Against the reintroduction of university disciplinary law - against the political disciplining of student bodies

ln recent weeks, debates about political conflicts and opinions at universities regarding Hamas' attackon Israel and Israel's subsequent acts of war in Gaza have become increasingly heated. In somecases, completely different events are being discussed simultaneously and are being indiscriminately conflated with one another. Due to the demands of a reintroduction of university disciplinary law (Ordnungsrecht) in the context of an increasing escalation, we see ourselves called upon to position ourselves in this regard.

We are seeing more and more calls from politicians and media professionals for universities to finally 'crack down'. It can be observed how the necessary protection of Jewish students from anti-Semitism is being used as a pretext for enforcing repressive and authoritarian policies. This is being driven in particular by the political forces that have been promoting the shift to the right and anti-Semitic and racist ideologies for years. The first draft bill on the reintroduction of university disciplinary law in Berlin has been introduced by the AfD parliamentary group (FN 1). An expansion of repressive measures for universities is intended to 'pacify' the politically charged situation. The governing parties ("Große Koalition") are also planning to tighten the Berlin Higher Education Law (BerlHG), which would reintroduce the university disciplinary law on students which was only abolished in 2021. According to Tagesspiegel, the governing coalition is planning to pass such a bill by the Easter break (FN 2).

Context 1: Attack on Lahav Shapira

The political demand for the reintroduction of the disciplinary law became particularly pressing as a result of the violent attack on Lahav Shapira on the night of February 2, 2024 at Rosenthaler Platz, where the attacker was also a student at the FU. As the Humboldt-Universität student council (Referent*innenRat) we express our deepest sympathy to Lahav Shapira and deeply condemn the brutal anti-Semitic attack on him. We wish Lahav a speedy recovery and expect an appropriate and thorough investigation into the circumstances of the crime, in particular the motive behind it.

It is the central task of universities to take the protection needs of Jewish university members seriously and to prevent anti-Semitic discrimination and the violence to which it leads. It is clear that in the climate of a German debate on the humanitarian and political situation in Israel and Palestine that is characterized by anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian racism and anti-Semitism, the university environment for Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli students has become more unsafe, more stressful and increasingly unacceptable. This has been constantly repeated by affected groups.

Context 2: Disruption of an event at the HU

In the same debate context and often without the necessary differentiation, there has been much reporting in recent weeks about a panel discussion at the HU that was disrupted by pro-Palestinian activists. The event, which took place on February 10 under the title "Constitutional Challenges - Judging in a Constitutional Democracy", was intended to be an exchange between various judges from the highest courts on the challenges of adjudication in a constitutional democracy. The panel included a judge from the Israeli Supreme Court, Daphne Barak-Erez. At the beginning of the event, the moderation was interrupted by a person reading out a statement. In it, the "student coalition berlin" criticized the invitation of the Supreme Court judge Daphne Barak-Erez referring to various rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court (FN 3). The intervention was tolerated by the moderator. The activists were then made an offer to talk, which at least some of those present were not prepared to accept. Ms. Barak-Erez wanted to respond to what was said, which individual activists made impossible. After an intensifying verbal argument, the event was halted and was resumed about an hour later in a different location.

Universities as spaces for political conflicts

In current reporting, a wide variety of incidents at and around Berlin's universities are sometimes mixed up without the necessary differentiation being made in terms of classification and the necessary measures to be taken. We reject the generalized charge of anti-Semitism that pro- Palestinian protest is subjected to in public discourse. Accusations of war crimes and genocide against Israel are currently being widely discussed and legally contested. Acts of war by the Israeli army in Gaza and the ever-increasing humanitarian suffering there place an enormous burden on many university members. (FN 4) It is not only students who are mourning or fearing for family members, friends, people and places they are connected to. Worries, fears and anger have recently intensified even more with the air offensive on Rafah. Pro-Palestinian protest is rooted not least in deep pain and suffering, which can affect the forms and intensity of protest. As a student body that stands in solidarity, we should create and protect spaces for mourning and protest.

A considerable amount of pro-Palestinian protest and pro-Israeli counter-protest is currently taking place at universities. In light of this, there is now a debate about expanding the possibilities of repression at universities. It is therefore important for us to further recognize the role of universities in public discourse, which is particularly worthy of protection: Universities have the resources, the opportunity and also the responsibility to keep spaces for discourse open in charged societal situations. We firmly reject the notion of universities as mere event spaces; on the contrary, we see them as places of critical debate and intervention. This is due to their highlighted importance for the culture of debate and knowledge production. Accordingly, universities must create spaces in which diverse positions and controversial debates can come together. Uncomfortable opinions and forms of protest must and can also be tolerated - in this context, we also point out that the exclusion of pro-Palestinian voices from the discourse (as has already happened at some universities) is not an appropriate approach (FN 5). Universities must make their central contribution to critically framing socio-political debates and providing them with a scientific basis. The boundary of debate to which we refer ends, of course, where expressions of opinion become misanthropy or anti-Semitic. Where this boundary is crossed, must be judged on a case-by-case basis; the definition of anti-Semitism is often not simple and, in many cases, even academically controversial. (FN 6)

However, making political expressions of opinion the subject of repressive and regulatory measures and defaming them across the board is an authoritarian step backwards that will not make universities a safer or more discrimination-free place.

University Disciplinary law- Not a Cure-All

The regulatory law in its previous form was created in the context of the 1968 student movement with the aim of being able to specifically prevent student politicization of universities and protests. In practice, it was a means of preventing student protest, such as lecture hall occupations for climate or education strikes. Forced exmatriculation as a regulatory measure provided university administrations with an instrument of power that weakened the position of all students across the board. In the context of its origins, regulatory law must be interpreted as a fundamentally political instrument that is intended to ensure the 'orderly and trouble-free operation of universities' and, in accordance with its history, opposes a politicized university.

In the course of the 2021 amendment to the Berlin Higher Education Law, the right to impose administrative sanctions on students was abolished (§ 16 BerlHG, new version). The abolition not only had something to do with the reactionary basic content of the legal means, but also with its de facto uselessness. Because exmatriculation represents a serious encroachment on fundamental rights (freedom of occupation, Art. 12 GG), this encroachment must be weighed against the protected interest and must also be suitable to end the disruption of university operations, exmatriculation is practically never justified. In addition, the university disciplinary law did not provide a reliable basis for excluding perpetrators of sexualized violence and protecting students from assaults by other students.

Repression instead of protection

However, this does not diminish the seriousness of the possibility of repression. Even if disciplinary measures do not stand up in court proceedings in most cases, the mere possibility of disciplinary measures has a repressive effect on political processes at universities. The concern of possibly having to finance legal proceedings is likely to be a serious factor for most students. Exmatriculation can result in the loss of student grant (BAföG) and accommodation in student halls of residence. For students whose residence status is dependent on their student status, forced exmatriculation can mean the loss of any means of subsistence and even deportation.

At the same time, university disciplinary law means an expansion of punitive logics, which are not enforced by the courts, but by university administrations. It is obvious to us that mere punishment does little to combat anti-Semitic ideas and prevent discrimination and violence against Jewish students.

Furthermore, with such a strong means of repression, there is a great danger of political abuse by university administration. In times of a shift to the right, the expansion of repressive measures at universities is not a good idea.

Disciplinary measures are neither a quick nor an effective means of tackling violence on campus or against individual students. Anyone calling for them now as a quick and easy solution has not understood the content of regulatory law. Rather, the demand for the reintroduction of forced exmatriculation is an opportunistic sham measure in which Berlin's governing parties - CDU and SPD - want to boost their political image and expand authoritarian means of repression. Once again, the protection of marginalized groups is being used as an excuse by conservative and right-wing politicians to push through authoritarian measures, while otherwise there is a lot of sensationalism and little attention is paid to the concerns of those marginalised . We must not get entangled in this logic.


At the same time, universities are anything but powerless to act within the current framework: we see useful starting points for shaping public events and everyday university life in charged situations, for example, in strong representatives for marginalised groups who have real power to act. One example of this is the still lagging introduction of anti-discrimination representatives at universities through the 2021 BerlHG amendment (§ 59a BerlHG). At HU, they have also been included in the new constitution since the end of last year. (FN 7)

For us, it is clear that the reintroduction of university disciplinary law is a completely unsuitable means of combating anti-Semitic discrimination and violence. Universities would do well to strive for more effective measures. A reintroduction of university disciplinary law, as called for by the Berlin Senate and the President of the HU Julia von Blumenthal, must be rejected. (FN 8)

The announced amendment to the Berlin Higher Education Law is a declaration of hostility to the Berlin student bodies. It is a declaration of hostility to political organization at Berlin's universities and to any politicization of the universities. Regardless of their own political positions on statements made during the protests at the FU and HU, it must be clear to all Berlin students that a reintroduction of the university disciplinary law would mean a huge step backwards for all students.

As representatives of the approximately 40,000 HU students whose political and university participation is to be disciplined here, we must therefore disagree and firmly reject the reintroduction of university disciplinary law. We must stand united and resolutely against this reintroduction of instruments of repression.

Against the authoritarian disciplining of student bodies!


FN 1: Antrag der AfD-Fraktion im AGH Berlin, 13.02.2024: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

FN 2: Tilman Warnecke, Tagesspiegel am 19.02.2024: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

FN 3: Das ganze Statement vom 09.02.2024 findet sich auf dem Instagram-Account @student_coalition_berlin: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

FN 4: Das Statement von Martin Griffiths, UN-Unter-Generalsekretär für humanitäre Angelegenheiten und Leiter des OCHA vom 05.01.2024: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024) sowie das Statement der WHO vom 23.12.2023: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

FN 5: Siehe z.B. Ausladung von Forensic Architecture an der RWTH Aachen, Stellungnahme der RWTH vom 15.12.2024: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

FN 6: Micha Brumlik im Gespräch mit Axel Rahmlow, Deutschlandfunk vom 26.03.2021: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

FN 7: Pressemitteilung der HU Berlin vom 11.12.2024: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

FN 8: Yannick Ramsel, Alisa Schellenberg, Arnfrid Schenk und Anna-Lena Scholz, ZEIT Campus am 15.02.2024: (zuletzt abgerufen am 20.02.2024)

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  • erstellt:21.02.24, 10:48
  • geändert:24.05.24, 20:31