Examples from German-speaking countries
References to more cases are welcome.
This page names examples of attacks on academic freedom while raising no claim to completeness; it is updated on a regular basis. In an academic atmosphere that is increasingly characterized by political- or moral-ideological pressure and, as a result, self-censorship, these cases are only the visible tip of the iceberg.
Criticism and contradiction are elementary components of academic discourse in open societies. However, the members of the Network fight back against defamation if, instead of a substantial contradiction, a person or his/her argument ist politically classified in a morally discrediting way (e.g. as “Nazi” or “right-wing extremist”, “racist”, “enemy of Islam” or “enemy of the people”, “anti-Semite” as well as “left-wing fascist”, “Islamist”, “terrorist” or “filthily left-wing”). Defamation can also become effective through more subtle attributions (“congruous with right-wing discourses”, “controversial”, “downplaying” or “blind in the left eye”). What these defamations have in common is that they mark the person concerned as to be avoided and thus exclude them from discourse. At the same time, they function as an orientation and a warning: anyone who works with the defamed person, “offers them a platform”, signals encouragement or even just solidarity, is also “guilty”.
We distinctly emphasize the obvious: Those who defend academic freedom do not defend the content of what individuals say when claiming their academic freedom. If a representative of Gender Studies is exposed to attacks beyond legitimate criticism that are likely to restrict her freedom, we will come to her defence without taking an affirmative position on the content of what she says; when, on the other hand, a representative of the field of evolutionary biology criticizes Gender Studies, we defend his right to academic freedom without necessarily agreeing with his criticism.
We largely limit ourselves to cases from German-speaking countries or to cases that have an impact on academic research in our country. It is to be feared that the numerous and serious examples from the anglophone world (documentation of US American and Canadian cases can be found here and British cases here) will set a precedent in this regard. The examples can be assigned to the following topics:
What is allowed to become the object of academic research and what can be spoken about? What is not supposed to be said?
Topics and theses whose discussion is prevented by the fact that those concerned are placed under serious moral suspicion (racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, etc.) by specialist colleagues or outsiders
Who is allowed to speak? Who should not be able to participate in academic discourse?
Cancel culture, or: Attempts to deny certain people the right to speak; attempts to institutionally withdraw this right from a person
What should be the rules of discourse?
Interventions with the aim of preventing politically inopportune “bad research”
In January 2022, Klaus Fiedler, social psychologist at the University of Heidelberg, is appointed editor-in-chief of the US-American journal “Perspectives on Psychological Science” (PoPS) of the “Association for Psychological Science” (APS).
On December 2, 2022, a group of more than 1.000—mostly US-American—scientists demand Fiedler’s immediate resignation and a review of his editorial decisions on the grounds that he is guilty of racist behaviour. This allegation refers to a process of evaluation of a manuscript submitted for publication. The author claims the evaluation had been unfair and an instance of systemic racism in psychology as a science. The allegations are accompanied by a campaign against Fiedler on Twitter.
On December 5, 200 psychologists publish an open letter to the APS criticizing their colleagues’ actions and questioning the validity of their claims. They also criticize the fact that Fiedler had not been given the opportunity to comment on the allegations (the German Society for Psychology, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie, raises the same allegation against the APS). The APS Board of Directors adopts the allegations against Fiedler and expresses its distrust in him, whereupon he offers his resignation on December 6, 2022, which is accepted. Further resignations at the level of the publisher follow.
Hans-Georg Maaßen, former President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, terminates his cooperation with Publishers C. H. Beck after they repeatedly urged him to agree to an early contract termination. Maaßen had written the commentary on Articles 16 (expatriation, extradition) and 16a (right to asylum) in the much-used commentary on the Basic Law by Epping and Hillgruber and updated it over the years. Due to his critical and sometimes polemical-aggressive tweets and statements on various political topics, prominent daily newspapers such as the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and SZ (Süddeutsche Zeitung) had criticized that Maaßen is permitted to continue to participate in the well-known commentary. One of his co-authors had also articulated quite distinctly a similar uneasiness but at the same time made it clear that there was nothing wrong with Maaßen’s commentary and that it was within the framework of what was justifiable from a juristic perspective.
The publisher also adopts this assessment, initially intending to stick to the cooperation with Maaßen against media pressure; however, they quickly turn around and press for the contractual relationship to be terminated. Maaßen’s commentary on the Basic Law is, they state, technically not objectionable, but “regarding Dr Maaßen personally and his public statements, a heated discussion amongst worsening polarization” had arisen, “in which the irreconcilable positions have taken on a life on their own”. This discussion harms the commentary on the Basic Law, the editors and the publishing house, they say.
Maaßen himself states that the reason the publisher had given him for asking him to terminate the contract had been that one of the editors of the commentary, Volker Epping, who is also President of the University of Hanover, was being put under considerable political pressure from the Lower Saxony state government because of Maaßen’s cooperation. It had mainly been because of this that he, Maaßen, ended the collaboration of his own accord.
At the Institute for Philosophy at the University of Leipzig, a seminar given by the private lecturer (Privatdozent) Javier Y. Álvarez-Vázquez is disrupted by transgender activists, the lecturer is shouted down and physically threatened (FAZ from November 2, 2022). The course therefore continues in a digital format only. Álvarez-Vázquez files a criminal complaint; the institute assures him of their support. This is preceded by a campaign against his seminar on “Historical Genetic Theory of Gender Relations: Subject—Identity—Love”. Activists who wished to remain anonymous had raised, without proof, the allegations of “transphobia” and “unscholarliness”.
On October 20, 2022, the German Bundestag tightens the criminal offence of hate speech under Section 130 of the Criminal Code “almost unnoticed and without thorough consultations” (see here). According to this revision, anyone who “… publicly or in a gathering approves, denies or grossly downplays genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes in a way that is likely to incite hatred or violence against such a person or a majority of people and to disturb public peace” can from now on be punished (see here). The consequence can be a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine. Until then, the penal provision had primarily pertained to crimes committed during the National Socialist period.
The recent amendment to the law is intended to cover the denial of crimes committed during the Ukraine war as well. “It is certainly conceivable that there will be constellations in which this is applicable to the crimes committed in the context of the Russian war of aggression. Now, for example, approving of one of the war crimes committed as part of the Russian war of aggression against Ukrainians by means of slogans or signs at a public gathering could be punishable,” explained legal expert Canan Bayram from Alliance 90/The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) in the German Bundestag.
The criminal lawyer Gerhard Strate sees the danger that the state may act arbitrarily and that political opponents may be criminalized: “In this amended form, the law can only be described as dangerously vague. Its application would require a definition of what cannot be said. However, the formal conviction of a war crime according to the International Criminal Code is not a condition for a conviction according to Section 130  of the Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch). It is therefore up to a toxic mixture of public opinion and the personal opinion of prosecutors and judges, which war crimes are considered proven and whose ‘gross’ trivialization should therefore be made a punishable offence. […] The legal construction of as many opinion crimes as possible, which has become fashionable in recent years, has now reached a sad climax. This jurisdiction, which criminalizes sentiments, contributes absolutely nothing to peaceful coexistence: The attempt to criminalize more and more sections of the population by dint of new criminal offences and to silence them by means of a vague legal situation is the cause of the social divisions of our time” (see here). Moreover, the narrowing of the freedom of opinion is accompanied by a restriction of freedom of research and teaching.
At Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg (MLU), political scientist Jürgen Plöhn is initially deprived of his teaching license in 2021 after 19 years of teaching because he penalizes “gender language” (i.e. “gender-inclusive language”) in examinations by a minus point. For legal reasons, the withdrawal is revoked. However, the administration of the institute decides that students will no longer be able to acquire credit points (CP) through courses offered by Plöhn. As a result, Jürgen Plöhn stops offering courses in the summer semester of 2022 and contacts the petitions committee of the Saxony-Anhalt state parliament.
Georg Meggle, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Leipzig and Honorary President of the Society for Analytical Philosophy (Gesellschaft für analytische Philosophie, GAP), is one of three prospective discussants at the opening podium of the 11th GAP Congress at the HU Berlin. The main theme of the congress is “Philosophy and the Public Sphere”; the opening panel is entitled “Academic Freedom and Morality”.
Shortly before the start of the event, the organizers of the congress find out that Georg Meggle had supported an appeal published in November 2021 called “Stopping the warmonger. New Krefeld Appeal” as the first signatory, thereby mentioning his status as GAP Honorary President. The call is directed against the “US power complex” and articulates various well-known conspiracy theories, among other things. The board of directors of the GAP publishes a statement on the short-term dismissal of Georg Meggle, which in turn is opposed by an “open letter” from GAP members. Meggle’s signature can no longer be found on the “New Krefeld Appeal” page (https://peaceappeal21.de/).
The German political scientists Christian Hacke (Bonn) and Johannes Varwick (Halle/Saale) are blacklisted by the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council’s “Center for Countering Disinformation” (CCD) for allegedly engaging in “Russian propaganda”. The head of the centre describes the 72 public figures (international politicians, scientists, journalists) on the list as “information terrorists” who, he says, have to answer as war criminals. The German embassy in Kiev calls on the Ukrainian government to “stop public listing of foreign personalities.” The list ist taken offline in August 2022; it is, however, still available.
The Frankfurt General Newspaper (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) reports on the case of the lawyer Alessandra Asteriti, Junior Professor for business law at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg. In 2019, she had written a longer thread on Twitter about why distinguishing between men and women as different physical entities was important to international law: otherwise exploitation, oppression or discrimination of women could not even be discussed. The series of tweets triggers a storm of outrage among LGBTQ circles. In several emails, the university administration ist urged to fire Asteriti for “transphobic” views; otherwise, those threatening say, they will contact the police. On Twitter, Asteriti is insulted as a “Nazi” and receives death threats.
At an online conference in September 2020, Asteriti is scheduled to chair a panel organized by students of her master’s program on human rights. Shortly beforehand, some students complain about her alleged “transphobia” and manage to get Asteriti to step down from chairing the panel and the conference to be cancelled at the last minute.
On December 8, 2020, a public statement by the General Students’ committee (Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss, AStA) together with LGBTQ organizations calles on the university administration to distance itself publicly from Asteritis’ “transphobic statements”. She agrees to talk to the students who air their accusation of transphobia. It takes place in the university’s equal opportunities office and, according to Asteriti, ends disastrously. She says she had been attacked as an enemy of trans people from the start and felt like she had been part of a brainwashed cult. When asked, the university limits itself to the information that there had been no convergence of viewpoints.
Asteriti’s contract for online teaching is terminated. Asteriti complains that the university had granted her little support in the face of the character assassination campaign. In fact, when asked by the FAZ, the university denies any responsibility. It also evades the question whether in their view, distinguishing between two biological sexes is a misanthropic act.
(Source: FAZ of September 21, 2022, page 4)
Nature, one of internationally and, across disciplines, most frequently quoted scientific journals, imposes stricter ethical restrictions on itself and thus on its authors regarding publications. Not only should the test persons in studies on humans be protected according to established criteria, but “benefits and harms of academic research whose conclusions could affect groups of people that haven’t directly participated” should now also be taken into account. Authors, reviewers and editors are asked to respect dignity and rights of human groups. In concrete terms, this should not only mean that potentially harmful consequences for groups of people should be considered in research, but also that the academic community should strive to minimize the potential for abuse in this regard. It says: “Although cases are not always clear cut, if publication risks people being harmed, authors and editors need to consider those risks against any benefits that could arise from publication.”
Apart from the remarkable step that collectives are ascribed a dignity as if they were subjects in their own right, these provisions can be construed as prohibiting publication of any research the results of which could even possibly be construed as disadvantageous to a particular group of people in comparison to others. In this way, science can be obligated to produce results that support the hypothesis of the empirical sameness of all relevant groups of people in terms of characteristics “pertaining to values” such as hostility to democracy, violent crime, integration records or intelligence. In the event of deviating findings, there is certainly the potential or risk of stigmatization or discrimination. Since a corresponding “consideration” is to be made, editors are still free to publish such studies exactly when they deem it opportune.
Such provisions, which are both vague and far-reaching at the same time, open the door to selective publication of empirical findings depending on their moral and political desirability. The justification for this step is based on “principles that are already cornerstones of research ethics: beneficence (a moral obligation to act for the benefit of others) and non-maleficence (a duty to avoid harm).” The epistemic goal of academic research is thus subordinated to general and unspecific considerations of usefulness and harmfulness, which can easily be aligned with all kinds of ideological and political guidelines.
Nature editorial of June 14, 2022: “Research must do no harm: new guidance addresses all studies relating to people”.
Nature, one of the internationally and interdisciplinarily most renowned scientific journals, sets out detailed specifications in its portfolio which also contains provisions on research ethics: Human races and ethnic groups are socio-political constructs, biological races do not exist, “sex” and “gender” must be distinguished clearly, and: “Gender is usually incorrectly conceptualized as a binary (man/woman or feminine/masculine) factor. In reality, there is a spectrum of gender identities and expressions defining how individuals identify themselves and express their gender”. In this way, Nature partially specifies to the researchers how they should use terms and what their research results should look like.
What is particularly striking about the chosen example is that Nature emphasizes how things are in flux in this area and asks the authors to be flexible: “As such, definitions will require frequent revisiting, as the exercise of defining gender (and sexuality) is under constant flux and evolution, as is the area of study in itself”. In relation to gender and sexuality, all sorts of things are possible, except for one thing: the “binary” view which had been declared “mainstream” shortly before; it is now said to be “incorrect”. See here.
As part of a “Long Night of Academic Research” at Humboldt University in Berlin on July 2, 2022, the lecture by doctoral student of biology Marie-Luise Vollbrecht on the topic of “Geschlecht (gender/sex) ist different from Geschlecht. Sex, gender and why there are only two sexes in biology” is cancelled by the university after opposition from the AStA and the “Study Group of Critical Lawyers” (Arbeitskreises kritischer Jurist*innen, akj). The University’s Advisory Council, a students’ organization, had stated that “it was not difficult to foresee that Vollbrecht will also use this opportunity to continue to strengthen anti-trans views. And that in university rooms and with university funding! This is a scandal! There must be no political falsification of science at university events while paving the way for misanthropic ideology! We demand: No stage for transphobia …” Under the motto “No stage for queer- and transphobic ideologies at the HU”, the akj calls for a demonstration just in front of the location of the event. For fear of riots, the administration of the HU cancels the lecture “in the interest of the Long Night of Sciences as a whole”.
On July 14, Marie-Luise Vollbrecht can still give her lecture at Humboldt University. On Twitter, she is accused of denying Nazi crimes against transsexuals. At the request of Vollbrecht, the press chamber of the Cologne Regional Court issues an injunction in August 2022.
At the end of May 2022, doctoral students at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg plan a panel discussion on university policy during the Corona crisis. In order to adequately reflect the range of opinions, two supporters and two critics of the pandemic policy are invited. However, the economist Christine Binzel withdraws her acceptance because she sees no basis for a debate with colleagues who are critical of the government’s corona policy. The event is cancelled (as of June 20, 2022)
In a statement from January 26, 2022, the AStA of Free University Berlin defames the bioinformatician Michael Grünstäudl, PhD, research associate at the Institute of Biology, as politically “right-wing”, among other things, because in March 2018, he had issued a “joint declaration” against “illegal mass immigration” to Germany. Various posters, banners and wall graffiti are used to protest against the lecturer. The AStA calls for his habilitation (qualification for professorship) proceedings to be stopped so that it “is made impossible for him to continue to work in an academic context in the future”. To date, the university administration of the FU has neither taken action against the defamation of their employee nor has it given Grünstaudl the opportunity to comment, which he had requested, even though the habilitation committee had already established in April 2022 that neither racist nor misogynistic nor homophobic “activities” of Grünstäudl were recorded in either the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Pharmacy nor the Department of Bioinformatics. After hiring a lawyer, Grünstäudl was able to successfully complete his habilitation process on February 22, 2023 and received the habilitation qualification for botany and bioinformatics. (2022/23)
Dirk Helbing, Professor of Computational Social Sciences at ETH Zurich, uses a slide entitled “The Temptation of Inappropriate Generalizations” in a lecture on “Digital Society”. The slide shows a photo of piglets, next to which it says (original quote in English): “We have this nice piece of Big Data software to manage logistic systems. Couldn’t we apply this to: Chicken, Pigs? Terrorists? Criminals? Unemployed? Chinese? Everyone?” The background for the point “Chinese?” is the Chinese social credit system, which ranks citizens according to their everyday behaviour and plays an important role in allocating jobs, marriage partners and loans.
In some social networks, the slide is distributed without context and interpreted as an attempt to equate Chinese people with pigs, criminals and terrorists. Helbing is exposed to a shitstorm that culminates in death threats. An alleged “group of volunteers” designs a website called “Anti-racism at ETH Zurich” and writes an open letter to the ETH administration. After Helbing apologizes to all who had signed the letter and sends a modified slide, the rector of the ETH reacting in the same way, both the open letter and any reference to Helbing are deleted from the website. (2022) (Source: NZZ of March 12, 2022)
The University Policy Working Group (a students’ organization) and the General Students’ Committee (Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss, AStA) of the FU Berlin publish a statement entitled “Exmatriculate right-wing ideology! Against discriminatory teaching at “Free” University”. In this declaration, which the conference of the General Students’ Committees of the state of Berlin (Landes-Asten-Konferenz Berlin) joins, “the dismissal of right-wing, racist or otherwise discriminatory employees or at least the long-term withdrawal of their teaching position” is demanded. This refers, for example, to lecturers who are active in the Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) or the Young Alternative (Junge Alternative) but also to courses in which “the N-word and other problematic terms are quoted without comment” or texts “in which racist stereotypes are being reproduced”. The Initiative for Intersectional Lectureship (Initiative Intersektionales Lehramt) is cited with approval, which had called for “further education for lecturers on colonialism and racism” and the “review of teaching material from an anti-racist postcolonial perspective through professional external expertise”. “Right-wing teachers”, the statement goes on to say, “will always reproduce right-wing ideologies in their teaching. […] Due to the lack of sensitivity in selecting lecturers, students are not only being discriminated against but also partly re-traumatized.” They eventually demand an “actual awareness raising among students and lecturers to discrimination instead of meaningless diversity strategies”, “direct reactions to the dissemination of racist, discriminatory and fascist content by lecturers in their teaching”, the “actual participation of students in the allocation of chairs” and the “clear and consistent positioning of the FU against any kind of fascism, racism as well as other forms of discrimination”.
These demands amount to the unvarnished view that only lecturers with a specific political and ideological orientation should be employed at Free University of Berlin and that any content that does not correspond to this orientation should be banned from teaching.
The New Journal of Zürich (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, NZZ) reports on the case of a doctoral student at the University of St Gallen (HSG) whose supervisory relationship had been terminated due to tweets in which the Chinese government is sharply criticized for its corona policy. According to the NZZ, the supervising professor emails the doctoral student that she had received “angry emails from China”: The doctoral student is spreading “Neo-Nazi-like content” on Twitter. This is, according to the supervisor, dangerous even for herself: “In the end, even I might not be able to get a visa for China because of you. That definitely goes too far and I would have to end our supervisory relationship.” He is requested to moderate immediately his way of expressing his political views in public. She says she is “not keen on receiving such emails because of one of my doctoral students”.
The doctoral student’s attempts to clarify the matter are met with no response. Almost two days later, the professor declares: “There is no supervisory relationship between you and us”; shortly afterwards, his e-mail account at the HSG is deleted. The university takes the position that the supervision of the doctoral student had been “purely voluntary” and had had an “informal character”. It is, they argue, the professor’s “right” to terminate the supervisory relationship if the bond of trust is disturbed.
About a year earlier, the doctoral student had indeed been exmatriculated in order to conduct field research in Wuhan, which happened on the advice of his program supervisor and in consultation with his professor at the HSG; instead, he was enrolled at a university in Wuhan with which the HSG has a cooperation agreement. The entire time, he was still listed as a doctoral student on the HSG website, and his professor had written to him shortly before she declared the supervisory relationship non-existent: “It is amazing how much progress you have made in China!”
As a result of the affair, the doctoral student cannot find a new supervisor at the University of St Gallen, cannot re-enrol and takes up a position outside the university. Three years of research are lost. (NZZ from August 3, August 4 and November 25, 2021, podcast from August 6, 2021)
In two publications, Heike Egner and Anke Uhlenwinkel examine cases in Germany, Austria and Switzerland—for legal reasons without naming names or further circumstances—in which professors were dismissed, not given a permanent contract or publicly demoted due to “leadership misconduct”. The number of such cases has increased significantly in recent years compared to the past. Women and persons of foreign nationality are disproportionately affected, each accounting for around two-thirds of the cases investigated.
Relatively clear criteria can be specified for academic misconduct since it can be determined on the basis of available publications and can therefore be verified by an interested public in particular. On the other hand, the new and legally unregulated accusation of leadership misconduct is based on accusations of bullying or abuse of power, which are much more difficult to objectify and the details of which do not reach the public. Egner and Uhlenwinkel emphasize that the rule of law had in various ways not been sufficiently applied in the relevant procedures. These are often conducted in a non-transparent and partisan manner with no adequate legal basis and with disregard for the presumption of innocence. The right of the accused to be heard and to make a statement in the committees dealing with the facts of the case is regularly disregarded or granted insufficiently. The complainants mostly remain anonymous, the university administrations do not usually take a neutral position but take a stand against the accused from the outset and in this way simultaneously assume the role of prosecutor and judge. The majority of those questioned state that they do not know in detail what they are accused of. Positive, potentially exculpatory statements from other students, doctoral candidates or colleagues are ignored.
Like their interviewees, Egner and Uhlenwinkel are themselves affected. Even if one takes this into account, their documentation reveals a worrying and potentially threatening leeway for university administrations to get rid of professors who, for whatever reason, have become unpopular and whose removal is in the interest of powerful actors or groups within the university. It is sufficient for individual students or doctoral students to submit complaints anonymously, regardless of what others say. In reality, according to the authors, disputes over resources are likely to be behind most such processes.
Heike Egner und Anke Uhlenwinkel: „Zur Rechtsstaatlichkeit universitätsinterner Verfahren bei Entlassung oder öffentlicher Degradierung von Professor*innen“. In: Ordnung der Wissenschaft 2021, S. 173–184.
Heike Egner und Anke Uhlenwinkel: „Entlassung und öffentliche Degradierung von Professorinnen. Eine empirische Analyse struktureller Gemeinsamkeiten anscheinend unterschiedlicher „Fälle““. In: Beiträge zur Hochschulforschung 43, 2021, S. 62–84.
Klaus Kinzler, Professor of Political Science at the “Grande École” Sciences Po Grenoble, questions the meaning of the term “Islamophobia” in an email exchange at an academic event and says it must not be put on one level with “anti-Semitism” and “racism”. One may even wonder whether this is just “a propaganda weapon used by extremists who are more intelligent than us” (quoted from the NZZ of September 14, 2021). Some of the content of the correspondence is made public. After that, Klaus Kinzler is subjected to vehement attacks on the Internet and at the university by left-wing student groups, among others; they demand his resignation and voice death threats; as a result, he withdraws from the university and temporarily lives under police protection. An investigative report by the ministry responsible for higher education, research and innovation comes to the conclusion that the allegations of Islamophobia and racism against Kinzler and his colleague Vincent Tournier, who had been the only affiliate of his institute to help him in the affair, are unfounded and politically motivated. Minister Frédérique Vidal calls for the students responsible for the campaign to be punished. In the ensuing investigation, the Sciences Po Grenoble Disciplinary Commission acquits all but one of the accused and in one case imposes a university expulsion on parole.
When Klaus Kinzler explains a little later in an interview with the newspaper “L’Opinion”: “Sciences Po Grenoble has become a re-education camp”, and: “In Grenoble, you can observe how a militant minority imposes their will on the majority, intimidating others and ignoring the laws, and prepares for their takeover of power” (quoted from the FAZ of 21/12/2021), the university administration informs him of his dismissal.
A year-long campaign against philosopher Kathleen Stock for her alleged “transphobia” leads to her resignation from her professorship for philosophy at the University of Sussex. In January 2021, not only anglophone but also German university teachers had taken part in the slanderous actions against Stock by means of an “Open letter against transphobia in philosophy”, which was directed against her: among them were professors, postdocs and doctoral students at the FU and HU Berlin, RUB, LMU Munich, RWTH Aachen and the Universities of Augsburg, Bielefeld, Erfurt, Hanover, Cologne, Konstanz, Leipzig, Münster, Potsdam and Tübingen. (2021)
The Baden-Württemberg Sunni School Board Foundation refuses to grant the Islamic scholar and religious educator Dr Abdel-Hakim Ourghi, who had been teaching at the PH Freiburg for many years and had become chair of the Department of Islamic Theology/ Religious Education there in 2011, the teaching licence for Islamic religious teaching. The reasons given are that Ourghi does not have any specific training as a religious education teacher. However, at the time Ourghi completed his studies (he received his doctorate from the University of Freiburg in 2006) there had not been any opportunity for such training in Germany.
The suspicion arises that the council of the foundation, which is dominated by two conservative Islamic associations, fundamentally rejects Ourghi’s liberal theology, which, among other things, strives to historicize the Koran, and therefore wants to exclude him from training prospective religion teachers. Ourghi himself points out that the two associations represented on the board of trustees (the State Association of Islamic Cultural Centres in Baden-Württemberg (Landesverband der Islamischen Kulturzentren Baden-Württemberg, LVIKZ) and the Islamic Religious Community of Bosniaks) represent only a very small part of mosque communities in Baden-Württemberg.
This raises the question whether the state government had been constitutionally authorized in the first place to give these associations exclusive control over the training of Muslim religion teachers in 2019. The members of the council and the arbitration Committee of the foundation sometimes advocate controversial positions. In the media, members of the arbitration commission in particular are accused of insufficient distancing from radical Islam such as that advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the state government does not appear to be willing to investigate these allegations, although shortly before the foundation was launched, Minister for Academic Research (Wissenschaftsministerin) Theresia Bauer (The Greens) had expressed serious concerns about the entire organization.
Egon Flaig, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Rostock, is invited by his Osnabrück colleague Christiane Kunst to give a specialist lecture as part of a series of lectures in April 2021. His topic is “The Limits of Conceptions of Power. Why is it impossible to do political sociology with Foucault and Bourdieu?”. The AStA of the University of Osnabrück describes Flaig as a “right-wing intellectual” who is guilty of “indirect justification for the murder of Walter Lübcke” and opposes Flaig’s invitation. They receive support from the history department, which claims that Flaig had been spreading “positions of the New Right under the guise of academic research” for years, thereby “considerably promoting an inhumane, discriminatory and racist ideology”. The Osnabrück Professor for Recent History and Historical Migration Research Christoph Rass and his team expressly agree with the criticism and organize a colloquium on “Historical Studies in Democratic and Plural Societies” as a counter-event taking place during the time of Flaig’s lecture. This standpoint held by the AStA, the student association of the history department and Christoph Rass is not adopted by the university administration of Osnabrück. Both events take place, although only digitally because of the Covid-19 pandemic. (2021)
The city of Hanover cancels an event on colonialism at which Helmut Bley, Emeritus Professor of modern and African history at Leibniz University, had been scheduled to give a lecture entitled “Thinking about colonial history from the perspective of Africans”. Beforehand, the “Initiative for Sensitivity to Discrimination and Criticism of Racism”, with whose representatives Bley was to discuss after his presentation, had protested against the fact that “an old white man” wanted to comment on the situation in Africa. Such a person cannot “think and empathize with African conditions”. The communications manager of the mayor’s office justifies the cancellation by saying that the planned discussion format had proven to be unsustainable: “As the organizer, it is important to us to enable an open and liberal discussion culture. But this must be wanted by all sides”. The city, he says, had agreed with Bley that he could give his lecture in a different setting. (2021)
The Freiburg University Library provides parts of “right-wing” literature, including works by Martin Lichtmesz, Jean Raspail’s “Heerlager der Heiligen” in German translation and “Mit Linken Leben” by Lichtmesz and Caroline Sommerfeld, with the note: “Secret: use only in the Special Reading Room for academic purposes”. When asked, the library states that it regards these works as potentially inflammatory and fears that it could be prosecuted if they were made publicly available. However, the books are freely available in bookstores and the library does not apply the same rules to the works of Joseph Stalin or Sayid Qutb, for example. These can be borrowed in the usual way. (2021)
The AStA and the association “Critical Physicians” accuse the physician Paul Cullen, Associate Professor at the University of Münster, of “unscientific, anti-feminist and anti-Semitic statements” and demand the withdrawal of his adjunct professorship. They refer to Cullen’s commitment to life protection and his critical comments on the government’s corona vaccination strategy. (2021)
Because he is prevented from publishing his epidemiological work, Stephan Luckhaus, Professor for Mathematical Optimization at the University of Leipzig, leaves the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, of which he had been a member since 2007 (since 2019 as Senator of the Mathematics Section). In his contributions, he speaks out against lockdowns. The work “Corona, Mathematical Epidemiology, Herd Immunity, and Data”, published as a preprint, had been planned as a contribution to “NAL live”. According to its own description, this “new scientific journal of the Leopoldina” wants to distinguish itself by transparency. Articles are to be “commented online, discussed and continuously updated” here, thus creating a “living document”. The description says: “The documents thus reflect an open scientific discussion. By constantly updating the texts, they should also provide an information basis on the respective topic for politicians and the media.” However, the editor refuses to include Luckhaus’s essay in the review process, which takes place before publication. An alternative distribution of a German version as a contribution to the discussion among Leopoldina members is equally rejected with reference to data protection reasons. (2021)
After Maisha-Maureen Auma, Professor of Diversity Studies at the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences, criticizes what she sees as structural racism at German universities in an interview (German universities are “white institutions”, racism and sexism are “still very effective”), Dr Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group in Saxony-Anhalt for education, science and culture, publishes a press statement in which he calls for Auma as an academic researcher to be “put in her place”; Auma’s theses “do not need to be financed by the German taxpayer.” (2021)
In an opinion piece for the forum of the journal Publishing Studies (Publizistik), Rudolf Stöber, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Bamberg, criticizes the use of ‘gender-neutral language’ as a linguistically unfounded defacement of language that is illegally practiced by the universities. The contribution is accepted unanimously by the editors; those who wish to defend gender-neutral language are invited to send in replies. However, acceptances of such replies are withdrawn. Instead, a signature list is organized in the subject, on which 82 colleagues demand that the specialist society no longer print articles of this kind in the journal, which is financed by membership fees. Efforts to use inclusive and gender-equal language, they say, should not be discredited by articles written in a “largely unscientific, polemical and defamatory” style. (2021)
Since 2017, the Federal Ministry of Defence has been planning to declare the Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg (Universität der Bundeswehr, HSU) a “military security area” (like the University of the Bundeswehr, Universität der Bundeswehr, in Munich-Neubiberg). However, regulated access contradicts the character of the university as an institution and is a symbol of isolation from urban society. In Hamburg in particular, there are many contacts to and partnerships with other institutions—which are significantly impeded by restrictive access. Unhindered access to university campus has shaped the spirit and academic life of the HSU since it was founded. More than 300 employees join a letter of protest. In May 2020, the Academic Senate unanimously voted in favour of an openly accessible campus. (2020)
Bruno Klauk, Professor of Business Psychology at the Harz University of Applied Sciences, publishes an article in issue 4/2019 of the journal Economic Psychology (Wirtschaftspsychologie) on “Intelligence diagnostics in predominantly non-EU migrants” after a double-blind review process with two experts and two editors. In a letter to the editors, with business psychologist at Mainz University Thomas Rigotti in charge, Klauk is accused of “serving racist stereotypes and right-wing populist agitation under the guise of a supposed scientific contribution”; it is requested that the contribution be withdrawn. Four of the five editors step down from the journal’s board. The statistician Professor Walter Krämer from the TU Dortmund certifies that Klauk’s contribution is methodically clean and in line with the conventions of the subject. (2020)
In a statement entitled “For Freedom in Research and Teaching”, the Research Centre for Intercultural Studies (Forschungsstelle für Interkulturelle Studien) at the University of Cologne calls for opinions to be examined “using the instruments of critical racism and discrimination research”. It is good scientific practice to “mark the limits of what can be said in a well-founded manner”, they say. A statement such as “The headscarf is a sign of oppression” is declared “discriminatory”, “inhumane” and “anti-human”. (2020)
The German Zoological Society (Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft) adopts the Jena Declaration on the concept of race, supported by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Humanity and the President of the University of Jena. According to this, it is “the task of science […] to inquire about a possible reality of human races”—in particular whether it may be a “biological reality” or “pure constructs of the human mind”. By this time, however, “the concepts of race have finally been exposed as typological constructs”. The concept of race is “the result of racism and not its prerequisite”; it is “racism […] that created races”.
In fact, the question of whether or to what extent there are human races continues to be the subject of fact-based biological and scientific-philosophical discussions. Nevertheless, the Jena declaration demands: “Avoidance of the term race should be part of scientific honesty both today and in the future”.
Bernd Lucke, Professor of economics at the University of Hamburg, is prevented from giving his lecture on macroeconomics after his return to work. This happens on account of his previous commitment to the political party Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland). (2019)
For a conference hosted by the Otto von Bismarck Foundation in cooperation with the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften) on the topic “1918—the end of the Bismarck Empire?” on April 4/5, 2019, renowned historian Professor Lothar Höbelt (University of Vienna) is invited to give a lecture on the topic “1918—Germany and Austria—the return of the idea of Greater Germany?”. [The term Greater Germanic Reich, Großgermanisches Reich, was applied to the German Reich after the annexation of Austria in 1938 by the National Socialist regime.] A programme announcing Höbelt’s lecture is printed and brought to public notice. After a critical report in the newspaper Münchner Merkur about Höbelt’s commitment to the Board of Trustees of the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation, Höbelt ist dismissed at short notice. The then chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Historical College, in whose rooms (Villa Kaulbach) the conference took place, Prof. Dr. Martin Schulze Wessel, orders that in future participants of all events in the house must be approved. (2019)
Werner Kunz, retired Professor of General Biology at the University of Düsseldorf, faces obstacles in speaking and publishing because he points out the taxonomic consequences of abolishing the concept of race as applied to humans for the classification of other species. For March 2019, Kunz registers a lecture at the Leipzig “Symposium for Butterfly Protection and Population Biology of Butterflies” of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research to explain the theoretical foundations of the concept of race using the example of some butterfly species. After the topic had been discussed with several organizers of the conference, the lecture is cancelled shortly before the start of the symposium on the grounds that the topic would lead to “irritations” and harbours the risk that it “does not make our lives easier in the context of other discussions either (e.g. nature protection)”. According to the conference coordinator, it is not about restricting freedom of expression but about “this topic, by an assessment of well conceivable reactions, may be misunderstood and then also possibly cause us difficulties with regard to other concerns or distracting us from them”.
An article titled “Misunderstood again and again—The subdivision of species into races”, in which Kunz criticizes the “Jena Declaration” of the German Zoological Society (DZG), is initially accepted by the journal “Biology in our time” for its issue of December 2020 but then postponed because the publisher, “as a consequence of negative experiences, became very cautious about publishing articles that touch on race or gender issues”. The article is now due to appear in the May 2021 issue, which has become possible because the magazine is no longer published by Wiley.
After a lecture on the concept of race in ornithology at the annual conference of the German Ornithological Society (DOG) in September 2018, a participant had asked the DOG to publicly distance itself from Kunz. The lecture, he said, had been “misused for right-wing populist purposes” by the speaker and the conference used “as a stage for racist opinion-making”. The DOG had not distanced itself at the time; the lecture appeared in a greatly modified short form in the journal Ornithological Station (Vogelwarte).
The Christian Social Ethics Working Group (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christliche Sozialethik) publishes a statement on the well-known and high-profile magazine The New Order (Die Neue Ordnung), which is published by the Dominicans-run Walberberg Institute for Social Sciences. The statement says the magazine had been “led into populist and extreme right-wing areas of discourse” and uncritically adopts stereotypes and resentments as well as exclusion and devaluation on the part of right-wing populism and the extreme right, especially in the editorials. Moreover: “Due to a lack of academic substance, we also perceive many articles of the “New Order” as nothing more than pointed expressions of opinion.” Therefore, it is no longer a question of a social-ethical journal, rather it places itself “outside the limits of a serious professional discourse of Catholic Social Ethics”. The authors of the declaration “assume that in the future no more academic social ethicists will publish in the “New Order”. Representatives of other disciplines are invited to join this decision. Furthermore, there is “no reason to keep the journal in academic libraries”. The Dominican Order is recommended to “seek ways to limit the damage to the Order as well as to social ethics”. The counter-declaration “Substantial dialogue rather than stigmatization and exclusion”, which is signed by about 70 authors of the journal, does not lead to such substantial dialogue.
As a result of the declaration, the library of the University of Tübingen, which plays a central role in the field of theology, removes the “New Order” from the Index theologicus. This means that the points of view published in the “New Order” are hardly visible to the public. Protests against the decision of the University Library of Tübingen remain unsuccessful. (2019)
Activists at Frankfurt’s Goethe University demand the cancellation of a conference on the role of the Muslim headscarf and the dismissal of the organizer Susanne Schröter, Professor of ethnology and director of the Frankfurt Research Centre Global Islam (Frankfurter Forschungszentrum Globaler Islam). At a follow-up event, the conflict gets rough. (2019)
The German Association of Historians (Deutscher Historikerverband, VHD) passes a resolution “on current threats to democracy” in which a judgemental blanket statement is made about migration: “Migration is a historical constant. Irrespective of all problems associated with it, it overall enriched the societies involved—including German society.” This is an attempt to make a specific political-normative assessment binding for academic discourse as a whole. (2018)
The Alternative for Germany calls on students to report lecturers who are critical of the AfD or to name them online. (2018)
Members of the Identitarian Movement disrupt a lecture on “Brain washing—Framing Against Xenophobia” at the University of Greifswald. (2018)
The administration of the University of Siegen prohibits Dieter Schönecker, Professor of Practical Philosophy, from using his budget to finance the invitation of Dr Marc Jongen and Dr Thilo Sarrazin to give lectures in a seminar on freedom of expression. Colleagues call on the rector to ban the lectures; the lectures can only take place under police protection, and there are attempts to disrupt Schönecker’s lecture, as well as defamation and a death threat against him. (2018)
A talk by atmospheric scientist Murry Salby, formerly a professor at the University of Colorado and Macquarie University in Australia, on “What is Really behind the Increase of Atmospheric CO2? New Research” at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg is cancelled. Since Salby speaks out against the assumption of man-made climate change, the university administration had planned to allow another speaker to speak alongside Salby, who would have represented the perspective of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Since no lecturer could be found, they preferred, contrary to the custom of the lecture series, to skip the lecture altogether in order not to endanger the public image of the university. (2018)
In a position paper by the Science Management Network (Netzwerk Wissenschaftsmanagement) entitled “Redesigning Academic Freedom”, it is suggested that “the content of academic freedom should be seen more as an organizational and less as a personal fundamental right”. In the course of university autonomy, academic freedom should be transferred from individuals to the university as an organizational unit (i.e. to academic management). (2017)
Rainer Wendt, chairman of the German Police Union (Deutsche Polizeigewerkschaft) is invited to give a lecture at the Goethe University in Frankfurt but disinvited after protests and an open letter on account of his alleged racism. (2017)
The migration researcher Dr Sandra Kostner invites the political scientist and author Hamed Abdel-Samad to the Schwäbisch Gmünd University of Education. A student files a criminal complaint against the speaker for incitement to hatred because she sees her right to non-discriminatory studying violated by his statement that the headscarf for female teachers is not compatible with the state’s principle of neutrality. (2017)
Gerald Wolf, Emeritus Professor for neurobiology, is to give a lecture on neurobiological differences between women and men at the University of Magdeburg at the invitation of the AfD university group. The lecture has to be stopped due to riots. The Dean of the Faculty of Humanities sides with the troublemakers. (2017)
Markus Egg, Professor of English at the Humboldt University in Berlin, is physically attacked by masked people during his seminar in the 2016/17 winter semester. They douse him with water. The unknown attackers justify this with Egg’s former membership in the party Alternative for Germany (AfD). The administration of the HU condemns the attack and files a complaint against persons unknown. (2016)
The Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Brandenburg, in cooperation with the RCDS Potsdam, holds an event at the University of Potsdam on the subject of “Germany as a country of refugees”. The Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizère is to give the main lecture; he cancels at short notice. The welcoming address is given by the university president; participants in the planned panel discussion are the Secretary General of Amnesty International, a Protestant pastor for refugees and the head of the Brandenburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The event is blocked for an hour by a group of “Antifa” people whistling and chanting. After that loss of time, the discussion is resumed under police protection. (2016)
A lecture by Ulrich Kutschera, Professor of Plant Physiology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kassel, on the basics of evolutionary biology as part of the General Studies (Studium Generale) at the University of Marburg does not take place. This comes as a consequence of his criticism of Gender Mainstreaming. Kutschera anticipates his disinvitation recommended by the university’s presidency by cancelling the lecture. (2016)
A lecture series on the subject of migration policy is being held at the University of Vechta. Due to denunciations and false allegations (whose main initiator is later sentenced to a fine), the university administration has the subsidy for printing costs from third-party funds for the editors of the articles cancelled. (2016)
Ruud Koopmans, Professor of Sociology and Migration Research at the HU Berlin and Director at the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, WZB), faces accusations of preparing “the breeding ground for anti-Muslim racism” and to create “an atmosphere hostile to people of Muslim faith in Germany”; the accusations are based on two peer-reviewed research articles in specialist journals, which, among other things, discuss the insufficient ability of Muslims to integrate, and on Koopman’s corresponding public statements. Student groups initiate a campaign that is picked up by parts of the press without Koopmans being given the opportunity to comment. There is no public support for Koopmans on the part of the professors of the institute or the faculty. In previous years, the director of another research institute had forbidden his employees to have contact with either Koopmans or his employees. (2016)
Members of the “Identitarian Movement” disrupt a lecture series on “Flight and Asylum” at the University of Klagenfurt. (2016)
After Jörg Baberowski, Professor of Eastern European History at the HU Berlin, had been subjected to defamation and disruptive actions by a Trotskyist splinter group for several years, a campaign against the historian arises after a critical contribution to migration policy. He is defamed as a right-wing extremist, racist and Holocaust denier and threatened in the run-up to lectures. Against this background, he also fails to found an Interdisciplinary Centre for Comparative Research on Dictatorship he designed. (2015)
Peter Singer, who had been scheduled to speak at the Phil.Cologne (international annual festival on philosophy) on the question “Do vegans save the world?”, is disinvited by the organizers. (2015)
When a working group on “Black Knowledges” led by Sabine Broeck, Professor of American Studies at the University of Bremen, submits a research group application to the DFG, an international campaign is formed against them. A group of German and American representatives of Black Studies point out in an open letter that “Black Studies” in the USA had originally been started not only as an academic but also as a political project. It is, according to them, therefore scandalous that the group that had planned the research project entitled “New Black Diaspora Studies” consists exclusively of whites. The applicants’ implicit assumption that they could apply “colour blindness”, which is a principle in the context of academic research in general, to Black Studies in particular is rejected as an attempt “to reconstitute the use of white power of definition structurally and personnel-wise.”
The research group responds to the open letter by its own dissolution. “We accept this criticism,” the statement says. The group had become aware, it says, that in its current form it is “part of the problem of racism rather than part of its solution”.
Anonymous bloggers set up “Münklerwatch”, a blog on which they take quotes from lectures by Herfried Münkler, Professor for political theory at Humboldt University of Berlin, out of their context and brand them as sexist or racist. (2015)
Heiner Rindermann, Professor of Developmental Psychology at Chemnitz University of Technology, publishes an article in Focus (news magazine) that deals, among other things, with the lower average IQ among certain groups of immigrants. The Faculty of Human and Social Sciences and the Institute of Psychology at the University of Chemnitz publicly distance themselves from Rindermann. As early as 2007, after an interview on Deutschlandradio, he had been accused of advocating a racist ideology in a press release by the Institute for Ethnology and African Studies at the University of Mainz; in that press statement, his theses had been connected to the Nazi doctor Dr Josef Mengele. (2015)
The Alternative for Germany regularly submits small inquiries to parliament (either on the federal or the state level) by means of which (a) the work of researchers in the field of Gender Studies is presented as unscientific and dubious and which (b) aim at the withdrawal of public research funds (for professorships, research programs, project funds). There have been corresponding initiatives in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia as well as in the German Bundestag. To justify sharp criticism of this field of study and the proposal to control (or abolish) it, examples are regularly given that can indeed be classified as unscientific or ideologically motivated. This disavows an entire academic field by subsuming serious research (such as research on violence, the history of ideas of democracy, research on the hierarchical division of labor based on sex and gender, right-wing extremism, participation and election research) under one-sidedly chosen examples. This in turn paralyzes internal criticism, which is being associated with the AfD and is claimed to play into its hands. Attacks on academic freedom from outside thus serve to legitimize the restriction of academic freedom internally. All of this happens at the expense of serious, socially necessary gender research. (2015 onwards)
At the TU Dresden, the initiative of Werner Patzelt, Professor of Comparative Politics, to found a “Centre for Social Cohesion” meets with resistance when he publicly announces the results of his empirical study on the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West) demonstrations. Contrary to media reports, according to his findings, not only right-wing extremists but also, and by a majority, people who fear Germany’s culture being overrun by foreigners in view of increasing mass immigration from Islamic countries take part in the demonstrations. Patzelt is then described as a “PEGIDA downplayer” who opposes all those who, as counter-demonstrators, see PEGIDA as a danger to the liberal democratic basic order (Freiheitliche Demokratische Grundordnung), including numerous members of the TU Dresden. The resulting political and media pressure and the associated public discrediting of Patzelt as an “AfD sympathizer” lead to the rejection of his initiative by the TU Dresden. Instead, the “Social Cohesion Research Institute” is later founded as a cooperation between eleven academic institutions, with the TU Dresden no longer being represented. (2015)
Peter Singer’s first public lecture in Austria takes place as part of the Philosophical Cafe (Philosophisches Café) Innsbruck. In the run-up, activists put public pressure on the organizers and the University of Innsbruck to cancel the lecture. A disruptive action then ensues at the event. As early as the late 1980s, lectures by Peter Singer in Germany had repeatedly been made impossible on the grounds that he questioned the right to life of disabled people. (2014)
Activists disrupt a lecture by Malte Brinkmann, Professor of Educational Research at the HU Berlin, referring to his alleged uncritical treatment of Kant’s allegedly racist writings. (2014)
A lecture series initiated by Private Lecturer (Privatdozent, PD) Dr Stefan Luft titled “20 years of asylum and immigration compromise—results and perspectives” at the University of Bremen is prevented by violent left-wing extremists from the autonomist scene because the former Bavarian Minister of the Interior Günther Beckstein had been scheduled to take part in the discussion. The Bremen police is unable to protect the event. (2012)
The administration and the Historical-Cultural Research Centre (Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliches Forschungszentrum) of the University of Trier end the three-month guest professorship of the military historian Martin van Creveld, Emeritus Professor for history at the University of Jerusalem, after his first lecture after the AStA of the University of Trier had described van Creveld’s theses as “misogynistic, militaristic, latently anti-Israel, pseudo-scientific (vulgärwissenschaftlich) and methodologically primitive”. (2011)
In March 2008, the administration of Pforzheim University signs a voluntary commitment to “Principles for Responsible Management Education” (PRME). In the so-called PRME Codex, the signatories undertake to adapt the academic activities and curricula of their university to the economic and corporate policy objectives represented in the UN Global Compact, e.g. in the implementation of environmental and social standards that go beyond legal obligations. The administration of the university justifies this step with the declaration that universities are “not obliged to remain ideologically neutral”. They have to stick to the positions they advocate “only within the framework of the liberal democratic basic order” (Freiheitliche Demokratische Grundordnung). As a result, administrative bodies of universities are likely to take the same far-reaching political positions as, for example, the parties admitted to the Bundestag elections.
The economic and corporate policy objectives articulated in the PRME Code are the subject of heated academic debate. First, weighting goals of action is a normative problem whose solution cannot simply be imposed. Secondly, it is debatable from an economic point of view whether, under the conditions of a market economy, companies have any leeway at all to pursue environmental or social policy at the expense of other objectives beyond legal obligations. In addition, from a legal point of view, it is quite controversial whether the management of a company is actually allowed to do anything other than primarily represent the interests of the company owners (§133 StGB embezzlement). As is usual in academic research, an open discourse is conducted on all these questions.
University as an institution is not called to participate in this discourse and to take sides for a specific academic position. Rather, university has to create the institutional foundations for free research and teaching and thus also for free academic discourse.