JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas’ Speech at the 2018 Fraternity Association Ball

JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas made an appeal at the Fraternity Association Ball in Linz to move toward a common free, democratic-humanistic consensus. Here is the speech in its entirety.

"Right here and now, let us talk about freedom of expression today. Let us also talk about the red line that is not only drawn by the law. And let us align ourselves with the common consensus that represents and hold together our free, democratic and humanistic society. Those who stray from this common consensus – whether it be to the left or to the right – cross the red line.

This also addresses the JKU’s conduct and mission. We are committed to a pluralistic society. We therefore respect our students’ diverse opinions and diverse mindsets. University management considers it vital to be present at the Red Night, the Cartell Association Ball, and the Fraternity Association Ball. With our patronage we are committed to being a university of diversity, no more and no less.

At the same time we are resolutely opposed to extremism, anti-Semitism, and fascism. This not only means explicit expressions, but also implicit forms. Those who give the German language special status in particular know its expressiveness far beyond its immediate meaning. The same goes for the power of images. We also have zero tolerance for camouflaging inhumane ideologies. This is a clear statement to our university employees: We expect carefully, thought-out communication whereas we as a society have a special, historical responsibility.

This is the message today, especially here to our students involved in nationally-oriented organizations and associations. I do not, however, want to be misunderstood. Of course an association’s book of songs does not signify a particular nationalistic leaning. Naturally blanket judgements and prejudices are also strictly rejected here. However, those who uphold the German-national idea born during the Habsburg Empire must be aware of its historical ballast. It is more important than ever before to make clear distinctions from the dramatic, historical erroneous trends in the name of this idea.

Let’s talk today – here and now - about those students and fraternity members in particular who fought for a free Austrian university 170 years ago. Let’s talk about their unparalleled courage to present the emperor with a respectfully worded petition that was actually revolutionary in its message for the time. On March 12, 1848, students gathered in the auditorium at the University of Vienna to present a petition demanding no less than freedom of speech and freedom in teaching and learning. This petition is the root of the constitution of 1867 which is valid to this day. Our universities are founded on Article 17 of this law: ‘Academia, Science and Education are free.'

In this spirit I officially declare the 2018 Fraternity Association Ball open."