Every student at the University of Mannheim has probably seen the distinct red logo at some point. Whether it‘s on the cafeteria lawns at the bicycle pump, during freshers‘ week, in some email or on Instagram; if you lose yourself a bit on the university‘s profiles, you‘ll quickly come across the logo. And if you join the student council for fun, you‘re bound to come across the name at some point. But who is it anyway? Who are the people behind it? What is their goal? And how is the whole thing connected to the student councils and the StuPa (Student Parliament)?
In short: without the AStA, student life would look a lot duller. There would probably be no more evening and weekend arrangements for local transport, longer opening hours for the library or the first half hour of free nextbike rides. The AStA is responsible for all that.
But let’s start from the beginning. AStA stands for “Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss” (General Students’ Committee) and is a student representative body that aims to speak for the interests of all students at a certain university. The AStA does not only exist at the University of Mannheim, but at almost all universities in Germany. As a result, the AStA operates on a university, regional and also a state level.
At our university, the AStA consists of seven different departments and the executive board. The executive board is responsible for the direction of the AStA. For example, the board assigns the departments and organises various large projects, such as the cooperation with nextbike.
The external department is important for topics that are also relevant for other universities, such as the semester ticket or measures during the pandemic. So here one has to communicate with each other in order to convey the needs of the students. The public relations department is also a very disseminated office, as the tasks and projects of the AStA are to be communicated internally, i.e. to all students.
Furthermore, there is the Finance Department, which is responsible for contracts and administration, derived from a small part of the tuition fee. The Campus Department is responsible for making campus life nicer, for example the bicycle pump at the Mensa meadows or the cup to go system.
There is also the Department for Social Affairs and the Department for Equal Opportunities.The former is responsible for advising on diversity issues such as Bafög and the latter stands up for real equal opportunities at the university. Last but not least, there is the Department for Culture, which organises creative events.
These departments develop various services that the AStA offers to make student life easier. These include neighbourhood help or a counselling and assistance service. This was developed especially because of the Corona pandemic to help people who are currently suffering from psychological problems or domestic violence.
In addition, the AStA provides a bicycle repair shop, a job exchange, a stationery shop (Parkring 39), and a legal advice service where you can seek counsel on problems with your landlord or landlady, for example. The semester ticket and social counselling are also AStA projects.
OK, that gives you an overview of what the AStA does and what it stands for. But what is its connection to the student councils?
The AStA is an organ of a larger system, which includes the student councils. First of all, the student body or in german the „Verfasste Studierendenschaft”, or VS for short belongs to this system. This consists of all 12,000 students at the University of Mannheim and thus forms an independent force under public law. Naturally, it belongs to the University of Mannheim, but it is independent of the university administration. The “Verfasste Studierendenschaft” stands directly for the interests of all students.
However, since not all students can organise themselves individually, various bodies have emerged to facilitate better organisation. These bodies include the departmental representatives (also called Fachschaften), the Fachschaftsrat, the StuPa and the AStA. The student councils take care of everything that is subject-specific, such as questions about course allocations. The student council is a direct part of this: it is made up of two elected representatives from each student council. The student council has the task of advising and monitoring the StuPA and the AStA.
‘StuPa’ stands for Student Parliament and consists of 23 members elected by the VS. These members usually belong to one of the six university groups: SDS (Sozialistisch-Demokratischer Studierendenbund), gahg (grün-alternative Hochschulgruppe), JuSo-HSG (Jungsozialistische-Hochschulgruppe), RCDS (Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten), the LHG (Liberale Hochschulgruppe) or the LISTE (Liste für Individualethik, Studium, Tierliebe und Eschatologie). The StuPa is a legislative body and thus decides on the central concerns of the students. It meets three times a semester and also elects the members of the AStA here.
The AStA in turn is the executive body of the university, carrying out all decisions of the StuPa and preparing the budget. From this, all tasks and offers are formed as described above. Since the AStA is elected by the StuPa, a few of the university groups are also represented here. This year, it is the Jusos and the gahg.
So if you feel uncomfortable with something at the university or just want to improve something, you always have the opportunity to get involved and express your opinion.
By Helena Vollbrecht