From an occupation to an autonomous social space

We are squatting the lecture hall 21 in the “Kupferbau” building of the University of Tübingen since Thursday. On this Sunday evening we are approaching the end of the ultimatum. The university administration wants the protestors to leave the building till Monday 8 a.m.

In the meantime we have gathered a lot of incredibly impressive and uniting experiences. The protest started out as a campaign against the planned large-scale project “Cyber Valley”, an initiative for research on artificial intelligence (AI), which impends research for commercial armament, border control and surveillance as well as contributing to the further gentrification of a city which already has extremely high housing costs. The protest was also directed against companies like Amazon and SCHUFA who research AI in order to maximize consumer data processing in form of Social-Scoring. The protest has now evolved into an actively self-administered social space which is accessible to the public due to the occupation. We are now using this space together with initiatives and citizens to create materials, design textiles, write texts as well as giving informational inputs and organizing discussions. In addition to the numerous solidarity statements from all over the country, practical solidarity in the form of support and participation, numerous donations of material goods, food and money, we are amazed by how the space gave the people of Tübingen the opportunity for sharing worries, hardships and needs.

Students, staff of the university and employees of the academic mid-level faculty, citizens of the affected residential area “Wanne” and also professors dropped by, got in touch with us and told us of their problems. Themes were: living in a city in which housing is frequently only affordable with a side job, working without pay in hope of a temporary job in the academic mid-level faculty in the next semester, the effects of dependent and heteronoumous teaching due to the growing economization and third-party funding. But instead of only sharing their experiences with us, they used the autonomous space and the opportunities it provides,  as subject with agency,  to freely and independently design their own space. We already have several offers by people from in- and outside of the university who want use this new possibility and talk about their situation and experiences in front of other people or host informational inputs and lectures. The struggles of the people and the “Cyber Valley” are two sides of the same coin. They are the immediate effects of the growing economization of education in a university town.

We will stay! We will not give up this autonomous space that acts in accordance to the needs of the people who empower themselves. We want to give these people space and publicity. We continue to protest against the “Cyber Valley”, but the opportunities that our form of protest entails have demonstrated that the problems we address implicate further, fundamental problems. It is about the question of how we want to shape our own lives in the places in which we live.

Press release 2th December 2018

The lecture hall building ‘Kupferbau’ of the University of Tübingen is being squatted since Thursday the 29th of November. The occupation was initiated in protest of the planned massive cooperation project ‘Cyber Valley’. The ‘Cyber Valley’ is to be the biggest research center for artificial intelligence (AI) in Baden-Würtemberg. For this purpose, major companies such as BMW, ZF Friedrichshafen and Amazon want to set up their facilities in the city. Both the University of Tübingen and the Max-Planck-Institute are part of the planned research corporation. Criticism is voiced against the nontransparent merge of private economic interest and independent scientific research. The need of a ‘Civil Clause’ (the self-commitment to refrain from research on military technology) is stressed. The squat was tolerated by the University of Tübingen until Monday 8 a.m. During the weekend several lectures and events concerning the negative effects of the ‘Cyber Valley’ took place which were directed at the public. As of Monday 8 a.m. protestors have to expect an eviction by the police.

An account of the squatters’ experience is attached to the press release.

The unabridged statement as well a list of demands can be found at

It is time!

The Kupferbau is occupied!

The exact reason is the participation of the university in the Cyber Valley, a research association in which the university, the city, the Max Planck Institute and, above all, private companies, including an armaments company, SCHUFA Holding AG, the major corporation Amazon and the most important representatives of the automotive industry are involved.

We do not want any cooperation with – or influence by – Amazon, SCHUFA or armaments companies such as ZF Friedrichshafen in Tübingen. We also see the cooperation with the automotive industry as worrying: Motorized private transport – whether autonomous or not – is largely responsible for the horror of climate change that will threaten the lives of millions in the coming decades.

We desire an emancipatory science that works on solutions regarding the real problems of mankind: Climate destruction, global injustice or energy supply should be the focus of research, not consumer needs, armament or power interests.
Of course, AI can make a contribution to the solution – but only in a transparent way and in a continuous democratic debate, which is cultivated through a constant reflection from different perspectives, also ethical and social ones. The Cyber Valley, on the other hand, represents an increasing influence by profit – and growth-oriented companies and is thus in clear contradiction to our vision of science.

Research and teaching that corresponds to our ideas must be oriented towards the needs, values and goals of society as a whole. This requires solid basic funding so that universities are not dependent on third-party funds, which often lead to dependency on private interests.

We also see the enthusiasm for the Cyber Valley as the result of the prevailing competitive thinking in society – why else would the argument that the research alliance is necessary in order to remain competitive receive so much attention? However, we are fed up with this pursuit for competition: Every day we feel an unbearable pressure to perform. Framed by ECTS, specialisation and the standard period of study, sincere exchange, relevant discussions and political commitment take a back seat. The pressure to perform dominates us at university but is just as prevalent in schools and other areas of society.

In addition, some students are subject to considerable financial pressure: Rents in Tübingen are at absurd levels and continue to rise. Less affluent students, in particular, have to work while studying, commute far or get into debt. This entrenches social inequality. In addition, students, often single and with a short length of lease, involuntarily contribute to the enormous increase in rents.

We fear that rents will continue to rise with the realization of the Cyber Valley: About three thousand jobs are created, most of them very well paid. The consequences will not only be felt by the students, but by all the residents of the city. The precarious situation of the students is regularly exacerbated by tuition fees and high hurdles when applying for BAföG.

So we demand:

→ No Cyber Valley in Tübingen!

The University and the Max Planck Institute should end their cooperation with the actors involved. Above all, we do not accept cooperation with Amazon, ZF Friedrichshafen and SCHUFA.

→ Increased student participation!

The university must be democratized, students must play a decisive role in important decisions and processes. We demand the restoration of all participatory and political rights of all constituted student bodies and student organizations.

→ Transparency of research at the University of Tübingen!

We demand the disclosure of all current and planned cooperations and research projects at the University of Tübingen. Only then is a democratic participation of the students possible.

→ No more performance thinking!

Studies should be guided by society, the environment and people. Self-determination and sense of responsibility are central requirements for this. In particular, time and support for critical reflection, participation and political commitment must exist.

Away with the Bologna Reforms!

→ Financial relief for students!

We need affordable student housing. All tuition fees must be abolished. In addition, the living expenses must be unconditionally made available to students. In this respect, we support the demand of the FZS.

→ Solid basic funding of the university!

So that research can be guided by social interests, values and problems, it cannot be dependent on the private funds of corporations or other actors in the economy.

→ A strong nonmilitary clause!

No research for military purposes, not even concealed. We demand a strong and comprehensive nonmilitary clause, not only for the University of Tübingen but for the entire city area.

No matter whether students, university employees, pupils or residents of this city: It concerns us all! Come by, inform yourself, join in and shape the protest according to your ideas and wishes – or simply show your approval. Join us! Join us in occupying the lecture

halls in Tübingen and other cities! Obviously, rules will have to be broken in order to be heard.

We are looking forward to seeing you and your support – Thinking means transgressing!

It is time!