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Information bulletin
(January 1952)

Dueling in universities,   pp. [37]-41 PDF (3.1 MB)


Page 41


Drink more and become real German men" is admonition
on one of banners displayed to deride a defeated duelist.
Republic's 11 state ministers for educational affairs is
sc  dorhled to convene later this year to discuss this
sulji-ct and adopt uniform principles.
While dueling is a criminal offense under the German
:odc, there is no provision enabling the universities to
lake disciplinary action against the wearing of colors
or th' outbursts of authoritarian spirit in fraternities.
Meanwhile, the fraternities steadily gain influence in
the ofltfcial student representations. In Munich the liaison
oflicc, which is to maintain contact between student
oqgmiizations and the representative body, is staffed by
two tiaternity members. The results became evident
%%' nii HICOG aid grants to the university for the pro-
inol :on of student community life were distributed: the
Catholic fraternity Ottonia, which has a body of very
we [lthy alumni, received DM 350, the non-licensed
Ac namie got DM 100 for its foundation festival, as did
the dueling fraternity Rhenania,
'1 he struggle of the Catholic fraternities to obtain
otli ial sanction for the wearing of colors has resulted
in Ile, strange phenomenon that the merely color-wearing
l ilcliiz'tions have joined the "armed" fraternities in a
C-ieeon opposition to the university presidents. Origi-
nally the Catholic groups, particularly the CV, were
fouided to oppose dueling and the spirit of the "armed''
1caterlities. Even in the Catholic camp this is a subject of
ang iment, with the defenders of "full color" pointing to
11- r constitutional rights, while others maintain that the
eiily purpose of this obsolete habit can be to facilitate
social discrimination.
"C  *  *
APPROXIMATELY ONE MONTH later, Die Neue Zeitung
published a reply by Dr. Suesterhern, retired
inqjister of education and culture for the state of Rhine-
J \NIUARY 1952
land-Palatinate, as an "objective contribution to discus-
sion." A summary of this article follows:
The fact that the Catholic student organizations and
the "armed" fraternities both advocate the right to wear
colors does nce justify the conclusion that they "associate"
with such groups. The non-dueling fraternities have al-
ways fought the "armed" organizations and have incurred
social discrimination, professional disadvantages and
even bodily injury in doing so. Further proof is offered
by foreign student groups, which wear full colors, but
have never thought of dueling.
It is a grave mi'stake to mix the political problem of the
expediency of color wearing at this time with the
juridical question of whether it is legal or not. The
wearing of colors is being discussed within the non-
dueling fraternities too, and no agreement could be
reached on the expediency side of the question.
But it is beyond doubt that the wearing of colors is
legal. The Federal Republic's Basic Law and the 11 state
constitutions guarantee everybody the right to associate
and the right to express his opinion. Part of the exercise
of these rights is undisputedly the wearing in public of
symbols, insignia and colors. Being constitutional, these
basic rights cannot be restricted by the university presi-
dents by virtue of their "institutional power." Every law
commentary says that the institutional power is limited
by the purpose of the institution, i. e., the holder of in-
stitutional power may decree only what is necessary
for the purpose of the institution and secures the proper
use and undisturbed operation of the institution.
One German law commentary interprets this power
to the effect that the universities may enact provisions
to ascertain the "dignity of students" and the "honor
of the university." Of course, it is their responsibility,
too, to see to it that student organizations remain on
constitutional grounds.
T HE CONSTITUTIONAL CHARACTER of the non-
Tdueling fraternities being unchallenged, it is only
a question whether the wearing of colors offends against
the concepts of "dignity" and "honor." This seems to
be impossible, since the wearing of colors was tolerated
by German universities for as many as 300 years, and
is still being tolerated by universities in traditionally
democratic countries such as Sweden, England, Holland,
Switzerland and the United States. Likewise, German and
foreign professors wear rather colorful clothing on cer-
tain occasions, as symbols of their academic dignity.
Another argument that has been advanced against the
wearing of colors is that it "splits the civitos academico."
This does not hold either. Unquestionably the German
nation is deeply split in its religious, political, social and
cultural convictions, This difference of opinion has been
constitutionally recognized and, evidently, what goes for
the nation as a whole goes for the student body, too.
Therefore, if Catholic students demonstrate their mem-
bership in a Catholic student community organization by
wearing certain insignia and colors, this does not split
the civitas academico, but merely proves that certain
differences of opinion do exist.            IEND
INFORMATION BULLETIN
41


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