Last weekend I went to our favorite pub in Heidelberg with friends for the first time since Corona.
It was the same there as always: dirt from seventy years and Udo Jürgens from the loudspeaker.
The cigarettes smoked, the pilsner tasted the same as ever and at some point we chirped away.
Corona doesn't matter.
Only one thing was different: A Ukraine flag hung over the counter shelf, unmistakably large.
The signs are pointing to normality and we students are returning from our compulsory break to colorful life.
Those from the higher semesters find their old life again, the younger ones have to reorient themselves because, as part of the Corona cohort, they only know the university from the children's room via zoom.
We all hope now that the (remaining) study time will be as promising as it once was.
But nobody knows how this is supposed to work.
It dawns on most of them that a return to a higher education landscape in 2020 is impossible.
All the rapid corona test sticks not only scratched the back walls of our brains, but also our understanding of studying and university.
Some lectures and seminars were transferred to digital without any significant loss of quality, term papers could be written without visiting a library and exams in their "take home" variant made all their sense - or nonsense - clear.
What does it even mean to study?
It has to be emphasized that the online university has its good sides.
And like a magnifying glass, it exacerbates the company's weak points.
A terribly bad lecture is much more bearable online, for example, because you can simply run the recorded video at twice the speed and only press pause for keywords relevant to the exam.
You don't learn anything that way, but the exam will be good.
How efficient is that?!
The idea of the (physical) university room as a temple of the spirit has had its day.
The idea that you just have to cram enough people into a small space and the rest will be fine is an illusion today.
For universities, this means that they have to change quickly if they want to stay the way they are.
If the university wants to continue to be a place for physical encounters that is relevant to society in the future, it must become a place that cannot simply be digitized.
To do this, the institution must reflect and recognize its strengths.
There are many questions about self-analysis.
What makes a good apprenticeship?
What does it even mean to study?
Does the university want to educate or train its students?
What social task does a university have?
How can she take responsibility?
In short: What role does the university want to play in the 21st century and what does it have to do to achieve it?
Will the university become a gym?
The question arises all the more when looking at Ukraine and the despotism to which the universities respond with so-called science diplomacy and put their cooperation with Russian universities on hold.
In the past two years, the academic world has lost its naivety, at the latest when the first bombs thundered in February, it woke up from its dreams of an academic elysium and found itself in the monstrous reality.
Is the university doing the right thing?
This is not an easy question because it shakes the very foundations of our understanding of the institution.
All of this needs to be discussed, but nobody does.
In Mannheim, meanwhile, people prefer to think about throwing things.
The university's technology gurus are currently testing a new microphone system that is said to be suitable for hybrid teaching.
The new micro-concept is a mixture of a self-help group and physical education classes: so that the students connected online can also understand what is said in the seminar room, those present should throw a microphone disguised as a foam cube among themselves.
I immediately have two objections.
When I received my A-levels and finished school sports, I swore I would never again endure degrading throw-catch games.
Even a runaway university won't change that anytime soon.
Incidentally, the foam micro would be a declaration of bankruptcy at the university.
How are you supposed to think properly when something like this is scurrying through the room all the time?
How are you supposed to have a proper discussion if only the one who has the speech foam in his hand is allowed to speak?
What creates a cuddly atmosphere in a yoga class takes away the meaning of the university seminar because it puts an end to any debate.
When power and dynamism are no longer in words, but exclusively in projectiles, then the university becomes a gym.
Now we have to ask ourselves what we want as a society: university or gymnasium?
Do we want people who can throw speech dice civilly, or people who are strong at thinking and debating?
For me the answer is clear.
If a cube like that comes flying at me, I'll throw it out the window, followed by a couple of chairs so that the thing breaks.
What if everyone wants the gym?
Then, if need be, thick books will also fly.
(26 years old) is studying German and Business Administration at the University of Mannheim for a master's degree. He is less concerned with Goethe and more with Christoph Schlingensief.
When that gets too much for him, he drives to his parents' house and chop wood.
Or bake bread.
Thanks to Corona, he can now too.Keywords: