Statement by the University of Bayreuth regarding the provision of facilities to the university group 'The Olive Branch.'
The University of Bayreuth prides itself on being an institution that fosters open-mindedness, where any form of discrimination is unequivocally condemned. Nevertheless, as an institution of higher learning, we adhere to Article 5 of the German Basic Law, which not only upholds academic freedom but also, crucially, guarantees freedom of expression. This encompasses the right to express opinions, even those with which we may not personally align.
In our capacity as partners of Tel Aviv University and Tel Hai College, the University of Bayreuth has previously articulated a clear stance on the situation in Israel on 18 October 2023 (https://www.uni-bayreuth.de/wissenschaftsorganisationen-zur-situation-in-israel). We reiterate our condemnation of attacks on Israel and reaffirm our solidarity with the Jewish community and Israeli citizens. Our commitment is to ensure that the University of Bayreuth remains a safe environment for all members and associates to study, conduct research, and engage in discussions without fear.
Prior to the event "Palestine: A Universal Call To Freedom" on 8 February 2024, organized by the university group 'The Olive Branch,' the University of Bayreuth engaged with the organizers. They were apprised of the pertinent regulations and principles governing the use of university premises, particularly that events must not contravene the democratic principles enshrined in the German Basic Law. The organizers were explicitly reminded of their responsibility to ensure that the chosen topics do not incite hatred, endorse criminal activities, or advocate for criminal acts. Following correspondence with the university president, the organizers provided credible assurances that their intention was to facilitate an open discussion incorporating diverse perspectives, rather than promote one-sided political ideologies.
Individual student inquiries and those from the Junges Forum were addressed directly, emphasizing the university's commitment to fostering a free exchange of ideas and knowledge, while maintaining political neutrality, plurality, and balance. Inquirers were encouraged to participate in the event's open discussion or to organize events themselves within the established framework, thus actively promoting diversity of opinion on campus. It was emphasized that any forms of protest must adhere to university regulations.
The University Governing Board did not receive any official statements from the Student Parliament or the deans opposing the event. Precautionary measures were initiated by the University of Bayreuth to ensure the safety of all attendees, although there were no grounds for cancellation.
Subsequent to the event, participants reported that proceedings occurred without incident, and it was unnecessary to prematurely terminate the event. While the event featured contentious viewpoints, the University of Bayreuth is not currently aware of any statements made during the event that would constitute a violation of applicable laws. Determinations regarding criminality fall under the purview of competent authorities rather than the university. However, should such determinations be made, the University of Bayreuth will duly assess and respond to the situation.
The University of Bayreuth remains committed to fostering open dialogue and will continue to monitor relevant information concerning the event within its jurisdiction.