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“DIESER HÖRSAAL IST BESETZT!” (“This lecture hall is occupied!”) In November and December 2009, signs bearing such slogans were found on doors at over 60 German universities. For the second time that year, a broad student movement managed to gain public attention for its demands. Protests at the University of Vienna kicked off what became a Europe-wide solidarity wave. In Germany, the Viennese protest first triggered occupations in Heidelberg, Münster, and Potsdam, after which students at many other institutions also became involved. In most cases, the biggest or most central lecture halls were taken, and tens of thousands of students marched through the streets.
During his visit to New York this week to address the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to go to Columbia University to address faculty members and also to meet with a group of American religious leaders. His arrival was preceded by weeks of commotion and dispute: should Ahmadinejad have been allowed to visit ground zero? Should Columbia have agreed to host him? Should he even have been granted a visa to enter at all? In a spasm of infantilism, Republican presidential hopefuls and the right-wing punditocracy have seized the occasion to demonstrate their toughness, decrying the Iranian leader's mere presence on US soil.