Positions and information on the current situation
Note: This page will be revised and supplemented as required. Status: 20 October 2022
This statement has been prompted by the accusations and accounts of discrimination against students at Hochschule Bremen made since May 2022, which are currently being propagated primarily via social media. We are most concerned about these accusations and the experiences expressed.
We are a cosmopolitan and tolerant university that places the greatest value on prejudice-free interaction among all university members – students and staff alike. We utterly reject all forms of discrimination, intolerance and violence. Discrimination has no place at HSB!
We therefore take the current accusations most seriously and encourage everyone concerned to make any such experiences known to us so that we can not only investigate the individual facts and offer support, but also learn together how to prevent such occurrences.
HSB has always had a clear positioning and we systematically pursue the guiding principle of anti-discrimination developed by its members at all levels and in all areas of responsibility – in teaching and learning, research, continuing education and transfer. It decisively determines our daily actions in university administration and in our services. Nevertheless, we must never lose sight of the fact that we have to ask ourselves time and again whether we sufficiently meet the standards we set ourselves. The accusations that have been made are a renewed reason to ask ourselves what else can be done and what can maybe be improved on. In our view, this can best be achieved if we all work together – with the persons affected as well as interest groups and experts – in an open, trusting and accessible manner.
We not only take the experiences of individuals seriously, but also want to effectively develop our structures, processes and competences for a discrimination-sensitive and diverse university. The shared responsibility for respectful treatment of each and every individual and a clear stance against discrimination correspond to our values and guiding principles. We are therefore all the more concerned when we are approached with accusations of discrimination.
Together with all members of the HSB, its status groups, interest groups and student interest groups such as the AStA, the departmental student committee and the student council, we set high priority on continuing to actively strengthen sensitivity concerning discrimination.
Nevertheless, we currently have to assume that there are still hurdles to overcome, possibly because of insufficient information, possibly also due to unsatisfactory experiences in bringing complaints directly to us. We cannot rule out the possibility that our existing processes, structures and responsibilities may not be fully effective and suitable for all student concerns – but also for others. We want to review and evaluate this without delay and together derive suitable counter measures with the members of the HSB and with the aid of experienced institutions that can support our efforts. At the moment, however, our priority must be to investigate the accusations circulating in social media and to objectively ascertain the facts. We took immediate steps towards this on 23 May 2022. The results of the investigation were presented to the Academic Senate on 14 June 2022.
We stand for a respectful, objective approach to criticism and complaints. HSB is a place for the free exchange of opinions and is open to criticism where appropriate. We are grateful for any constructive comments that help to improve cooperation at the HSB.
However, we refuse to accept sweeping accusations or even insults. We also stand firmly behind everyone in the university, whether staff members or students, who become victims of false or malicious statements.
In response to one student's posting on Instagram, other people have since come forward to publicly state that they have also had experiences of discrimination at HSB. We call on all persons concerned to provide concrete examples of such behaviour. Only if we are informed of specific cases, will it be possible to seek clarification.
Here, it should be noted that the General Students’ Council (AStA) and other interest groups and counselling facilities are also available as contact points for students. On 24 May 2022, the university also referred to the neutral and very experienced counselling institution "Arbeitsstelle gegen Diskriminierung und Gewalt (ADE)" (Advisory and Information Centre against Discrimination & Violence), so nothing is left untried in providing a low-threshold and barrier-free space for expressing concrete concerns. At the moment, neither the student's accusation of discrimination nor others can be confirmed, but we are pursuing a systematic, fact-based clarification and will evaluate all results transparently when they become available.
On 22 May 2022, a student at Hochschule Bremen posted on her Instagram account about her experiences in connection with an exam she wrote in the subject of energy technology in the summer semester of 2021 and conversations she had with staff at Hochschule Bremen in this regard, complaining about alleged discrimination or inappropriate treatment in connection with an exam.
The allegations made against the university and individual staff members were examined internally by the university's complaints office in accordance with the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG). The examination files were reviewed, the staff involved in the process and the visiting lecturer involved were heard. The student, who was represented by a lawyer, was given the opportunity to comment on the matter.
The student in question stated that she did not wish to file a formal discrimination complaint against Hochschule Bremen with regard to her Instagram descriptions. She did not make any further statements on the case.
According to the results of the investigation, the student's description of the notification of an exam grade via two different emails proved to be inaccurate; instead, it is to be assumed that the student engaged in significant misconduct, which was undoubtedly established through a regulated multi-stage procedure by the university bodies responsible for this.
The allegations of religion-related discrimination by university staff or generally inappropriate treatment raised by the student in the Instagram post have not been confirmed after examination by the complaints office. The university management follows this assessment. The university staff and the lecturer concerned have given a different, conclusive account of the events and of the discussions held with the student on all relevant points. The university management assumes that the statements of the university staff correctly reflect the events and that the accusations of discriminatory behaviour are unjustified. On the contrary, those affected see themselves massively discredited and defamed in their reputation by the student's publication in social media. For the entire university, the accusations are unacceptable and are rejected in all clarity.
The result of this investigation was presented to the Academic Senate of Hochschule Bremen on 14 June 2022 and a public debate took place.
HSB further asks all persons who may be affected to contact the respective units. The following offer confidential advice for all university members:
All the named institutions ensure complete confidentially.
Furthermore, the current situation has prompted us to examine how we can improve on our information and counselling services so that all concerns reach us in a trustworthy and barrier-free manner and nothing slips through the net.
HSB has a duty to care for both its students and its employees. Insofar as malicious accusations or insults are levelled at identifiable members of Hochschule Bremen, we reserve the right to take legal action, for there is also no room at HSB for defamation and slander. In this regard, the Human Resources Department in particular, as well as line managers and group leaders and the Staff Council are willing to offer advice.
Further support and counselling services can be found on the HSB website. All counselling services act in strict confidentiality.
As an immediate measure, we are planning to set up a contact point for all university members to provide an initial clearing and information point for those who feel affected by or have witnessed discrimination of any kind. A small team comprising student representatives and the university management will be available to address such matters. We are currently discussing with the AStA and others with experience in this area whether and how this measure can be offered in a complementary and helpful way. We will provide further information in due course.
In the short term, we will make the existing information on all available help and counselling options more visible and expand such options.
The HSB Executive Board will inform the Academic Senate and recommend that a commission be set up to analyse the processes, structures, possible weak points and areas of action to date and to develop and implement short-, medium- and long-term measures and structures to prevent discriminatory behaviour of any kind and to improve the handling of specific cases of discrimination. The involvement and participation of those affected, interest groups and internal and external experts are planned. In addition, public events at the university, training courses and referrals to other committees are being planned.
The AStA and the student councils have called on all university members – students and employees – to take a public stand against discrimination on 31st May 2022, 1 p.m., and to show solidarity with those affected. The call is expressly supported by the HSB University Management.