There is no uniform line in the fight against the corona pandemic at universities. To this day, lectures are held more often in the 3G than in the 2G model. But the high number of cases fades the illusion of a semester in attendance.
The roughly three million students in Germany were often overshadowed by carers, employees and school children in the public discourse on the corona pandemic. Despite record levels of new infections and hospitalization rates among young adults, as well as the obligation to work from home, the public is not very interested in the students. They are one of the many fringe phenomena of the pandemic.
While online teaching via Zoom was used in the last three semesters, most universities in Germany are still insisting on face-to-face teaching in the 3G model in the current winter semester. Opinions among those affected are divided.
The impressions of the last lockdown remind many students too much: loneliness in the shared room, high stress with little variety, the feeling of missing the best time in life – after three semesters in digital lessons, morale has hit rock bottom for many students .
Breakthroughs in vaccinations possible despite 3G model
This is what happens to Franziska (name changed by the editorial team at the request of the protagonist). She studies at the University of Leipzig and has mainly followed her course in front of the laptop. After an internship abroad, she was looking forward to returning to campus at the beginning of October – but then two red stripes tore the 25-year-old from her everyday life. Despite double vaccinations, she tested positive for Covid-19. You can still hear her disappointment today when she says: “I was really looking forward to finally starting another semester with my friends, but unfortunately that didn’t work.”
Franziska’s case shows how quickly a vaccination breakthrough can occur despite 3G regulations. Before she left, she had already taken several quick tests – all of them were negative. The infection can later be traced back to an unvaccinated roommate in her flat share. If the 25-year-old had relied on the first negative test results, she would have been able to take part in all events on campus using her vaccination certificate.
It is only thanks to her persistence that Franziska spends the next two weeks alone in her Leipzig apartment instead of in a lecture hall with hundreds of fellow students. Shortly after the quick test, she informs her lecturers and friends and reports her positive results to the authorities, but the overburdened health department only reports back on the fifth day of her quarantine.
No uniform line at the universities
At Franziska’s University in Leipzig 3G has been in effect since the start of the semester, despite a current seven-day incidence in Saxony of over 1000. Many students see this regulation critically. The vaccination rate at universities is between 85 and 90 percent and thus significantly higher than the overall social average. At the request of the star However, the student representatives from Münster and Leipzig, among others, are in favor of stricter regulations: They see teaching in the hybrid model of presence and digital as a minimum requirement. Since Wednesday, the universities in Bavaria have been relying on an exclusive presence operation for vaccinated and convalescent people across the board. Baden-Württemberg wants to follow next week.
The situation at German universities cannot currently be mapped in a uniform manner. In its Infection Protection Act, the Ampel-Koalition has given the federal states the opportunity to implement necessary protective measures against the coronavirus at “universities, extracurricular adult education institutions or similar institutions” by March 2022. Each university decides for itself how it implements the policy recommendations on face-to-face teaching.
The University Rectors’ Conference, on the other hand, continues to advocate a 3G model. So far, there has been no evidence of a major infection rate at universities. A return to online teaching is therefore currently not an issue, according to a joint statement from last week.
Hybrid events appear unrealistic in many places
Even the hybrid events, which were praised by many in the summer semester, do not seem to be seen as a realistic solution for the most part. In many cases, implementation fails because of the money.
In an interview with the FAZ, the President of the Leibniz University of Hanover, Volker Epping, cites the “multi-million dollar investments” that would have to be made for comprehensive hybrid teaching as an argument against a 2G regulation. Equal opportunities would dictate that unvaccinated students could then at least attend lectures online.
Franziska was also unable to attend university events digitally while in quarantine. The 25-year-old has severe symptoms despite her vaccination. She complains of difficulty breathing, severe headaches and a loss of smell and taste. “I’ve rarely felt so sick. To this day, I’ve had problems taking the stairs to the third floor.” Seven weeks after being infected, she is still on sick leave. Her student part-time job is currently out of the question.
Controls are not taken seriously enough
After the quarantine has ended, she drags herself back to the university for the first time. There, however, your vaccination status is not checked by anyone. Nobody asks whether she is healthy again. The 3G certificates were presented by all students in the first two weeks. Those who missed the meetings can enter the seminar room without further examination.
The cafeteria does not check Franziska’s vaccination status either. She asks and receives a confusing answer: A further check is not necessary, as only university members dine here who have already been checked elsewhere. She stands in the middle of the overcrowded cafeteria and looks for a free space. No one at the university cared that she was sick. And nobody was interested in whether she really recovered or is still contagious. There it is again, that feeling that has haunted many students since the beginning of the pandemic: “Why have we been left so alone?”
Lockdown had psychological consequences for many students
Like most students, Franziska is emotionally divided. On the one hand, she feels a constant fear of infecting other people or of re-infecting herself. On the other hand, she has seen the psychological damage that lockdowns have triggered in young people: “Regardless of whether the people were already emotionally battered or not, this time left its mark on us all. Many of these diseases continue to this day”.
No breaks in the cafeteria with friends, no presentations with casual acquaintances from the seminar, no after-work beer with fellow students after an exam. The pandemic stole the fun of university life from students. After moving out of home, there was no exciting shared apartment experience as a substitute for a family, but emptiness, standstill and fear of the future as soon as you close the screen. Universities are already expecting higher drop-out rates in the next semesters because there are no contact persons who make the performance claim more bearable.
Contact restrictions are threatened again in winter
With the current nationwide development of the corona pandemic, the universities will probably not be able to evade any stricter measures this year, despite all the arguments. Even with stricter controls of the 3G rule, the risk of infections and vaccination breakthroughs in fully occupied lecture halls and buses on the way to the university is simply too high. The universities seem largely unprepared.
In Franziska’s lecture, a professor recently started a survey as to whether the event should continue to take place face-to-face or online. The mood reflects the division among the students. A wafer-thin majority was in favor of a return to digital operations. Only one voice separated the two camps. Franziska has voted for a further presence. However, only if strict 2G + rules and mask requirements are enforced at the university.