The Regensburg canteen’s pantry is full. Rice, potatoes, spaetzle and of course oil, the gold of the moment. “We are already 100% back,” says chef Helmut Meier. Loud murmurs and banging of pans can be heard in the background during a lunchtime phone call. In his district, relatively little has happened in recent semesters. His team was partly on short-time work, sorting pots and doing a big cleanup because suddenly the weather was there. Now something is stirring again. Here, where student energy is evoked in the form of beef roulades and pasta with wild garlic household sauce, to then ruminate on questions of business management and German studies.
Karli Karl, 22, also eats more often in the cafeteria in Regensburg. She is studying biology and chemistry here to become a teacher, starting this Monday in her eighth semester. She knows both: the lines at the start of the semester, all the way to the anteroom, and the happy freshman parties. But also the sadness of the Corona period with its disturbing silence and the canteen so empty that every day felt like a Sunday.
But now, life should resume its course, in Regensburg as in the rest of Bavaria. When classes at the twelve Bavarian universities resume on Monday for around 250,000 students, it should also be the end of a drought period that lasted four semesters. When small student rooms suddenly became individual cells, hidden shopping with friends at the discount became a highlight, and learning became increasingly difficult.
The same goes for Karli Karl, the student from Regensburg. When it became clear that Corona was dragging on, she moved into a shared apartment with two other student teachers. From then on, they sat together in front of the laptop and watched the lectures. If she had to study on her own, she would watch a YouTube video that showed the concentrated atmosphere of a library. “I had to restructure myself,” she says.
In fact, everything should be back to normal during the last fall semester. Then University Minister Bernd Sibler (CSU) called everyone back to campus and won money for bouncy castles and scavenger hunts. The hope that everything would be better was quickly dashed by the number of infections. The greatest informality possible has become 2G. Security guards patrolled the campus and checked the vaccination status of students. Security guards have now canceled or reduced many universities.
From this semester, there is only one rule: when a distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained, an FFP mask must be worn. This is what the universities have agreed among themselves and invoke their domiciliary rights. Sabine Doering-Manteuffel, president of the University of Augsburg and spokesperson for Bavarian universities, advocates a “culture of mutual consideration”. A throwback to the darkest times of the pandemic, “we don’t want that”.
Especially since that would mean in many places: online conferences with black tiles. Bettina Noltenius also knows them, she is vice-president of the University of Passau and teaches criminal law there. It’s “bad” when you talk into a black wall, she says, behind which some people also hide under pseudonyms like “T-Rex”. The feedback is simply missing. “You can’t see what students are recording.”
An experience that Karli Karl also had in Regensburg. She herself teaches first-year students the basics of chemistry. Atoms, Acids, Bases, Periodic Table – and also looked at the black tiles. She doesn’t want to blame her classmates, “but it would have been nice to see some faces,” she says. She can start again from Monday. There should be 20 in her group, she doesn’t know anyone live, “I can’t wait to be there”.
The joy is clouded by the war in Ukraine. Universities should also welcome refugees from there in the least bureaucratic way possible. In many places, researchers are already working in universities through scholarship programs. A retroactive change to the Bavarian Higher Education Act aims to give students uncomplicated access to lecture halls. There is also an emergency fund for Ukrainian students and researchers. Especially in these times, says the new Minister of Science Markus Blume (CSU), the joint study of people from Bavaria, Europe and the whole world is an “indispensable bridge between people”.
“Oh my god, now I have to get up early again.”
To see this on a small scale, Döring-Manteuffel in Augsburg need only look out the office window. From there, she sees the tram emptying towards campus. She has a feeling a lot of people will be going out on Monday, she said. “We are not a distance university and do not want to become one.”
Seventy miles to the northeast, student Karli Karl from Regensburg wonders what it will be like when you can’t open your laptop at 7:58 a.m. but have to get to the amphitheater first. “Oh my God, now I have to get up early again,” she said.
Chef Helmut Meier, on the other hand, sounds like a culinary analyst who sees something interesting coming. It’s “exciting,” he says. Until now, he always knew he could plan 4,000 meals a day. How many will they be now when spring onion soup, baked potatoes, cannelloni and cevapcici are served on Monday? 2000? 3000? “I’m surprised,” he said.