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. 

Illustration: Arno Grabolle

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. 

Illustration: Konrad Dieterich
Changing sides 

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:
  • Wahlamt of MLU: 
  • 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:
  • 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. 

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