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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