The history of sh.asus, since the beginning in 1955, is similar to the path of a defiant contrarian, that emancipated itself, criticized the political and cultural elite, behaved stubbornly, but in maturity was somewhat affected by a mid-life crisis.
It all began in the mid-1950s. In 1955 there were about 300 South Tyrolean students. The main reason for the establishment of a university association was to maintain contact between South Tyrolean students who were far from home (in Austria, but also in the university cities of northern Italy) and to preserve South Tyrolean cultural and linguistic heritage. On top of these motivations there were problems related to recognition of the Austrian academic diploma in Italy and financial and logistical support for students who were outside the province. It was mainly for these reasons that Josef Ferrari first pushed for the creation of an association that would accommodate the interests of students outside the province. Ferrari was mainly driven by the interest of maintaining a German-speaking academic elite, which then trained in Austria, and the need to train German-speaking teachers to teach in South Tyrol.
Until 1949 a Fascist university law forbade study abroad to non-Italian peoples in the new post-war provinces. In 1952, thanks to a cultural agreement between Austria and Italy, discussions began on the need for mutual recognition of academic qualifications. After ratification in 1954 a permanent commission was set up which drew up a first list of some Austrian academic diplomas and examined the feasibility of mutual recognition in Italy.
In 1955, the first statutes of the Südtiroler Hochschülerschaft were issued in the "Sargant" trattoria in Bolzano. Dr. Paul Stacul was appointed as the first provisional president. Immediately after its founding, an attempt was made to structure the organization, to create a secretariat and to establish official relations with the various political institutions, as well as to look for new members.
Later, on September 12, 1955, the association was officially established with a general assembly. Franz von Walther was appointed the first official president.
In the first year the sh organized study trips, encouraged the creation of groups of students through the foundation of various external offices and sought financial support in the form of scholarships.
In February 1956 the first issue of the magazine "Der fahrende Skolast" (after "Skolast") was published.
The first official office was located in the Südtiroler Kulturinsitut under the colonnades of Bolzano, later Via Dr. Streiter was chosen as a location.
Since 1967 the sh moved to the top floor of the Kulturhaus "Walther von der Vogelweide",where it stood right in front of the office of the "Südtiroler Schützen".
In search of a larger office that reflected the logistical needs of the students, the space requirements of the full-time staff and the new areas of expertise offered, a new building was finally opened in 2007 in Via dei Cappuccini 2.
Over the years, the cultural and political discussion and debate concerning the University of Bozen/Bolzano led to tensions within the association and started a process of transition from university representation close to the SVP to "nonparliamentary" opposition.
In the 70's the tensions led to the dissolution of the organisation. The divergence with the SVP became ever greater. Still in the 60s the sh opened up to the Italian population.
The role of socio-political opposition, which the sh wanted to continue to play, collided with the dominant political apparatus. The latter had realized that the sh lacked the structural basis to be anti-SVP: year after year the presidency of the sh changed and the committee was reshuffled again. This strongly weakened its structure.
In the 70's the sh managed to renew itself: in 1976 with Renate Mumelter the presidency of the sh was held by a woman for the first time.
The second half of the 1970s was the most politically active period. There were three main reasons for this:
- Italy was extremely politicised. The communists were at the height of their popularity;
- through the "young generation" the SVP tried to "control" and subjugate the sh;
- through a major strengthening of public relations the sh made itself known to the general public.
In 1977 the new president Günther Pallaver published the so-called "letter of the 83", after receiving a visit from a high-ranking delegation of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The "letter of the 83" was a response to the attacks carried out by the "Junge Generation" of the SVP and the German language newspaper "Dolomiten" against the meeting between the Sh and the PCI. In the letter, Pallaver had accused the political apparatus of limiting freedom of expression. The signatories of the "letter" were, among others, Alexander Brenner-Knoll, Oktavia Brugger, Otto Saurer, Hans Widmann, Krista Posch, Rainer Seberich, Anton Sitzmann and Egmont Jenny. The foreign media in particular spoke out in support of the "letter". Later, the public relations of the Sh became more and more determined. Between 1975 and 1978 the Sh moved strongly to the left.
In the 80's the relationship between the sh and the SVP began to normalize with a shift of interests to other issues. In the mid 80's there was a strong awareness regarding women's issues. In those years the name of the sh was also changed: Südtiroler HochschülerInnenschaft.
In 1992 the sh was involved in a scandal that was settled by three changes of presidency in less than 4 months and judicial turmoil. However, once again the Sh managed to skillfully disentangle itself from problems and tensions. After a further change in name to sh.asus, also translating the German name into Italian, today sh.asus stays on its course despite the Bologna reform and its consequences for universities.
In the second part of the 1990s and towards the end of the millennium, the activities of sh.asus focused on cultural and socio-geopolitical engagement. Fifty years after the end of the Second World War, several Skolasts appeared, dealing with racism and right-wing extremism, and the emerging free University of Bolzano also entered into the critical focus of sh.asus. When with the establishment of a free University a way was found to tie it to the political control of the provincial government, the attitude of the sh.asus changed, becoming critical.
With the emergence of new media, Skolast, the longest-running bilingual magazine in South Tyrol, went into decline: from 1998 to 2000 no issues were published. During the census in autumn 2001, a group of students were appointed to supervise a new edition. Since then, Skolast appears regularly with two editions per year. This geopolitical commitment reached its peak in 2001 on the occasion of the G8 summit in Genoa, which continued in the following years with a number of events dealing with issues of neoliberalism. Education policy at that time was unable to fill the gaps that had formed between the young University of Bolzano and sh.asus. Interactions remained cold and accompanied by disagreements on both sides.
In 2005, sh.asus celebrated its 50th anniversary with a publication in the newspaper "Neuen Südtiroler Tageszeitung" and a great party at Flavon Castle above Bolzano. At the same time this date marked a significant turning point: with the introduction of merit scholarships by the Province of Bolzano, a working group was formed within the association to demand fairer criteria and finally the application of a pro-rata system. As a result, sh.asus has established itself as a pioneer in the field of scholarships and has been able to report some notable successes, especially by promoting cooperation with political parties and other representatives of common interests.
With the move to its new office in Via Cappuccini in Bolzano in the summer of 2007, the recent chapter in the history of the association began. Since then contact with the Free University of Bozen/Bolzano has also expanded. In 2008 a Skolast for the "LUB" was issued and shortly afterwards the statutory right to vote in the association committee for the representative body of the students of the "LUB" was granted. Today the University of Bozen/Bolzano is an integral part of sh.asus and together with our office in Innsbruck represents the largest contingent of about 1,600 members of the association. Today, sh.asus is committed to working with various political organizations and is capable of acting more decisively for the common interests of the students.
Through this lobbying work, various demands and problems, such as the recognition of qualifications and the reimbursement of travel expenses for elections have been applied.