Open letter on right-wing violence and structural racism

Dear Rectorate of Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg,

There are repeated acts of racist violence and discrimination in Magdeburg, also against students of the OVGU. This happened again at the beginning of this semester: A student in his first semester, who wanted to get involved in the department for climate justice, was insulted and attacked by three Nazis on his way home from an event of the department. Understandably, he then exmatriculated and left Magdeburg. Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated case. There are many, many reports from students of color (person/people of color is a frequently chosen self-designation of people with experiences of racism) who have experiences of racist violence and structural racism in their everyday lives in Magdeburg, including at this university.

In its mission statement, the OVGU is committed to the values of openness and tolerance and sees itself as a place of encounter and exchange. The university also attaches great importance to the internationalization of research and teaching, which is reflected in the close cooperation with other universities and a high proportion of international students and staff. This is a very laudable orientation, yet it is not enough to merely commit to such values. As a university, the OVGU is an important part of society, takes a role model function and, as you yourself write in the mission statement, is obliged to take social responsibility. Right-wing extremist structures are very present in Magdeburg, the entire German society is massively influenced by racist structures, socialization and stereotypes that date back to the time of colonialism. The university as an institution of German society is, of course, not free of these structures. Nevertheless, the OVGU has so far hardly positioned itself regarding this issue.

We therefore ask the university management to deal with the issue of racism, to recognize racist violence and structural racism as a problem, as well as to massively expand the anti-racist work at the university.

In order to illustrate the urgency and relevance of anti-racist work at the university, we would like to show some examples of how structural racism manifests itself at universities:

• The staffing of academic positions does not reflect the diversity of society; People of Color are underrepresented in these positions. Important perspectives are thus missing at universities. As a result, topics are often negotiated from a purely “white” perspective and Black as well as migrant positions are often absent.

• Many sciences are entangled in colonial racist structures that are addressed only slowly or not at all. Recognition of these structures and addressing them in teaching is often lacking.

• Often, topics in research and teaching are viewed from a Eurocentric perspective only, making other perspectives and insights invisible.

• Students of Color experience racist discrimination and racist attributions at university on a daily level.

• Despite its great relevance, the topic of racism at German universities is underrepresented in research, and there are hardly any studies on this subject.

In order to address these problems and challenges, we demand from the university management:

• The creation of a counseling service in the case of racist discrimination as well as the immense advertising of this service, so that those affected can also make use of it.

• The establishment of an (anonymous) complaint point in case of experiences of racism.

• The appointment of an anti-racism commissioner.

• Training for existing counseling services in dealing with experiences of racism.

• Raising the awareness of staff and students with regard to structural racism, e.g. through training courses, ring lectures, etc.

• An examination in the individual scientific disciplines of their colonial racist continuities in their subject areas as well as an integration of this into teaching.

• The creation of institutionalized spaces in which a discussion on racism and anti-racism can take place.

• A public commitment by the OVGU to condemn racist violence as well as the recognition of structural racism as a problem that is present also at universities. This also includes naming (anti-)racism as such, instead of talking about equality of opportunity, diversity, tolerance, etc.

We would be happy to discuss the above points with you in person.

With kind regards,
Alliance of Students against the Right
Department for Climate Justice and Sustainability

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