31.01.1985

“Regulations down the loo”: the culture of conflict made in Bielefeld

Several hundred demonstrators, armed with banners and chanting slogans, march from the University to the centre of Bielefeld: on 31 January 1985, an amendment to the Higher Education Framework Act sparked furious protests. This demonstration is an example of the highly politicised student body in Bielefeld, which repeatedly takes to the streets against issues such as bans on employment, general conditions of study or tuition fees.  

Equipped with numerous banners, the protest march against the amendment of the German Higher Education Framework Act leaves the University.

Photo: unknown
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01788

The German Higher Education Framework Act had already caused major student protests when it came into force in 1976. The first amendment to it introduced, among other things, obligatory intermediate examinations, standardised periods of study and strengthened the role of professors in university committees. Ultimately, the protests of the Bielefeld students did not prevent the amendment, but confirmed the willingness of the local student body to engage in dispute. Often enough, the students directed their protests against the state policy and thus also against the university management. During his long term in office, Rektor Prof. Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer usually tried to open up a dialogue with the students and often showed that he was sympathetic to the position of the student body.

  • “LPO ins KLO” (“teacher examination regulations in the loo”) is the motto of Bielefeld students against the new teacher examination regulations, December 1980.

    Photo: Neue Westfälische
    Source: NW Archiv (Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01811)
  • Rektor Prof. Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer in conversation with protesting students on the occasion of the protest against the planned NRW Higher Education Framework Act in May 1977.

    Photo: Otto Sudmann
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01677
  • Art students of Bielefeld University protest against the new teacher examination regulations on 16 December 1980.

    Photo: Neue Westfälische
    Source: NW Archiv (Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01813)
  • View of the “Strike Centre” in the Main University Hall on the days of the protest action by Bielefeld students, November/December 1977.

    Photo: Hans-Dieter Johner
    Source: NW Archiv (Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01815)
  • Building a wall in front of the main entrance of the university as part of the days of protest against the Higher Education Framework Act, November/December 1976.

    Photo: Ed. Heidmann
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01818
  • Headline of the newspaper article of the Neue Westfälische of 1 February 1985 for a demonstration against the amendment of the Higher Education Framework Act.

    Source: Neue Westfälische

All University members united

In 1982, students, teaching staff and the university management even took to the streets together to protest against the state government’s planned cuts in the higher education sector. Hans Schwier, the NRW Minister of Science and Research, wanted to curtail the excessively high education expenditure by massively reducing the number of jobs and study places available for future teachers, thus preventing the impending flood of teachers in the state. The Bielefeld protest march with around 7,000 demonstrators, set off at the University and finished at the Alter Markt on 8 June 1982, ending with a speech by Rektor Grotemeyer. The Rektor criticized the state government sharply: “The rationale of the austerity measures of the past two years as well as those planned”, said Grotemeyer, “merely serve to continually rip open new holes in order to plug them elsewhere. This kind of patch up-job only creates new problems and makes existing problems worse. It cannot continue like this.”

  • The protest march starts at the University on 8 June 1982.

    Photo: unknown
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01778
  • Rektor Prof. Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer speaks at the Alter Markt, 8 June 1982.

    Photo: unknown
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01779
  • Demonstrators on the Alter Markt on 8 June 1982. The faculties had been equipped with custom-made signs.

    Photo: unknown
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01780
  • Poster at the Alter Markt on 8 June 1982, saying “Stoppt die Sparschweine”. (“Sparschweine” is the German word for piggy banks, but in this context also has the double meaning of “the pigs” that “make savings”).

    Photo: unknown
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01781
  • Rektor Prof. Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer, Vice-rector Prof. Dr. Dietrich Storbeck and Chancellor Dr. Eberhard Firnhaber lead the demonstration march to the Alter Markt on 8 June 1982.

    Photo: unknown
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01785

The slogans and buzzwords were sometimes original, and sometimes less creative. Some protesters wanted to throw the “LPO ins Klo” (“Klo” is the German word for “loo”), expressing aptly their view of the tightened teacher examination regulations. Some marches turned into imaginative happenings, other marches were rather dreary; some attracted several hundred, others several thousand participants. However, all of the protest initiatives were built on mutual respect and understanding between students and university management for each other’s motives and goals as well as the willingness to communicate. This explains why, for a long time, Bielefeld University was spared prolonged conflicts.