New departures and protest

New departures and protest

From1968 to 1971

New departures and protest: Günter Grass as the main speaker in the Electrical Engineering lecturehall, October 1968. Image: Darmstädter Echo
New departures and protest: Günter Grass as the main speaker in the Electrical Engineering lecturehall, October 1968. Image: Darmstädter Echo

The protests amongst students at TH Darmstadt at the end of the 1960s were neither explosive nor a mass phenomenon – nothing like the turmoil that reigned at the University of Frankfurt am Main. And yet: Darmstadt also saw go-ins, sit-ins and vociferous debates in overcrowded lecture halls. The themes were political liberation, peace and solidarity around the world, greater democracy in society and equal education opportunities, fundamental reform of academic education, and the dismantling of traditional university hierarchies (“Ordinarien-Universität”) in favour of emancipation and codetermination.

For over a year, the various groups at the university struggled for proportional representation and equitable membership of the Great Senate. In March1968, new university by-laws came into effect. In future, the director of administration would be referred to as Chancellor. In May 1969, the German state television channel ZDF reported live from TH Darmstadt: for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic, a university governing body composed of equal numbers of representatives of three groups was meeting to elect a board of directors.

Reform and the first President

Political slogans in the old main building, 1969. Image: TU Darmstadt archives
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Political slogans in the old main building, 1969. Image: TU Darmstadt archives

The TH Great Senate comprised 36 university teaching staff, 36 research staff and 36 students as well as 12 administrative and technical staff.

The enthusiasm lasted but a few months: In January 1970, the Higher Administrative Court of the Bundesland Hessen declared TH Darmstadt's new by-laws legally null and void on formal grounds. University Rector Professor Max Guther resigned in May 1970 in protest against the new University Law of the Bundesland Hessen, which he deemed not to be sufficiently liberal.

Nonetheless, the amendment accelerated university reform and promoted 'group university' structures: the administration merged into one central unit, faculties turned into newly-structured, self-governing departments. In 1971, the TH Council elected historian Professor Helmut Böhme the first President in the history of the university.