Federal government: Stark-Watzinger secedes from secretary of state

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Written By Maya Cantina

Federal Minister of Education Bettina Stark Watzinger wants State Secretary Sabine Döring to retire temporarily. The FDP politician said that she asked Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) about this through her ministry. The background is an examination order into possible consequences for university teachers who signed an open letter on how to deal with pro-Palestinian protests at Berlin universities.

“Academic freedom is a most valuable asset and is rightly protected by the Constitution,” Stark-Watzinger explains. The resulting impression is likely to ‘lastingly damage’ the confidence of scientists and scholars in the Federal Ministry of Education.

Internal emails: cut back on financing?

Stark-Watzinger publicly criticized the letter at the time. Recently, the ARD magazine ‘Panorama’ reported, citing internal emails, that the Ministry of Education had been asked to investigate whether funding could be withdrawn as a result of the letter. This caused criticism.

“I ensured that the matter was handled thoroughly and transparently,” Stark-Watzinger explains. “What is certain is that an investigation into the possible financing consequences has indeed been requested from the responsible specialist departments.” State Secretary Döring, responsible for the university department, initiated the inspection order.

“She also explained that she had apparently expressed herself in a misleading manner when ordering the legal review. Nevertheless, the impression was given that the investigation into the implications for funding was considered on the basis of an open letter in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which is protected by freedom of expression.

Stark-Watzinger: No exam for expressing opinions

This contradicts the principles of academic freedom, according to the FDP politician. “There are no assessments of the consequences for the financing of statements that fall under freedom of expression,” Stark-Watzinger emphasized.

In a “Declaration by Lecturers at Berlin Universities” in May, more than a hundred lecturers from several Berlin universities criticized the evacuation of a protest camp of pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the Free University of Berlin.

At the time, Stark-Watzinger reacted with horror to the letter from supporters. “It still amazes me to this day how unilaterally Hamas terror was ignored in this letter,” she explained. “And how there was a general demand not to prosecute crimes on universities, while at the same time anti-Semitic incitement and violent attacks against fellow Jewish citizens could be observed.”

© dpa-infocom, dpa:240616-99-421075/4

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