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Dismissed East German Faculty Members Make up a "Second Academic Culture" (May 15, 2004)

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Institutes in the Shadows

The HoF proposes base financing for a portion of the “second academic culture” – for scientific institutions that are organized as associations, such as the Berlin Institute for Social Scientific Studies (BISS). The aim is to put them on an equal footing with other organizations in this sector. Many of these researchers have an excellent knowledge of Central and Eastern Europe, for example. Additionally, consideration should also be given to amending the Berlin Higher Education Act in a way that would permit in-house appointments for professors at Berlin universities. This would make it possible for university instructors who were hired as research assistants in the early 1990s to receive professorships.

For Thomas Flierl, however, this is not simply a matter of reintegrating dismissed East German researchers. He sees ongoing inequality between East and West when it comes to leadership positions in academia. “There are still very few East Germans on the candidate lists for professorships that I receive.” Among other things, he attributes this to the considerable role played by social and cultural background in the filling of leadership positions. “East Germans lack the relevant social networks and the necessary habitus.”

The study describes this problem in greater detail. In a chapter added after the fact, HoF researchers recapitulated the consequences of the comprehensive reorganization of the East German academic community over the past fourteen years. [ . . . ] The chapter described East-West inequality in the awarding of leadership positions as the “most serious basic long-term problem.” A disproportionately large number of East Germans occupy lower-paid positions. For instance, they hold an above-average proportion of C3 professorships, but a relatively low number of C4 professorships. In German academia as a whole, only 7.3 percent of elite positions are held by East Germans, although East Germans make up roughly 20 percent of the total population of Germany.

According to the authors, this phenomenon cannot be explained by the exaggerated populist theory that the West simply occupied the East and pushed out the qualified East German personnel. Instead, they basically see two reasons why East Germans are so poorly represented in leadership positions at universities and academic institutions. Firstly, a “change of elites” was desired politically. After 1989, there were very few people in leadership positions who had not discredited themselves politically. Secondly, in filling academic positions it was not possible to demand “a direct correlation between the university’s geographical location and the birthplace/hometown of the job holder.” Even though not every Western import satisfied all the expectations, one still had to concede that “in particular the professional deficits of the East German job holders were more pronounced.”

The study and Flierl’s conclusions met with mixed reviews in the political sphere. The proposal to repopulate the decimated mid-level academic ranks at East Berlin’s institutions of higher education was the only point that met with unanimous agreement. The president of the Leibniz Society, philosophy professor Herbert Hörz, remains skeptical about whether this reintegration will succeed. In an interview with the newspaper Neues Deutschland, he stressed that many younger academics have been forced to work outside of their fields during the past years, and that this will make reintegration difficult.

[ . . . ]

Source: Jürgen Amendt, “Verlierer der ‘Wende.’ Die missglückte Integration der Ost-Berliner Wissenschaft” [“The Losers of the ‘Transformation.’ The Failed Integration of East Berlin’s Academics”], Neues Deutschland, May 15, 2004.

Translation: Allison Brown

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