Today, March 4th, is “fettisdagen” in Sweden. A perfect day for some wishes.

I wished I would get a proper “semla” today. But maybe, one or the other “Krapfen” is also OK. Actually, what I wanted to say in this post is the following:

On a day like this, I wished we had more students who questioned the established system at TU Graz by showing more “original” behavior.

I would like…

  1. if students showed up in all lectures and always sat in the first row (in order to get us teachers going);
  2. if students visited teachers in their office hours each week at least once and had numerous questions (in order to prove that there are by far not enough teachers);
  3. if students openly expressed their disgust about university teachers who think that teaching is an activity of minor importance (in order to change this alleged attitude of teachers);
  4. if students protested against monopoly by offering alternative food on campus; (high-quality learning needs high-quality food);
  5. if students populated the meadows around the campus, pretended to be dogs and threatened to behave exactly like dogs on these meadows; (“campus” is Latin and means “field”; a campus is traditionally the land on which a college or university and related institutional buildings are situated. Usually a campus includes libraries, lecture halls, residence halls, student centers or dining halls, and park-like settings []; a university campus was thus never meant to be used as a dogs’ restroom.)
  6. if students asked for refrigerators and micro-wave ovens to cool and heat their own lunch boxes, and if students asked for more places to hang out at the university; (see comment on “campus” above);
  7. if students put up posters in the subterranean classrooms i11, i12, and i13 showing windows towards spectacular mountains with snow or exciting beaches with sun, then took photos of these posters and sent those photos to the professor of architecture who designed the lecture rooms i11, i12, and i13; (“Change the world“);
  8. if students asked for 4 more weeks per semester for accommodating a decent exam-preparation period at the end of each semester; (similar to how they study at KTH Stockholm, for instance);
  9. if students protested against having to share a teacher’s attention with all too many other students; (but we do not need less students, we need more teachers);
  10. if students continuously registered and unregistered for an exam in order to protest against the behavior of some of their colleagues who routinely do this without being hindered by the system; (well, maybe this advice is overdoing the thing; but I hate to see that for yesterday’s exams initially there were 28 candidates, but only 7 of them were showing up in the end);
  11. if students protested against courses which are superfluous due to their hardly existing challenge; (if I joined a proper sports club, I would want to have world-class training with world-class trainers and world-class material);
  12. if students not immediately and simultaneously followed all of my 11 wishes above, since I would then not understand the world anymore and probably would go insane within a couple of weeks. I like my little office where students appear only occasionally and where students typically leave me alone most of the time.

5 thoughts on “Today, March 4th, is “fettisdagen” in Sweden. A perfect day for some wishes.

  1. Timotheus

    All I have is one major and a few minor remarks concerning your wish list. The major one: It’s too specific to what’s happening at our campus Inffeld and should really be much longer.
    Other than that, I might add that sitting in the first row for a couple of hours is, depending on the lecture hall, quite some torture due to all the looking up to where the projection is. The sweet spot is somewhere closer to the 3rd or 4th row. Sadly that’s also where the seats start to bend downwards, so sitting there is really uncomfortable. Try it! We even went down there and tried to fix them ourselves some times. And telling GuT doesn’t help much either. Other than that I completely agree: There’s nothing shameful with sitting in front. Except if you are on facebook on your notebook all the time – but then your problem lies elsewhere.

    I hope that there’s going to be a list of things that students wish from their teachers. Sadly I do not feel like I am the one who should write it, as I have had too much insight in what those who do research and teach have to struggle with nowadays. That makes demanding more of their time and resources so much harder. Yet I really try to. And whenever I hear them complain (and this really happened) about having to spend their weekends and nights preparing lectures, because there is just no time, and being fed up with the evaluation results they get, I’ll keep telling them, that they might as well switch their priorities and spend the same energy on teaching that they spend hunting for grants. But I’d rather see us all complaining together against a system where the most brilliant minds waste half their time struggling to get funding…

    1. kcposch Post author

      My notion of “sitting in the first row” was meant more metaphorically. I understand that getting stiff necks is not fun. However: Sitting in the first row can be the beginning of the loudest protest against bad teaching.

      About “teaching versus research”: To my mind, trying to teach well is the best investment in future success in research.

      1. Timotheus

        There is – I hope! – a big difference between doing research and bringing in third party money. I was talking much about the latter one. Research and teaching have to go side by side, that’s what makes a university special, there are other institutions that focus on research only or on teaching only. The advantages of this concept are quite obvious on a master level, but when it’s done right, undergrad teaching gains a lot from a teacher’s active, cutting-edge research background as well.
        I have yet to find what we gain from having our researchers and teachers spend a lot of their time improving their acquisition skills (writing grant proposals, knowing what fwf, ffg, dfg, fp7 and horizon 2020 are about, etc) – other than becoming better at writing proposals and more familiar with how that system works. Isn’t that some strange and time consuming art pour l’art? Especially when there’s just not enough money out there to give to proposals, even when all reviewers agree that they’re great? I mean, sure, handing out money without asking any questions isn’t right either and healthy competition is necessary. But aren’t we overdoing it a bit nowadays? And is it still a healthy mix, when at some institutes the 3rd party funding reaches 90% (don’t look far, it’s an example from this very faculty)?
        Speaking of grants – There was a time when this was funded in full: 🙂

  2. kcposch Post author

    The business of research includes as a basic skill the ability to write convincing proposals. To my mind, competing for resources is an appropriate and fair way to deal with limited resources. And financial resources are always limited.

    Today, a lot of research is funded through competition. I like this.

    You are right by stating that there should be a certain proportion between long-term funding and short-term funding. Unfortunately, our university system is too slow to cope with the all-too quick development in certain research areas. For research groups in such booming areas it thus gets easier to attract short-term research money from outside the general university budget than to get more resources from the slowly moving established university system. It is the duty of the university to react to this in an appropriate way: Push it or kill it.

    Finally: I disagree with your distinction “research” versus “third-party money”. I see it rather like this: First, we have long-term funding for research; like paying a professor through the basic university budget. Second, we have short-term funding; this works through winning contests by writing convincing proposals. This part of research is really fun. This includes all national and international research funding agencies and frameworks. Third, we have contractual work for industry; this part of research should not get too big compared to the others — for many reasons which I do not discuss here in order to stay short.


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