President of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin: Sabine Kunst resigns in protest against the new higher education law – knowledge
The President of the Humboldt University Sabine Kunst will resign from her position. The leading engineering scientist and science manager who has headed the Humboldt-Universität since 2016 in the second term of office, on Tuesday morning in the Academic Senate of the HU.
Her resignation took place in protest against the new Berlin Higher Education Act (BerlHG) – at the end of the year, said Art. You “tormented yourself analytically and emotionally” to make that decision. “This is extremely difficult for me,” emphasized the HU President in front of the committee.
“Personally, I think the scientific policy of the BerlHG is well-intentioned, but badly done,” she said in her statement, which the HU published in a written version on social media shortly after the announcement of her resignation. The CDU parliamentary group in the Berlin House of Representatives immediately calls for the university law to be withdrawn.
As chairman of the state rectors’ conference of the Berlin universities, Kunst had sharply criticized the plans to amend the Berlin University Act from the start. First, the protest was directed against the restriction of the so-called trial clause, which gives university management greater freedom in making decisions.
Accusation that the university “had its feet knocked off”
Then, at the last minute, a regulation was included in the Higher Education Act, according to which universities basically expel postdocs for qualification positions when, if they prove themselves. That is now the core point that made Kunst resign: “We without resources, now for the same time, without transition, to knock our feet away: that is not possible,” said Kunst.
“I don’t have a sensible solution for this,” she said, referring to the post-doctoral regulation in the University Act. In her personal statement, Kunst writes: “The amendment to the BerlHG will inevitably lead to a transformation of the faculty and the university’s personnel structures.”
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With the changes to postdocs in Paragraph 110, “the number of permanent academic staff will increase significantly over the years,” explains Kunst. The “current structures” are not geared towards this. Solving the “conflicting goals associated with this” is a “task for the next five to ten years”. Art will no longer be available as President for this.
“How did you just re-elected”
The members of the Academic Senate reacted shaken to Kunst’s statement at the meeting. “I’m stunned,” said Gabriele Metzler, Professor of History. With regard to the amendment, Metzler said: “It should give Berlin state politics something to think about when even experienced university managers cannot work with it.”
But her greatest wish is: “Let’s talk again,” said Metzler, addressing art. “That does not work like this. We have only just re-elected you, ”which many AS members supported with knocking and clapping. “I am not prone to affect acts,” replied Kunst dryly. She was re-elected a year ago in November.
Stefan Grundmann, the dean of the law faculty, even spoke of a “heroic act” in art: “I admire you for this consistency.” He was shocked, “my voice trembles a little”. He expressly thanked Kunst for their work. Reinhard Flogaus, representative of the scientific staff involved in the controversial amendment to the law, appealed to Kunst to reconsider their decision: “It is a fatal time to resign.”
Art no longer wants to “work around it”
The reason for Kunst’s decision did not convince him: “That is not an insoluble problem that. They do not believe that structural changes that are necessary from their point of view cannot be solved at all. “But this requires readjustment with patience.”
You could assess the development of new structures over time and know: “It will take a long time.” “I’ve been doing this for years, working around it. At some point you come to the conclusion that things cannot go on like this. “
Therefore, the forces “must now act to prepare this for the next generations”. The political decision is a “turning point”: “It will be possible to develop it, but it will take decades.”
Affront to the old and the new science policy
“Well meant, but badly done”: Kunst’s resignation is an affront to the outgoing ruling mayor and science senator Michael Müller and his state secretary Steffen Krach (both SPD), who are politically responsible for the new university law. The post-doc paragraph, however, was pushed through by the science experts in the red-red-green parliamentary group at the last moment.
Since this, with Tobias Schulze from the Left and Ina Czyborra from the SPD, will in all probability continue to set the tone in Berlin politics, the resignation of the HU President is a heavy burden for Berlin’s science policy.
Tobias Schulze commented on art resignation on Twitter initially only with two letters: “Ui.” When asked, Schulze said that he was “at a loss” in view of the sudden resignation. After all, 14 days ago he spoke with Kunst – as well as with the other university presidents – about the implementation of the post-doctoral paragraph. “I offered her all kinds of help,” says Schulze.
In this matter, of course, one cannot abandon the concern of finally making career paths in science more reliable. But the universities would “deliberately interpret the law to their disadvantage”. However, absolutely all doctoral candidates should be given temporary contracts, but only those “who have achieved a habilitation or equivalent performance such as leading a junior research group and then go into a tenure track, i.e. get a job offer”.
Accordingly, third-party funding agencies are not covered by the regulation. All of this is already in the BerlHG, as Schulze rightly emphasizes. However, it can be “specified and clearly defined” in the legal text in order to meet the needs of the universities.
In the strategy of the universities to misinterpret the law in unison, Schulze looks like an “absolute confrontation”. And that is “not helpful” for the upcoming negotiations on the university contracts.
The CDU parliamentary group, on the other hand, sees the withdrawal as a “low blow for the science city Berlin” – as a “result of the most recent wrong decisions in science policy by the red-red-green Senate”. The amendment to the University Act is “a mistake for which the SPD, the Left and the Greens are responsible”. The amendment must be withdrawn.
3.5 percent more per year is not sufficient
Art itself, which is a member of the SPD and was Minister of Science in Brandenburg from 2011 to 2016, explains that there is also a “high level of dissatisfaction with the imponderable future prospects” for excellent young researchers at the HU.
Likewise, the #IchBinHanna initiative, which advocates permanent positions below the professorship, has broad support from the university. But “in their entirety”, the changes in the law would “endanger the excellent further development of the Humboldt University and ultimately Berlin as a location for science”.
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For the costs, which in particular meant the stabilization of the post-doc positions, the budget increase of 3.5 percent in the next five years will not be enough, so Kunst.
Müller is amazed at the resignation
The governing mayor and Senator for Science Michael Müller (SPD) please, he “takes note of the resignation of Prof. Sabine Kunst with regret and astonishment”. As president, art has advanced the HU in many important areas and actively shaped Berlin as a location for science.
“The requirements of the new higher education law may be demanding, but they are important for the long-term strengthening of the location and can be easily implemented in the constructive cooperation between the universities and the Senate,” says Müller positively: “We could very much like Sabine Kunst to help.”
The goal of ensuring excellent teaching, research and working conditions at our universities “we will continue to trustfully pursue the success of the Berlin University Alliance with your successor and your colleagues at the other ten state universities in Berlin. ”
The HU believes that art is well positioned overall
However, your university currently sees art in a good position – also thanks to the newly elected Vice President in April of this year. The recognized president also draws a positive interim balance for the Berlin University Alliance, which is funded in the excellence strategy of the federal and state governments, which is good at HU.
“Much has also been achieved and the Humboldtians will certainly be able to master the new challenges, too,” concludes Kunst. She calls on her university to “implement the new law in a visionary manner” – with a “new, different view through a new university management”.