Why closing the universities again would be irresponsible
First the students had to stay at home to protect themselves from infection, now there are discussions about canceling face-to-face teaching in order to save energy. The advice given by a college in this context betrays the real horror that lies ahead.
Dhe Humboldtian ideal of education, which, in addition to the unity of research and teaching, also insists on the conditions of freedom and independence, has long been under pressure. The Bologna reform, #ichbinhanna, then the pandemic. In other words: economization, precarization, isolation. And now: the energy crisis.
Because lowering temperatures and switching off hot water and lighting in laboratories, seminar rooms and university corridors may not be enough, some universities are now considering extending the Christmas break into January. If this threat were to come true, the students, who were already under lockdown, would face another phase of retreating into their homes. And thus an increase in economic differences that throw the individual back to their individual starting conditions. Because it still has to be heated, only then not in the library, but in private.
However, there is more to education than handing in a term paper on time via e-mail or, if you want to save energy, by post: dealing with fellow students, the question you only ask when you leave the seminar room, the joke you only make secretly for the person sitting next to you. You won’t win an originality award by stating the following, but that shouldn’t stop you from saying it as often as possible: The closure hits the youth. And youth is the future.
At the beginning of Corona, the call quickly became loud to see the crisis as an opportunity. And in fact, one of the most important achievements of recent years is the realization that you don’t necessarily have to jet around the world for three annual conferences of your own discipline, but that one overseas conference a year may be good for your wallet, your soul and the planet. However, a reinterpretation of this logic as the renunciation of any form of social exchange imposed from the outside would be fatal.
In any case, the energy lockdown will look different than the corona lockdown. The TU Darmstadt, for example, recommends avoiding e-mail attachments and asking yourself whether a video conference is really necessary or whether a classic telephone call would suffice: “Agreements often work perfectly without a face-to-face conversation and save a lot of kWh.”
When it comes to the point where the computers are switched off after the heating and students are no longer even allowed to marvel at their fellow students in a distorted way on the screen, the following survival seminar plan is recommended to those eager for knowledge in self-study with candle and book: Stifter’s “Bergkristall ‘ to learn that coffee warms you from the inside even in the biggest snowstorm, Tieck’s ‘Des Lebens Überfluhung’, which shows that you can burn your wooden staircase in an emergency. And, if all else fails, Moshfegh’s “My Year of Peace and Relaxation” about a protagonist who uses pills to go into months of hibernation. Then the energy consumption is lower than ever.