Name dispute at the University of Münster: What will become of Westphalia?
EIn a short process according to the motto “We no longer want our Kaiser Wilhelm” it really wasn’t. The former Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU) has dealt extensively with its namesake, Kaiser Wilhelm II – in a lengthy research and discussion process, with a public exhibition and on a website.
The university, which was founded in 1780, has borne the name of Wilhelm II since 1907 because Germany’s last emperor had only given it university status again five years earlier.
“Militarist, anti-Slavic, anti-Semitic”
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität – this stamp has a certain euphony because of the alliteration. Nevertheless, in recent years grew in Muenster the uneasiness that the historian Olaf Blaschke underpinned scientifically in a report for the Senate in spring 2020.
There is no doubt that “William II was exceedingly militaristic, anti-Slavic and downright obsessively anti-Semitic,” it said. Such a person cannot be a role model.
Seen in this light, it was no longer a surprise that the Senate voted against Wilhelm with an overwhelming majority in a test vote at the end of January because – as Rector Johannes Wessels later put it strictly according to the rules of simple language – the last German emperor had done “a lot of evil”. . Since then, it can be considered certain that the committee will decide on the renaming on April 5th.
On the last few meters into the new university days without Wilhelm, another uneasiness grows far too late. Because only now will some Westphalia aware that in addition to the name of the emperor, who notoriously tended towards politically fatal verbiage, exaggeration and simplification, the attribute “Westphalian” should also disappear; the university of excellence wants to call itself simply the University of Münster in the future. Has Westphalia possibly also done “much evil”?
In any case, it is high time that organized Westphalians – including the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe, the Westphalian Homeland Association, the Savings Banks Association of Westphalia-Lippe and the Economic Society for Westphalia and Lippe – finally spoke up. “There is no reason not to use ‘Westphalia’ in the name of the university,” says their joint fire letter to Rector Wessels.
“Westphalian” is an established, well-known and also very valuable trademark, it reflects a supra-local anchoring, and the importance of the regions is emphasized everywhere.
Especially in the year of the 375th anniversary of the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which is now considered the blueprint for peace negotiations all over the world, “it would be more than a clear sign if ‘Westphalian’ and the University of Münster continued to form a unit”. WWU should therefore become WUM (Westfälische Universität Münster). “That would have,” concludes the united Westphalian community, using the terminology of a contemporary grand master of simple political language, “but boom.”