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News Link • Education: Colleges and Universities

When Woke Students Ruined Their University 800 Years Ago

•, Simon Black

Barbarossa was already King of Burgundy, King of Germany, AND Holy Roman Emperor. But on top of all of those titles, he was then proclaimed King of Italy.

Italy was like a wonderland for Barbarossa; he had grown up in a warrior family in southern Germany, and as a child he never learned how to read. The only thing he knew how to do was fight, and war was his primary life experience.

But everything was different in Italy.

While Germany was still plunged in the Dark Ages, Italy had a prosperous economy. Germans fought each other for scraps. Italians started businesses, traded, and invested.

Barbarossa had never seen anything like it. But he was immediately struck by the potential of the 'Italian way', and he even endeavored to improve upon it… starting with education.

So in 1158, shortly after his coronation, he granted a formal charter to a school in Bologna that had already been attracting students from all over Europe; this school became known as a university, from the Latin word universitas, meaning 'community' or 'society' in that context.

This makes the University of Bologna the oldest in the world. But sadly it didn't take long for the university to lose its way.

The students quickly organized themselves into unions, known as 'guilds', and became a powerful force over the university's administration. The guilds organized boycotts of 'unsatisfactory' professors, and in many cases ended some people's careers if they didn't like what the professor taught.