Dear Goethe Community Members,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

For weeks now at Goethe University, we are no longer in “normal operation”, nor are we in “core operation”. Normal university life has been suspended. A scant week ago, the Executive Board set up a small and a large crisis team. The small crisis team (Executive Board, plus Occupational Safety, Human Resources, Communication and infrastructure experts) communicates continually, the large crisis team (small crisis team plus Personnel Council, Representative for Employees with Disabilities, representatives of the dean’s offices, computing centre, University Library, Studierendenwerk, Finances, Research Services, Campuservice and others) meets regularly – virtually if necessary – and also communicates as needed on particular issues to maintain crisis management on an ongoing basis. In this way we manage to secure the flow of crucial information, even for our enormous university with its approximately 60,000 members at various locations, and even while the physical presence of employees on the campuses is meanwhile at a minimum.

With the closure of the university libraries following the fourth Corona Decree by the State Government (with the exception of digital services), we are meanwhile no longer in “basic operation” but on the path toward “emergency operation”. The situation between Christmas and New Year, when the buildings are not even heated normally in order to save energy can give you an idea. In the corona crisis, however, we are confronted with a real and previously unknown emergency situation. The designated phases cannot be separated into clearly distinguishable stages but are on a continuum. The other Hessian universities are in step with us through this process. As speaker of the Conference of Hessian Universities (KHU), I am in ongoing dialogue with the other institutions of higher education in Hessen, particularly the universities, and also with the state government. So far we have managed to synchronise our steps well state-wide. We are also in close communication with institutions in Berlin. Many questions, for example regarding more flexibility in BaFöG, DAAD scholarships or DFG funding cannot be solved decentrally or at the state level. Berlin currently responds quickly and flexibly to inquiries sent, for example, by the HRK (German Rector’s Conference). Some of the results of these inquiries have already been publicly communicated.

We have learnt that, due to total system overload, email circulars to everyone are not a suitable instrument for fast communication at the moment. Sometimes they take up to two days to reach the recipients. For this reason, we ask you and all members of the university community to always go to the central corona website of the university for current information. You can reach this site both in the internet and the intranet with one click www.uni-frankfurt.de/corona. Detailed information, for example on questions of teaching, exams, visits abroad and personnel matters are linked from there to the most current pages of our specialist departments (e.g., SSC, HRZ or HR). This is the best way to provide up-to-date information at the moment – knowing full well that what is up-to-date now can and will no longer be up-to-date in two hours or even less so in two days.

At present, we cannot rule out that further social „shutdown measures“ will be ordered by the state and/or federal government after all. The university administration is prepared for the event of restrictions on movement. We assume that at least at first these will not be so strict that university employees who are essential for maintaining emergency operation (including for research) will not be able to come to the university. Even if we hope that things do not go that far, we are currently preparing for many contingencies so that we can remain a half-step ahead of the situation.

There are currently many (faculty) specific challenges that cannot be met with a central solution. We are grateful that the deans and heads of the central institutions have already initiated the (faculty) specific regulations; everything that we have seen so far conforms with the broad line, which has the constant goal of minimising infection opportunities. Flatten the curve! That is the top priority. This does not mean that we are not already working in the background on solutions for the ensuing financial consequences and other collateral damages. Among other things, we have been intensively publicising the “Goethe-Corona Fund” since yesterday (20 March), to raise an additional 5 million euro in funds. These are primarily, but not exclusively, intended for additional needs in medicine. We have already received a number of larger donations. You can reach the donation website at this link. We are also grateful to all employees and students who in so many places are quick to meet the new daily challenges and repeatedly offer help. We will need this help, especially at the University Hospital.

We will continue to live and work in a continuously changing state of exception. And even when the acute crisis is over, things will hardly go back to normal right away. For example, we are working with the study deans to find virtual solutions for questions on teaching and examination operations even after 20 April. Also because we are system accredited, we have room for manoeuvre in the organisation of teaching, which we should use in this special situation.

We will continue to keep you informed in a timely manner. And as mentioned: the university corona website is central. The Vice President for Finances and Administration and I are always available for any specific questions or feedback. As is everyone that you can reach through the mentioned corona website and through the mail address krisenstab@uni-frankfurt.de.

We are certain that together we will manage to get through this time, which is also very difficult for Goethe University, and I sincerely ask you all for your continued support!

Warmest regards,
Birgitta Wolff 
Goethe University President

Further information at  www.uni-frankfurt.de/corona