Saturday, 1 January 2011

Abolishment of the department of biodynamic agriculture in Witzenhausen

Protest in Witzenhausen

By corywhitney

Abolishment of the department of biodynamic agriculture in Witzenhausen.

The department of bio-dynamic agriculture with Prof. Dr. Ton Baars was established at the Witzenhausen faculty in 2005 and funded by its donors until spring 2011. In the founding treaty the administration of Kassel University and Witzenhausen faculty guaranteed to “make sustainable efforts to keep this department” after 2011.

In 2010 a specific evaluation of the bio-dynamic department, including advice from external independent experts, agreed that certain topics of biodynamic agriculture should be integrated in teaching and research at university.

According to demonstrators this result was violated by the Witzenhausen dean, faculty and president of University Kassel, as they recently decided not to keep the department – even before the evaluation process was officially finished. In addition, say the protesters, the dean influenced the decision making process in several undemocratic ways (e.g. he excluded members from the evaluation committee, he changed the proposed list of external experts and their questionnaire, he ignored the request of the majority of the joint faculty committee to keep the biodynamic department).

Although the donors (Software AG, Luis Bulk Institute among others) offered full financing for three more years, if the bio-dynamic department would, in the end, be kept by the University.Sadly, the biodymanic department and the work of Prof. Dr. Baars will be finished after this semester!

Democratic participation of students at risk!!

The development of the faculty in Witzenhausen as is traditionally based on self-government on all levels of university administration and is meant to include a strong students participation - students in Witzenhausen claimed the first department of organic farming in Germany.

The abolition of the department of bio-dynamic agriculture is only the tip of the iceberg. It hints at other incidences which have accumulated since Prof. Dr. Wachendorf became dean in 2008. The protesters find that the democratic participation as well as the unique organic profile of Witzenhausen is at risk!
Demands of the Protest:

!!! Keep the department of bio-dynamic agriculture!

!!! Keep the unique organic profile of Witzenhausen faculty!

!!! Stop the recent undemocratic negotiations with students!

!!! Follow the funding-treaty to keep the bio-dynamic department!

!!! A clear statement of Prof. Dr. Wachendorf how he wants to develop the faculty!

!!! More participation of students!

!!! Transparency in decision-making at the faculty!

!!! Re-initiation of the faculty committee as leading decision-making committee despite of changes in Hessian University Law!

!!! Discussion of mission-statement with exclusion of genetic engineering!

!!! Distinct improvement of communication and cooperation of all professors (e.g. immediately with external mediation)!

For more information (in German) and pictures visit:


Biodynamic Science?

By corywhitney

Just back from an afternoon in the Steinstraße lab basement. We’ve been calculating the dry matter content for a biodynamic germination test with 500, Rudolf Steiner‘s prescribed Horn Manure preparation, under different stresses. This is all part of a ‘free project’ within the SIA Masters Program (More on the SIA study program and schedule. The SIA Practical guide). Our free project groups objective is to see if the application of Rudolf Steiner’s prescribed Horn Manure preparations offer an advantage to plants (Barley, Pea, Tomato, Quinoa) in the germination stages.

This has required exhaustive research and work on our part, as all free projects do. However, it is an incredibly unique opportunity, as we are working with Prof. Dr. Ton Baars from the Uni-Kassel Professorship. Professor Baars is the only professor of Biodynamic Agriculture in the world, right here on the Witzenhausen Campus, much to the chagrin of some of other professors, here and away, and to the scientific community.

Biodynamic Science has been a topic of many heated forums and community meetings here in Witzenhausen as the funding for the position is soon up. The general consensus from the student body is that we need to keep the position so that we can look beyond modern day science and into the possibilities that Biodynamic has to offer. The general feeling from the scientific community is that having Biodynamic listed as a science here makes Witzenhausen seem less scientific. The professorship has enough work to do just supporting the pure organic studies.

The first question I asked Prof. Baars when he presented his research goals to me and my SIA colleagues this winter was about other theological sciences methodologies and their influence on biodynamic sciences. Prof. Baars told us that the biodynamic sciences use modern scientific practices and leave all theology aside. This turns out to be entirely untrue, in our experience so far biodynamic science is an amalgamation of theological, spiritual and scientific practices. It is at times very confused and at times quite refreshing. I have found myself working on this in the greenhouse and in the lab several times a week since that meeting.

The long and the short of it is here in Witzenhausen is the chance of a lifetime to do some ‘way out’ studies in a field that most scientist will laugh at, most laypeople will give you the hairy eyeball about and you’ll be endlessly explaining to anyone who cares to ask. Sound familiar?

Here is a paper on the subject that I found quite informative and inspiring in a funny way: Taking a Scientific Look at Biodynamic

Here is a poem by Arthur O’Shaugnessey for all those who are willing to be way out enough to consider a place like Witzenhausen for Masters Studies:

We Are The Music-Makers

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

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