No robe, but Mao jacket and sandals

On November 17, 1969, the “Reform University” in Bielefeld is opened without celebration or even a traditional ceremony, but in a deliberately sober and objective manner by the commencement of teaching to the first 250 students.

  • On 6 November 1969 , the acting Rektor Prof. Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer and University Chancellor Dr. Eberhard Firnhaber explained the “Reform University” to a television team from the West German public broadcasting company WDR in the recently stocked library.

    Photo: Ed. Heidmann
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 00273
  • The faculty of law contributed the first lecture of the University of Bielefeld to the opening. Prof. Dr. Günter Dickel reads „Rechtsgeschichte I“.

    Photo: Bernhard Preker
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG P 1.3_4_4
  • The Faculty of Sociology met for a faculty conference on the opening day. In the foreground Professor Dr. Joachim Matthes, the dean of the faculty.

    Photo: Bernhard Preker
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG P 1.3_6_4
  • The Faculty of Mathematics celebrated the opening day with an “informal gathering”. On the right is Andreas Dress, at that time Germany’s youngest university professor, and on the far right is Jürgen Heinrich, who later became consultant to the Rektor and Head of Planning at Bielefeld University and the City of Bielefeld.

    Photo: Bernhard Preker
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG P 1.4_5_5

Without speeches

An invited “interested public” turned up in large numbers and experienced a rather unusual university opening at the “Development and Provisions Centre” (Aufbau- und Verfügungszentrum) on Kurt Schumacher-Strasse: Workmen were still adding the finishing touches, the sound of which was hard to ignore. University Chancellor Dr. Firnhaber commented that there was “no music by Handel at the beginning and the end and no ceremonious speeches either”. University professors did not wear robes for the University’s opening. Instead, they attended it wearing informal suits or, like mathematics professor Dr. Andreas Dress, a Mao jacket and sandals. The three founding faculties of Mathematics, Law and Sociology held no ceremonies, instead presenting themselves to the approximately 250 students in events aimed at informing students and including them in discussions on the structure of the University or the respective course contents.

Demonstration of PH students on the day the university opens.

Photo: Bernhard Preker
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG P 1.5_4_1

It became livelier in the afternoon when around 600 demonstrating students from the teaching college (PH) made the most of the media presence and protested against the poor study conditions at the PH. The acting Rektor of the University, Professor Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer, received the demonstrators and immediately reflected the University’s new working and communication style: on the evening of the opening of the University, he spontaneously participated in a panel discussion on the problems of the PH.