A corporation in Germany consists of the active students, who study any academic subject at a German university, and the already graduated Alte Herren (Old Boys) that have once been active in the corporation. The active students usually reside in the corporation house, some kind of small dorm for the members of the corporation. One of the many benefits of joining a corporation is the especially low pricing of the often noble rooms. Some argue that corporations actively try to get new members through these low-priced rooms which they then socialize to their traditions.
The corporation is mostly financed by the Alte Herren, which also take care of the students' career -- they help them in their subjects of study and in other areas of life, up to organizing good jobs and possibilities for the younger students. This networking is also seen as problematic by other students and most student unions. In turn, the active students when becoming Alte Herren finance and help the then-actives.
Corporations are organized in convents; for example there is the Weinheimer Seniorenconvent, the Coburger Convent, the Verband der Vereine Deutscher Studenten or the Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband.
Most of the current corporations originate in the early 19th century, as does their tradition. This includes ideals of freedom, democracy and tolerance as well as a tendency towards nationalism. Beer, commercium songs and academic fencing also play a big role in many corporations. One prominent item in corporations' tradition is the Wartburg festival in 1817 (see Vormärz era).
One part of the tradition is the academic fencing, which is a ritualized duel, but without the possibility for anyone to win. Unlike earlier times nowadays the chance of injury is very small. The fencing is seen as a ritual of fighting for the corporation and for their ideals.
The traditional clothes corporation members wear are seldom seen today at universities.
Are corporations racist, nationalist, chauvinist?
Most of the corporations consist of men only, there are some corporations which consist of women only, but there are almost no mixed-gender corporations. Some of the traditional orientations as well as misbehaviour of at least some of the corporations regularly leads to prejudices about them being right-wing and chauvinist. At least some of the corporations see themselves as liberal and tolerant, whereas others are described rightly as deutschtümelnd (nationalistic). The more liberal corporations allow members with any skin colour, nationality and religion. Others are very choosy. Burschenschaften in contrast to Corps and Landsmannschaften and Turnerschaften, often restrict membership to people from German heritage. Connections between specific Burschenschaften and right-wing organisations are a constant issue for many student unions and anti-fascist organisations in Germany.