Next Monday, the lecture period begins for the 2022/2023 Winter Semester. We hope that you had a relaxing semester break and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus.
Today we would like to share with you information on the general regulations governing COVID-19 and essential energy-saving measures at Bielefeld University.
The various mutations, vaccinations, medications, established safety protocols, and high levels of infection throughout the population have taken the dread of the virus down a notch. That said, people are still getting seriously ill and have to be hospitalized, or are suffering from long COVID. People are still dying. High rates of sick leave among staff in so-called critical infrastructure also leads to problems that impact everyone. For all of these reasons, we must continue to be cautious.
Since October 1st, the new Coronavirus Protection Ordinance of North Rhine-Westphalia has been in effect, and will be valid through October 31st, 2022, for the time being. Based on this, we have modified the applicable hygiene concept governing teaching. We will be starting the 2022/2023 Winter Semester without comprehensive COVID-19 measures.
At this time, we will not be returning to a mask requirement, but we strongly recommend that you wear a mask. This recommendation applies in particular to courses held in lecture halls and seminar rooms, as well as in all areas of public traffic and the library. You can protect yourself and others by wearing a mask. More information is available online in the hygiene concept.
The current energy crisis is demanding a united front from society as a whole in order to dampen the coming impacts. In this context, we mustn’t forget the reason why this crisis is happening: Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine in violation of international law and the European system of peace and order. As a university community, we want – and will – do our part to contribute to energy security in Bielefeld and beyond. At the same time, we are very aware of the difficulties you are facing with the high energy prices and inflation.
A crucial test here will be how well we, as a society, are going to be able to conserve energy. On September 15th, we sent out a first email notifying you of the measures Bielefeld University is taking to save energy. This includes heating Interior spaces at the university to a maximum of 19° C, taking some elevators out of service, not heating the university hall, and closing the library at 10pm. In the coming weeks, however, several new study areas for students will be opened, so you will soon be able to study in heated areas not only in the library, but also in the university hall. More information will be shared with you as soon as the rooms have been set up.
This first set of energy-saving measures, however, is not going to be enough. For one, these measures alone will not amount to the energy-savings target set at 20 percent, and we are also being confronted with concrete questions of energy availability in Bielefeld. We must therefore do more to reduce our energy consumption. It is important to emphasize that want to avoid limitations to studying and teaching as far as possible. In the interest of our students, our goal is to begin and end the winter semester in person, as planned.
The Rectorate has now approved additional energy-saving measures. We will be turning off the heat in Towers C and V and on Bridges M and L of the Main University Building and will be temporarily shutting down the offices there. The same goes for Building H. Here, only offices are affected – not the university library, lecture halls, or seminar rooms. Staff members impacted by this will move to other areas of campus and other buildings. We will work together as a university community to make this happen. Starting in mid-November, if you, for instance, need to go to your instructor’s office hours, you will need to look up where their office is currently located.
On September 27th, the Rectorate also decided to extend this year’s 2022/2023 Christmas holiday closure by one week as an additional energy-saving measure. In concrete terms, this means that Bielefeld University will close on December 23rd, 2022, and will remain closed until January 2nd, 2023. The university library will provide special options for borrowing materials, and more information on this will be provided in a separate email. From January 2nd–9th, the university will be open, but the heating will remain turned off. During this time, staff members will work from Home Office.
Please note that the university library will largely remain unaffected by this and will provide heated workstations during this time. You will still be able to reach the Student Advising and Counselling (ZSB) from January 2nd, and Studierendensekretariat [Student Office] starting January 4, 2023, by telephone or email. The Information Point in the University Hall will be closed. You can get help with your UniCard by sending an email. BITS will also be available by telephone or chat. The computer labs will remain open and the printers will also be available.
For your reference, the projected energy savings from extending the Christmas closure is estimated to amount to the average annual usage of 400 four-member households.
After performing repair work during the semester break, we will not be refilling the swimming pool, which will also help save a considerable amount of energy. This means that the swimming pool will unfortunately not be available for university sports until further notice, but alternative arrangements have been made with public pools. In addition to the energy savings measures mentioned above, we are also considering other steps.
Despite these unfortunate yet necessary restrictions, we hope that you have a great start to the semester!
Be healthy and well as we move into the winter season.
Prof. Dr.-Ing Gerhard Sagerer, Rector
Dr. Stephan Becker, Chancellor
Prof. Dr. Birgit Lütje-Klose, Vice-Rector for Education and Teaching
This semester is also being impacted by continuing challenges and restrictions, particularly by this year’s energy crisis. You have already received detailed information on Bielefeld University’s energy-saving efforts in a previous email. And we mustn’t forget that COVID-19 is still very much with us. We want to take this opportunity today to let you know about the current regulations.
When it comes to COVID-19, the various mutations, vaccinations, medications, established safety practices, and high levels of infection throughout the population have taken the dread of the virus down a notch. High rates of sick leave among staff in so-called critical infrastructure also leads to problems that affect everyone. For all of these reasons, we must continue to be cautious. Add to this the fact that we are starting from a very different place than last winter: in the coming months, many offices will be occupied by more than one person in order to meet the requirements of the current energy-savings targets.
Since October 1st, the new Coronavirus Protection Ordinance of North Rhine-Westphalia and the new SARS-CoV-2 Federal Occupational Protection Regulations have been in effect. Based on these, the two required hygiene concepts – one for teaching operations and one for service operations – were adapted. We have summarized the regulations below for you. For further information, please refer to the respective hygiene concepts.
For the start of the Winter Semester, the following applies:
Bielefeld University will continue to provide surgical or FFP2 masks to staff members. Staff members who must work on-site with others present in the same room will be provided with one rapid self-test per day of presence on site for personal use at home. All other staff members who are working on campus will be provided with two rapid tests per week for personal use at home.
Despite all of these challenges, we hope that you have a great start to the new semester and would again like to express our sincere thanks for your commitment and willingness to adapt to the changing circumstances.
Stay healthy and well, and we wish you all the best in the coming weeks.
Dr. Stephan Becker, Chancellor
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer, Rector