Markus Wolf is studying sports as well as economics and law to become a teacher. He has been advocating for his fellow students since his third semester.
How long have you been involved in student committees?
In my third semester, I was an elected member of the Student Council (StuRa) for three years, one year of which I was also on the board. Currently I am in an advisory position for the StuRa, because I am also in other committees of the University, e.g. as a student senator. At the same time, I was also a member of the Departmental Student Council (FSR) for sports science. There we were ten members at that time. I also did that for three years. As a member of the FSR you represent the interests of the students vis-à-vis the institute or the faculty – as a Student Council member, I represented the interests of all students.
In principle, I want to advocate for the interests of students, as long as they are in accordance with the law and not driven by ideology. I would not commit myself to extremist, discriminatory or racist attitudes or demands. I want to exercise student participation rights so that the University and students can pull together and mutual understanding can be built. Actually, it is also always the case that the University has an open ear for the problems of the students, but they have to know them first – that's what the student representatives like me are for. Besides, I have a lot of fun! If I didn't enjoy committee work, I wouldn't do it.
What are your specific tasks in the various committees?
In the Departmental Student Council, I directly organized something for the students of the degree programmes. For example, events for the University's information day. The Departmental Student Council is also accountable to the Student Council because it receives money from them for certain activities.
In the Faculty Council, I was often in exchange with the Dean of our faculty to debate current problems and exchange ideas. The bigger a faculty is, the more student representatives can get a seat. That's how I got in – I was directly elected in the committee elections.
That's also how I became a student senator. Every enrolled person has the opportunity to run. All four status groups are represented in the Senate to varying degrees: the teaching staff, i.e. professors (13 seats), then employees from technology and administration (four seats), academic employees (four seats) and the students (four seats). The Senate is a particularly important body of the University.
There are several commissions and working groups in the Senate to which student representatives can be delegated. There are public and non-public meetings. For example, non-public meetings are held when a decision is to be made on who will receive a call to our University. People-related topics are also mostly non-public, for example when it comes to employment contracts. Discussions about plans for the future or about mandatory masks and face-to-face teaching – these are topics that are negotiated in public. I have experienced the processes in the Faculty Council in a similar way, with the difference that the Faculty Council makes decisions for the faculty and not for the entire University. The Faculty Council makes recommendations for calls to the Senate, which then makes the final decision.
At Student Council meetings, there are also non-public portions because staff is also employed there and protection of personal information takes precedence here. At such meetings, the budget must also be decided. The Student Council receives a certain percentage of the semester fee for its work. This is approximately between 7 and 11 euros. With this money, it can support student activities or campaigns.
How do you connect with the students you represent on each committee?
When you speak for the students in the Student Council, you do not only speak for the students of one department or degree programme, as you do as a member of the Departmental Student Council, but for all students of the respective faculty. For example, at that time I represented the students of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. This faculty can currently send eight members to the Student Council. This depends on the size of the degree programmes or the number of students in a faculty.
This means that you represent several degree programmes and not only your own. The Departmental Student Councils of the degree programmes often help, because they know the problems of the students and pass this information on to the Student Council representatives. The Student Council also receives many messages from students via social media. University groups also give us important feedback. We also receive many concerns and problems via the Student Councils Executive Board's e-mail address. Sometimes I'm also simply approached directly when I'm walking around campus. So it's very diverse.
What feedback do you get from fellow students?
I get a lot of feedback from the elections. The term of office for student representatives is limited to one year because there is naturally a very high fluctuation here. If you are re-elected, which was the case for me, then that is a sign for me that my work was well received. If you can also double or triple your election results, it shows that your work is noticed and meets with people's approval. It's a bit like state and federal politics. Especially during the Corona pandemic, I received a lot of positive feedback for my work. After Senate meetings, I always sat down and informed the student body of new resolutions so they could plan their semesters. It was and is important to me to inform the students about what is currently being done in the university for our everyday university life.
How can the opportunities for students to participate in decision-making be further improved?
Reducing bureaucracy and reacting faster – that would already be a big improvement in the already existing structures. Important decisions that affect students are communicated too late: Adjustments to the degree programme regulations, for example, or information about the Friedolin 2.0 project reached students too late. The digitalisation of the University must be advanced more quickly overall.
In my view, declining participation is a problem for society as a whole. There are those who say that committee work should be remunerated. But if you only do it for the money and not out of your own motivation, I think it will be difficult. Every cohort is also different – some cohorts are more committed than others. You could certainly do some studies on that.
Finally, I would like to say to all students: Use your voting rights! You can create a better study environment.
Thank you very much for the interview!
The interview was held by Irena Walinda.