State Secretary Sabine Döring loses her post

State Secretary Sabine Döring loses her post
State Secretary Sabine Döring loses her post

After criticism from university professors about the way a pro-Palestinian protest camp was handled, the Ministry of Education discussed possible consequences. This has now cost top official Sabine Döring her job.

There are personnel consequences in the Federal Ministry of Education following criticism of the handling of an open letter about pro-Palestinian university protests. State Secretary Sabine Döring is to be placed into temporary retirement, as Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger announced late on Sunday evening. She has asked Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to do this. The background to this is an internal review of possible funding-related consequences for university lecturers who had criticized the clearing of a protest camp of pro-Palestinian demonstrators at a Berlin university.

“Academic freedom is a very valuable asset and is rightly protected by the constitution,” explained Stark-Watzinger. The impression created is likely to “permanently damage” the trust that scientists have in the Federal Ministry of Education. “Science funding is based on scientific criteria, not on political worldviews,” emphasized the department head.

Stark-Watzinger had published the letter in May (the star reported): “Instead of clearly standing up against hatred of Israel and Jews, university occupiers are being made victims and violence is being trivialized,” she told the “Bild” newspaper at the time. Recently, the ARD magazine “Panorama” reported, citing internal emails, that the Ministry of Education had been asked to examine the extent to which statements in the letter were relevant under criminal law and whether the ministry could cut funding as a consequence. This sparked criticism.

Stark-Watzinger now explained that she had been “brought to her attention” by an email from the specialist level of her ministry on this topic on June 11. She had arranged for the matter to be dealt with thoroughly and transparently. “It is clear that an examination of potential consequences under funding law was indeed requested from the relevant specialist departments.”

Scandal over audit request: Sabine Döring expressed herself in a misleading way

State Secretary Döring, who is responsible for the university department, ordered the review. “She also explained that she had clearly expressed herself in a misleading way when ordering the legal review. Nevertheless, the impression was created that the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) was considering examining the legal consequences of an open letter covered by freedom of expression.” This contradicts the principles of academic freedom, the FDP politician stressed. “Reviews of legal consequences of statements covered by freedom of expression are not taking place.”

Last week, Döring explained that the management had made it clear “very soon after the audit was commissioned that aspects of funding law” should not be part of the legal review. This had shown that the content of the letter was covered by freedom of expression.

Education Minister Stark-Watzinger “still stunned” by lecturer’s letter

In a “Statement by teachers at Berlin universities,” more than 100 lecturers from several Berlin universities criticized the clearing of a protest camp of pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the Free University of Berlin in May. “Regardless of whether we agree with the specific demands of the protest camp, we stand up for our students and defend their right to peaceful protest, which also includes the occupation of university grounds,” they wrote. They continued: “We call on the Berlin university administrations to refrain from police operations against their own students and from further criminal prosecution.”

Stark-Watzinger was already horrified by the letter of support. “It still amazes me to this day how one-sidedly the letter ignored the terror of Hamas,” she explained. “And how it made a blanket demand that crimes at universities should not be prosecuted, while at the same time anti-Semitic incitement and violent attacks against Jewish citizens are being observed.”

But with regard to the open letter, she also stressed: “This is a legitimate part of debate and freedom of expression. It is just as natural to counter this with a different opinion.”

Union politician calls for minister’s resignation

The CDU/CSU parliamentary group’s spokesman on education and research policy, Thomas Jarzombek, called on the department head to resign. “Federal Minister Stark-Watzinger is right: a new start in terms of personnel is necessary at the BMBF. She must now take this step herself,” he explained. “It was her announcement that the lecturers’ letter was not in line with the Basic Law.” In doing so, she had set the direction for the ministry. “The fact that she did not say a word about this speaks volumes about what is actually going on.”

Source: Stern

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