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Activists Evicted from Old University in Heidelberg—Occupiers Rejected Offers from the Rectorate

Press Release No. 1/2009
20 06 2009
Prof. Dr. Eitel: Irregular situation could no longer be tolerated
Early on Saturday morning the student activists occupying the Old University building in Heidelberg’s Old Town were evicted by the police after lengthy discussions between University leaders and the occupiers the day before had failed to bring about the hoped-for peaceful withdrawal. The police established the identity of 112 persons, some of whom had to be carried out of the building. On Wednesday the Old University, which also houses the Rector’s offices, had been occupied by about 100 persons who on Thursday and Friday had denied University staff members access to their workplaces in the building.

In the eyes of the Rectorate the occupation of the Old University is incompatible with the principles and the spirit of Heidelberg University. Initially, however, Rector Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel had refrained from police eviction and held a number of meetings with the occupiers in order to uphold the dialogue with the students. In the course of these exchanges he emphasised that he sympathised with the students’ insecurity in the face of the major upheavals taking place in the higher-education system and that the Rectorate shared many of the concerns voiced by the students involved in the education strike, including the demand for additional resources for education and research, the assertion of a claim for education in conjunction with training at university level and a review of the existing Bachelor and Master courses in terms of content and flexibility.

At the same time, the Rector had emphasised from the outset that by occupying the building the students had overstepped the limits and had made it clear that they were intent on open confrontation with the Rectorate. With a position statement presented to the occupiers on Friday by pro-rector Prof. Dr. Kurt Roth and discussed with them, the University had once again attempted to persuade the students to withdraw from the Old University. The central concern here was to establish communication with the students at the level of an ongoing dialogue. The Rector had offered to take part in a public discussion on student issues in the coming week and to form a joint commission with the students to thrash out the relevant issues.

“The occupiers paid no heed to our urgent appeals to vacate the Old University of their own accord and thus to put an end to the highly irregular situation,” said Professor Eitel. “They also rejected our offer to move to rooms in the New University and continue the ongoing discussions there. Yesterday night the unavoidable conclusion I drew from their behaviour was that a dialogue with the occupiers was no longer a workable proposition. I readily admit that I am personally very disappointed at the turn things have taken. It is always an indication of failure when the police have to be called in to the University.”

The Rector stated that while he saw no basis for further discussions with the occupiers, he was fully prepared to meet with the students who had brought their concerns to the notice of the public in a peaceable way. He announced an initiative on the part of the Rectorate to join with the students in finding ways of enhancing Heidelberg’s standing as a location where fruitful co-existence between students, scientists and scholars can flourish in the framework of a comprehensive university.

Please address any inquiries to
Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch
Heidelberg University
Communications and Marketing
phone: +49 6221 5419011
Editor: Email
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