Holding our community together in crisis

In response to reactions to the Hertie School's Graduation Ceremony 2024, President Cornelia Woll has released the following statement.

As a professional school for public and international affairs with a community of students, faculty and staff from over 90 countries, the Hertie School has worked intensively to continue its mission in times of crisis. In response to Hamas’ horrific terrorist attacks on 7 October 2023, we have reached out to our community members and our Israeli partners immediately to offer psychological and logistical support. We have organized debates with Israeli and Palestinian scholars and experts throughout the academic year. We held conflict management courses, offered training to fight antisemitism, and continuously monitored the security of all students and staff members on campus. Students celebrated Hanukkah on campus and organized an UNICEF fundraiser for children in Gaza. We have spent days and nights discussing and disagreeing, always making sure the dialogue would never stop.

During this entire time, the Hertie School has refrained from making public statements on political events and defended a line of institutional neutrality vigorously. The university must be the home for critical thinking; it is not itself the critic. We have refused boycotts and proudly stand by our partner Hebrew University. In our defence of academic freedom and free speech, we have always underlined that we are simultaneously responsible for the security and well-being of all members of our community. This includes respecting different opinions and listening.

In that spirit, the graduation ceremony provided an opportunity for the expression of empathy with those affected by war and violence. It was a fundamental message of humanity. However, the recognition of civilian victims in Gaza without a discussion of the terrorist massacre of Hamas on 7 October 2023 and the victims of the conflict on the Israeli side is biased and does not reflect all the work we have done this year to support all students and put the war in context. I deeply regret the distress caused by the opening and would like to apologise sincerely for the impression that victims and perpetrators are inversed.

Prof. Dr. Cornelia Woll