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Corps Borussia Tübingen
since 1870

The rise and reasons for student corporations in Germany

There are various student corporations in most university-towns around Germany. Each of those corporations has its own identity, or character ranging from ‘Corps’ to ‘Landsmannschaften’ (territorial association), ‘Sängerschaften’ (musical corporation-type) to ‘Burschenschaften’ (corporation-type with roots in German nationalism) and many more. The oldest student corporations, in their current form, were founded around 1780 for reasons no different to today’s: as Germany was divided into smaller territories during the Holy Roman Empire, students who came from the same region gathered in pubs, sang the same songs and had a few beers. Those who got along well together formed societies that eventually took up more new members and grew.

 

Tradition and modernity

We are more that 145 years old. Different people supported and shaped the Corps in various ways during the course of time: members, regular guests and wives of members (also called ‘Corpsschwestern’ – Corps sisters). Yet – or rather due to that – our communal life is based on an array of traditional values. This timeless, universal concept creates strong bonds between generations and shapes our lives today.
A running joke amongst us: things become “tradition” after they have occurred more than two times! It’s fair to say, at this point, that this describes our notion of tradition quite precisely.

 

Whereas we live traditions, we still question them, change them, create new ones and let go of out-dated ideas. It is encouraging and very satisfying to see how things that one fights for are eventually adapted and carried on to the next generations. The other side of the coin is that you learn to tolerate other views and accept that the very same changes will be abolished again over time. The Corps, which our oldest living members experienced in the 50s, is not the same today; yet the core values have persisted throughout time. This is what makes our Corps Borussia so worthwhile and inviting even into old age.

 

Every one of us contributes to shaping the ‘Zeitgeist’ (the spirit of times) of our community. Our society has made it from 1870 till today with this mind-set and we hope that it will last for many more years. Some of our old values may be out-dated, but the core elements like: morals, manners, respect, tolerance and kindness, to name a few, are absolutely modern. Naturally, we don’t always agree with one another but through communication and discussion we reach majority decisions to satisfy all concerned.

 
 

Academic fencing

About 200 years ago, fencing was part of students’ daily lives. This practice was triggered by values and occurrences, like: honour, mere foolishness, or other reasons. This is why students always carried a so-called Korbschläger, similar to a fencing epée on them at all times. Although this “academic fencing” bears no practical significance to us anymore, we still pride ourselves in the old tradition of Mensur (students’ fencing bout), which certainly has positive ramifications on us, as individuals and our community, as a whole.

 

The regular training binds us together through hard training and reciprocal support. Overcoming the challenges we set for ourselves boosts self-confidence to a large extent.
Every one of us has to stand the Mensur three times. This involves fencing with a sharp blade for about 15 minutes. The opponent is another student from another Corps, who has been matched for speed and technical versatility. Our fencing bouts are based on strict rules with respect to permitted/prohibited strike combinations. In addition, each of the two opponents has a second, who ensures that the rules are adhered to. A neutral referee supervises the fencing party and determines breaches of rules.

 

Injuries are quite seldom. However, a physician is always on the spot to treat, or stitch wounds, so-called Schmiss. Fencing may be different in other Corps, where personal bouts are allowed to resolving squabbles between members. This is forbidden in our Corps. Especially in this kind of Mensur a high rate of injuries may occur. Not all ball games are the same and in that sense not all academic fencing is the same; this varies depending on where it’s practised (the city and relative fencing regulations), the fencing corporation and the actual opponents.

Associated Corps

Even the corporations under our umbrella-association, the Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband (KSCV), vary significantly in character. Corporations of similar persuasions and perceptions are bound into so-called circles named after colours.

We belong to the Red Circle (Roter Kreis), which emphasises hospitability, friendship and tolerance. The six Corps of the Red Circle visit one other regularly, and meet officially once a year, in November, in one of the home-cities.

The Corps of the Red Circle are: Saxonia Jena, Vandalia Rostock, Saxonia Bonn, Hildeso-Guestphalia Göttingen, Marcomannia Breslau, and us. Other than that, we maintain good relations with other Corps around Germany.

 
 

Corps and their connection to other types of student corporations

There are many different types of student corporations. As a Corps, we are politically neutral and non-religious, which means that every student is welcome to join us, irrespective of nation, ethnic origin, religion, social and cultural background, or political view. We firmly renounce any and every form of left-wing or right-wing extremism.

Besides the Corps, there are many other forms of corporations. As an outsider, it is not easy to distinguish between them, yet the differences are much more than the mere, apparent commonalities. Corporations are not only restricted to men; there are mixed corporations (e.g. Stuttgardia), as well as all-women corporations (e.g. Laetitia, Olympea). Certain corporations only allow Catholics as members, others have political inclinations and yet others rather resemble a large flat sharing community.

 

Corps are organised under two main organisations that are closely related: the Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband (KSCV) and the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC). Together, we are the second-largest association of corporations, right after the association of catholic corporations.
Those 162 Corps are found in almost all university towns in Germany and Austria, as well as in Switzerland and Hungary. Corps under the KSCV are found at universities that focus on Classics, while WSC Corps are usually around technical universities.
The Corps in Europe build an exceptionally strong network and visit each other quite frequently. A Corps member who moves to another university town doesn’t usually need more than one phone call to find a place to stay; the local Corps support each other in every way possible.

 

The relationship to other types of student corporations – those that are not Corps – is usually reserved and distant; one is aware of the differences and tolerates them without having to necessarily agree with them. Needless to say, there are good friendships with individual members of other corporations.

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