New student representatives in the Senate:
"Subsidies must be used to improve the study conditions"
What are your responsibilities as student representatives in the Senate?
Zarnitz: The Senate consists of representatives of the four main groups within the university: the professors, the academic staff, all other staff and of course the students. Mainly, the Senate holds discussions and votes on the statutes, the University’s legal framework, and on staff appointments. As student representatives, we try to represent the students' perspective and their interests.
Kuhn: But of course we are not only active in the Senate. We also see ourselves as members of the student representation, which includes the departmental committees, the Student Council and the AStA. We all work together. Also, we exchange ideas with our fellow students and are always available for questions and concerns.
How much time does you volunteer work take up?
Kuhn: Of course, we do not keep track of the time. But I guess it sums up to about 20 hours in a normal week.
Zarnitz: It tends to be a lot more before a meeting of the Senate, maybe about 50 hours. There are six meetings a year. We receive the respective documents a week before the meeting.
Kuhn: In terms of files this amounts to two or three hefty file folders packed with documents printed on both sides. We have to work through them within a week and consider comments or statements.
Do you have some spare time despite the expenditure of time for university politics?
Zarnitz: Well, there’s not much free time left – but it’s a must to be able to go skiing in winter.
Kuhn: I’m interested in music, but I don’t get to play the piano properly as often as I should. I also play football – and then there’s also my shared flat in which we often spend the evenings with cooking or playing games together. That's worth a lot.
You are both in your fifth semester at TUM. What is your motivation to volunteer in university politics?
Zarnitz: It's just fun. Also, we’re able to make a difference. Maybe it’s not always very clear, but there are actual results. For example, the Senate also decides on the examination regulations, which has direct influence on every student’s course of studies. Thus, we try to make a course of studies more manageable. We have to keep in mind that the students are the largest group of people at a university. We try to ensure that our interests don’t get overlooked.
Kuhn: I think university policy is an incredibly exciting field. We all have a responsibility to help shape the university. I am convinced that our university can be improved further if the students are involved, because in the end we all want the same thing – to make our TU München even better.
What goals have you set yourselves for the Senate meetings next year?
Kuhn: Firstly, there are the study grants that will replace the tuition fees. At the moment, we are trying to ensure that the funds will be used optimally to improve the study conditions. Thus, we are in close contact with the university management. On the other hand, we are also trying to set priorities that can be implemented in the individual departments – for example in the field of e-learning – instead of scattering smaller investments.
Zarnitz: We also support the so-called approach of "intelligent learning-space management". A pilot project has started at Garching-Hochbrück: a room-finder app informs the students where there are free learning spaces available on campus.
The third of our main concerns is of course the sensitive topic "living in Munich". Here, it’s not only us two senators working together, but all of the other bodies of the TUM and the student representations of the LMU and the HM too. On occasion of the local elections we organize discussion panels with the mayoral candidate, for example.
Why would you recommend other students to get involved as student representatives?
Zarnitz: You learn a lot of things that can’t be taught within a regular course of studies, like how to organize a festival and check what regulations must be followed in doing so. Last year, there was no PR-speaker. We just had to try and cope ourselves and suddenly we were doing real press work.
Kuhn: You acquire soft skills for later in life, like how to read and organize 30 to 50 e-mails a day or how to keep up an extensive time schedule and to-do lists. You also learn things that are out of the ordinary: how to write a letter to Edmund Stoiber and to present it to him, for example. Why? We asked Mr Stoiber whether he would like to start off our TUNIX festival next year. Mr Stoiber is a member of the University Council in which we are involved too, as members of the senate. Things like this make working in the field of student representation so exciting.
Peter Kuhn (21) is originally from Höpfingen in Baden- Württemberg. It was "a gut decision" to start a course of studies at TUM. He is in his fifth semester of Mechanical Engineering. From the first semester onwards, he was a member of the departmental committee and later of the Student Council.
Peter Zarnitz (19), who is from Kaufbeuren, was born at TUM, so to say, at the Klinikum rechts der Isar. He chose the TUM because he thought it well prepared for the doubled “Abitur” age-group. He is in his fifth semester of Computer Sciences. From the first semester onwards, he worked as a script printing advisor for the student body and was one of the student representatives without a right to vote in the last year’s Senate.