Controversy over the rector of the HTWK Leipzig

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Saxon science minister and elected rector discuss possible solutions

The dispute about filling the rector's office at the Leipzig University of Technology, Economics and Culture (HTWK) continues. The impartial Saxon Science Minister Sabine von Schorlemer refuses to accept the elected Rector Renate Lieckfeldt after having survived cancer because the risk of relapse is incompatible with an appointment as an election officer.

After the elected rector made the process of her non-appointment public, it made waves both among the students and in the media. The students accused the Minister of Science of immoral behavior, so they occupied the Rectorate for 24 hours last week and demanded that Renate Lieckfeldt be appointed immediately. The designated rector was supposed to take up her post on May 1st. As previously announced, the science minister and the elected rector met for a conversation on Tuesday evening in order to reach a friendly solution.

Surviving cancer prevents appointment as electoral officer During the conversation between Renate Lieckfeldt and the Saxon Minister of Science, options should be examined that allow the rector elected to be appointed to the post to which she is entitled. Although Sabine von Schorlemer made an official appointment prior to the interview, there were prospects of employment in an employment relationship. Lieckfeldt also signaled that she was ready to think about a suitable offer. However, the designated rector questioned the reason why she should be denied the right to serve as an election official. Because the risk of relapse after her cancer as a reason for not being appointed, Lieckfeldt seemed extremely questionable. After the professor had sued for the nomination for rector election at the HTWK and won it in January against fellow candidate Hubertus Milke, who was favored by the Ministry of Science according to media reports, it became known that Lieckfeldt had only survived cancer in 2010. Anyone who thought that this had nothing to do with the election of the rector was wrong. The Ministry of Science referred to the civil service law and explained that in the case of such health risks, civil servants are excluded. If Lieckfeldt were to contract cancer again during her five-year term as an election official, the country would have to pay for treatment and care costs. Therefore, the Saxon Science Minister has so far refused to appoint the rector of Leipzig's largest university of applied sciences as such.

Students suspect political motives for not filling the Rector's post. The argumentative professor then turned to the media about the process and received massive support from the student body and the public. Her non-appointment was seen as a moral scandal, and the first conspiracy theories quickly circulated, in which the students report to the state government that, for good reason, they should not fill the HTWK rector post with Lieckfeldt. Because of the austerity measures in the university sector, the HTWK's capacities are already at their limit. Leipzig's largest university of applied sciences can accommodate around 300 fewer students than in the previous year in the 2011/2012 winter semester, even though the number of applicants is increasing significantly. From 2013, the state's budget planning also includes extensive job cuts at the HTWK. A leaderless institution can hardly defend itself against such austerity measures, the students explained. In addition, the state government must expect considerable resistance when the controversial Renate Lieckfeldt is appointed, as this had already made it clear in her application speech to fight for every HTWK employee. In addition, rumors circulated among the students that former rector and opponent Hubertus Milke, close to the CDU, could have used his influence with party friends to prevent Lieckfeldt's appeal. Milke is today a member of the future commission of the Saxon CDU.

Talk between science minister and elected rector After the case about the non-appointment of the elected HTWK rector made considerable waves in public and the accusations against the Saxon science minister became louder, Sabine von Schorlemer declared herself ready for the interview and the two met on Tuesday evening Professors, to come to an amicable solution. While it was initially to be assumed that the takeover into an employment relationship would be the result of the discussion, Lieckfeldt and von Schorlemer announced after the conversation that a "more precise" medical report should be submitted, and then again about the official duties of the elected rector to decide. The Saxon Minister of Science has thus moved from her original position, in which she simply excluded an appointment as an election officer due to the incompatibility with civil servant law. Now the actual health risks are apparently to be weighed for the time being, instead of assuming a general re-disease risk here and thus rejecting the official position. In the end, the agreement that has now been reached provides a good basis for coming to a fair assessment of the actual relapse risk and thus avoiding a possible complaint by the elected rector. Because if Lieckfeldt should choose the legal route, the rector's office at the HTWK could be blocked for years. In this case, the university of applied sciences and the students would suffer.

Medical report could have been requested earlier A "precise" report on the health situation of the chosen rector of the HTWK can help to bring the main point of the dispute to an objective level and thus serve to objectify the emotionally extremely charged discussion. However, it seems questionable why the Ministry of Science did not come up with this idea a little earlier. Immediately after it became known that Lieckfeldt had survived cancer last year, a medical report could have been obtained without delays in filling the position. Why this did not happen remains unclear. So there is still the suspicion that originally only a reason was sought to avoid having to appoint Renate Lieckfeldt. However, the Minister of Science has now paved the way for her to give way in the end, in order to find a mutually acceptable solution and to regain the lost trust among the students and in public. (fp)

Also read:
Rector refused position after cancer
Leipzig University elects new rector
Students support Leipzig Rector

Photo credit: Andreas Hermsdorf /

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