Letter of the Presidium to all University Members
Dear members of the University
Due to the current events in Israel and Palestine, we would like to explain our position as the Presidium.
A few days after the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel, we issued a statement expressing our grief for the innocent Israeli victims and our solidarity with those in Israel with whom we have a long-standing partnership. We deeply abhor this terrorist act and reject any form of anti-Semitism. Our partner universities Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, The Buchman-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, and Shenkar College of Engineering and Design have expressed their gratitude.
Our statement on the UdK website was accompanied by the flag of Israel, a symbol that some members of the university view critically and which should be explained here: This flag stands for the state of Israel. It is a symbol of the founding of the state in 1948. The ideology of Hamas is directed against Israel's right to exist. The use of the flag is therefore a clear commitment by us to the right of existence of the state of Israel.
Our statement has a clear reason, it is the despicable attack on the civilian population on October 7, 2023. The very concrete situation of the terrorist attack required a moment of contemplation.
We are all following the current acts of war and are aware of the humanitarian crisis that has arisen. We see that many innocent people are becoming victims and that enormous suffering is occurring. As human beings, we feel deep compassion for all those who have to endure unspeakable suffering in this war and whose future is uncertain.
We receive many anxious letters and phone calls from Jewish students who are in fear due to a massive increase in visible and tangible anti-Semitism. We are responding to this deep-seated fear with a clear stance. We see it as our historical and human responsibility to put a stop to this anti-Semitism. For this reason, together with the Berlin universities, we have formulated a statement against anti-Semitism, which was published this week, in which we commemorate the November pogroms of 1938.
We also receive messages from students with a Muslim or Palestinian background expressing their personal suffering or fear of discrimination. The Presidium takes a clear stance against any form of discrimination based on ethnic origin, racist and anti-Semitic attribution, religion and ideology, disability, chronic illness, age, language, sex, sexual and gender identity and social status.
It is therefore important that all cases of discrimination are reported immediately. The Support against Discrimination and Violence (against-discrimination) and the Diversity and Anti-Discrimination Officer Alejandra Nieves Camacho ( @udk-berlin.dediversitaetsbeauftragte) are available for you to contact. If you wish, you are protected by anonymity. We are also planning specific psychological counseling services. @udk-berlin.de
Freedom of expression is a constitutionally guaranteed right for all, yet freedom of expression does not stand alone, but in relation to the freedom and dignity of others. Although the right can be exercised in a variety of ways, the preservation of peace at the university should be at the center of all actions. The right to freedom of expression is framed by the federal and state laws that we follow as an institution. Thus, we will report the use of prohibited symbols and damage to property, and we strictly reject any acceptance of the terrorist group Hamas or other terrorist organizations.
As the Presidium, we are responsible for assessing whether acts of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression jeopardize the freedom and dignity of others and endanger the peace of the university. Should a danger arise here, we will prevent it on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure the protection of all university members.
As the Presidium, it is our task to ensure that the members of the university work together in harmony, as stated in the Berlin Higher Education Law. Peace at the university is an essential factor in achieving this. This peace is based on respect for the opinions of others, independent thinking and a culture of critical self-reflection on what one's own actions trigger in others.
Exercising your freedom of expression within the law can never lead to exmatriculation; this is prevented by the Berlin Higher Education Law. It goes without saying that there is also no communication about individual students between the university management and other authorities, particularly on questions of residence law. These concerns have occasionally been brought to our attention and we would like to firmly refute them.
Dear members of the University of the Arts, the current conflict is causing deep wounds. However, the contributions of individual artists show a path towards a forum for future respectful dialog. We should take this path as soon as we can.
This letter is dedicated to the preservation of peace within the university, which we can only achieve together. I trust that you, as members of this wonderful institution, will contribute to this peace through your individual actions.
The Presidium of the Berlin University of the Arts