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Science: intelligent consideration instead of forced recognition!

Science: intelligent consideration instead of forced recognition!

Lambert T. Koch is President of the German University Association

Since the attack launched by Hamas terrorists Israel The university world in this country is witnessing a continuing surge in politicization. Anyone who did not show solidarity with the people of Israel immediately after the massacre found themselves in the crosshairs. Anyone who did not address the untold suffering of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip in the following weeks was equally skeptical.

Thinking and struggling to make accurate assessments is intolerable, and “on the one hand – on the other hand” is quickly suspected of cowardice. On social media in particular, instant acknowledgments are demanded, and if these acknowledgments do not happen immediately, headshots are also demanded.

The result of this increasing pressure for recognition is that those in charge in the scientific system are now more easily tempted to make cursory assessments of the situation and make premature positioning. Science thrives on careful observation and experimentally guided discrimination of shades of gray between black and white. However, with the politicization of science, these important shades of gray are easily overlooked. This has been true for a long time in the cancel culture debate. Some recognize the threats to academic freedom in our country, others consider these concerns misguided. Suddenly you are set to a direction, in this case “left” or “right”. Many thoughtful people, who when it comes to restricting freedom, are only concerned with preventing possible starts, are already labeled with conspiracy theorists.

It has become clear that traditional right-left networks are no longer necessarily working. Young people in particular today make much more situational judgments. This is also reflected in new political groupings, which use this in their programs here and there, thus challenging the usual spectrum of parties. Keeping our democracy strong requires that we remain more vigilant than ever. It is also necessary to look closely and constantly in new ways if one is to find the right balance between wise reflection and courageous confession, as the following three examples illustrate:

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If Jews in Germany have to be afraid to identify themselves as such publicly again today, we are all called to stand up, without questions or reservations. In our universities, intelligent thinking is necessary in order to draw the right conclusions. In order to reach a common position against anti-Semitism, it seems pointless to appoint new representatives by decree. Tailored measures from within the organization are often more effective than top-down measures.

Second example: How do you contact groups like the Academic Freedom Network, which are joined by people suspected of acting unconstitutionally? In a borderline case, does one mushroom poison the entire soup? This is precisely what should be allowed to be reasonably discussed, just as it may be necessary, based on the evidence, to show individuals an unequivocal red card.

Or third: How do you deal with bully students who brutally harm members of minorities? Like the author of this article, you can take the position of sending a clear signal by firing. Some see this differently.

What remains crucial is our commitment to fighting for the better argument. Anyone who, after careful consideration, comes to the conclusion that he or she needs to take a courageous stand, must accept that commitment. For those who prefer shades of gray, they should be given the right to “on the one hand – on the other hand.” If we can make such a consultative culture more widespread in our scientific institutions, we will be able to achieve a lot – especially in times of specific political developments when we cannot remain silent.