Hello and welcome to the news podcast of Radio Dauerwelle. I am Kathi and here are the news from July 17th.
On July 8th the presidential election took place at the Goethe University. But right before the election were held, some issues occurred. That’s why I’m talking to Jakob today about the process and the problems of the election.
Jakob, can you summarize again what happened in the run-up?
J: Well, it all started with only two candidates being accepted for election by the university council. Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff, former Vice President and Professor of Plant Molecular Cell Biology and our acting President and economist Birgitta Wolff. This triggered harsh criticism from the professors and students. There were in fact two other candidates who stood for election but were not admitted to the election by the University Council. Prof. Dr. Jan Palmowski and Prof. Dr. Holger Horz. Especially the fact that Holger Horz had not been admitted by the University Council was incomprehensible to many, because he would have had been very qualified for the office.
K: Why would Horz be suitable in your eyes?
J: In his research he focuses, for example, on digital learning, which is actually very appropriate for the current Corona period, and he’s the dean of the Department 05 Psychology at Goethe University, so he’s also familiar with committee work and is well networked at the university.
K: Okay, but why wasn’t he admitted then?
J: Yes that’s a good question. In an interview with the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), he expressed the suspicion, quote: „that his desire to change the position of the university council was a reason why he was not admitted to the election. It had been a „strategic mistake“ on his part to antagonize the chairman of the university council, Matthias Kleiner, with such considerations.“
K: Wait a minute: The University Council is an external body at the Goethe University, which isn’t democratically elected, but still has quite a lot of power at the university. Tobias from Radio Dauerwelle had reported in the penultimate broadcast about how the university council is structured.
J: Yes, the selection of candidates for the university council and the university council itself are pretty controversial anyway.
K: What exactly do you mean by „controversial“?
J: The last two presidential elections were already problematic. In the 2008 election, for example, only a single candidate was admitted to the election by the university council – former vice-president and professor of medicine Werner Müller-Esterl. Two other candidates were not admitted.
And when Wolff was elected in 2014 we had a similar debacle back then when the university council did not allow a university internal candidate. The professors then called for a boycott of the election and in protest they cast invalid votes. Yes, and exactly the same thing happened this time. Must have been quite a déjà-vu experience for Brigitta Wolf.
J: So 34 members of the General Senate in which the students have 6 votes and the professors have 18 votes. In the first round of voting there was no clear result and 14 ballots were cast invalid. The protest I mentioned. Then there was another vote. In the second ballot 13 invalid votes were cast. After this election there was a one hour arrangement. Wolff decided to leave the party. In the third ballot, now with Schleiff as the only candidate, he got 18 of 34 votes and thus only one vote more than needed. 16 votes were invalidly cast. He will thus become the new president of Goethe University. His six-year term of office begins on 1 January 2021.
K: What does the change mean for us students? What can we expect from Schleiff’s term of office?
J: In his introduction speech he spoke out for more digitalisation – not really something new, clustering of study courses and an excellent Goethe University – what exactly that means, I can’t tell.
K: Thanks for this interesting insight, Jakob.
J: You’re welcome.
Kathi: The semester break is coming up. Therefore, our reporter Helene asked students for their review of the digital corona semester.
Helene: The online semester is coming to an end. Even if the semester does not count on paper, it was a challenge for many. The humanities could restructure relatively easily. Literature and reading was checked weekly through question-answer sheets, which sometimes meant more effort than before.
Student voice: I thought, well yes, I don’t have to go there anymore. I save time by having to travel, even though the distance to uni is not that long. In fact I found it much more stressful than the last few semesters. The lecturers have absolute different expectations and need proof that you have read the texts, because they simply can’t rely on your constant participation. That’s going to be a lot, so for the next semester I have to remember that I have to attend fewer seminars, because it’s going to be a lot, because you have to write a lot, and the constant submissions of papers just isn’t much fun.
H: In art history, many lecturers were very lenient, when it came to the size of the seminars, so that instead of the usual 35, there were now sometimes 80 to 100 students in a zoom seminar. Which in itself was no problem, as long as all those present adhered to rules such as „microphone off“ and „video on“. In the natural sciences, on the other hand, some lab internships were cancelled. Some lecturers did not participate in zoom meetings and distributed tasks via email, which were to be solved with the help of the internet or YouTube tutorials. Student assistants and tutors also had a difficult time this semester. A quick restructuring of the seminar structure and many black screens made the online seminars seem very impersonal.
Student voice: Due to the online teaching and tutorials, this semester was very different than usual. The arrangement with the lecturer was more difficult. The seminar had to be structured completely differently. That made a lot more work for me, because – I don’t know if that was because of personal inhibitions – but the flow of the conversations were much worse. Well, I think that many students are simply inhibited to speak on Zoom, and in addition the silence is much more difficult to bear. When you sit in the room with everyone else, it’s really something else again. You can see that they are perhaps reading something and therefore not saying anything yet. And on Zoom it’s mainly like that, that you look at some black screens and some faces and you’re not really sure. You sit alone in your living room and because it simply offers much more distraction than the university. I find it hard to believe, because that’s how I feel as a student, and this common physicality, this common presence is simply missing. I would not have thought that this makes such a difference.
Helene: Many students felt lonely and had the impression that some lecturers had not adapted their seminars enough to the online teaching. Also exchange and discussion were not enough or were made more difficult. It is hardly possible for students to prepare themselves for such an exceptional situation. Above all, even though one got used to all the adjustments, social contacts and campus life were still missing. Many students find that studying is not just about acquiring knowledge or secondary literature – many missed meeting fellow students or visiting the office hours of the lecturers in person. Some even missed the canteen food.
Student voice: I thought that the exchange with students and the discussions were clearly missing. I had the feeling that many people simply didn’t have the courage to get involved in the way they would otherwise do in face-to-face studies. I also don’t have the feeling that I somehow know or can assess my fellow students now, despite the relatively small courses, or that I would recognize them on the street. Well, I have to say that thanks to Corona I actually realized how nice campus life was and how well we were all doing. And we only caused the problems ourselves. And when I’m back on campus, I’ll definitely give everyone a big kiss. I don’t have a routine anymore either. I live for the day. That’s terrible. Give my best to everyone. and when we’re reunited, share the love.
H: Nevertheless – the corona semester and the forced digitalisation, which is discussed by many, also brings good things with it. A digital step forward and, above all, greater inclusion in terms of the scope of university teaching. All things that should not be cut back after this pandemic.
That was a contribution from Helene.
[Sound of protests]
This is how most people know the sound of protest: loud, pushy and somehow angry. But it can also sound completely different: contemplative, meditative and yet still stirring and penetrating. The exhibition „Hum“ at Portikus in Frankfurt shows this. Since this week, visitors can listen to and experience a sound installation of hummed protest songs by Hajra Waheed. Florine and Jonny have listened more closely for Radio Dauerwelle.
Jonny: In the small hallway of Portikus, directly behind the entrance door, you can hear the exhibition: a piercing humming and melodies reminiscent of church chants and meditations. In order to fully engage with it, one should walk barefoot through the exhibition space as if one were at home. The small exhibition hall is covered with a soft carpet; 16 small black speakers hang from the ceiling. The room is kept simple, but bright and inviting. In addition, the melodies of the protest are heard at times more quiet, at times more riveting. From each of the speakers a slightly different sound can be heard. One feels surrouned and captivated by the melodies. Depending on where you stand, you can hear a person’s breathing or the cracking of a microphone between the different voices. The sounds are touching, thrilling and leave a pleasant feeling. But they also encourage reflection and have a lamenting character. A feeling of closeness and solidarity with the humming people is created, as if you were standing side by side with the protesters. The hummed songs come from the so-called Global South. The artist Hajra Waheed wants to draw attention to melodies that we do not know in Western Europe. In her cross-media works, Waheed deals with post-colonial, anti-racist and other socio-political issues of the Global South. The curator of Portikus, Christina Lehnert, tells how the artist has found an access to these themes through her own life.
Christina Lehnert: It stems from her biography. She was born in Canada as the daughter of first-generation Indian immigrants and then grew up in Saudi Arabia. Even as a child, she dealt with restrictions, migration, and alienation.
J: Waheed collected the hummed protest and lamentation songs in Africa, South, Central and West Asia. The authors of these songs and their stories are presented in a small biography booklet at the exhibition. The humming makes the protest of these individuals more accessible to all listeners. The sounds seem to be independent from the individual stories and are therefore universally accessible. The artist does not only want to show a different form of protest, but a different protesting culture.
Christina Lehnert: That means she has decidedly – also because she is a part of it – referred to texts and songs by people from the Global South. Through this humming there is a greater sense of solidarity, because these people have always rebelled and are now going to overpower politics. And to see this as a unity, that the people have always resisted and were also sanctioned. How difficult it is to have a voice and use it, is something we do not know here.
J: The quite simple and at the same time powerful sound installation especially impresses with its personal touch. The artist consciously plays with the perception of the visitors and thus opens up space for their own impressions. In this way, the exhibition also shows a constat current theme, as there are the worldwide protests of the Black Lives Matter movement and similar demonstrations. The press and communications manager of the Städelschule, Mira Starke, has described her visit to the exhibition as follows:
Mira Starke: Just as the buzzing is done with the whole body, it is also absorbed with the whole body. And it fits very well into the beautiful architecture of Portikus. And I was lucky to have the room all to myself for a while and it was very moving and a goose-pimple feeling.
That was a report by Jonny and Florine. Admission to Portikus is free and the exhibition runs until September 6, 2020. A small fun fact: the title of the exhibition ‚Hum‘ also means ‚we‘ in Urdu. How appropriate, isn’t it?
That was the news from Radio Dauerwelle. The news editors wishes you a nice time without lectures and good luck with your exams.