In this winter, the Goethe University could go into lockdown again – not to slow down the corona virus, but because of a lack of electricity or heat. “A closure of the entire university for several days or weeks in the event of ongoing energy shortages is conceivable,” said the Presidential Board in response to an inquiry from the FAZ. At the same time, it is asserted that everything is being done to avoid such a scenario. For weeks, the university has been working intensively on the possible effects of the impending energy crisis on teaching and research.
Energy is already being saved and an analysis is being carried out to see where there are other opportunities to do so. Should Vladimir Putin turn off the gas tap completely in Germany, Hesse’s largest university would not feel the effects immediately, because its buildings are mainly supplied with district heating from a waste-to-energy plant. However, a gas shortage could still have an indirect effect, writes the press office. The university cannot switch to other heating systems in the short term.
“Set all levers in motion” to maintain face-to-face teaching
In order to curb consumption, the university is considering lowering the temperature in less heavily used buildings and possibly closing parts completely. Critical infrastructure, for example in research laboratories, for which “a minimum level of heating” remains necessary, is exempt from such restrictions. The university hopes that the federal and state governments will adapt regulations, for example to be able to reduce the minimum temperature in rooms.
The Goethe University lets students who are afraid of spending many hours at home in front of their laptops again instead of in the lecture hall know: “Basically, face-to-face teaching has top priority.” Even if the energy crisis worsens, the university will “all Putting things in motion” to maintain teaching on campus. However, the university has shown in the past two years that it can relocate events to digital space “on a large scale and at short notice” if necessary.
Other Hessian universities are also currently considering how they can save energy in the winter semester. For example, the University of Gießen has decided on an initial package to counteract the impending crisis in autumn and winter. According to the central Hessian university, the times of laboratory use should be adjusted, outdoor facilities on campus should be illuminated for a shorter time and teaching rooms should be heated or cooled “much more cautiously”.
No closure planned
In addition, this winter the university will not only be closed between the years, but also in the first week of January. “We hope to be able to shut down entire buildings for this reasonable period of time with this measure,” said a spokeswoman at the request of the German Press Agency. However, there are no plans in Giessen to completely or partially close the university outside of the lecture-free period due to rising energy prices: “Digital teaching has its limits, and we think it is wrong to shift the energy problem to the private sphere” – neither to the employees nor to the financially weakest group, the students.
At the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, the extension of the Christmas break for students and a correspondingly longer lecture period in spring 2023 is conceivable, as a spokeswoman said. Employees have already been asked to turn off the lights if they are absent for a longer period of time and not to leave laptops, printers and copiers in stand-by mode.