Current situation at the university
Current situation at the university
Dear Sir or Madam,
Next week, lectures will once again begin for all of us. As you already know, this summer semester will also be entirely digital, which I very much regret. We have no other choice: the third wave of infections has swept across Germany, and the more aggressive mutation of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly. Since vaccinations are being administered at a much slower pace than the rate of infection is increasing, it is foreseeable that public life will be scaled back again very soon – probably in the second half of April.
That the state is now providing the university’s employees who work on site with weekly tests for self-administration by laypersons is a nice gesture. However, only mandatory, professionally administered, closely timed testing would actually increase safety in face-to-face operations. Currently, such testing is not being planned. Therefore, our only option is to ensure infection prevention through the already well-established AHA rules. The hygiene concepts we have practiced diligently have served us well so far. Therefore, I ask that you continue to follow them closely.
Even if it may be difficult at the moment: let us look ahead. Sooner or later, the threat of COVID-19 will be eliminated, hopefully through widespread vaccination this year. It is already a truism that the post-pandemic world will be a different one - socially, politically, economically and technologically. How will this affect the University of Oldenburg?
We all long for bustling life on campus. The fact that we can't meet here at the moment is what has changed the university the most during the pandemic. For you, the students, this loss is particularly hard to bear. During your time at the university, you will not only acquire professional qualifications - you will also meet people, ideas and concepts that will help you grow personally. The experience of your own academic creativity and critical faculties as well as the social experience among your peers will shape you for the rest of your life. Both - creativity and critical faculties - form the most important pillars of science, business and politics in our country. What is true for students is also true for the university as a whole: creativity and critical faculties develop best in a vibrant campus culture.
However, much of what we had to develop and experience during the pandemic, in the university's so-called "special operations", also has potential and opens up entirely new horizons. The home office experience will lead to new forms of flexible work arrangements. The greatest opportunities for the digitilization of the university arise in the realm of teaching. In contrast to research, where the most up-to-date working methods - especially digital ones – are readily adopted, many of our teaching-learning formats have been rather traditional until recently, even if they have been used skilfully. Current laws and regulations further cement this status quo. They urgently need to be readjusted for more digital teaching.
When I was a student, the curriculum largely consisted of teaching formats similar to those that were common at all German universities prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. Since that time, the Bologna reform has streamlined study processes, but teaching formats have only been marginally affected. Today, digital teaching opens up completely new potential for communication between students and teachers, which can enrich the classroom experience. Because digital teaching is independent of location and, in some cases, time, it also opens up new opportunities for current and prospective students: the boundaries between in-person and distance learning, and between full-time and part-time study, are becoming blurred. The boundaries with respect to international study and continuing education can be redrawn as well. This flexibilization of academic structures opens up completely new perspectives, especially for small and medium-sized universities.
I am convinced that the cards in the higher education sector will be reshuffled after the pandemic. In its short history, the University of Oldenburg has repeatedly distinguished itself through creativity, for example in major research topics, in teacher training, in the transfer sector and through the founding of the European Medical School. Today, it should use that same boldness to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital teaching. To further stimulate the university's creativity in this area, the Presidential Board will soon announce a competition inviting ideas on the future of teaching, in line with the university motto “Open to new ways”.
Due to the setbacks in the fight against the coronavirus, the outlook for 2021 may be dim at the moment. Nevertheless, please carry on and, above all, stay healthy. I hope you have a good start into this summer semester!
Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Michael Piper
Dear Sir or Madam,
Just four weeks ago, in a letter from the President on March 2, we informed you that summer semester 2021 would once again be a digital one in light of what appeared to be the beginning of a third wave of infections. The third wave has since arrived throughout Germany. It again poses challenges for the University of Oldenburg as well.
In this e-mail, we would like to inform you about the university’s special operations measures, which continue to apply, and on how the university intends to manage the supply of so-called self-tests for laypersons by the state of Lower Saxony.
Update on the current measures
Against the backdrop of the recent decisions by the federal and state governments on the coronavirus pandemic, the Presidential Board resolved this week to continue the special operations measures currently in place (see Corona website). The order is effective until further notice, but at least until April 30, 2021. The most important measures are recalled here:
- As a matter of principle, the campus, all buildings and rooms of the University of Oldenburg will remain closed.
- Conferences, workshops or other public events by the University of Oldenburg will not take place physically.
- Work-related activities should increasingly, or continue to be, moved to home-based offices via mobile work or telecommuting as much as possible.
- Employees may access and use university rooms and infrastructure in accordance with their authorization using the electronic chip or by borrowing the requisite key from the Service Point. Existing hygiene and safety measures must be adhered to.
- External persons and guests may be welcomed in rooms and buildings of the University of Oldenburg in urgent cases only. Exceptions apply to external individuals carrying out work assignments for the University of Oldenburg in its rooms and buildings.
- Work-related travel is permitted only for compelling reasons that cannot be deferred. Previously granted authorizations for trips commencing on or after December 16, 2020, are revoked.
- Designated student workstations inside and outside the library (including in the areas of the cafeteria at Haarentor Campus and the serving kitchen at Wechloy Campus) are open and accessible for use by students in strict compliance with existing hygiene and safety measures.
Supply of lay self-tests by the university
The Ministry of Science, which oversees the universities in Lower Saxony, informed the university on March 26, 2021 that the state would supply so-called lay self-tests for its employees at short notice. According to the directive, tests may only be issued to state employees working on campus. State employees may take advantage of this offer voluntarily once a week. The receipt of each test must be attested by the employee. The university is responsible for documenting the issuance.
The state does not provide tests to universities for students. The state’s position is grounded, explicitly, on the decree issued by federal government, a lack of funding from the state's Department of Finance, and the opportunity for adults to be tested at least once a week at community testing centers at the expense of healthcare providers. Under these state requirements, the university is not allowed to fund additional lay self-tests for students, even from its own budget. We very much regret this.
The Presidential Board has discussed the current situation with the deans of the Schools in great detail this week. We are convinced that a safe and responsible implementation of the state's decree for universities must take various factors into account:
- The lay self-tests are intended for self-application by employees. Thus, proper test administration and hence the reliability of test results cannot be guaranteed. According to general estimates, test results obtained in this way are erroneous in about 20-30% of cases.
- Even when properly administered, self-tests provide only momentary status information.
- The supply of tests to state employees is voluntary. Mandatory lay self-testing is not intended by the state and is not planned by the university.
- The most important rule for infection control at the university remains compliance with university hygiene and protective measures. These have been very effective over the past 12 months and, to the Presidential Board’s knowledge, have to date prevented infections at the University.
Summarizing these factors, the Presidential Board concludes that offering lay self-tests to state employees in attendance cannot substitute for any hygiene and protection measures for the university. Approved hygiene concepts therefore continue to remain valid and cannot be relaxed by referencing the availability of lay self-tests.
The development of a distribution process for lay self-tests to university employees will take several more days. The responsible offices are diligently working on implementing a system. Further information on the distribution process will be communicated in a timely manner.
We wish you a happy Easter holiday. If possible, please continue to refrain from non-essential social contact during this time. The number of infections is currently rising again on a daily basis.
With best regards,
Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Michael Piper
Vice President for Administration and Finance
Please always adhere to the distance and hygiene rules applying at the university.
If you have been infected, please inform the university. You can find the central contact details under "How should persons who have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and contact persons proceed?"
If you feel ill and are experiencing symptoms of a corona infection, please follow the instructions in "I feel sick and I am showing symptoms of a corona infection. What should I do?"
For the regulations currently in force, please refer to the latest version of the "Explanatory notes on special operation under SARS-CoV-2 conditions". They can be found under "VIII. Files available for download" (German only).
While on university premises, all persons are obliged to comply with the applicable hygiene rules laid out in the "Explanatory notes on special operations."
When organizing university operations, all relevant functions must be maintained. Please note that a situation may arise at any time that would require the reinstatement of special operations, with restrictions on personal presence, or emergency operations in parts or all of the university.
As a result of the decision taken by the Presidential Board on December 15, 2020 to contain the Corona pandemic, the university's internal delivery service has been suspended.
Please pick up your shipments from the Wechloy campus receiving area.
The goods receiving department at Wechloy campus is open during the following hours:
- Monday to Friday: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
- Additionally, Monday to Thursday: 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. (does not apply before holidays)
Room: W3-0-139 (Wechloy)
Current information on data protection when collecting contact data on the basis of the Lower Saxony Corona Ordinance is available here (German only).
Organizational units that collect contact data on the basis of the Lower Saxony Corona Ordinance, please use the template "Corona-VO_kleiner_Datenschutzhinweis_fuer_OE" (see "VIII. Files available for download", German only).
For further information, please see points listed under section VI. at " Information requirements for contact data collection".