Russian students as projection screen of war

Federal Association of International Students condemns discrimination against Russian students

The Federal Association of International Students (BAS) is concerned about the increasing number of discrimination and attacks against (allegedly) Russian students. Reports of students being massively attacked, insulted and threatened in halls of residence, by e-mail or even in public have been increasing massively in recent days. In some cases, universities are also taking measures that, in the opinion of BAS, are not justified and certainly do not contribute to ending the war against Ukraine, which is illegal under international law and cannot be justified. Punishing Russian students individually diverts attention from those truly responsible for the war, stirs up racism and divides the university community.

“The outrage against Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which is against international law, is completely legitimate and we also share it,” says Sergej Haar, BAS board member, and continues: “However, this is no reason to discriminate indiscriminately against people because of their Russian origin, to insult them or physically attack them. Quite a few are themselves in opposition to the war.” Universities that fuel resentment and prejudice by taking measures against individual Russian students – apparently in anticipatory obedience – actually have a racism problem in the university management and the university. This is not the first time this has happened.

Sanctions should not be directed against individual Russian students, but must be directed against the system, the regime in Russia, states the BAS. In this respect, the BAS expressly supports the suspension of university cooperation with Russian universities, some of whose rectors have unequivocally backed Putin. In the view of the BAS, there is no justification for continuing these cooperations and they would be intolerable against the backdrop of the war of aggression in Ukraine. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that Russian students should continue to be able to study in Germany apart from the cooperation on an individual level. If Russian students do not want to return to Russia after completing their studies because of the repression, BAS believes that they should be allowed to continue their stay in Germany.

Unfortunately, the problem of racism at universities is not new and is apparently structurally conditioned as well as firmly anchored in some university administrations, the BAS notes. Already at the beginning of the pandemic, when sometimes massive anti-Asian racism was also spreading at universities, university administrations and those responsible for university associations and organisations, for example, remained silent instead of taking a clear stand for the Asian-read university members. Likewise, in many other cases where foreign-read students or doctoral students were racially discriminated against, sometimes by teachers, university administrations remained silent or swept the cases under the carpet. This must stop.
Without question, this war must be rejected and practical solidarity must be shown to Ukraine. Clearly, racism and discrimination have no place in universities or anywhere else, and must be fought and not tolerated or even fomented.