Surprise, questioning, or even quiet desperation can be seen in many faces when students are handed a fistful of ballots at the annual university elections. While voting online will spare us that sight, the need for information remains the same. So here you will find what the various bodies stand for and to what extent students’ voices have an impact.
Four university groups come together at the tables of the Senat (Senate) and the Fakultätsräte (Faculty Councils): professors, academic staff, students, and non-academic staff. However, their power is distributed unevenly: While professors hold the absolute majority of the seats in each body, students get barely a fifth of the total number. Alongside the university bodies mentioned above, there are the student bodies: Studierendenrat (Student Council) and Fachschaftsräte (Student Faculty Councils). In these, students are basically among their own, but that means their decision power is limited to themselves, too.
In the Senat, deputies of professors, staff, and students deliberate and decide on fundamental university matters. They have the final say when it comes to opening or closing academic programmes or appointing a new professor to a chair. In general terms, this is the place where future plans are negotiated. Fakultätsräte deal with programme and examination specifications, admission procedures, suggesting candidates for professorships, and maintaining course offerings. Whenever a professorship is to be renewed, the respective Fakultätsrat elects the members of the appointment committee. These committee members may include professors, staff, and students who have not been elected into the Fakultätsrat.
The Studierendenrat (or “Stura”) and the Fachschaftsräte are bodies of the Studierendenschaft, a legal entity to which all students of a university belong unless they have declared their withdrawal. Besides dealing with higher education policy, these student bodies shall represent the cultural, social, study field related, and economic interests of their members. This means, on the one hand, that they are functioning as a student voice towards the university, state-level politicians, and the general public. On the other hand, they offer practical help, for example through legal counselling, an emergency fund, and a childcare room. Moreover, they organise events and sponsor student projects. Fachschaftsräte offer assistance and mediation in case of study-related issues, too. They are the bodies of the Fachschaften (Student Faculties), subdivisions of the Studierendenschaft, which are however not always corresponding to the faculty structure. For both traditional and practical reasons, there can be more than one Fachschaft within one faculty, or a single Fachschaft can include students from more than one faculty. The Stura of 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 directors.
Within some Fachschaften, so-called Institutsgruppen (Institute Groups) have emerged. These sub-faculty assemblies are not recognised as student bodies but can be likened to student work groups which are sponsored by their respective Fachschaftsrat. If there exists an Institutsgruppe in your department, you will elect its members on a separate occasion.
For each body you have a several votes, that is, you can vote for more than one person. If the ballots offer enough options to choose from, proportional voting applies. While you give your votes to individual people, in the counting process the total number of votes for each list will determine how many seats that list will occupy. The candidates with the most votes within each list are prioritised. However, if there is no more than one list on the ballot, or if the number of persons on the ballot does not exceed the number of your votes, plurality voting applies. In this case, all that counts is the number of votes for each candidate. If there are fewer persons on the ballot than the number of your votes, you may write eligible persons in the blank fields.
What makes the Stura election a little extra tricky is that it is split into two separate ballots. One ballot lists university-wide candidates who will fill half of the available seats. The other ballot features candidates who run for your election district and who will fill the share of the remaining seats reserved for this district, which encompasses either one large or several smaller Fachschaften.
This year’s elections include the equity officers of the university as a whole, of each faculty, and of the uni’s central facilities. Their job is to promote equal opportunities as far as gender is concerned. For this purpose, they offer individual counselling as well as advice within the structures and bodies of the university, they provide information and they have a vote in appointment committees. All members of the university regardless of their gender are eligible to become an equity officer, however only female members (professors, students, and staff) may vote. As a new rule, equity officers are no longer directly elected, but through the intermediary stage of an electoral college for each office. Female university members elect up to twelve members into these colleges.
The university has a number of other officers and counselling services for various aspects of equal participation, but none of these persons is elected by universal suffrage. Instead, they are appointed either by the Senate or the Rectorate.
If voting once a year is not enough for you, you may want to run for office yourselves. In order to appear on the ballot, you can form a list on your own or together with other persons. This list is officially known as “Wahlvorschlag”, which translates as “voting suggestion”. The deadline for this year’s election has already passed, but just so you know: The application forms need at least three valid signatures from supporters and must arrive in time (about three to four weeks) before the election date at the university’s Wahlamt (election office) or at the Stura’s Wahlausschuss (election committee), depending on which body you are running for. These places will also answer your questions on the election procedures. Candidate lists may or may not use a catchphrase, and may or may not be loosely affiliated to a political party. In some Fachschaftsräte, politically inclined members are rather uncommon, while most candidates running for the Stura or the Senate tend to join a list with some proximity to a party.
- Wahlausschuss of MLU Stura: https://www.hochschulwahl.info/english/
- Wahlamt of MLU: https://wisswei.verwaltung.uni-halle.de/wahlen/
- This year’s university elections will take place online between December 7th, 10 am and December 15th, 3 pm. Log into the Löwenportal and look for “Online-Wahlen”.
- Are you currently enrolled in a preparatory class at the Landesstudienkolleg? Then you may vote in the elections of the Studierendenrat and the Fachschaftsrat of Neuphilologien (Modern Languages). However, you can’t participate in the elections of the university bodies or equity officers.
- Unfortunately, most of the information concerning the election are available in German only. As always, if you have questions or problems of any kind, you can contact the Stura’s office for international students: https://www.stura.uni-halle.de/referat-fuer-internationale-studierende/
- You can also write to us, the hastuzeit editors – your issue or idea might just make it in a future article.
Translated and adapted from the original German article by the author.