Press release AStA of the University of Göttingen: We stand up for a non-discriminatory university!

Press release from 21.06.2024

On Wednesday, June 19, the RCDS held a lecture and discussion event with Mareike Wulf, member of the Bundestag, entitled: “Identity put to the test: self-determination without limits?”. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the topic, there was a broad counter-protest from the student body. As a result, the organizers decided to cancel the lecture.
Due to the widespread treatment of the incident in social discourse and the great importance of the topic, we would like to discuss the lecture below.
The content of the event aims in particular to present the Self-Determination Act as a problem and not as part of a solution. Familiar narratives such as the role of trans people in sport, dangers for children and young people and quota regulations are used to discredit the law and the motives behind it. This representation and formulation fuels anti-trans resentment and creates a hostile social climate towards trans* people. In particular, it should be noted that interest groups such as the Federal Trans* Association and the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) emphasize the great importance of the law for affected people, but demand further improvements with regard to the gender self-determination of minors, legally incompetent and stateless persons.

In the social discourse and the self-presentation of the organizers, the aspects of scientificity and framing as a discussion event are particularly noteworthy. On the one hand, no evidence-based argumentation can be seen in the organizers’ treatment of the topic; on the other hand, it seems very strange how a fruitful dialogue can be conducted if no appropriate framework is created for discussion partners. It therefore seems questionable whether the lecture is really intended to be a scientific contribution and an opportunity for pluralistic discussion. Also, one should not only talk about people, but above all with people. In particular, a discussion of such a highly sensitive topic requires a certain basic respect for the people being discussed as well as the necessary empathy. The organizers lack both. A fact-based, respectful and empathetic discourse is not possible. Instead, it gives the impression that the organizers want their political ideology and propaganda to take place on the backs of a vulnerable group of people. This drives a wedge between social groups, creates exclusion and erodes mutual understanding.

By signing the „Charta der Vielfalt“ (Diversity Charter), for example, the university has also committed itself to the goals of equal opportunities, diversity and anti-discrimination. The mood conveyed by the event and the underlying ideology are in direct opposition to these goals. In this context, reference must also be made to Article 3 (3) of the German Basic Law, in which anti-discrimination is enshrined in constitutional law and thus also formulated as a social goal. Against this background, the way in which the organizers deal with the topic must be viewed critically and monitored. In view of the criticism outlined above, it is very much to be welcomed that there was broad support for anti-discrimination and the rights of trans* people from all parts of the student body. We see the positive signal effect of a community of solidarity for trans* people at the university as positive.

Furthermore, we would like to emphasize that the AStA has countered and will continue to counter such threats to diversity at the university by means of fact-based argumentation as well as topic-related information and educational offers.

“It is hardly surprising that trans* people feel uncomfortable and unsafe in view of the hostile atmosphere that has been created and the recent increase in violent attacks. To counter this, the AStA has provided a space to offer these people a safe place and company. We stand firmly behind the goal of ensuring the university is a non-discriminatory space and creating a place where everyone can feel safe and comfortable, free from assault. For this reason, the AStA has long had a trans* counseling service to support trans* people and provide them with the help and solidarity they need. Furthermore, the AStA organized an information stand on 19 June to stand up for the self-determination rights of vulnerable groups as part of the student body. It is still important to us that freedom of expression is a valuable asset, but also includes counter-speech and criticism. This is the essence of a pluralistic discourse.” Jan Stefes – Chairman of the AStA of the University of Göttingen.

Finally, we would like to reiterate our clear commitment to diversity and openness at the university and in society. Respect, tolerance and empathy are central to us. We stand in solidarity with the LGBTIQ+ community and stand up for their rights. Trans* rights and the right to self-determination are human rights; this was true in the past, it is true today and it will continue to be true in the future.