Following a decision made by the University of Greifswald’s Senate, a request was submitted to the Prussian State Government in 1933, asking for permission to carry the name Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald. In 1954 the name was reinstated officially to the University’s title as a symbol of national unity and progressive heritage in the period of divided Germany.
Since German reunification, discussions about the University’s namesake, Ernst Moritz Arndt (1769 - 1860), have continued, both at the University and in public. The last vote regarding a change to the name of the University in the Basic Regulations was made in spring 2010 after a thorough academic investigation and public hearing. Back then, 22 senators voted to keep the name and 14 voted to change the name, the two-thirds majority for changing the Basic Regulations was not attained.
The details of the discussion, as well as extensive information about Arndt, were documented on the University’s website.
Today’s vote at the University of Greifswald’s Academic Senate was initiated by twelve senators in spring 2016. The proposers explained their proposal by arguing that retaining the controversial namesake, Arndt, makes it harder to attract more international students and academics, and damages the image of the University as a location for forward-thinking academia. They also pointed out that a namesake should help create an identity with the University and the name should be supported by the majority of the University’s members. In their opinion, this is not currently the case at the University of Greifswald.
The Senate initiated a Name Commission, which prepared a debate on the 11th January 2017 which looked at the pros and cons of a namesake. During the discussion it became clear that there are still very different opinions about the suitability of Ernst Moritz Arndt as a namesake for the University. Whilst some see Arndt’s anti-Semitic and nationalistic remarks as incompatible with the principle of cosmopolitanism as stated in the University’s Mission Statement, others underscore Arndt’s commitment to abolishing serfdom and his efforts for freedom of speech and press.
The Senate is aware that dropping the name will be seen controversially by the public. The result of the democratic vote must, however, now be accepted.
According to the Landeshochschulgesetz (State Higher Education Law) of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the name of a university is specified in the basic regulations of a university. Only the senate of a university can make any decisions that change the basic regulations and is thus the only decisive body for assigning a name for the University.
Contact at the University of Greifswald
Chairperson of the Senate
Prof. Dr. Maria-Theresia Schafmeister
Office of the Senate
Domstraße 11, 17487 Greifswald
Tel.: +49 3834 86 4592