issues are they?

This affects teaching-degree students and their state exams, for instance. The state government waited a longish time, then without warning pushed a lot of matters onto the unis’ plates, which in turn led to new problems. But in this, we are getting a lot of support from the University. Another issue is how students are supposed to take exams or write their semester papers despite the libraries being closed. We have argued in favor of an across-the-board extension for submission. One very big issue is funding. Some students can no longer work in their part-time jobs or be sufficiently supported by their parents. It’s also difficult for international students who can’t enter the country but have to pay tuition fees. Another group with very specific problems are students with children. We want to help these groups and come up with solutions - for instance by talking about individual support for purchasing technical equipment, providing places for quiet study, and options for child care.

Carlota Rudolph appeals to all students to turn to the student union for help with their problems. Photo: Patrick Seeger

How successful is this new aspect of the student union’s work?

The local work in Freiburg is exhausting but is going well. We are working closely with the Uni and the Rectorate. We are getting a lot of support there. But the actions of the state of Baden-Württemberg - which is responsible for the universities - and the federal government are disappointing. We don’t feel we are getting enough support there. We think that students are often overlooked. There is far too little help, especially financially.

Are there activities which are continuing as usual?

Our secretariat continues to answer students’ questions by email or by phone. The departments and faculty student councils mostly continue to meet in virtual spaces, and they are not just discussing matters concerning the epidemic. Our work is going ahead in different forms and with different foci, but the key points remain. For instance, the student council has long supported certain groups and has compiled an overview with information on its work. Many of these organizations continue to operate in the crisis and support students also - or especially. As far as the student union is concerned - all students can come to us with their problems, even if the issue feels very personally specific. Anyone who doesn’t know where to turn, can get in touch with us. If we can’t help them ourselves, we can direct them to someone who can.


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