Unaffected by pri­va­cy con­cerns, the stu­dent coun­cil is going along with the date and method set by the uni­ver­si­ty for their cam­pus elec­tions. Here is what the polls are about and what to keep an eye on.

“Online elec­tions are crap”, said Johannes Kohl from the poli­ti­cal cam­pus group Offene Linke Liste, voi­cing his con­cern. According to him, the stu­dent facul­ty coun­cil of Maths/Informatics had pre­vious­ly ela­bo­ra­ted on why voting through an online ser­vice pro­vi­der was “a real­ly stu­pid idea”. He added that elec­tions on federal, sta­te, and local levels were still being held on bal­lot papers for a rea­son. And he belie­ved that this year, with the pan­de­mic waning, they were accep­t­ing the inherent pri­va­cy issu­es without necessity.

However, Johannes fai­led to con­vin­ce anyo­ne in the stu­dent coun­cil mee­ting on 27 February to oppo­se hol­ding joint­ly orga­nis­ed elec­tions of the stu­dent uni­on and the uni­ver­si­ty. While some coun­cil mem­bers ack­now­led­ged his con­cerns, the­re just see­med to be no fea­si­ble alter­na­ti­ve. For their gover­ning bodies, Martin Luther University had alrea­dy com­mit­ted to online voting once again, alt­hough they plan to chan­ge from Polyas to some other ser­vice pro­vi­der. Consequently, the stu­dent union’s elec­tion com­mit­tee would have been sole­ly in char­ge of orga­ni­sing an on-site elec­tion with paper bal­lots, prin­ted elec­to­ral lists, sea­led bal­lot boxes, a num­ber of pol­ling sites, optio­nal pos­tal voting, and many volunteers.

With 21 votes in favour, one against, and no absten­ti­ons, the stu­dent coun­cil deci­ded to join the stu­dent union’s elec­tions with the university’s online elec­tions. Even so, the council’s pre­si­ding spo­kes­men, Anton Borrmann and Jan-Niklas Reiche, want to pro­po­se that the uni­ver­si­ty return to the con­ven­tio­nal voting method next year.

The diagram shows which students are eligible to vote for which body.
At a glance: Who can vote for whom
Diagram: Konrad Dieterich

Once a Year …

… the stu­dent mem­bers in the bodies cal­led Senat (sena­te), Fakultätsrat (facul­ty coun­cil), Studierendenrat (stu­dent coun­cil), and Fachschaftsrat (facul­ty stu­dent coun­cil) are elec­ted anew. This year’s voting will take place from 30 May to 7 June 2023. There is a bene­fit in orga­ni­sing it online: As pol­ling can pro­ceed with hard­ly any staff, it can stay open for a lon­ger peri­od. Now, what are the­se bodies for and how exact­ly do the elec­tions take place?

In German, “Gremium” can refer to a board, gover­ning body, or com­mit­tee, and deno­tes an asso­cia­ti­on or a col­la­bo­ra­ti­on of peop­le with the pur­po­se of ful­fil­ling cer­tain tasks or taking cer­tain decisi­ons. At MLU the­re are uni­ver­si­ty bodies and stu­dent bodies — the sena­te and nine facul­ty coun­cils belong to the uni­ver­si­ty. In each of them, several sta­tus groups come tog­e­ther: pro­fes­sors, aca­de­mic staff, stu­dents, and non-aca­de­mic staff (for examp­le, admi­nis­tra­ti­ve or libra­ry employees). The term of stu­dent mem­bers is one year; depu­ties of the other groups are elec­ted every two or four years.

Student bodies — the stu­dent coun­cil and stu­dent facul­ty coun­cils — are elec­ted and fil­led exclu­si­ve­ly by mem­bers of the stu­dent uni­on. This means that all enrol­led stu­dents are eli­gi­ble as long as they have paid their stu­dent uni­on fee of 11.95 Euro, which is usual­ly inclu­ded in the semes­ter fee.
Within the bodies, some cam­pus groups repre­sent poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­ti­ons, pro­vi­de nomi­nees, and unite poli­ti­cal­ly moti­va­ted stu­dents. On the bal­lot slips the­se cam­pus groups can be reco­gnis­ed by their names. However, not all nomi­na­ti­on lists can be attri­bu­t­ed to a par­ti­san poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­ti­on and the­re is no need to be affi­lia­ted to any cam­pus group in order to run as a nominee.

Lost (& Found) in Translation

Studierendenschaft (f.) is often trans­la­ted as “stu­dent body”, as it gene­ral­ly means the ent­i­re group of stu­dents wit­hin a par­ti­cu­lar uni­ver­si­ty, or even bey­ond. However, the trans­la­tor sett­led on “stu­dent uni­on” becau­se a Verfasste Studierendenschaft is a legal enti­ty atta­ched to its uni­ver­si­ty, as con­sti­tu­ted in the Higher Education Acts of most German sta­tes, and stu­dents are mem­bers of it. This choice of words should also help avoid the ambi­gui­ty of “body”, which can refer both to a lar­ge group of peop­le and a gover­ning orga­ni­sa­ti­on with dedi­ca­ted tasks.

Elected Uni Bodies

The sena­te is the hig­hest decisi­on-making body of the uni­ver­si­ty. Its tasks inclu­de deci­ding on stu­dy and exami­na­ti­on regu­la­ti­ons, the draft bud­get, and coope­ra­ti­on agree­ments — it deter­mi­nes all fun­da­men­tal mat­ters of the uni­ver­si­ty. Plans on the future direc­tion of the uni­ver­si­ty, which come down to cut­ting cour­ses and chairs, have been adop­ted by the sena­te in the past year, too. For spe­ci­fic tasks, the sena­te has estab­lis­hed several com­mis­si­ons. Meanwhile, many other orga­ni­sa­tio­nal issu­es are with­in the aut­ho­ri­ty of the rector’s office, which ser­ves as the exe­cu­ti­ve body of the university.

Tasks of a facul­ty coun­cil inclu­de for examp­le pro­po­sing new pro­fes­sors for vacant chairs as well as deci­ding on stu­dy and exami­na­ti­on regu­la­ti­ons wit­hin their respec­ti­ve area of disci­pli­nes. Meanwhile, many other orga­ni­sa­tio­nal issu­es are wit­hin the aut­ho­ri­ty of the deans’ offices, which ser­ve as the exe­cu­ti­ve body of the faculties.

Both in the sena­te and in the facul­ty coun­cils, seats are allo­ca­ted to the university’s mem­ber groups in a fixed ratio. This ensu­res a majo­ri­ty for pro­fes­sors, while stu­dents and aca­de­mic staff each recei­ve just short of a sixth of the seats, and non-aca­de­mic staff clo­se to a twelfth. An abso­lu­te majo­ri­ty of seats and votes for pro­fes­sors is sti­pu­la­ted in the Higher Education Act of Saxony-Anhalt and has been repeated­ly cri­ti­cis­ed by the other mem­ber groups as unde­mo­cra­tic, most recent­ly during the stu­dent ple­na­ry mee­ting on 27 June 2022.

Depiction of the voting ratio in the MLU senate
In the sena­te of the uni­ver­si­ty, the rec­tor, 14 pro­fes­sors, 4 aca­de­mic staff mem­bers, 4 stu­dents, 2 non-aca­de­mic staff mem­bers, and the equi­ty offi­cer have seats with voting rights. Other per­sons who take part in the ses­si­ons without voting rights are not shown here.
Diagram: Konrad Dieterich

Elected Student Bodies

The Studierendenrat (stu­dent coun­cil, often refer­red to as Stura), and the Fachschaftsräte (stu­dent facul­ty coun­cils) are bodies repre­sen­ting pure­ly stu­dent inte­rests. Much like facul­ties are orga­ni­sa­tio­nal sub­di­vi­si­ons of the uni­ver­si­ty, the Studierendenschaft (stu­dent uni­on) is com­pri­sed of Fachschaften. These stu­dent facul­ties rough­ly cor­re­spond to the facul­ties or elec­to­ral are­as of the uni­ver­si­ty, with some varia­ti­ons. As mem­bers of the stu­dent uni­on, stu­dents are mem­bers of a Fachschaft, too.

Within some of the­se stu­dent facul­ties, insti­tu­te groups have emer­ged; the­se are, howe­ver, no offi­cial bodies of the stu­dent uni­on and are more akin to stu­dent working groups sup­por­ted by their respec­ti­ve stu­dent facul­ty coun­cil. They will not be on the bal­lot in the elections.

Beyond repre­sen­ting their mem­bers’ inte­rests in the field of hig­her edu­ca­ti­on poli­cy, the bodies of the stu­dent uni­on are sup­po­sed to address the aca­de­mic, social, and finan­cial needs and issu­es of their mem­bers. In other words, not only do they act as a stu­dent mouth­pie­ce to the uni­ver­si­ty, sta­te poli­ti­ci­ans, and the gene­ral public, but they also assist with prac­ti­cal issu­es, such as legal advice and other forms of coun­sel­ling, a hardship fund, and a child­ca­re room. In addi­ti­on, they orga­ni­se events and acti­vi­ties and spon­sor pro­jects of stu­dents. Student facul­ty coun­cils offer assi­s­tance and inter­ven­ti­on in case of spe­ci­fic stu­dy-rela­ted pro­blems, too.

Both the stu­dent coun­cil and the stu­dent facul­ty coun­cils are ent­i­re­ly com­po­sed of stu­dents who are mem­bers of the stu­dent uni­on. Half of the repre­sen­ta­ti­ves in the stu­dent coun­cil are elec­ted at-lar­ge, with nomi­nees from the stu­dent uni­on as a who­le, whe­re­as the other half are deter­mi­ned through elec­to­ral con­sti­tu­en­ci­es con­sis­ting of one or more stu­dent facul­ties. For spe­ci­fic tasks, the stu­dent coun­cil elects a num­ber of spo­kes­per­sons and can also appoint offi­cers and estab­lish working groups which are open to non-elec­ted students.

The Stura of the MLU, tog­e­ther with three more stu­dent coun­cils (of Burg Giebichenstein, Merseburg, and Anhalt), exerts some influ­ence on the Studentenwerk Halle. This public orga­ni­sa­ti­on offers a ran­ge of stu­dent ser­vices in the regi­on, inclu­ding cafe­te­ri­as and dor­mi­to­ries. Each Stura gets to appoint one of the stu­dent mem­bers in the Studentenwerk’s board of administration.


The Landesstudienkolleg (pre­pa­ra­to­ry col­le­ge of Saxony-Anhalt) is an edu­ca­tio­nal insti­tu­ti­on pro­vi­ding inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents with addi­tio­nal know­ledge and skills pri­or to their regu­lar enrolm­ent. Collegians can­not par­ti­ci­pa­te in the university’s elec­tions for sena­te and the facul­ty coun­cils. They can, howe­ver, run for a seat in the Studierendenrat and the Fachschaftsrat of Neuphilologien/Studienkolleg, and cast their votes, too. By the time they come into office, the elec­ted nomi­nees will be no lon­ger in the Studienkolleg but can still repre­sent the inte­rests of the new Collegians. Hence it makes most sen­se to run if they plan to enrol at MLU.

The diagram shows in a table-like manner how the faculties and their electoral areas differ from the electoral constituencies of the student council and the student faculties.
The Fachschaften (stu­dent facul­ties) and the elec­to­ral con­sti­tu­en­ci­es of the Stura (stu­dent coun­cil) do not necessa­ri­ly cor­re­spond to the facul­ties and their elec­to­ral are­as.
Diagram: Konrad Dieterich

This will Happen Next

Notices of Election issued by the uni­ver­si­ty and the stu­dent uni­on give detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on on the pre­pa­ra­ti­on and fur­ther steps of the cam­pus elec­tions. Here are the key points in brief:

Voters are auto­ma­ti­cal­ly regis­tered. They can con­firm their eli­gi­bi­li­ty (Wahlberechtigung) through the self-ser­vice Löwenportal. This is par­ti­cu­lar­ly rele­vant if stu­dents are invol­ved with more than one facul­ty or elec­to­ral area based on their com­bi­na­ti­on of courses.

From mid-May, accep­ted nomi­na­ti­on lists for the various bodies are announ­ced. The lists will be pos­ted in several pla­ces of the uni­ver­si­ty as well as on the web­sites of the stu­dent union’s elec­tion com­mit­tee and the university’s elec­tion office.

“Mahlowat”: The Stura has pre­pa­red an elec­tion com­pass to help voters find a cam­pus group that matches their inte­rest. It should be con­si­de­red that the pro­po­si­ti­ons can­not cover all topics and that the­re are can­di­da­tes on the bal­lot that do not belong to any of the fea­tured cam­pus groups. Therefore, it may be a good idea to take the results of the com­pass with a grain of salt. 

25 May, 6:30 pm to ca. 8:00 pm: The “Löwenrunde”, a public pre­sen­ta­ti­on by the stu­dent council’s elec­tion com­mit­tee, gives an over­view of the upco­m­ing cam­pus elec­tion. Furthermore, cam­pus groups pre­sent their topics in a panel dis­cus­sion which is open to con­tri­bu­ti­ons from the audi­ence. The event takes place in hall XXIII (Audimax) but is also live-strea­med and sub­se­quent­ly avail­ab­le as a record­ing

30 May, 10:00 am to 7 June 2023, 3:00 pm: Elections. After log­ging into the Löwenportal, stu­dents can cast their votes online for both the university’s and the stu­dent union’s bodies. The bal­lots will indi­ca­te how many votes the eli­gi­ble voter can cast for the respec­ti­ve body. It is pos­si­ble to split the votes on more than one nomi­na­ti­on list and to cast up to two votes for one per­son. The bal­lot will be inva­lid if more than the admis­si­ble num­ber of votes are cast. Should the­re be not enough can­di­da­tes run­ning for a par­ti­cu­lar body to choo­se from, names of eli­gi­ble stu­dents may be ent­e­red in the pro­vi­ded fields.

1 September 2023: The term for the elec­ted stu­dent mem­bers of the sena­te and the facul­ty coun­cils begins. It is star­ting on 1 October for the stu­dent coun­cil, and on various days for the stu­dent facul­ty councils.

Text: Konrad Dieterich, Renja-Arlene Dietze
Translation: Konrad Dieterich
Featured image: Marlene Nötzold

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