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Fifth Open Letter from the Rector on the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) from 1 April 2020 concerning the start of the 2020 summer semester

Dear Professors, Staff, and Students,

Dear Members of the University Community,

Without doubt, it is unusual to start a semester in this way - with an open letter, but without publicly accessible facilities of our university. On the one hand, this clearly demonstrates the state of emergency in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, however, it also makes it unmistakably clear that despite the current situation and the extremely difficult general conditions associated with it, we are striving to make the best of the situation and to maintain our university life as far as it is possible and responsible. This is reflected in the start of numerous digital courses as well as the introduction of video conferences for our committees. In addition, we are committed to take appropriate measures to counteract the negative consequences of the restrictions and the stand-by operation of Chemnitz University of Technology. For example, we are currently setting up a psychological consulting hotline for the corona crisis at Chemnitz University of Technology in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Stephan Mühlig and the Psychotherapeutic University Clinic (PHA-TUC GmbH). I would like to inform you about these and some other points below.

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Start of Digital Courses

Although the preventive measures taken against the spread of the carona virus (SARS-CoV-2) mean that, as already announced, it is not possible to start the semester with a simultaneous start of classroom courses, it was and is our clear goal to offer as many alternative teaching and learning formats as possible already at the start of the semester - i.e. to transform the traditional courses into digital courses as far as possible and reasonable.

Thanks to the unbelievably great commitment of countless employees of our university, courses in the 2020 summer semester at Chemnitz University of Technology can begin on April 6th at all eight faculties as well as the Centre for Teacher Education with currently well over 700 digital courses. Please note that the list of digital courses will be updated continuously and supplemented with additional courses.

In order to enable direct contact between teachers and students - similar to face-to-face courses - the University Computer Center has been working hard in recent weeks to set up a server cluster for the BigBlueButton video conferencing system. A first stage of this video conference system is already usable and will be successively expanded to provide sufficient capacity. It is now possible to create individual virtual conference rooms with password protection in order to realise courses, oral exams, working group meetings etc. via video conferencing without complications. For the use of the video conference system BigBlueButton virtual training courses are offered this and next week.

In order to provide optimal support for lecturers in didactic, conceptual, or technical questions, a number of offers have been established, which are summarised on the university websites in the teaching section. In addition, the FAQ pages of Chemnitz University of Technology contain a separate FAQ area for teachers and a FAQ area for students with further information on digital teaching and the organisation of studies at Chemnitz University of Technology.

Of course, the counselling services for students will be available by telephone. Especially for international students, the IUZ, in cooperation with the Chair of German as a Foreign and Second Language, organizes virtual language cafés where students can speak German in an informal atmosphere and improve or develop their knowledge of the German language.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to all lecturers for making a virtual start to teaching in the summer semester 2020 possible in a very short time and despite extremely difficult circumstances. I would also like to thank everyone who supported this in the background - especially the University Computer Centre, the Central Examination Office, the Student Service Point as well as the staff of TU4U, Lehrpraxis im Transferplus and Digital Higher Education.

Availability of Video Conferences for TU Committees

Due to the missing possibility of holding committee meetings and reaching decisions in the conventional way during stand-by operation, we and the State Rectors' Conference (LRK) have approached the State Ministry of Science, Culture, and Tourism of Saxony (SMWK) in order to examine legally secured possibilities of holding and passing resolutions of university committees during the current stand-by operation, especially the option of video conferences.

The SMWK noted in this regard that it does not necessarily follow from the wording of § 54 (1) sentence 1 SächsHSFG ("organs are competent to pass resolutions if the meeting has been duly convened and more than half of the members entitled to vote are present.") "that the members must be physically present". Against this background, the Ministry considers that, if the existing legal options (which are sufficiently known and practised in normal operation) are not appropriate in view of the current situation, the implementation of video conferences by means of secure and data protection-compliant transmission is legally justifiable, "as long as, on the basis of the Protection against Infection Act, leaving home accommodation and events as well as other gatherings are prohibited".

The SMWK explicitly points out that...

  • video conference meetings should be limited "only to the absolutely important points" and to those cases "in which circulating procedures or reduced numbers of members and reconvening do not lead to success".
  • in the case of video conference sessions, a situation "similar to a personal session" is to be created wherever possible. This means that all participants can see each other and ensure and assure that no unauthorised participants are present. In addition, the minutes of the meeting should be carefully recorded.
  • a possible requirement of public accessibility is also taken into account for video conferences (since according to § 56 SächsHSFG the Senate and the Extended Senate meet publicly at the university level and the faculty councils meet publicly at the faculty level). Either the respective public access could be established with technical support or the public could be excluded pursuant to § 56 para. 1 sentence 2 SächsHSFG - for which a balancing of interests is necessary: "between the weighted interest to leave the formation of opinion transparent and open" and "the weighted interests that speak for an exclusion", in which case reasons of health protection can be taken into account.

Of course, the legal requirements must be observed in video conferences as well, e.g. majority requirements for resolutions in matters of the organisation of studies (cf. § 88 paragraph 5 SächsHSFG).

The above-mentioned video conferencing system provided by the University Computer Centre can be used for committee meetings of Chemnitz University of Technology as well. It meets the above-mentioned requirements and allows the organization of video conferences for a specific public or part of the public by assigning passwords.

Detailed information on video conferencing by committees of Chemnitz University of Technology will soon be available in the FAQ section.

Establishment of a Psychological Counselling Hotline at Chemnitz University of Technology to Help Dealing with the Corona Crisis

The Rectorate supports the establishment of a psychological counselling hotline at Chemnitz University of Technology concerning the corona crisis in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Stephan Mühlig and PHA-TUC. This all-day hotline is staffed by highly qualified psychotherapists for people who need help or advice in dealing with the corona crisis.

Through the hotline, affected persons can be advised on the telephone and persons in need of treatment can be identified, admitted as patients of the PHA-TUC, and receive psychotherapeutic care. As there is a current special permit for psychotherapeutic consultation, this can be carried out in the form of video chat therapy via dedicated secure lines. As a result, patients currently have the choice of coming in person or taking advantage of online therapy.

As soon as the counselling hotline is operational, you will be informed separately by Uni aktuell and through our FAQ pages on the corona virus.

            ***

Finally, I would like to point out that disinfectants are now available at Chemnitz University of Technology - partly also from "in-house production" of our Institute of Chemistry, for which we have obtained permission from the State Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Cohesion of Saxony. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Institute of Chemistry and especially those involved. The disinfectants and the disinfectant dispensers are now being placed step by step in the different buildings (mainly at the building entrances) and thus made available for the core team which continues to be active in the rooms of Chemnitz University of Technology.

I would also like to inform you that, as already announced, there is one student at Chemnitz Technical University who tested positive for the corona virus and currently 32 suspected cases known to us. Fortunately, the number of infected students has not increased, and the number of suspected cases has even decreased slightly.

I ask you to continue observing the measures, information, and recommendations outlined in the previous Open Letters on the corona virus and to regularly consult the continuously updated FAQ section.

Of course, the measures listed above are no substitute for a "normal" start to the semester, but they do enable the best possible start of the semester under the given circumstances - thanks to the great commitment of the TUC family.

I am firmly convinced that with these and other measures we will master the challenges associated with the corona crisis together in the best possible way. With this in mind, I wish you a good "virtual start" to the 2020 summer semester.

Kind regards - and stay healthy!

Yours Gerd Strohmeier

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Fourth Open letter from the President regarding the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) of 20 March 2020

Dear Professors, Staff and Students,

Dear Members of the University Community,

I regret to inform you that by now a student of Chemnitz University of Technology from the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences has been tested positive for the corona virus. The infected person belonged to a travel group of 32 students and employees who returned to Chemnitz after an excursion abroad and whose members are now in domestic isolation. As a result, there are currently 35 known suspected cases among the members of Chemnitz University of Technology.

Now that the faculties, central institutions, and the central university administration have defined their requirements for the absolutely necessary minimum level of operation and have passed them on to the crisis management team, the team has agreed together with the Rectorate to put Chemnitz University of Technology into full stand-by mode from Monday, 23 March 2020, 5 pm, until further notice.

This means that...

  • all buildings and facilities of Chemnitz University of Technology will be closed from that time on and no more public traffic, committee meetings, or examinations can take place on site.
  • Chemnitz University of Technology is switched to an absolutely necessary minimum state of operation, which includes only the absolutely necessary technical and administrative basic services.
  • only a core team, which is necessary to maintain the stand-by operation on site, will be working at Chemnitz University of Technology. The respective employees are specifically named and informed by the Rectorate as well as the management of the faculties, central institutions, and departments in coordination with the respective supervisors - taking into account social aspects. They are required to strictly follow the recommended hygiene requirements, to work in separate rooms (individual workplaces), to reduce contact with other employees to a necessary minimum (preferably communicate by telephone or e-mail) and otherwise to maintain minimum distances.
  • all other employees who are not necessary to maintain standby operation are instructed to no longer appear at their workplace or to enter the buildings of Chemnitz University of Technology. They do not have to apply for leave of absence, overtime compensation, or unpaid leave and generally retain the right to remuneration in this case. However, unless they have taken leave etc. or are on sick leave, they are required to be reachable by telephone and/or e-mail, to make use of mobile work if this is possible and reasonable, and in principle to remain available for work on site. The assignment of tasks is still the responsibility of the respective line managers, subject to the restrictions described above.

I ask the heads of the faculties, central institutions and departments to establish and ensure the above-mentioned stand-by operation mode on their own responsibility and to maintain communication with both the university management and the local staff and, if possible or necessary, with the staff at home.

Information on the basic administrative services provided by the ZUV - both for employees and students - as well as on all other current questions is provided in the constantly updated FAQ.

We will, of course, continue to make every effort to create the right conditions for studying successfully in the coming summer semester. As announced in the last open letter, deadlines for withdrawing from exams have been lifted or extended for the submission of assignments and theses. In addition, the chairmen of the examination committees have been asked to consider alternative types of exams favourably. Furthermore, the Rectorate has opened up the possibility for them to allow oral examinations and defences or colloquia of theses via video conference. Further information on this as well as on the switch to digitalised teaching with instructions, recommendations, and also training courses can be found in the FAQ. Soon you will also find a list of courses that will be offered online in April.

I kindly ask all employees and students to regularly check the website of Chemnitz University of Technology as well as your TU e-mail address even during full stand-by. Furthermore, I ask that the information given in the previous open letters regarding the suspicion or confirmed diagnosis of an infection with the corona virus and the return of travel from risk areas has to be strictly adhered to.

I would like to thank you all very sincerely for your support and your understanding for the measures taken - which are intended to protect the members of our University and their families in the best possible way and to counteract the spread of the corona virus.

I wish you, also on behalf of the Rectorate and the crisis management team, from the bottom of my heart that you and your families remain healthy and that you get through this extremely difficult situation well.

With kind regards and best wishes

Yours Gerd Strohmeier

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Third Open letter from the President regarding the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) of 17 March 2020

Dear Professors, Staff and Students,

Dear Members of the University Community,

Yesterday, the Saxon State Rectors' Conference, together with the Saxon State Ministry of Science, Culture and Tourism, held a conference call to discuss how to deal with the worldwide spread of the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) and the infectious disease ("Corona virus induced disease", COVID-19) caused by it. As a result of this discussion, a joint approach and appropriate measures were agreed upon, as announced in a press release by the Saxon State Rectors' Conference.

The crisis management team, which has been set up at Chemnitz University of Technology and which includes members of the University Management, the Staff Council and the Student Council (StuRa), yesterday dealt intensively with the implementation of the measures resolved by the Saxon State Rectors' Conference and those that are additionally necessary.

The Saxon State Rectors' Conference agreed that the first step will be to work towards "carrying out a successful summer semester 2020 in a responsible manner". This will start on 1 April 2020, but the start of face-to-face classes will be postponed until 4 May 2020 at the earliest. At the same time, teaching formats in which the presence of professors/lecturers and students is not necessary should be offered as early as possible. Corresponding solutions for alternative teaching and learning offerings are currently being examined.

In addition, it was agreed that the universities should go into "stand-by mode", ensuring proper administration, the respective technical facilities and laboratories in such a way "that their efficiency is maintained and scientific results are not jeopardised as far as possible". This means that operations at Chemnitz University of Technology will be reduced to the absolutely necessary minimum and that only a core team will be active at Chemnitz University of Technology.

In accordance with the agreement of the Saxon State Rectors' Conference, the facilities for events and visitors as well as the reading rooms of the libraries will be closed until further notice. Furthermore, the entire University Library, the Centre for Sports and Health Promotion (ZfSG), the computer pools (training pools) managed by the University Computer Centre (URZ), the Student Service Point, the Central Examination Office, the Central Student Advisory Service, the International Office, the Patent Information Centre and the Creative Centre for have already been closed public access at Chemnitz University of Technology.

In order to bring Chemnitz University of Technology down to the absolutely necessary minimum level of operation in a targeted and rapid manner, specific measures are currently being defined and the necessary prerequisites created in close cooperation with the various departments of our university. Employees who are not necessary to prepare or maintain "stand-by operation" are required, after consultation with their supervisor, to stop coming to work immediately and until further notice - they do not have to apply for leave of absence, overtime compensation or unpaid leave and in this case they retain their right to remuneration. All other employees should strictly follow the recommended hygiene conditions, work in separate rooms (individual workstations), reduce contact with other employees and public traffic to a necessary minimum (preferably communicate by telephone or e-mail) and otherwise maintain minimum distances.

Current examinations should be postponed as far as possible. If this is not feasible, the recommended hygiene conditions must be strictly observed. Examiners are asked to make accommodating arrangements in view of the situation, to inform the Central Examination Office in individual cases and to reliably inform the participants of scheduled examinations about the postponements of dates and to be available for further questions. Students may withdraw from examinations with immediate effect and without giving reasons until the resumption of normal teaching activities. Furthermore, the deadlines for handing in homework and final papers have been extended by the period from the cancellation of courses on 11 March 2020 until one week after resumption of regular teaching activities.

Further information for employees and students can be found in the continuously updated FAQ section of the Office for Security at Work and Environment Protection (BfAU) of Chemnitz University of Technology.

I would like to explicitly point out that the situation at Chemnitz University of Technology has not changed at the present time. These measures, too, are exclusively preventive, but urgently necessary steps to delay the further spread of the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2).

Of course you will be informed immediately about further developments on the website of Chemnitz University of Technology.

I hope you understand the measures taken and thank you very much for your cooperation!

The worldwide spread of the corona virus and the infectious disease it causes is confronting us with a situation that we have never experienced before in this form, that can hardly be compared with other challenges and that of course fills everyone with great concern. I am firmly convinced, however, that we will be able to deal with this situation in the best possible way if we do not face it in a panic or frivolously but adequately, if we implement the above measures consistently and do what the TUCfamily has always done in difficult times and when faced with particular challenges - stick together.

With kind regards

Yours Gerd Strohmeier

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Preventive measure regarding the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) of 13 March 2020

Dear Professors, Staff and Students,

Dear Members of the University Community,

After consultation with the Chemnitz Department of Health the following areas will be closed immediately for visitors until further notice:

Again I would like to make clear that all measures being instituted are exclusively preventive.

With kind regards

Yours Gerd Strohmeier

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Second Open letter from the President regarding the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) of 11 March 2020

Dear Professors, Staff and Students,

Dear Members of the University Community,

A meeting took place this afternoon with representatives from the Chemnitz Department of Health, and it was recommended that the entire university make use of the capability to telecommute or work from home, if it is at all possible and if it does not affect core processes of the university. This temporary measure will enable working remotely after consultation with the respective supervisor, without any other special application or approval required.

Courses will be canceled until further notice. Sessions, committee meetings, etc. should be reviewed to ensure that their taking place is absolutly necessary.

According to current assessments of the situation, class will not be in session on 6 April 2020. Further information will be announced at a later date.

Events with more than 1,000 participants will be prohibited, according to the decree made by the Saxon State Ministry for Social Affairs. This will come into effect as of 12 March 2020 at 8:00am and will continue indefinitely. All other events must be reviewed to ensure that they need to take place. Otherwise, the procedures as noted above will, in continued consultation with the Chemnitz Department of Health, apply until further notice.

If you have returned from trips to high-risk areas, I ask that you please avoid contact with other people, do not come into work, and contact a doctor by phone and ask for advice. In addition, I ask that you contact our human resources department by telephone (+49 371 531-12200) and only come back to work after the threat of being infected with the virus has been ruled out. If this is the case, we will see to what extent we can make it possible for you to work from home.

I would like to make it abundantly clear that the situation in the city of Chemnitz as well as at Chemnitz University of Technology has not changed at the present time. All measures being instituted are exclusively preventive.

We will certainly inform you immediately of any changes or new developments.

With kind regards

Yours Gerd Strohmeier

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Current updates on the coronavirus in Chemnitz:

(10 March 2020, 4:20 pm) There are now three confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Chemnitz. According to the city's public affairs office, the virus is unlikely to be passed on, as the affected people were immediately put into quarantine upon their return.

In addition, an employee from the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration is currently being tested for infection with the coronavirus. He will, in any case, be staying at home until the test results are returned (no quarantine). As a preventative measure, work in this area will be done remotely until 11 March 2020.

We will update you immediately when any new information arises. (10 March 2020, 4:20 pm)

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First Open letter from the President regarding the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) of 9 March 2020

Dear professors, staff members and students,

dear members and adherents of Chemnitz University of Technology,

The novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the infection disease caused by it („Corona virus induced disease“, COVID-19) continue to spread globally. Meanwhile, there are also confirmed cases of Coronavirus-infections in Saxony.

This evokes naturally uncertainties and anxieties. In this context, it is important to take the situation seriously but also to estimate it at the same time in an appropriate way and to react in a careful manner. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) still assesses the danger for the health of the population in Germany as moderate but also points out that this estimation may change due to new information.

In Chemnitz and Chemnitz University of Technology, no confirmed case of Coronavirus-infection emerged yet. For this reason, also the activities at Chemnitz University of Technology had not been restricted.

With regard to the implementation of events, the Health Authority of the City of Chemnitz had elaborated a checklist for assessment and decision. This checklist is provided for download on the website of the Office for Security at Work and Environment Protection (BfAU) of Chemnitz University of Technology. Internal as well as external organizers of events are asked to declare events at Chemnitz University of Technology, regardless of their size, and to send the filled checklist in due time prior to the start of the event to the Department of Facility Management and Technology (Email: vermietung@verwaltung.tu-chemnitz.de), which forwards the document to the Health Authority of the City of Chemnitz. Subsequent to respective evaluation, the Health Authority will inform the Department of Facility Management and Technology about a decision or recommendation for implementation or cancellation of the event – which then – after internal decision, if necessary and appropriate – is communicated respectively to the respective organizers of the event. Already projected lectures for the upcoming summer term are exempted from these regulations. According to the current status, they do not have to be declared by the checklist.

In case of changings regarding the current situation (risk assessment etc.) at Chemnitz resp. Chemnitz University of Technology, the university will, in coordination with the City of Chemnitz, in particular with the Health Authority of the City of Chemnitz, react without any delay as well as in an appropriate way and will inform you about that respectively.

Apart from that, I would like to ask you to continuously consult the existing information sources in order to adapt as best as possible to the current situation in your private as well as in your professional sphere and to protect yourself respectively. You get continuously actualized information regarding the Coronavirus and its way of contamination, concerning the current spreading, protection and security measures, on how to react in the case of suspicion of infection resp. disease of the Coronavirus or in the case of return from regions, in which the virus was transmitted as well as travelling indications on the websites of the Robert Koch Institute, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Foreign Office, the Saxon State Ministry for Social Affairs and Societal Cohesion  (in German only), the Health Authority of the City of Chemnitz (in German only) as well as via the Federal Emergency Information and News App, abbreviated: warning app NINA (in German only).

Current information may be found as well on the website of the Office for Security at Work and Environment Protection (BfAU) of Chemnitz University of Technology established exclusively for this topic. 

In the context of protection measures, all buildings of Chemnitz University of Technology will be equipped step-by-step with disinfectant dispensers. Unfortunately, also our university is affected by the existing comprehensive shortages of availability of products of that kind. I would like to ask you cordially to pay strong attention to all protection measures recommended by the institutions mentioned above. Currently, the Robert Koch Institute recommends to pay special attention to careful hand hygiene, to comply with rules for coughing and sniffing, to keep a distance from persons affected of at minimum one to two meters as well as to renounce from shaking hands. Furthermore, all persons suffering from diseases of the respiratory tract should, according to the recommendations of the Robert Koch Institute, stay at home as far as possible.

It is strongly dissuaded to travel into areas of risk. In this context, it is indicated that a business trip may only be approved under the condition that it is not opposed to current travel warnings. In this respect, please pay attention to the respective travel and safety information of the Federal Foreign Office (in German only). In case of doubt regarding the implementation of already confirmed business trips, a consideration in consultation with the supervisor resp. the responsible for the approval should be done in order to evaluate if the business trip is still absolutely necessary. In the case that it is decided in individual cases to renounce from an already confirmed business trip, travelling services which cannot be cancelled anymore may be claimed with the common calculation of business trip costs. Insofar fairs, conferences etc. are cancelled by the organizer, also costs for non-reversible travelling services in this regard may be declared within the calculation of business trip costs.

In case of symptoms similar to a flu, please stay at home and contact immediately a physician. In the case that you have travelled to an area determined as risk area for Coronavirus-diseases within the past 14 days or that you had personal contact with a person affected by the Coronavirus, please contact the Health Authority of the City of Chemnitz by telephone (phone: +49 371 488-5302, 06:00 am to 10:00 pm) without any delay, also if no disease symptoms are visible. Until then, you should stay at home and avoid unnecessary contacts with other persons. Please pay also attention to the further indications of the Health Authority in this respect  (in German only).

In cases of suspicion of infection with the Coronavirus mentioned above as well as naturally in the case of a confirmed diagnosis of a respective infection, I would like to ask to inform the University Management of Chemnitz University of Technology without any delay. Your central person of contact in this respect is Ms. Diana Schreiterer (phone: +49 371 531-35267, Email: diana.schreiterer@verwaltung.tu-chemnitz.de).

In addition, also Ms. Monique Kautz from the Office for Security at Work and Environment Protection of Chemnitz University of Technology is at your disposal (phone: +49 371 531-34254, Email: monique.kautz@verwaltung.tu-chemnitz.de).

Naturally, you will be informed about all significant changings and amendments without any delay. In case of eventually emerging further questions regarding staff regulations, a respective FAQ-area will be established on the website of the Office for Security at Work and Environment Protection (BfAU) of Chemnitz University of Technology.

I hope very much that the situation not aggravates further – and that you all stay healthy!

With kind regards

Yours Gerd Strohmeier

Mario Steinebach
01.04.2020

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