Technische Universität Berlin

Weekly Bulletin

Once a week the president of Technische Universität Berlin shares his thoughts on the current situation in a letter to all University staff.

Weekly Bulletin, no. 11

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin No. 11
Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
dear TU Berlin staff,

Prompted by the special circumstances of this summer semester, we have experienced a discussion over the past few weeks that has revolved around both how to cope with the pandemic and how to shape the future of our university. In my weekly bulletin, I asked you to share your ideas and experiences with me. I received more than 100 detailed responses. This does not include the intensive communication between you and the Crisis Committee or with the offices of the president or vice presidents.

I promised to consider your concerns, tips, and ideas for the future in my plans for TU Berlin. I would now like to make good that promise. I have created a plan for the future of our university, not to be implemented in a year's time, but now, and which does not focus on a single detail, but rather aims to open up an entire line of development. I have presented extracts of these plans to the Executive Board, Academic Senate, and Board of Trustees. I would like to share them here in the weekly bulletin, my personal letter to you all, for the first time in detail and in writing. This is very important to me.

 

The “tubstart2020” program

Our initial questions were: How do we want to work in the future: from home, from campus, flexibly?

Which ways of working have proven effective during the crisis?  What role does in-presence work play in research, teaching, and administration?

Which developments can and should be initiated in areas that support scientific work?

What legal bases need to be adapted to flexible working models?

What do we have to change to further develop TU Berlin as a part of public service, as an international research university, and as an attractive employer?

Using these questions as a starting point, I would like to introduce a new outlook for the development of TU Berlin and highlight specific measures. The aim of “tubstart2020” is to enable flexible working practices for all staff in teaching, research, and administration. This should also have a positive impact on teaching and studies and thus also on our students.

With “tubstart2020” we want to quickly and effectively act on several levels to overcome the crisis, implement proven tools and methods developed during the pandemic, and introduce modern, new, and legally compliant work practices. I am ready to invest 3.5 million euros in the coming years to achieve this.

In order to implement this program across the University, preconditions must be established, including legal frameworks, data protection regulations, technical requirements, and agreements with the staff councils on working models. Regardless of these conditions, we face the overriding task of introducing a cultural change which offers new possibilities to TU Berlin and new perspectives for each and every one of us.

Additionally, we would like to define compensatory measures to deal with backlogs that have arisen during essential-only operations.

TU Berlin intends to take up these challenges and develop a concerted plan of action before the end of 2020, thereby initiating a further major strategic development step.

I would like to take a closer look at what exactly this means for our individual fields of action:

 

Academics and teaching

The value and importance of in-presence teaching has not changed and TU Berlin will remain a university with strong in-presence offers. During the pandemic, which is still ongoing, we have been forced to offer alternatives in the form of digital teaching. We have succeeded in doing this. But, what are our plans for after the pandemic?

We are currently observing very different needs from all of the disciplines. Some require in-presence courses to guarantee learning success while others offer digital lectures that can be flexibly accessed and used and which no longer require 1,000+ students flooding the Audimax at eight in the morning. Both sides present convincing arguments.

I believe our university has an obligation to offer lecturers and students a great deal of flexibility in how they teach and learn. We must offer excellent framework conditions for both in-presence courses AND digital teaching. Ultimately, our lecturers and students will decide which methods they prefer and will be able to freely choose. We want this to be a long-term option, not a short-term solution during the pandemic. I believe this represents real progress. I do not view in-presence and digital teaching as competing formats but rather as methods which complement each other. This will be the mark of a modern university and is our aim and the new path we are embarking on. 

 

Administration

We must differentiate between administrative processes and administrative tasks. For the latter, we would like to offer the option of flexible working. This requires nothing less than a paradigm shift. My wish is that we move away from the mere completion of a set number of working hours in an office. We must shift our thinking and management to a results-oriented way of working. We should no longer ask how long someone worked but instead: What did you achieve?

Of course many will balk at this and wonder: How will this all work? One may say,  “It’s not possible.” The other, “That’s exactly what I want.”

My hope is that together with you and the staff councils we can develop models that offer a mix of working from home, mobile working, and office work. I myself suggested that we consider a model with three days at the office and two at home. Our staff in the administration should also have the option of asynchronous work. Why must I complete ten things between 9:00 and 17:23 and spend an extra hour each way commuting? Why can’t I complete defined tasks from home at and in the time that works for me? Mobile working and office work should be valued equally. There will be tasks that cannot be completed from home. There will be times when the whole team meets at the office. These changes also require a new management culture. My aim is a high degree of flexibility coupled with mutual trust and obligations.

 

Let’s turn our attention to research This area does not require a paradigm shift. The “business” of research is based on creativity, innovation, and collaboration. We cannot be creative on demand at 8:30 on the dot. Our researchers know this. They have been a model of flexibility for many years and we can learn from them. We have the advantage of being surrounded by them; they are in our DNA. We need to take advantage of this.

In order to further develop the scientific support areas, including the central and faculty administrations, we must further digitize key processes. After a long and difficult time, we are now reaping the benefits of our SAP project, for instance during student enrollment at the beginning of the summer semester, and in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. This is something we can be proud of and build on, particularly as regards personnel and finance processes in the mid-term. Parallel to this, new digital tools for collaboration must be developed in the departments, teams, labs, faculties, and academic chairs. We must arrange for this.

You can find an overview of the catalogue of measures below.

The flexibility offered by digitalization in key areas and the development of new working models will make our university much more attractive. This will benefit climate protection and sustainability, both of which are as important to us as the process described.

It is worth re-thinking and giving it a go! I invite you to join in in shaping this process together with the Executive Board.

I will continue to regularly inform you about further developments during this crucial phase.

 

And finally, a personal matter

I would like to make one final point: Like many of you, I am looking forward to going on holiday beginning next Monday. During this time, I will (unfortunately) not be sending any weekly bulletins. You will hear from me again at the end of July.

I wish you all a successful remainder of this memorable and extraordinary summer semester.

Thank you very much for your involvement and dedication! All of you who together make up TU Berlin have accomplished something significant and admirable.

Stay healthy, enjoy the summer, and rest up!

Christian Thomsen
President of TU Berlin

 

Catalogue of measures for “tubstart2020”

What does this mean exactly? What measures have we planned for “tubstart2020”?

We want to invest 3.5 million euros in two sets of measures in the next two years. 

 

Package 1

We must clear the backlog of work that has accrued during essential-only and restricted in-presence operations. This places a strain on all involved and requires us to act quickly. We are ready with both personnel and funds. The first thing we want to do is implement early hiring. Further measures will be discussed with the heads of department.

We would like to make it possible to extend scholarships and critical third-party funding contracts, e.g. for up to three months.

We aim to expand lab spaces and practical labs to reduce the backlog in these teaching formats. These will be workaround measures that are to be quickly implemented.

These measures should help us, at least partially, compensate for the backlog and difficulties that resulted in teaching, research, and administration during the lockdown and digital semester.

 

Package 2

The other measures are intended to benefit TU Berlin’s strategic and structural position as described above:

The legal guidelines for flexible working are unclear. We are currently drafting an agreement for mobile working with the Staff Council with the aim of presenting an official TU Berlin-Staff Council agreement for mobile working.

We had to take the ad hoc decision to send our employees home to work. In the future, this will not be possible without financial assistance. We require equipment for regular use when working from home, including a laptop, internet connection, and office chair. We will be drawing up a budget for how we can provide financial support.

Additional video conference rooms at TU Berlin will be needed, as we wish to reduce the significant amount of official travel to conferences, fairs, and workshops for the benefit of climate protection. Our aim is to offer an attractive infrastructure for video conferencing at TU Berlin to promote a healthy mix of in-presence and video meetings. We will invest the necessary funds to achieve this.

We want to offer more licenses for VPN tunnels and conference tools.

We are striving for the long-term establishment of digital teaching. Here, too, we will invest in suitable and data-compliant tools.

Our objective is to digitize personnel processes, which will include e-recruiting and the digitization of personnel records (in SAP).

We want to accelerate the introduction of e-invoices (in SAP).

We also aim for and are pursuing the digitalization of the structural and technical infrastructure (networks for electricity, heating, cooling, water and sewage etc.)

We see the urgent need for a unified IT structure as well as a lasting, expanded option of working from home (VPN tunnel, software access in computer labs, introduction of software for collaborative work, etc).

At the same time, we are striving for further training for our employees in line with these processes.

Weekly Bulletin, no. 10

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin No. 10
Friday, 19.06.2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear TU Members,

I would like to turn my attention once again today to the topic of in-presence classes and digital teaching platforms. The question we are all asking ourselves is: What do we think about the use of these two formats for winter semester 2020/2021? While none of us wants to see another purely digital semester, we are all fully aware that the pandemic will continue to influence our plans. This has been amply demonstrated by the current localized cases of very high new infection numbers in Berlin, Göttingen, NRW and elsewhere.

In light of this, my clear request to all teaching staff is: Prepare your courses in digital format. This will provide us with the flexibility we need to be able to conduct classes in the event of a possible second or even third wave of the coronavirus, while protecting the health of all concerned.

Nevertheless, we should also offer in-presence teaching in the winter semester wherever possible. This applies to examinations, practical teaching formats or even smaller seminars, all conducted needless to say under the specified hygiene regulations. We in the Crisis Committee are also developing plans for a step-by-step return to normal operations for the University’s administration, taking account of the pandemic.

We have a special duty to enable our first-semester students to access the University and participate in their studies. This can be done using digital formats, but it would be better and more productive as well as more personal if this could happen on campus. This is particularly true for our new students coming from abroad to study. One thing, however, is clear: A central orientation program for more than 3,000 first-semester students, for many years a tradition at TU Berlin and other universities, will, regrettably, not be possible.

We want to send our current and future students a clear signal that they should come to Berlin to study. If, however, the coronavirus restrictions prevent this, then they have the option to pursue their studies digitally. This is another reason to prepare and conduct classes in digital format.

Finally today, please remember to wear a face mask when on campus and in TU Berlin’s buildings. This is important. It protects both you and others. Thank you for doing so!

I wish you all a restful and pleasant weekend. Stay healthy!

Please keep sending me your feedback to: feedback(at)uni.tu-berlin.de

Sincerely,

Christian Thomsen
President of TU Berlin

Weekly Bulletin, no. 9

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin No. 9
Friday, 12.06.2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear TU Members,

I have been thinking for some time about how the conoravirus pandemic affects the different genders. There are many aspects to consider here. One that particularly interests me is the impact that working, schooling, and caring for dependents at home has on the professional activities and careers of women and men.

In an article published this week in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), I addressed this issue while reflecting on the digitalization of our world, particularly digital teaching at universities.

Just a quick reminder at this point of something else important to me: Please do not forget to wear a face mask when on campus. This is more than just a formality. By complying with this regulation, we help protect the health of our colleagues at TU Berlin. Thank you!

I wish you all a restful and pleasant weekend. Stay healthy!

Please keep sending me your feedback: feedback(at)uni.tu-berlin.de

Sincerely,
Christian Thomsen
President of TU Berlin

The Publication Gap Affecting Women (published in slightly abridged form in the FAZ on 10.6.2020)

Universities have learned a great deal since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Such as how quickly we are able to respond to an emergency when we simply have no other choice. Within just a few short weeks, Germany’s higher education institutions succeeded in digitalizing their entire teaching operations. A policy of essential-only presence was implemented and staff transitioned to working at home. Despite all the regional differences, university staff throughout Germany have worked tirelessly to overcome the organizational challenges involved to allow us to make a significant contribution to containing the virus. If we consider Berlin alone, 200,000 students traveling by public transport every day to attend lectures would represent a considerable risk. Thankfully, thus far there is no evidence that any university has been a hotspot for the spread of the coronavirus

But this speedy transfer of operations has come at a price: Digitalization had evolved and was present to differing degrees in the various aspects of our pre-coronavirus lives. Much has been written about the funding packages for schools, but it feels as if little has really been done. Even the question of which communication platforms teaching staff could use to communicate with school or university students remained unresolved for a long time. At universities, we have mainly found out about digital teaching via pilot projects In Berlin at least, there is as yet no sign of digitalization in the administrative sector. Not surprisingly, the switchover has been difficult. Working and schooling from home were until recently largely unknown concepts and the necessary technical measures had not been standardized within the public administration of educational institutions. That the situation could function at all was due to staff using their own laptops and computers and paying for Internet connection. Students living in a small room in a flat share might not even have Internet access to allow them to take part in the digital courses offered. Almost no free Wi-Fi is available to them and certainly at nothing like the level required. We had slipped into a situation where we were only able to partially make things work by improvising and relying on chance.

Things could have been organized so much better. I would like to quote a few facts about Estonia, a country often held up as an example due to its high level of digitalization but rarely emulated: Everybody has Internet access with almost the entire country covered by a free Wi-Fi network and anybody who does not have their own computer can use one of the many public terminals. All educational institutions, moreover, are online. It may well be that it is easier to implement such measures in a country with a population of just 1.3 million than in a country where a population sixty times this figure presents a much more complex situation. But even without achieving this level, better connectivity would have enabled a number of things in Germany to have run more smoothly and with less disruption during the coronavirus crisis. Teachers and students would have already been used to digital formats and the various didactic methods would already have been tested and evaluated with the most successful established as best practice. And all the options for digital examinations would have been thoroughly tried out and didactically sound solutions found. This would have been fairer and we could have avoided people being effectively forced to transition overnight to digital procedures in all areas of life. It could also have helped avoid the stress experienced by many staff suddenly faced with the challenges of homeschooling, looking after children and perhaps caring for close dependents without the support of family members and friends.

It comes as no surprise then that mothers of young children have been most affected by the sudden transition to digitalization. They were forced to make quick decisions about how to make courses accessible to students while also trying to maintain contact to their students and create possibilities for them to communicate with each other. Studying is after all an essentially social activity and functions best with students working together. Mothers of young children have had to spend their mornings educating their children, in other words helping them puzzle through teachers’ explanations, which despite their best efforts sometimes still seem impenetrable. Not surprisingly, the work of young female researchers in particular has come to a standstill during the coronavirus crisis, a fact borne out by the drastic fall-off in publications submitted by women during a period when those submitted by their male counterparts have actually increased. This at least is what an examination of articles submitted on preprint servers in the area of astrophysics shows. This corona publication gap exacerbates the existing gender publication gap, recently demonstrated in a study conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry. The recommendations provided by scholarly and, in comparison to the general working population, aging “expert groups” are outdated. Think of the ad hoc response quickly cobbled together over Easter by the Leopoldina, which stated that “daycare centers should continue to operate essential-only services until the summer holidays.” With an average age of 64 and with only two women among its 26 members, it is little wonder that the recommendations of this working group, despite all its academic eminence, completely failed to grasp the reality of younger people.

In addition to providing a tablet for every schoolchild and every enrolling student, ubiquitous and free Wi-Fi access as well as data-protection compliant handling of our data are essential for Germany and Europe if we are to achieve a new working reality where people can work properly from home and thus take advantage of mobile working. Even without the coronavirus, young men and women should, if they so wish, be able to integrate caring for children and dependents into their working lives. We should make it possible for them to achieve this work-life balance. This aspect alone represents a substantial challenge in developing digitalization for the benefit of society.

A "digitalization of teaching" program as part of an economic stimulus package is the right response. This would need to be extended by creating digital working processes in university administration to enable all staff and not just those researching, teaching or studying at university to enjoy the benefits of digitalization. Our administrative processes function well using hard copies of documents and with people working in presence. But we need to think beyond this. Public service needs to become dynamic and flexible. Universities are the right places for such changes and a proper response to the realities of life. It is now up to all of us, politicians, the workforce and staff representatives to demonstrate the courage to implement in the long term what has been shown to work during the crisis.

Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen, president of TU Berlin

Weekly Bulletin, no. 8

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin No. 8
Friday, 05.06.2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear TU Members,

In today’s bulletin, I would particularly like to address those of you involved in teaching at TU Berlin. It is difficult to plan effectively for the future during a pandemic. Nevertheless, we need to turn our attention now to winter semester 2020/2021. The coming winter semester will also represent a new set of challenges. We are not yet able to say exactly how it will operate, whether there will be a second or even third wave of the coronavirus or how our international partners and students will respond to and be affected by developments.

My message to you on behalf of the Executive Board is: Please prepare to also teach the coming winter semester in digital format. We all hope that it will become increasingly possible to introduce more in-presence classes. However, as long as no effective vaccination is available, these will remain the exception. Our main goals are

  1. to provide a full teaching program for our students  
  2. to enable those students who wish to study at TU Berlin but who are unable to travel due to current restrictions (travel ban, visa etc.) to participate in courses
  3. to offer quality digital classes in the coming winter semester, including asynchronous offers to help our lecturers and students manage their time effectively.

We can use digital offers to achieve all three of these goals.

Notwithstanding, we are also striving

  1. to continue to create effective communication options, particularly for our many new students
  2. to offer quality in-presence teaching formats and examinations conducted under strict compliance with the University’s hygiene and protective measures.     

This is intended as an internal appeal to all our teaching staff.

The Rectors’ and Presidents’ Conference in Berlin, which I currently chair, is discussing measures to send a clear signal to our students. It is important that this is communicated to the 190,000 or so students in Berlin who need certainty to help them plan. We are aiming to develop an official policy which takes account of the different situations at the various types of higher education institutions and which provides us the flexibility to respond to a possible spread of the virus.

Our approach is to offer another full digital semester, supplemented where possible and necessary with in-presence options.

This provides us with the flexibility we need to be able to react to the development of the pandemic.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts: feedback(at)uni.tu-berlin.de

I wish you all a restful and pleasant weekend. Stay healthy!

Sincerely,

Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen
President of TU Berlin

Weekly Bulletin, no. 7

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin No. 7
Friday, 29.05.2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear TU Members,

I have been giving much thought to all your suggestions regarding what we can learn from the crisis and how we want to organize our working lives in the future. I have learned much about your individual situations and this also has a bearing on my thoughts concerning the future.

I would like to share some excerpts from the emails I received with you. The quoted excerpts have been de-identified and all requests for confidentiality respected.

On Monday, I attended the scientific committee of the Berlin house of representatives to answer politicians’ questions. One of the questions raised was: How are we coping with the digital semester and what lessons can we learn from this experience? You can read about it in this report in the Tagesspiegel.

Anyone interested in more reading material and videos has probably noticed this already: Our new website went live on 27 May 2020. A video providing more information about the website is available.

I would also like to draw your attention to an interesting recent broadcast (in German) on Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb24) about COVID-19 research conducted at TU Berlin.

  • Wettlauf um Wirkstoffe Berliner Lungenmodell könnte Coronaforschung beschleunigen. A report on how the Berlin pulmonary model could expedite research into the coronavirus with Professor Jens Kurrek.

I wish you all a restful and enjoyable Pentecost!

Best wishes,

Christian Thomsen
President of TU Berlin

Email address for your continued feedback: feedback@uni.tu-berlin.de

Excerpts from feedback to the weekly bulletins

“…For me at least, the switchover to exclusively online teaching went more smoothly than I had anticipated and I hope that sensible online solutions for registering for examinations at Technische Universität Berlin will be found in the future, regardless of the coronavirus…”

Research associate, Faculty VI, 25.05.2020

“… A very positive development for me is that working from home is no longer seen in a negative light and I hope that will continue to be the case. For me, working from home represents an opportunity to achieve a better and more efficient work-family life balance. The switchover to telephone and video conferencing gives me the chance to take part in many more committee meetings. In the future, I would like it to be possible to take part in all committee meetings via video/telephone.”

Head of academic chair, Faculty V, 25.05.2020

“Working and dealing with emails during the pandemic is, of course, different than before and at times feels like undiscovered territory. But we are rising to the challenge by finding creative solutions. I am absolutely in favor of working from home once the crisis has passed and we have returned to “normality”.

Staff member, Central University Administration, Department IV, 25.05.2020

“In my team we are very happy that every single person is seen and that those who for various reasons are currently able to do less still remain very much part of the team. I think things are working very well for us.”

and “You very often respond to the needs of those who are unable to work or only do less due to the challenges of looking after children, homeschooling, technical problems, etc. This is absolutely as it should be. But what about those who are doing so much to keep things going within TU Berlin? Those working many more hours than they normally would (more than they are actually permitted to)?”

Team leader, Department I, 25.05.2020

“At other institutions in Berlin such as the HTW, working from home is already standard practice. This prompted me to apply for a position there. I changed my mind though and decided to stay at TU Berlin because everything else has to be just right too.”

Secretary, Faculty II, 25.05.2020

“Funding for digital meetings instead of official trips: I would like to see the reduction of official trips by air travel become a permanent item on the agenda at TU Berlin. This would represent a real contribution to climate protection.”

Research associate, Faculty VII, 25.05.2020

“In our team we hold a video conference lasting 15 to 60 minutes every morning. This works really well. We now have the chance to speak to our boss every day. Under normal circumstances it is not always possible to get hold of him.

Research associate, Faculty VI, 25.05.2020

“My overall view of the situation is: Under the circumstances, working from home and digitalization was the only possible and reasonable solution. […] In the long term, however, I personally would like digitalization to play a much lesser role in my teaching and my communication with my staff and colleagues.”

Head of academic chair, Faculty II, 23.05.2020

“The first three to four weeks were very hard for us all. But in the meantime, many things have settled down and improved and most of us are coping well with working from home. A lively exchange of ideas between all of us helped provide unusually quick solutions to many problems.”

Secretary, Faculty VI, 22.05.2020

“We have established good communication within our team. It has been interesting to see that, from my perspective, web conferences are more effective than meetings held in offices. We need to concentrate more in this format and this has had a surprisingly beneficial effect on our cooperation and sense of togetherness.

Member of staff, Department II, 20.05.2020

“Individual solutions should be possible on the basis of where people are and other circumstances, such as their family situations, digital options for working and the need to be in the office in person. Ultimately getting things done is what counts and not where and what hours someone works.”

Member of staff, staff unit of the president, 22.05.2020

“Given the positive experiences of working from home, I would like to see more staff given the opportunity to do so a few days a week. I cannot really see that working for me though as my position involves individual advising. It would be helpful nevertheless if I could work from home to complete an extensive report without the feeling that doing so is at best tolerated.”

Member of staff, Examination Board, 22.05.2020

“For me, the digitalization of administrative processes is an even more positive development than working from home. In some cases, procedures take up to 60-70% less time to complete. Staff working in administration are always extremely helpful and interested in finding a practical solution. Processes need to be digitally mapped in SAP as sending scans around is not a long-term solution. But in principle I feel we are moving in the right direction and it would contribute to a significantly better working atmosphere if our administration is not always having to work at their limit and beyond as has been the case over the last two years.

Research associate, Faculty V, 22.05.2020

“It makes me feel good when I am trusted to organize my work independently, taking account of the needs of my clients and my team. I prefer this way of working to having my attendance times monitored. I find it inspiring.”

Anonymous, 22.05.2020

“I think it is fundamentally wrong that those of us on pay grade E 6 are expected to use our own computers for work purposes. The technical equipment should have been provided by TU Berlin.

Member of staff, Faculty I, 22.05.2020

“Being able to work in peace away from the office was a real blessing for working on my doctorate or writing academic articles […] There should also be much more streaming of classes such as lecture series. As part of this process, consideration should also be given to whether precisely this digitalization of content should not be made more accessible and promoted to a non-academic public to intensify dialogue with all potentially interested parties.

Research associate, Faculty V, 22.05.2020

“In the past, everyone sat in their office and if you needed to discuss something you had to go to your colleague’s office and even then it wasn’t really possible to work together. Now we have a common chat area and video conferencing and it is possible to work much more efficiently than before...”

Member of staff, Central University Administration, 22.05.2020

Weekly Bulletin, no. 6

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin

Friday, 22 May 2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear TU Members,

The digital semester 2020 started one month ago and we transferred on 18 May 2020 - more or less one week ago - to restricted in-presence operations. I would like to address these topics.

Due to the shortened working week, my weekly bulletin is a little briefer than usual. First of all, a few numbers to illustrate what we have achieved in the first month of the digital semester.

Our lecturers have uploaded 7,816 videos (1,439 GB) for 759 different courses. The combined running time of the videos is 3,696 hours.

Since the start of the lecture period, the videos have been accessed 802,846 times (approximately 125 TB of traffic).

18,000 users visit the ISIS central e-learning system each day. That amounts to 25,000 different users in a week.

The number of contributions to discussion forums shows how communication has shifted to digital formats: Since the start of the semester, there have already been 39,943 contributions compared with 29,725 for the entire summer semester 2019.

These are the figures for Zoom:

20.04 until 27.04.2020:
Meetings: 4,907, meeting minutes*: 3,224,807, participants: 91,582

27.04 until 04.05.2020:
Meetings: 5,958, meeting minutes: 3,964,562, participants: 64,937

04.05 until 11.05.2020:
Meetings: 7,808, meeting minutes: 5,025,788, participants: 76,637

11.05 until 18.05.2020:
Meetings: 9,560, meeting minutes: 5,892,084, participants: 86,918

18:05 until 20.05.2020 (14:30)
Meetings: 3,808, meeting minutes: 2,369,682, participants: 34,961

* Meeting minutes refers to the total number of minutes of all participants in meetings.

I would like to thank you for this remarkable achievement!

This data alone does not of course show how effective and successful our teaching has been in the digital semester. I will be informing you about the results of the analyses and surveys we will be conducting throughout the semester as well as the feedback we receive regarding the success of the digital semester.

The first week of restricted in-presence operations has shown that everyone is implementing our regulations responsibly. This is very important and sends a clear signal to the outside world where many people follow and are guided by the steps we take.

As far as work goes, I have received many requests to define the expectations we have regarding the work to be achieved at this time. Many of you are wondering: Are we expected to process all personnel matters, orders and invoices, and so forth.

This is not easy to answer. We find ourselves in an intermediate state defined by many different factors. Who can work to 100 percent capacity and who cannot? Who needs to look after their children at home? Who is unable to work due to illness and who belongs to an at-risk group? How do in-presence operations function in the departments and offices of the academic chairs? It is not possible to provide a general answer. Academic support staff, whether in the Central University Administration, the offices of an academic chair, a faculty service center, the Staff Council or the Hygiene Storage Facility, are all doing their best to adapt to the new circumstances. They are organizing their work between home and the office and working their way through processes which had to be put on hold during the period of essential-only presence. I fully understand that it is not easy to reconcile all of this.   To help reduce your uncertainty, we will be providing detailed information in the coming week about what can be expected. It is important for all of us to provide clarity.

I would like, though, to reiterate my message: I am aware that not all of us are able to work at 100 percent capacity. We do not expect this of either staff or management. We have to work together in these times and this requires mutual understanding and tolerance for what others are able to do and for individual circumstances. My main concern is that we all remain healthy and that TU Berlin emerges stronger from this crisis. I would therefore ask all of us to be mindful in our dealings with each other. This is vital.

I wish you all an enjoyable and restful day off work. Stay healthy and in good spirits!

Best wishes,

Christian Thomsen
President of TU Berlin

PS:

I would like to thank you for the many emails I have received in response to my last weekly bulletin. The insight these give me into your work and your ideas regarding my suggestions for working three days in the office and two at home are interesting and useful. I shall certainly take account of these in my considerations about how we can change our working lives. Please continue to send me your thoughts and ideas about how TU can develop to:

feedback(at)uni.tu-berlin.de

I look forward to reading them.

 

Weekly Bulletin, no. 5

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin

Friday, 15. May 2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear TU Members,

Another important step for our University is upon us: On 17 May 2020 we will end essential-only presence and on 18 May 2020 transition to restricted presence, without in-presence teaching. Many of you have been waiting for this step. We have spent a long time, two months in fact, in an exceptional situation during which we not only prepared and commenced a digital semester but also shifted nearly the entire University to working from home.

Beginning 18 May 2020, staff will be permitted to resume working on campus while teaching remains digital. The details of this new phase are explained in the bulletin of 14 May 2020 (www.tu-berlin.de/?214509).

With these new regulations, two matters remain of utmost importance to me:

  1. In this phase, we would like - and this is a direct request from me – to enable and encourage all TU staff in research and administration to continue to work from home as far as possible. The eased restrictions do not mean that all employees should gather in front of the University’s doors on Monday. This would be the wrong signal to send, indeed a fatal one. This brings me to my second request:
  2. I ask all management to responsibly respond to these eased regulations regarding restricted presence for the benefit of all. You will create action plans for your team or academic chair, record these internally, and implement them together with your employees. This is required to once again enter TU premises. We have deliberately not introduced any review and approval processes and instead are relying on you to take responsibility for your employees. We reserve the right to conduct random checks, however, to ensure you have implemented the required action plans. I ask you all for your active cooperation. It is only by fulfilling these conditions, that we will successfully make this important transition from essential-only presence to restricted presence at TU Berlin.

This does not yet represent a return to our familiar daily routine prior to the coronavirus. The conditions of the third phase do not permit us to fully return to our work. Please consider this in your expectations of the different areas of the University. There remains the danger of a second wave of infection in Berlin and Germany. Working with all of you, we are seeking to prevent this with our catalogue of measures in the bulletin of 14 May 2020. Please adhere to these regulations as none of us wishes to return to essential-only presence.

Nor could we afford such a step backwards with the mountain of tasks and questions which remains to tackle and resolve and which is only growing by the day. How will we organize the winter semester, offer canceled examinations, or schedule application periods and deadlines? How will we address the wishes and needs of international students who want to study here in the winter semester? How will we make up the work that had to be suspended in research and administration? These are just a few of many questions and I am sure you have many more related to your own work for which we need to find answers in the coming weeks. We are all working hard on this.

When we look into the distant future, into a phase of more normalcy, we may not want a complete return to the previous status quo as we are now learning that we have quickly grown to prefer some of the new routines and ways of working. Some lecturers have asked whether they can also offer their courses in the winter semester primarily online. Many would like to continue the increased digital exchange within and with the administration. Phone and video conferences save us time and travel. Many welcome this, even if social contact has suffered as a result. Of course, we all would like to have face-to-face meetings back. However, I am also hearing the wish to mix in-presence work with digital work and exchange, whether in administration, research or teaching.

It is too early yet to draw up concrete plans and draw conclusions. But, what do you think about working at the office 3 days a week and from home the remaining 2? Can you imagine such an arrangement? Can you picture your team meeting once a week while working independently and digitally for the remainder of the week? Do we need to maintain fixed working hours? Or is our output more important? How can we organize this at a public university? What does good digital teaching look like that meets the needs of lecturers and students? How can we maintain a collective feeling among staff and students – on a small and large scale?

I would like to make positive use of the crisis. TU Berlin should emerge stronger and more attractive than before. Let us start now to devise and model our working world of the future together! The door is open. The cause, the corona pandemic, was and remains deeply unfortunate. Until now we did not have the courage, power of imagination, or pressure to take the initiative to plan and consequently implement the steps we have all taken in the past two months.

When, if not now, should we have the courage to re-think together as a community of this wonderful university? I can sense the courage in myself and I encourage you to do the same!

Share your thoughts and ideas with me. What positive and negative experiences have you had thus far during this “coronavirus period”? How do you picture your future workplace? What would make TU Berlin a good employer to you in this regard? Upon request, I will treat your messages confidentially.

Please send them to: feedback@uni.tu-berlin.de 

Many thanks and stay healthy!

Best wishes,

Christian Thomsen
President of Technische Universität Berlin

Something else to read and listen to:

Video statement on the transition to restricted presence: www.tu-berlin.de/?214510

Interview with RBB cultural radio about the digital semester: https://www.rbb-online.de/rbbkultur/radio/programm/schema/sendungen/rbbkultur_am_vormittag/archiv/20200512_0905/wissen_0910.html

TU insert in the Tagesspiegel newspaper: www.tu-berlin.de/?214309

Weekly Bulletin, no. 4

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin

Friday, 24. April 2020

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Members of TU Berlin,

We now find ourselves in the fifth week of working from home, of essential-only presence, of an extraordinary situation. A situation we are still adjusting to! Yes, we have gotten used to some things but we are still to get used to others. Certain aspects are working well, others less so. Switching between WebEx and Zoom, the telephone and the laptop, the kitchen and the living room and working from home while educating our children is a taxing experience and one to test our nerves. We have accomplished the feat of getting the digital semester started but at some cost. I have sensed in the many discussions I have had by telephone and video chat that a sense of tiredness has set in after the “Yes, I can!” of the initial euphoria. Stress levels are increasing as is the feeling of being overtaxed, we are losing patience more quickly and we have forgotten about the time saved by not commuting to the University. Some of us will be experiencing raw nerves, while others choose to ignore the problems. That does not represent the entire picture, but we are increasingly feeling the pressure of the situation in our society.

I have a strong and powerful sense of my responsibility, our responsibility, towards our staff.

Faster, higher, farther - the motto of our pre-coronavirus society has ceased to apply. Other values have now taken center stage.

Among these is the willingness to help. People are purchasing vouchers from their favorite restaurant to use when the corona pandemic ends, doing the shopping for a neighbor, singing happy birthday from the balcony to offer their best wishes in times of “social” distancing. Before Easter, I wrote to all TU Berlin professors inviting them to contribute to a funding campaign to help our students. They, too, are being affected by events, through the loss of jobs, for example. But they are also developing new initiatives to combat the spread of the virus. I think this is remarkable. Within just a few days, the campaign has raised 25,000 euros. With the federal government matching each euro donated, this means we already have 50,000 euros to channel into Deutschlandstipendium scholarships. We will be making these scholarships available to our students in the fall. Anyone wishing to donate may do so. We accept donations of between 10 euros and 1800 euros or even more. 1800 euros represents an entire scholarship. You can transfer your donation to the account of the Society of Friends of TU Berlin. I would be grateful for any contributions received. Make a difference and help support our students! www.tu-berlin.de/?213918

Consideration for others is another value we are rediscovering. This is something we should nurture in our University and in our dealings with each other. I say this as an individual and most importantly in my capacity as president and I call upon all management at TU Berlin to make themselves aware of the situations of their staff and take proper action to help. It is clear to everybody that single parents cannot work their full hours at the moment, we understand that a mother or father cannot always be there when juggling working from home with educating their children or if another member of staff finds themselves overtaxed by having to provide additional care for a dependent. We as the Executive Board wish to be able to find the right response to everyone´s situation, to have a realistic understanding of people´s requirements, to not pressurize them to produce results, to communicate with staff and provide flexibility when appropriate and required.

This is my understanding of consideration and I would ask all management to show such consideration to their staff. I am also aware that management are having to deal with the pressure of a new situation and that leading a team while working from home is not easy. None of us had the opportunity to test this out in advance. So I would also ask for understanding for management. The situation is new for all of us. Only by treating each other with consideration will we emerge successfully and in good health from the crisis. We have to conserve our resources. This is something I would urge all of you to do.

For me, the concept of consideration also has another important dimension. We shall be continuing with our policy of essential-only presence, but will also be cautiously introducing exceptions. We wrote to inform you of this in detail in the bulletin of 23 April. We will need to call on the support of many members of staff to introduce these exceptions in a responsible and effective way. All staff in leading positions granted an exception for their teaching or research need to show consideration towards others. The main priority in anything we do has to be the protection of our health. So please ensure that you observe the hygiene regulations! Please also be aware that we still do not have answers for some questions and that we are yet to find solutions for certain problems. We are working hard to do so.

Mutual respect is what is strengthening our bond as a community at TU Berlin at the moment. Let us continue to look forward together.

If you have any suggestions or tips, then you can write to me at 

Stay healthy!

Best wishes,
Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen
President of Technische Universität Berlin

Weekly Bulletin, no. 3

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin

Friday, 10. April 2020

Dear TU Members,

Easter is approaching and we find ourselves in the third week of essential-only presence. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a relaxing and enjoyable holiday period. I hope that you and your families continue to be in good health and that you find a chance to rest in the company of your loved ones, even if you cannot go to the beach or your favorite holiday destination.

I have witnessed a great willingness to help at TU Berlin in recent days. On 9 April, we were able to provide the social welfare organization Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband Berlin with a great deal of protective material as a result of a major donation campaign. The organization will distribute 77,500 pairs of disposable gloves and numerous protective masks to its member welfare facilities and organizations, which provide care primarily for the homeless and people with addiction illnesses.

Elsewhere, protective masks are being manufactured at TU Berlin, procedures for testing masks developed, apps programmed and members of the University are helping labs in Berlin with the many tests being conducted.

Only today, I invited all professors to sponsor a Deutschlandstipendium scholarship. The goal is to provide financial support for our many students who continue to work for the benefit of society throughout this time of crisis.

The Easter holiday period will not be the same as before for any of us. Many of you are preparing your online courses while others are working hard to keep the administration running smoothly. We are all seeking solutions, looking for ways to continue to work well together and adjust to the new situation we find ourselves in.

I would like to thank you all for your many efforts and your essential contribution to our work.

I very much hope you will have the opportunity to relax a little. Stay home and keep healthy.

Sincerely,
Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen
President of TU Berlin

Weekly Bulletin, no. 2

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin

Thursday, 02. April 2020

Dear Colleagues,
Dear TU Members,

We have now completed two weeks of working from home. It has not been easy, as I am sure we have all discovered. Although it has to be said that some things can be done more effectively too. Transferring all our work into our private sphere to such an extent has brought about changes in us all. There are times when we long to be at our workplace at the University and yet at others it seems so far away and almost unfamiliar. If I were a sociologist, I might well regard our situation as an interesting area for research.

For the time being our University does not have its fixed points of anchor at Ernst Reuter Platz in Charlottenburg, in Wedding, Schöneberg, or El Gouna in Egypt. We are digitally networked – some 8000 members of staff, remember – across Berlin and Germany as well as in other countries around the world, sitting in studies, the kitchens of flat shares or on balconies (anyone fortunate to have one is discovering what a luxury this is). We are all confronted with the same questions: How can we continue to work well together and how can we best maintain contact to the University?

In today´s bulletin, I would like to present two new ideas we have come up with:

  • #TUgetherAtHome – available online and in social media
  • Special essential-only presence edition of TU intern published in e-paper format

#TUgetherAtHome allows you to visit a virtual TU Berlin campus from your own living space. We interview scientists about their research topics, offer join-in sports programs, invite you to take up challenges, provide you with the latest information from the Crisis Committee and present options for online teaching. Check everything out on our website. Those of you with your own social media accounts can check out #TUgetherAtHome or follow TU Berlin on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Youtube.

Why not take a look and join in! TU Berlin has plenty to offer: www.tu-berlin.de/?212824

I am sure the University newspaper TU intern requires no introduction. This time we are sending you a special digital edition, put together 100 percent from home - a first in the 35-year history of the newspaper. We describe how we put essential-only presence into action, the role played by our central administration departments, how our faculties and researchers prepared for this and how they are dealing with the current situation. We provide a detailed and fascinating insight into how our university has adapted to the changes. Well worth reading: http://archiv.pressestelle.tu-berlin.de/tui/20apr/

Both measures will help you overcome your homesickness for TU Berlin. Stay strong!

Please write to me with your feedback, suggestions, and tips at 

I wish you all the best for the coming week. Take care of yourselves and those around you and remain healthy!

Sincerely,

Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen,
President of TU Berlin

Weekly Bulletin, no. 1

Weekly Bulletin from the President of TU Berlin

Friday, 27. March 2020

Dear Members of TU Berlin,

I am writing to you today what will be the first of a series of weekly bulletin. I want to use these as a way of keeping in contact with you. This is very important for me during this period where people are working from home, faced with the prospect of quarantine and lockdown.

One week ago, all universities in Berlin implemented essential-only presence operations. Although I established a crisis committee for our University as early as 2 February 2020, we are now being confronted with challenges which we had never even considered before. We are entering undiscovered territory. In a very short period of time we have solved a great many problems. We are all pulling in the same direction and standing shoulder-to-shoulder. This is what makes us such a great university.

As such, my first major point is addressed to all of you: I have been highly impressed by your commitment and all you have achieved in these difficult times. To introduce essential-only presence operations from one day to the next requires great ability, understanding for one another and perseverance. These are qualities we have in plenty! As president of this wonderful university, I would like to express my gratitude to you all for what you have achieved.

I know what it means to work from home without being able to go to your normal place of work. The children have to be given their schooling at home, which is pretty much a non-stop process. Your partner is working in the next room, the smartphone is ringing, the connection breaks down, your inbox is filling up, the next telephone conference is due and the children start calling out right in the middle of the interview with the radio journalist. Exactly how our days look varies from person to person, but they represent a challenge for us all. And the whole time the real and great tragedy is unfolding all around us and all over the world.

As such, my second major point affects us all: Please keep going, keep to the regulations introduced by the state and federal governments. This is the only way that we as individuals and a community can stand up to the spread of the virus. This is important! This is the need of the hour. It is also important that we show solidarity in our dealings with one another. That we help. That we take care of our family, neighbors, and colleagues. Whether it is with shopping or a call or an email to see how everyone is doing. TU Berlin also has some suggestions here. A particularly nice example was brought to my attention from one of our lecturers who wanted to know if it was possible for him to donate some of his salary to students who currently find themselves without work. We are looking into how we could do this. As a university we have agreed 10 working days leave on full pay for parents with children in childcare facilities or at school. A further initiative being pursued at TU Berlin is to bring together 3D printing businesses and projects to produce components for protective masks or other useful objects. TU students have developed an idea to provide help in agriculture. At least two academic chairs have made staff available to help with carrying out diagnoses and coronavirus tests.

The third main point I wish to address is essential-only presence operations: Organizing this is one thing, but it quite another to actually implement it in practice. We all need to work together to achieve this. I cannot stress how important this is and how much I appreciate all your efforts. At the moment our university is an institution of some 8,000 staff working from home, an intelligent distributed network if you like. This is something new for us all - for management, for staff, and well established teams. Exactly how long this situation will last, no one can say. What I do know is this: Everyone has approached the situation with determination and creativity. For example, the Staff Council was quick to call a special session to advise on as many scenarios and procedures as possible. The various departments have organized procedures and services to deal with this emergency situation. Deadlines have been extended and assistance arranged.

All the University´s lecturers have been called upon to develop digital options for teaching. This week, the Berlin universities expressed their determination to offer a summer semester 2020 and develop digital teaching options. A new 10-million-euro program has been set up in Berlin for this purpose. Please devote yourself fully to this task and do everything you can to ensure that we can offer teaching programs in digital formats in the summer semester. Our students need your help. InnoCampus and the Center for Scientific Continuing Education and Cooperation´s online teaching team are there to help you with this.

After this somewhat turbulent week, I would like to wish all of you a pleasant and relaxing weekend.

Remain at home and stay healthy.

Do everything you can to keep up your excellent work with us at this wonderful university – particularly in these difficult times.    

I will write to you again next Friday.

If you have any suggestions or tips, then you can write to me at 

Sincerely,

Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen
President of Technische Universität Berlin