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Joint Statement of the Rectorate, Chairs of the Senate, and Chairs of the General Student Committee (AStA): How do we want to live together?

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Following the attacks on October 7, 2023, and the subsequent protests in Germany, including in our university cities of Duisburg and Essen, we are very concerned that members of our university also feel threatened and anxious. Hate slogans against different religious communities have appeared in various locations around the university. These cannot be regarded simply as “graffiti”, as often portrayed in the press or social media, but as what they are: Hate speech. We are reporting these incidents to the police and involving the relevant authorities.

More so, it must be stated unequivocally: The University of Duisburg-Essen, in line with our self-understanding and values, is in every respect a space free of violence, guaranteeing all its members, whether students, lecturers, researchers or technical and administrative staff, a place of work and education where they can convene without fear.  The foundation of our shared principle “Offen im Denken” is tolerance, measured by our capacity to engage in non-violent debate with those who think differently from ourselves. In no way does this mean tolerance for racist or discriminatory insults. We pursue all forms of discrimination with the means available to us under the rule of law.

We share the assessment of Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, formulated in his highly acclaimed speech on November 2, 2023, that it is self-evident that Muslims living here are entitled to protection from right-wing extremist violence. We repeat here his words: “If attacked, this entitlement must be fulfilled”. Equally so, this entitlement must be honored always when Jews are attacked. We all must distance ourselves clearly from anti-Semitism if our shared entitlement to tolerance is not to be undermined. Habeck’s words, our words: “There is no place for religious intolerance in Germany.”

Tolerance and curiosity are the essence of university life worldwide. Taking an interest in the opinions of others, engaging in debates over discourses and self-critical expressions of doubt — Could the other be right? – are constitutive of enlightened, scientific thought.

How do we want to live together? That is the question with which we began. We want to engage with each other as human beings, with respect and as equals, with civility especially when opinions differ, and always in a non-violent manner. In this spirit, we expect all of us to act to extend trust and safety to anyone expressing fear. The University of Duisburg-Essen is an open and safe space for all. With Theodor Adorno, we want to be able to be different without fear.