Opening strategy for cautious openings after the 3rd wave

We have written a letter to our rector Prof. Rüdiger, urging the rectorate to develop an opening strategy for RWTH (see below).📧

We are concerned about the mental health of students and demand a perspective on university life after the 3rd wave so that we students can at least see a little light at the end of the tunnel.🌻

We would like to see the early development of concepts that can then take effect quickly as soon as the infection situation allows it.📃✅

Dear Professor Dr. Rüdiger,

As a Green university group, we turn to you with the emphatic request to provide for an opening strategy for certain areas of the university. From conversations and surveys with fellow students, we perceive an urgent need for action, as the mental health of students suffers massively after a year in purely digital mode, without any perspective of presence and with the prospect of a third online semester. The feeling of studying in a „vacuum,“ the lack of networking opportunities, the lack of learning spaces and, above all, the lack of exchange with other students during this crucial phase for young people are perceived as a fundamental burden. Surveys show a sharp increase in loneliness, depression and anxiety disorders among students. Conversely, we hear from students in other European countries, such as France, that there, despite high incidence rates, students are allowed limited access to the university (one day per week), which is viewed very positively by students. They prove to be prudent and know how to deal with the opportunities offered to them. We also trust students at our university to have this prudence.

Of course, we are aware that currently in the 3rd wave, major restrictions are still necessary. Nevertheless, we ask/expect that concepts be developed now that can then quickly take effect when the infection event allows it.

We have developed the following suggestions:

Learning rooms: After the 3rd wave has subsided, it could again be possible to open learning rooms and allow small seminars and tutorials to take place in presence. In our opinion, this would contribute significantly to improving the quality of teaching and the efficiency of learning. This opening could be realized with the help of quick tests provided either by the university, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia or the federal government. The procurement of the tests should be regulated in the same way as for schools. These seminars and tutorials could take place in larger rooms, i.e. with more distance and mouth-nose protection, since global exercises and lectures must of course still be taught online.

Ticket system: a ticket system could be reintroduced for the opening of the learning rooms, similar to the one used last summer semester.  This procedure would have the advantage that the same people are always in the learning rooms on each day. Students would scan a QR code at their seat to register, which would automatically capture contact information. This could be executed through the „Luca app“ or through an integrated function in the RWTH app. Vacant rooms such as Audimax, Carl, … could be converted into learning rooms. Furthermore, external rooms (hotels, congress centers) could be rented to expand capacity.

Contact exchange and Ersti groups: In order to re-establish contact with fellow students, which is absolutely essential for successful studies, small „Ersti-Gruppen“ (first-year groups) could be reintroduced in all study programs and all years. The students could register at a „contact exchange“ of the university and would then meet students from the same semester in „thrown together“ small groups under strict consideration of the hygiene measures.

We are looking forward to your response!

Your Green University Group Aachen e.V.

Note: On 27.04.2021 we have a meeting with the rector, where we will talk with him about climate protection and sustainability at the university, but also about our proposals for the opening strategy. If you want to join us, you can contact us here. You can find the link to the meeting with the rector below this post.