The VSUZH is the latest chapter in the long history of the Zurich student body. In the following sentences we want to bring this story a little closer to you. You can find more information in the book We are what we remember . It depicts the history of the Zurich student body from 1968 onwards. The history of the Zurich student body is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 3.0 . For non-commercial purposes, you are allowed and can happily share it. There is a freely accessible digital version . A print version is available from Theodor Schmid Verlag.
Another good, detailed source on the early history of Zurich students (albeit in part rather connection-focused) is the history of the student body at the University of Zurich by Hans Erb, published in 1937.
A brief history of the Zurich students associations
I. The general student assembly and student corporations (1833-1919)
When the university was founded in 1833, no organized student body was planned. However, a loose, sporadic assembly of students soon formed - the General Student Assembly (Coreper). During its fifty years of existence it took on an increasingly organized form and, despite the lack of an official basis, was regarded as the credible voice of the students. Since in fact only fraternity students took part (who only made up a fifth of the student body), Coreper decided in 1888 to dissolve it.
During the next few decades however, it remained shaped by a conflict that seems alien today: the contrast between integrated fraternity students and the “wild” remaining students. During this chaotic time, despite several attempts and complex compromise solutions, there was no body that could speak for all students. The incorporated, who were the clear minority, saw their delegates' convention - which, by the way, explicitly excluded women - as the only legitimate representation of the students. This parallel existence of the incorporated and non-incorporated student bodies ended with the establishment of the student body of the University of Zurich and the final decline of the fraternities.
II. The student body at the University of Zurich (1919-1978)
In 1919, on the initiative of the students, the cantonal education council issued the first regulations on the organization of the student body. The thus established student body of the University of Zurich (SUZ) differed from all of its predecessor organizations in two essential points: the compulsory membership of all enrolled students (and the associated semester fees) as well as the equal treatment of incorporated and non-incorporated students.
With its new financial stability and legitimation, the SUZ was able to achieve what was not possible before. It offered a travel agency, the Zürcher Studentenzeitung (ZS), loans and grants, student shops (through the ZSUZ central office), housing brokerage and many other services.
After 1968 the SUZ was increasingly dominated by the political left, which earned it many adversaries. In 1977, two students filed an appeal against the compulsory SUZ fee, arguing that there was no legal basis for such compulsory membership. When the government council approved the appeals, the fate of the SUZ was sealed. After more than 50 years, the student body was dissolved. The government council tried to establish a new association with the right to resign on the basis of ordinances, but this was not seen as legitimate by the students and was ultimately dissolved by the federal court due to the lack of a legal basis.
Many of the services of the SUZ live on: the ZS is supported by its own association, the loan office and the central office of the student body were spun off as foundations (although the ZSUZ had to file for bankruptcy 40 years later, in 2017) and the housing agency became today's WOKO .
III. VSU and StuRa (1978 - 2012)
In order to be able to continue to elect student delegates in committees of the university, the directly elected Extended Large Student Council (EGStR) was formed, which was, however, a purely electoral body without a political representation function. The task of political representation of student interests was unofficially taken over by an association under private law: the Association of Students at the University of Zurich (VSU). Although the VSU was a clearly left-wing group, which of course made relations with the university and the Education Directorate more difficult, it was long considered a point of contact for the media and de facto took over the tasks of the SUZ.
The VSU's mandate ended for two reasons: the financial and human resources steadily decreased. The situation of the club became more and more critical from the 1990s. The number of members sank from thousands to hundreds and the board was almost impossible to fill. In 2005 the association was finally dissolved. The legal successor to the VSU was taken over by an association that is still active at the university today: critical politics, better known as kriPo.
Second, in 1994 the EGStR was transformed into the Student Council (StuRa) through a total revision of its general rules of procedure. The significant difference: the StuRa was no longer a mere electoral body, but now officially had the task of representing the students politically. Despite the lack of legal personality and financial dependency on the UZH, he successfully completed this task, but with the constant goal of re-establishing a student body - a public corporation.
IV. The VSUZH (2012 - today)
Here we are now. After 35 years without a clear representation of the students, the Cantonal Council approved a motion on August 29, 2011 with 99 yes, 72 no and 0 abstentions to anchor the Union of Students of the University of Zurich (VSUZH) as a public corporation in the University Act. Now with voluntary membership, independent study associations and no general political mandate. When the change came into force on October 1, 2012, there officially was a new student body. The statutes were approved by the University Council, the first elections were held, and the VSUZH began its work at the constituent meeting on May 28, 2013.
The way here has taken years of negotiations, demonstrations, compromises and countless unsuccessful attempts. But the students finally have the opportunity to speak with one voice again. Now it is up to all of us to seize this opportunity.