AVETH – a story to tell from great battles and glorious history…

… revealed from a box containing almost all AVETH News, the first one in 1977 to the latest issue dated 2018. What was at first called “Der Mittelbauer” evolved over the years to our well know yearly report “AVETH News”. It sounds like a whole lot of work to go through all of them and is not the most exciting thing to do on a sunny afternoon in June. However, we did not expect the small hidden treasures that are to be found there.

While going through the booklets, we were impressed by the enthusiasm, the engagement and the determination of the former AVETH board members, which transpire from the old typewritten pages.

“ Der Mittelbauer” – From the Beginning in 1969

Even if the spirit of AVETH and its engagement for the academic staff hasn’t changed throughout all these years, one realizes quite quickly that AVETH as an organization hasn’t always looked like it does today. The first issue of “Der Mittelbauer” is written in German, mentions that the monthly quote for AVETH’s members is 1 Fr., that ETH is not yet divided into departments but in “Abteilungen”, and that the AVETH board is made up by less than ten people. The vacancies on the board are advertised on “Der Mittelbauer” and not yet on Instagram and Twitter.

These first issues stand as undeniable proof of the efforts and engagement that our predecessors had to put into their work to make the voice of the academic staff heard. Still, on their way to be part of deciding commissions, they need to fight so that the interests of AVETH members are safeguarded and promoted to the higher levels of ETH Zurich.
Starting from November 1981, the front pages of “Der Mittelbauer” get a makeover: pungent cartoons and comics depicting and ironizing the situation of the academic staff are now spicing up the issues.

The 80’s are a period of great engagement for AVETH, which becomes involved in many matters regarding ETH’s politics: adjustments to regulations (Reglementanpassungen), personnel policy (Personalpolitik), assemblies of delegates (Delegiertenversammlungen), the employment conditions of PhD students and much more. The impression one gets from the AVETH’s news of that time and the corresponding comics is of a board, which has very clear standpoints and is ready to do everything to defend the interests of the academic staff and accompany its development into the changes that the years to come will bring. In addition to this, AVETH continues to the recruitment of new members and board members, proving outstanding resilience and determination in their battle. Cartoons on the last page of the issues of “Der Mittelbauer” illustrate these challenges and finally in December 1988 their victory!

In the early 90’s, with the rising number of female students and scientific staff at ETH, the focus of “Der Mittelbauer” shifts towards the challenges and the possible solutions to the question of gender equality. The issue of 1993 is entitled “Die Mittelbauerin”, which is the female counterpart of “Der Mittelbauer”.

“Aus dem Mittelbau” – In the Course of Time from 1994

In 1994, the title of the AVETH report changed to the gender-neutral “Aus dem Mittelbau”. Topics coming up in the issues of those years reflect the growing consciousness and awareness towards the quests related to equality and conciliation of career and family for both women and men.

Times change and ETH is changing, too. Becoming more and more international, the increasing mobility and the digitalization bring new developments as well as challenges at ETH. In the issue of November 1994, we can read about new challenges rising from new technologies: desktop pictures with inappropriate, offensive backgrounds in the computer rooms of ETHZ. What follows is a time to learn about handling the upcoming challenges that the new tools bring along: a respectful social interaction with each other also in the digital age. In the years 1995 and 1996, the focus of “Aus dem Mittelbau” are the well-being of the scientific staff with topics like bulling, career development, time and performance pressure, unclear agreements, diversity matters and lack of leadership. The texts show that the high conflict potential in co- and self-determination has been an object of discussion not only in recent years.

The past generations of the AVETH board tried to bring these questions forward into university politics through institutionalization and networking to actively improve the well-being of the scientific staff. A culture of communication and transparency was demanded, then as it is now – “diversity to synergy” as a strategy for success. These developments led in 1996 to the first draft of a guide for PhD students and, within two years, to the publication of one of our most important documents: the “Survival Guide”. It was published in English from the very beginning. This fact reflected the increasing proportion of international staff at ETHZ, which also led in 2003 to the first issue of the annual report “AVETH news” – at that time partly and by now is entirely in English.

“AVETH News” – Diversity to Synergy to this Day

By being regularly involved in the political discussion and providing feedback in most of the commissions at ETHZ, AVETH has gained the credibility and status it holds today. To strengthen itself, AVETH went through several steps of reorganization and contributed to the formation of various department associations, of which the last and smallest of the departments arose with a scientific staff association in 2014. Internally, AEVTH also went through a restructuring process, founding new teams such as the counselling and the postdoc teams to provide more support to its members, and became internationally active with participation in Swiss university politics though ActionUni and Eurodoc.

Being a member of AVETH has always paid off and continues to pay off today, 50 years after its foundation. The added values provided by AVETH and their representation of the academic staff at ETH have always come at an exiguous price:
1969-1981: 1 CHF/month
1981-1986: 2 CHF/month
1986-1993: 3 CHF/month
Since 1993: 4 CHF/month
We conclude by giving a huge thank you to all members who support us and have supported us throughout the years. We are grateful to all the current and formers board members and acknowledge the work of all the past presidents, who have guided AVETH through 50 years of development and academic history and have built AVETH to what it is today.