Studierendenwerk versus an international student — the trial and errors

Studierendenwerk, Münster, a corporation that operates student dorms, on 24 Feb 2023 withdrew a civil lawsuit again an international student who is part of ‘a student liberation kamp’, a political group (who fight for students rights) protesting rent hike in Studierendenwerk housings. The withdrawal comes after the they lost a criminal complaint against the same student. The protesting political group claims the cases are an attempt to subdue the protesters and silence their voice.

Flyers for the second demo against studierendenwerk.
Flyers for the second demo (a week after the first demo) against studierendenwerk.

In April 2022 Studierendenwerk increased monthly dorm payments by 9% within a very short notice (students notified in the middle of February 2022). Considering the limited income of international students, the aftermath of the Covid 19 pandemic, and the financial strife international students faced due to it, this increment in scandalous and extortionate.

Protest rally against Studierendenwerk Münster on 3rd March 2022
Protest rally against studierendenwerk Münster on 3rd March 2022.

Studierendenwerk residents resisted this decision and organized themselves to fight against that authoritarian imposition. In a show of solidarity, self organized international students held a demonstration on the 3rd of March 2022. A few more protests followed afterwards, however the Studierendenwerk decided to ignore the requests made to them, further they attacked and violated the common space used by those self organized international students (who founded ‘a student liberation kamp’ during their third protest initiating a symbolic action by living in tents in front of Studieredenwerk office. 'A student liberation kamp' was not only fighting for the rent hike, they started fighting against price hike in the student canteen which are also operates by Studierendenwerk. In collaboration with several political groups in Münster they started ‘1 Euro Soli-Essen’ action since August 2022.)

The authorities entered the common rooms without permission while students were inside, took photos of their belongings, and after some days they removed the belongings from the common areas meant for students.

When a student argued against their actions, Studierendenwerk, in a brutal authoritarian move, terminated the contract of the student gave him notice to leave in the coming month — in the middle of winter, in the start of a semester. They also physical and verbally assaulted the student when he asked that their properties not be manipulated.

After removing the belongings, Studierendenwerk locked the kitchen and the dining room – that remained closed for 8 days, denying the students access to basic amenities.

The student sought to file a police report, the police declined to take it into cognizance.

During this altercation, a non-German speaking student spoke English. The staffer replied: “Das ist Deutschland.” A clearly racist remark. What followed afterwards made Studierendenwerk file a case against the student accusing him having called the staffer a racist.


Brief summary of the criminal court trial on 01.02.2023

Social media posts of different political groups about the public hearing of 1st February 2023.
Social media posts of different political groups about the public hearing of 1st February 2023.

The accused student was charged for insulting and threatening under the Criminal Code, and attended court. He was accused of having insulted employees of the Studierendenwerk as "racists" and "Nazis".

After the student recalled the events of the day, two employees of the Studierendenwerk also testified. The first witness alleged that accused called them "racists", that he had come too close to them and that they had therefore felt threatened.

He also said that he had heard the student call them "Nazis”, that allegation surprisingly newly added during that public hearing day, which has no previous record as a complain!

The witness retracted his statement later. The witness repeated again that the accused aggressively attacked them because the premises were his "private room" and they were not allowed to just show up there.

The second witness initially claimed to have heard that the accused had called her colleague a "racist". In retrospect, she expressed that the conflict had escalated due to linguistic misunderstandings and that she was no longer sure what exactly the person concerned had said. Contradicting her colleague, the second witness said that she had heard the student say that they were disturbing his "privacy" unannounced and that they were not allowed to do so.

Defense successfully argued that calling someone a racist or calling an action racist are two different statements. If someone was called a "racist" in a certain context, it would not be an insult in the sense of the Criminal Code.

The accused was finally acquitted. He threw shade on the systemic nature of oppression against international students in this address to the court. Many students endure the barrage, but are too coy to speak out, he remarked.

Now, because the student resisted his eviction for several months, he was also sued for damages to the sum of 3000 Euros — compensation for the use of the facilities. On 24 Feb, after the unfavorable verdict in the criminal case, Studierendenwerk withdrew this civil suit that was due for hearing on 13 March.

The student who were fighting against studierendenwerk’s systemic discrimination strongly said that,

Undoubtedly, I am happy about how people came together to fight for the cause — supporting me in the court, how the public hearing happened, the arguments of the public prosecutor, and the decision of the judge.

But at the same time, I am not happy for many reasons. Because a corporation like studierendenwerk tried so hard to criminalize a working-class international student with children just to raise their voice against what they do wrong with students, especially with international students! The living condition are not good and studierendenwerk created a culture of fear amongst international students that no one can stand to demand their basic rights of living there. Many foreign students afraid to talk against them. Some students though address problems of the living situation, but mostly those complains are neglected by the studierendenwerk. Most harsh reality is in the student dorms, German students and foreign students treated very differently, which created a visible discriminating and outcasted culture between German and foreign students.

There are many racist things that happen and stay in silence because the university doesn’t care, AStA doesn’t care! Even in my case in the beginning I wrote to the university authority, and a friend spread that issue within AStA, but no one responded. When we had our first confrontation with studierendenwerk while an employee of studierendenwerk physically pushed me just for asking for a logical explanation that why they were disposing of our personal property from the kitchen and common room. We called the police, police didn’t want to write any report from my statement. I have been witnessing how the police were that day on studierendenwerk’s side! Later my lawyer wrote to the public prosecutor and the public prosecutor couldn’t find it a criminal offense! So that means during our verbal arguments we can physically push each other?

We went to the court due to our urgency while studierendenwerk closed the kitchen and a common room that 15 people shared living on the same floor. But from the court's side, it wasn’t taken seriously, unfortunately. The kitchen and common room were closed for 8 days altogether. In front of the police they dispose of our personal property and the police were witnessing this illegal action! Who will pay for our properties?

So studierendenwerk was violent to us, they destroyed our properties and I ended up facing a false criminal charge just for raising my voice on behalf of students. That’s not fair at all! All students deserve justice, and studierendenwerk should be accountable in terms of their service and the way they treat foreign students.

Published article in Graswurzelrevolution April 2022 issue about rent increase fight and systemic discrimination of studierendenwerk.
Published article in Graswurzelrevolution April 2022 issue about rent increase fight and systemic discrimination of studierendenwerk towards international students.
a symbolic action by living in tents in front of Studieredenwerk office on 31st May 2022..
a student liberation kamp's symbolic action: living in tents
in front of Studieredenwerk office on 31st May 2022.


Documented by Shahtab for Unrest Radio

Shahtab for Unrest Radio