Athene Awards for excellence in teaching 2022

On November 23, 2022, Day of Teaching was once again held, followed by the presentation of the Athene Award for excellence in Teaching. This year, Svenja Kernig was able to give students a voice in her speech.

Dear audience,

thank you very much for the introduction. My name is Svenja Kernig and I have the pleasure of speaking to you as the student representative of the SL – although unfortunately in a different way than is normally the case. Student speeches have always been an important part of the Day of Teaching. I am glad that there will be such a speech again this year, albeit only at the request of the student SL members.

February 24, 2022 represents a watershed moment for us in Europe. The Russian attack on Ukraine has changed a lot for all of us. We feel the effects every day. For over 270 days, a war has been going on in Europe.

It is also having an impact on students. In addition to the still raging Corona pandemic, we now face the strain of war. Not only through daily frightening news and pictures, but also economically we feel the war every day. Recently, the Federal Statistical Office published that over 40% of students are at acute risk of poverty. And in the summer an evaluation of the German Parity Welfare Association showed that a third of all students are living under the poverty border. With rising inflation, this number is increasing daily. Although the federal government has announced one-time support for students, 200€ will unfortunately not be enough. The increase in heating and electricity costs alone will completely eat up this one-time support. Students need more than a one-time 200€ to be able to finance their studies!

In addition to the question of financing the studies, there is also the question of the place of learning. At other universities, such as Koblenz University of Applied Sciences, the return to digital teaching has already been announced. Although this was absolutely targeted during times of very high infection rates, a return to purely online teaching does not make sense now. Tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 24, at 12 p.m., we students will protest – for better funding for the university, better pay for all employees, higher immediate payments to students, and a university that is an open place of learning. I urge all of you to join us. Together, we can give a loud voice to our demands.

But other crises are also of great concern to us students. Current data from the field of climate research shows that we are heading toward a catastrophe with our eyes wide open. If we continue to live and act as we have so far, we will no longer be able to reach the 1.5 degree target. All of this presents a challenge to us students, but also to the university. We can shy away from it and continue as before – or we can take action.

The TU Darmstadt has the claim to research, teach and educate for the future. It urgently needs to live up to this claim. Whether political science or material science, chemistry or pedagogy, architecture or even the teaching profession – there should be content on the topic of sustainability and climate protection in all courses of study. No one should hide behind the fact that these are cross-cutting issues. This content must be explicit.

As a university, the TU Darmstadt is a place of progress. It must make itself a place of learning for the future for its students. And that means that we have to teach the content of the future. And climate protection is an essential part of this future. Unfortunately, we don’t have a planet B!

But the learning site of the future is also a digital one. In the present, however, we unfortunately have to see that what is on offer continues to decline. Especially recordings of teaching events, whether lectures or exercises, are enormously important for many students.

But we hear more and more from students that these offerings are becoming fewer. They are referred to old recordings, some of which have little to do with the current lecture. How are students supposed to learn and acquire competencies adequately if they have to rely on outdated records? After all, there are many reasons and motivations why up-to-date lecture recordings must be available – for the follow-up of lectures, for example, for students with health impairments, to prepare for exams, or for students who perform care work. The university must finally fulfill its responsibility here and enable good studies for all students!

Because the push-back against digitization, for which the pandemic has brought some advance, is here. But the university can still stop it. Together, we can go even further. The use of digital tools should be the standard in studies. There is already a lot there, including didactic aspirations – code visualization tools, interactive presentation software, collaborative digital whiteboards, and these are just a few examples of such tools. Digital learning and meeting spaces have also been developed via the pandemic. They just need to be deployed across the board.

Learning spaces need to be so many things for us students: accessible, usable, sustainable, fundable and funded, sustainable, digital, and in person. It is the task of the entire university – the presidium, professors, academic and non-academic staff, and students – to enable and implement this. Only together can we achieve this goal.

Together, we will also give a loud voice to our demands tomorrow, at noon, at the demonstration in front of the Mensa. I urge you all to join us!

And with that, I thank you for your attention.