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No gender ban at the Goethe University Frankfurt – Ministry appeases |

The Goethe University wants to continue to allow its employees and students to gender. A ban like the one in schools would be a massive infringement on academic freedom. The ministry reassures: gender-appropriate language is still intended.

Simon Rustler

The Goethe University in Frankfurt doesn’t seem to think much of the state government’s gender ban plans. In their coalition agreement, the CDU and SPD originally formulated the intention to ban gendering with special characters at public institutions – and thus also at universities. The university rejects this.

In a letter dated Monday to all students, employees and “scientists,” as it says, the university’s executive board recommends continuing to “communicate in a gender-inclusive and diversity-sensitive manner.” This is communicated in order to counteract possible uncertainty.

Neither prohibition nor obligation to gender – unlike in schools

In contrast to the schools in Hesse, there is currently no regulation from the state government that affects the use of language at Goethe University. As usual, there is neither an obligation nor a prohibition to change gender.

Last had that Ministry of Culture announcedthat high school graduates, secondary school students and secondary school students are no longer allowed to use gender symbols such as colons, asterisks or underscores in their final exams. They are considered errors and can lead to a lower grade.

Bans were not compatible with freedom of research

The Hessian universities see themselves as diverse and inclusive places, according to the letter from the Goethe University. This also includes the possibility of including people of all gender identities in the speech.

University President Enrico Schleiff writes in the letter: “An intervention by the state government in the language (…) would be a massive restriction of the freedom of science, research and teaching guaranteed in the Basic Law and the Hessian Constitution.” Universities are places of free thought – bans are diametrically opposed to this.

Audio contribution


53:59 mins

Not a great moment! The fight for and against gender symbols

A piece of paper with an asterisk INSIDE on it

End of audio contribution

In the hr podcast “Der Tag” explained Sabine Andresen, who also signed the letter as Vice President of the Goethe University, said that the gender ban was an attempt to ignore a complex, diverse reality through a language ban. “I thought we were all further along,” Andresen said on Tuesday.

Science Minister: Universities with the highest level of autonomy

In its letter, the university bases its letter on a statement by Science Minister Timon Gremmels (SPD). In one Interviews with the hr and the Frankfurter Review He had specified that the Prime Minister’s directive was limited to the administrative language.

With the TU Darmstadt and the Goethe University, we have universities with the highest degree of autonomy that cannot be dictated to, said Gremmels. If the state government acts contrary to these statements, the university executive board writes, they would like to have the decision examined legally.

Gender-fair language “explicitly provided”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Science told the HR on Thursday that the criticism and fears were fundamentally understandable, but they were based on a false assumption about the design of the regulations, which were still being developed.

“Gender-equitable language (…) is expressly provided for in the planned regulations,” the statement says. Freedom of art and science also remained unaffected. There can be no question of a massive restriction on the freedom of science, research and teaching guaranteed by the Basic Law.

Coalition rowed back

After the state elections last fall, the CDU and SPD stipulated in their coalition agreement that gendering with special characters should be avoided in state and public institutions such as schools, universities and radio. However, after heavy criticism from the opposition, academics and the public, the coalition backtracked.

Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) told the state parliament in February that he did not want to wage a “culture war” regarding gender, but rather wanted to ensure that students were not given lower grades because of their non-gender. Gendering has been banned in the country’s ministries since March – according to an instruction from the Prime Minister.

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