Senate speaks out in favour of changing the university’s name

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Senate Chair Hinnerk Wißmann (l.) and Rector Johannes Wessels shortly before the
Senate Chair Hinnerk Wißmann (l.) and Rector Johannes Wessels shortly before the Senate meeting © WWU - Michael C. Möller

Open vote to remove name of Wilhelm II / -Decision has the support of all the status groups and faculties at the University-

Today, April 5, the Senate of the University of Münster (in German: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU) Münster) voted that the name of Wilhelm II should be removed from the name of the University, which is in future to be known as the University of Münster. A total of 20 senate members voted in favour of the change of name in an open vote, one person voted against, and two members were not present. This means that the two-thirds majority was attained which was necessary for any change to the University’s name to be made. "The decision has the support of all the status groups and faculties at the University," said the Senate’s President, Prof. Hinnerk Wißmann. "The reason the decision was so clear, with such a consensus, is that we jointly collected and analysed facts and arguments over a longer period of time." The decision will, however, only become effective after approval by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s Ministry of Education and Science. The change of name is expected to come into force on October 1.

Hinnerk Wißmann once again remarked on the comments and initiatives which had advocated keeping the term "Westphalian" in the name. "The ’simple’ title of University of Münster stands for our profile," he said, "and refers to the first occasion of our foundation. Teaching began in 1773 - in other words, long before Wilhem II’s time and before the function which the University subsequently had for a while as the ’Westphalian State University’. At the same time, we are making our position clear as a University which not only represents our region but which also makes itself felt in Germany, Europe and beyond." Rector Prof. Johannes Wessels likewise welcomed the decision. "Over the course of many years now," he said, "the University has taken an impressively detailed look at the man who gave it its name. Today’s vote is consistent with the latest historical research and is unambiguous."

The Rectorate is responsible for implementing the decision. In the coming weeks and months, the University will be working on a rapid implementation. This will include modifications to the University’s logo and official seal, as well as to further official documents. These modifications - for example, on University websites - must be made in all areas of the University, both in the faculties and also in the central administration. All work and processes relating to the change of name will be undertaken with a view to economic efficiency.

The background

The vote taken in the Senate was preceded by a process lasting several years, and which began with an initiative on the part of the students in the Senate in 2018. At that time, the Senate then called on the University management to draw up a "concept for an historically responsible way for the University of Münster (WWU) to deal with Wilhelm II". In 2020, a working group set up by the Senate, and headed by Münster historian Prof. Olaf Blaschke, came up with a differentiated picture of him.

In order to involve students, employees and the public as intensely as possible in the discussion, the Rectorate, in agreement with the Senate, subsequently initiated a project entitled "The Issue of WWU" which began in 2021. A team led by University Curator Dr. Eckhard Kluth then organised communication and events in various formats. These included for example panel discussions, an exhibition, a short-length film and a radio programme. Anyone interested could inform themselves about the process via the project homepage, as well as contributing their own comments to the discussion.



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