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18 February 2004

Heidelberg's Studium Generale Brings Citizens into the University

The lecture series in the summer semester 2004 centres on the Olympic Games—Vice-Rector Prof. Dr. Jochen Tröger: "We want an atmosphere of lively debate!"

The Studium Generale public lecture series has been a fixture at the University of Heidelberg for about a quarter of a century. But its origins date back much further. Today, it appears that the secret of success in a scholarly or scientific discipline is to specialise as early and as radically as possible. In earlier centuries, however, the generalists were the key figures at the universities. "In those days," says Vice-Rector Professor Jochen Tröger, chairman of the Studium Generale commission, "education meant engaging with a large number of intellectual currents. Discourse was the most important medium for forming an opinion on a whole variety of subjects. And this is precisely the atmosphere of lively and critical debate that we set out to emulate with the Studium Generale!"

The lecture series that goes by this name takes place every semester in the Great Hall of the New University. Admission is free of charge. On average about 200 visitors take advantage of the opportunity to listen in on the Monday-evening lectures. The talks centre around a specific topic that changes from semester to semester. In the winter term, the subject was "Iconoclasm". This summer it will be "The Olympic Games: Victory and Defeat". As always, the aim is to invite renowned speakers to Heidelberg to talk on aspects of major topical relevance, thus opening up as many perspectives as possible for discussion.

At the end of the respective term, the lectures are published in book form. "We want to be a forum for the encounter between leading scholars and scientists, students and citizens," says Dr. Heiner Must, the coordinator of the Studium Generale commission. "We take care to ensure that the lecturers we invite are good speakers. After all, the attraction of an event like this hinges very largely on their ability to grip the audience with their rhetorical skills." The commission meets at the beginning of each semester. Alongside Tröger and Must it comprises members of various Faculties and a representative of the student body. After some usually lively discussion the choice of topic for the next-but-one semester is agreed on well in time. This choice does not always meet with unanimous acclaim. But the criticisms voiced do not ruffle Vice-Rector Tröger's composure. "This criticism tells me that we've hit on a controversial subject. And the appreciative voices are always very much in the majority." The series on "Peace: Germany's Tasks in Europe and Tomorrow's World" in the winter semester of 2001/2002 was particularly notable for the debates it sparked off. Guest speaker Helmut Schmidt, former Chancellor of the Federal Republic, filled three lecture halls, with the lecture transmitted to the other venues by cameras. Another topic that caused a considerable stir was "September 11: Causes and Consequences" in the summer semester of 2002.

The amount of organisation required before the lecture series for the term in question has been finalised is considerable. Tröger and Must have a part-time student worker to assist them in their efforts. The funding for the project comes from the University itself. About half of the speakers come from universities and institutions outside Heidelberg. These speakers receive travel fees, hotel accommodation and expenses. The sole reward for scholars and scientists from Heidelberg is the gratitude and appreciation of their audience. But finding outstanding speakers has never been a problem. One thing Tröger would like to see is even more students at the Studium Generale lectures.

For this target group the next topic is likely to be of especial interest. "The Olympic Games; Victory and Defeat" homes in on a number of ticklish issues in and around top-level sport, be it from a philosophical, psychological or medical vantage. There are even plans for the performance of an opera on the Olympic Games. "When I come out of one of the lectures after a lengthy discussion and see little groups standing on University Square in animated exchange—then we sense the living spirit of academic debate!"

Dr. Johannes Schnurr

Studium Generale Summer Semester 2004
Planning stage: 17.2.04

The Olympic Games: Victory and Defeat

  • 3 May 2004
    Introductory lecture

  • 10 May 2004
    The Challenge of the Olympic Idea
    Prof. Dr. Ulrich Sinn
    Institute of Archaeology
    University of Würzburg

  • 17 May 2004
    Ethical Responsibility in Sport
    Prof. Dr. Dietmar Mieth
    Faculty of Catholic Theology
    University of Tübingen

  • 24 May 2004
    Anthropology of Sport

  • 7 June 2004
    Crisis and Future of Top-Level Sport
    Prof Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Lenk
    Institute of Philosophy
    University of Karlsruhe

  • 14 June 2004
    The Olympics: Fun and Games? The good news of the Olympic Games in the modern age
    Prof. Dr. Jo Reichertz
    Institute of Communication Science
    University of Essen

  • 21 June 2004
    A Story in Black and Brown Afro-Americans and the 1936 Olympic Games
    Prof. Dr. Davis Clay Large
    Montana State University

  • 28 June 2004
    Doping in Top-Flight Sport. A sociological perspective
    Prof. Dr. Karl Heinrich Bette
    Institute of Sport Science
    Technical University of Darmstadt

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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