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Protest in a Hawaiian shirt – a no sweat solution

Rainer Dausch from the German Seminar wants to demonstrate with his choice of fashion the possibility of changing the timing of the semesters

Freiburg, Jun 13, 2017

Protest in a Hawaiian shirt – a no sweat solution

Photo: Ingeborg F. Lehmann

The academic year at German universities is divided into the summer and winter semester. Typically instruction for the summer semester beings in April and the last week of lectures is typically at the end of July. By wearing Hawaiian shirts, Rainer Dausch, a library employee for the German Seminar at the University of Freiburg, wants to point out that there are alternatives to the way the semesters are distributed.

Rainer Dausch (right) has already found his first active supporter. Jens Alber is currently writing his final exam at the German Seminar and wants to draw attention with his Hawaiian shirt how one's concentration decreases as the heat increases.
Photo: Ingeborg F. Lehmann

Every day at 1pm Rainer Dausch sits at the reception desk of the German Seminar. He manages the locker keys and explains how the copy machine works, gives students directions and helps employees find books thought to have gone missing. Everyone knows him and there is barely a soul in the German studies department who has yet to have had a chat with him. And so it happens that Dausch learns a lot about the problems and desires the students and instructors have. Every summer when Freiburg turns into a ball of heat and humidity, the discussion at the library entrance turns once again to the apparently unbearable heat in the seminar rooms.

Dausch has thought of a solution to the issue. He has suggested that the lecture period be altered so that lectures land during the spring semester from the beginning of February until the end of May. The fall semester would begin in mid-September and end after the Christmas holiday break. In order to draw attention to his idea, people begun gathering at his workspace starting June 12, 2017 wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Julia Dannehl recently met with him for a chat about his idea.

Mr. Dausch, why do you think it would better to change the timing of the semesters?

Rainer Dausch: It gets extremely hot in the seminar rooms during the summer semester. If we were to adapt the semesters to those at the University of Basel, for instance, the students could spend the hottest weeks of the year in the air-conditioned university library writing their papers instead of spending the time in the hot seminar rooms. It would also be easier for international students. Eucor students, for instance, have different lecture periods at their home universities. That creates enormous time pressure because once they have finished their lectures in Freiburg, they have very little time for their exams before the next semester begins at their home universities.

How would instructors profit from the new arrangement – other than that it would no longer be so hot?

The heat affects lecturers less because they are driven by adrenaline when standing in front of the group. But they would also benefit: if the lecture periods ended in May, the instructors could spend the Pentecost holiday on vacation with their children. And because many international conferences are held during the summer, the instructors are currently not able to attend them.

Why did you explicitly choose Hawaiian shirts as your method of protest?

Because they represent summer like no other piece of clothing can. They are colorful and gaudy and often have palm trees or exotic animals prints, which are reminiscent of vacation time. They stand for summer time, a time of year where life happens outside while employees and students at the university spend their time indoors sweating profusely.

You have announced that you will protest until the end of the semester. How many Hawaiian shirts do you own?

Up to now only three. I ordered them just for this protest. But colleagues and friends have told me they will search through their drawers at home for old treasures and to offer shirts for this campaign. One colleague even offered to bring some back with her after her US vacation.

How can students and employees support your campaign?

I look forward to each and every person who joins me at the University in a Hawaiian shirt or colorful summer dress. Other alternatives might be summer-like accessories such as leis, fans or sun umbrellas too.