The story of a protest by #exitracismUdK

On July 16, students of fine arts of the university held the action #exitracismUdK. Long banners with questions about racism in the university began to be thrown out of the windows of the building one by one.

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

Including that there were posters on the walls of the university. Each of them contains stories of students who had experienced or observed discriminating attitudes within the university. In their open letter about the action, the organizers wrote that in three days they received more than 50 letters from students who had experienced racism in the university. 

“These reports show clearly how in need of reform and regressive our institution is and how hurtful, disturbing and exclusionary its power is.” – from an open letter of #exitracismUdK

The students had been preparing for the action for several weeks, discussing the problem with different levels of university.   

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

I talked to the students who organized the action and those who saw it. I will try to tell the story of the protest through their eyes, with some of my inserts about the chronology of events. I talked with them separately, and then cut their stories into one story line. The chronology is also taken from them. For safety reasons, I replaced four names with A, B, C, D.

We decided to write our own statemnet 

The Faculty of Fine Arts was presented at “Kunst Raum Stadt” with a screen where each of the classes was given three minutes. The students decided to devote time to the topic of racism and to make a statement from each of the classes. Everyone started to work around the theme and there were a lot of meetings between students. 

“Everything started in the beginning of June, where students considered joining the global anti-racist movement by positioning themselves and/or highlighting the racist structures within their own institution and by doing so refuse to take part in the rundgang/demonstration how they were expected. Simultaneously, some of the students decided to hang BLM banners on the balconies at the facade of the UdK main building. When the banners were removed and stolen over night many students got angry and felt that the incident showcased the racism engraved into the university’s structures. “ – explains A, participant of the #exitracismUDK protest and student member of AG Critical Diversity.

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

“People who joined these meetings had different understanding of what kind of anti discrimination work is happening in UdK. And most of the people don’t know what is happening in the University, because when we started two years ago there was basically nothing in the structure.” – explains B, the fine arts student, who took part in the protest. 

“I still think the students of UdK are woke/ conscious people. And I noticed my friends on Instagram – they share, they post, they talk. It is the job of all of us to start a conversation.” – answers C, the students from GWK, who saw the action about the brightness of this topic between students.

In the first meeting of Faculty 1 a group of students decided to write a statement. First of all they wanted to clear the banner situation, which already exemplifies the structural discrimination in the University. A couple of weeks earlier, students hung the banners of the “Black Lives Matter” movement up around the Faculty 1 building. The banners were taken off and thrown in the trash. 

“We hang out banners in University “No justice, no Peace”, “Black Trans Lives Matter ”, “Evakuiert alle Later – Rassismus Tötet”. The banners were taken away, nobody knew what happened to them. The person clearly took an effort to not only take the banners off but also to throw them away. For me is a clear message that work against discrimination is forbidden and trash. I can’t understand this gesture in any other way. “ – explains D, a student of Fine Arts and of the initiators.

The organizers say that they didn’t want Faculty 1 to hide behind a statement that doesn’t demand or change anything. That’s why they have decided to write their own statement. 

The organizers say that they didn’t want Faculty 1 to hide behind a statement that doesn’t demand or change anything. That’s why they have decided to write their own statement.

In three days there were over 50 shares of racism experiences 

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

Next to the statement there were also meetings between art classes. The students thought it was wrong to force classes that are “predominantly white” to do anything about anti discrimination.

“In weekly organized cross-class web meetings, possibilities of protesting were negotiated. Between both BIPOC and white students, questions revolving around the issues of white fragility and white responsibility were raised and discussed. Throughout the ongoing conversation predominantly BIPOC students pushed those topics onto the discourse several times. Starting from the cross-class meetings, various working groups developed and further protest actions were planned.” –  adds A. 

From more and more negotiations the organisers could convince the classes to step down and give the minutes for screen, so they could use it to give more time and space to affected people. 

The organizers started to collect discriminating experiences that happened in Udk. In three days there were over 50 shares.

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

“All experiences have to stay confidential. We did it because there is no single place in University which collects experiences and follows up on it.” – tells B. 

There is no official position now in UdK which would be working  on the topics of racism and discrimination inside the University. International office gives support on it, but their main field is work with international students. Another place where it is possible to go is “Frauenbeauftragte”.  But originally it  should be mostly available for women. Both of them don’t have the capacity to cover all the problems happening in University. That’s why one of the demands is to have an Anti Rassismus Beauftragte so students would have a place where information such as racism experiences can be processed. 

You can find  all demands here.

The demands were drafted by the working group “Intersektionale Antidiskriminierung” ( eng. intersectional anti-discrimination) and presented to the university in early July.

To the working group belong several student initiatives (I.D.A, Interflugs, b.i.t.t.a., Common Ground), councils (FSR BK, FSR ARCH), committees from the StuPa (for anti-discrimination, intercultural diversity and empowerment and for equality and social affairs) and AStA department for anti-discrimination and intercultural affairs.

Here you can find more information about positions in Udk which are working with anti discrimination topics here.

“The experiences which we’ve collected were shocking. Even we were shocked by some of the experiences that could happen in Udk. This was an experience from all faculties, not only from fine arts. I hope it does something to people. Raise some awareness that discrimination and racism is not only an american phenomenon. Racism doesn’t exist only by right extremists or populists people, racism is right in front of you.” – explains B.  

We need more people on each lever  

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

The #exitracismudk campaign began in June 2020, although many students rose awareness for the last two years. Back then, the theme of racism and discrimination was not as discussed as it is now.

“Now we actually came to a position in which enough is happening from the side of the students. But there is no real trust inside what the university has to offer. The whole thing here is shady. And most of the people being discriminated against have an instinct of being aware in spaces they are safe and in which not.” – D talks about the situation during the last few months. 

“More diversity on all levels as a really integrated part. The talking has no change at all, of course the talking get’s isolated and pushed out from the institution again. We need more people on each lever.” – D continued. 

The protest at Hardenbergstraße 33

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

On July 16, a protest started at the Faculty of Fine Arts. Before that, the building had been sealed with posters on which student letters about discrimination experiences at the university could be read. At 18.00 students started presenting big banners against structural discrimination and in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement out of the University’s windows.

“I like this protest. This is something with facts. We are confronting people with facts. That is why I think it is important to be like: that is a problem, that is my solution. Please work on it, so we can live a better life.” – tell C, who studies GWK. I talked with her right after the action. 

“People are going on with their lives. If they are not personally affected it is difficult to understand. I am personally affected by nearly everything. I am a queer black woman. I live in a big city full of marginalised groups. So, I am always affected by any political stuff. And I can totally see how it is forgotten by people who are not affected. We have a global pandemic going on and then there is the civil rights movement “Black Lives Matter”. I am trying to keep a flow now and live a normal social life. But in the first two weeks after George Floyd was murdered I couldn’t see the news anymore. It (the violence) was so terrible.”

“Important to say, we are not a part of the “Kunst Raum Stadt”, we are a part of “#ExitrassimUdK” –  highlights D.

It will work only when we all recognise that the problem exists 

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

On the shoulders of the students lies a great deal of work on structural change in the institution. In recent years they have achieved a lot through joint work with each other and the university.

“As students and the future generation of cultural workers, we claim the right – also in consideration of the new state anti-discrimination law – to study at a university that recognises their structural barriers and discrimination, resolutely and sustainably tackles them, and unitedly supports diversity-oriented and anti-racist organisational development. We call upon the university management to support and expand existing structures, groups and actors critical of discrimination financially and structurally.” – from the open letter. 

“UdK must admit that it is a highly problematic institution with racist structures. And then obviously we will have to work together to change it.” – answers D to my question about what is expected from the university.

“The University has to admit the problem. It will work only when we all recognise that the problem exists,” – D continues. 

C talks more about students’ works and their attitude towards racism: “I have a lot of friends here studying different types of arts and I don’t want them to cut the problem of racism from their art praxis. This can only be solved by all of us together. I think it is nice that they can show all the artworks, but you still could do better, you could make it more political.”  

Photo: Zsófia Puszt / Eigenart Bildredaktion

“We want that UdK starts to reflect on themselves, how they can change their own structures by acknowledging that the structure is discriminating already. How they can offer better accessible ways to understand the university, to be part of the university, to engage in the university and even to be part of a change.” – B pointed about changes in university politic.  

Important links:

Open Letter: 


Positions in Udk which are working with anti discrimination topics:

The questions on the banners used in the action were developed by an anonymous art collective b.i.t.t.a.