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Rectorate: Conflict with Students Concocted and Devoid of Substance

Press Release No. 1/2009
22 06 2009
University refrains from prosecutions and calls on students to abstain from the use of force
According to the Rectorate, the occupation of the Old University building has led to a confrontation at Heidelberg University that is unjustified and devoid of substance. “We have always agreed with the majority of the students and teaching staff that the University is distressingly under-financed and that this state of affairs must be remedied,” said Rector Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel. “Other points we agree on are that the Bachelor and Master courses need to be optimised and made more flexible, and that students must continue to be centrally involved in the allocation of resources stemming from student fees. I have championed this approach from the beginning of my term in office. In Heidelberg University’s allocation committees students are in the majority.” Professor Eitel went on to say that the illegal and unjustified occupation of the Old University building had been an instance of the use of force to demand precisely the species of dialogue that in actual fact had long since been established with the democratically elected student representatives in Faculty councils, the Senate and the University Council. The Rectorate considers it necessary to cultivate this kind of dialogue even more intensively in future.

“The students occupying the building repeatedly rejected all our efforts to place a discussion of the problems on an objective footing, free of the pressures and the antagonism that squatting of this kind invariably involves,” said Professor Eitel. “It was an evident attempt to create a scenario representing the perpetrators as victims and attributing the responsibility for the conditions prevailing at the University to the University itself, although this responsibility lies with the state and federal governments.” The occupiers had denied University leaders and staff members access to their workplaces in the building. To enable them to resume their work, the occupiers were ultimately evicted by the police. The Rector pointed out that this decision had only been taken after all attempts to negotiate with the students had proved fruitless.

At the same time, the Rector declared that the University had decided to refrain from legal prosecution of the 112 occupiers of the Old University. For the University leaders this decision is an attempt to put the discussion back on an objective footing and an appeal to all democratically-minded students to abstain from the use of force and to indicate their disapproval of the occupation of the Old University and the blockade of the offices in the building.

The occupiers themselves emphasised on various occasions that the occupation of the building was a conscious gambit designed to exert pressure. They responded to the suggestion that the discussion could be continued in rooms at the New University by saying that withdrawal from the building would deprive of them of leverage in their negotiations with the University leaders. The University leaders denied this and emphasised that they would be available for talks with all students seriously concerned about the progress and welfare of Heidelberg University. In the course of this week the Rector will accordingly be extending an invitation to the elected representatives of the student body (the approx. 80 student members of the Faculty councils and the student representatives in the Senate and the University Council) to meet with him for talks.

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch
Heidelberg University
Communications and Marketing

Irene Thewalt
phone: +49 6221 542311
Editor: Email
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