VIAL – Student Association for Agricultural and Food Sciences

More than just the "Dunnstigsbier"

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As the Student Association for Agricultural and Food Sciences, the VIAL is responsible for organising events and representing student concerns vis-à-vis ETH bodies.

The VIAL is the Student Association for Agricultural and Food Sciences at ETH Zurich and is affiliated to the VSETH. Since food sciences have only existed as an independent degree programme since 1979, the VIAL used to be called VIAETH (Association of Engineer Agronomists of ETH). The exact background to the founding of this student association is not known. So VIAETH was founded in 1965 and has been working for the interests of students for 56 years.

The numerous events

Most students of agricultural and food sciences probably first associate the Thursday meeting where beer is enjoyed in the LFW stable with the VIAL. In addition, there are numerous other events, such as a hiking and skiing weekend, Räbeliechtli turnip carving, ox on the spit, parties with successful mottoes such as “Drop the Beet” or “Mai(s)-Chäferfest” or cosy nights of playing cards. In addition, the VIAL, together with the SVIAL, also organises informative evenings with career talks by alumni or career workshops. Likewise, the VIAL has the task of representing student interests within the department. The VIAL also has a special significance for all first-semester students, as it always organises the “godfather/godmother” drinks reception in the second week. Students from higher semesters can make themselves available as “godfather/godmother” to answer all kinds of questions about studying, and then get to know their protégé at this event.

The VIAL at the 2019 hiking weekend.
(Photo: VIAL photo archive)

The VIAL in the past

In the 1980s, in addition to the agronomy festivals, there was also the thematic area of “international student exchange” within the international student association IAAS. Smaller and larger professional seminars and study trips were offered annually in various countries. This allowed insights into the agriculture of, for example, Austria, France, Poland, Sweden or Spain. In the 1990s, there was also an Agro-LM bulletin, including the Chäsblatt or Dairy Diary, which appeared several times a semester and was run by students who were keen to write. It contained reports on internships, information on events, weather lore, jokes, interviews and photos. These finds from days gone by paint a picture of motivated students who are up for all kinds of shenanigans and do not always take themselves too seriously, but still go all out for serious matters. For example, there was almost a boycott of courses in spring 1984 because students did not agree with the new composition of the departmental conference. The students clearly rejected the proposal that lecturers should have the upper hand. The vociferous demands for the right to be heard were finally realised thanks to letters, signature collections and yellow armbands as a sign of solidarity and resistance.

The VIAL board in 2020/2021.
(Photo: VIAL photo archive)

The VIAL today

Even though by far not all students are involved in the VIAL, a board of between 6 and 16 members can be established every year. There is currently a co-presidency (or president and vice-president), foreign and interior minister, culture and finance minister and event manager, as well as semester representatives. At the moment, the VIAL must work from home just like everyone else because of the current COVID-19 situation. Nevertheless, the association is active and also successfully organises online events. Last summer, for example, there was a virtual chocolate tour at Taucherli, including a tasting of the chocolate sent to the students’ home, or in mid-March 2021 an online tour followed by a tasting of beers of the Baar brewery, which met with great interest. Nevertheless, most students probably can’t wait to get together again for a beer on Thursday in the LFW stable.