Dispute over university presidential election: “intransparent procedure”.

Almost 100 professors* protest against the election of Sascha Spoun as the new president of the University of Gottingen.

Encounters resistance in Gottingen: Sascha Spoun, here in 2017 at a speech in Luneburg Photo: dpa

It’s a bumpy road to the new office for Sascha Spoun, and whether it actually leads to the goal is not yet foreseeable. There is massive resistance to the election of the German-Swiss economist as the future president of the University of Gottingen. Now the election is also being challenged in court.

In 2018, the University of Gottingen had failed in the Excellence Competition for the second time in a row. Acting President Ulrike Beisiegel then announced her early retirement for the beginning of 2020. A search committee set out to find a successor, advised by Luneburg University President Spoun.

But then, surprisingly, the consultant remained the only candidate – and was elected unanimously. The search committee includes three voting representatives each from the Senate and the Foundation Council.

Nearly 100 Gottingen professors protested against what they saw as a non-transparent process and demanded – in vain – a public hearing at the university. Spoun had gained an advantage in his candidacy as a consultant through internal insights. Moreover, he was not "an internationally renowned scientist," as required by the advertisement, but "distant from research." He merely held a visiting professorship, he said, and was also "highly controversial" as a university manager.

Strong criticism of Spoun also in Luneburg

Spoun has headed the University of Luneburg since 2005. In January, he was re-elected for eight years without competitive bidding. The Luneburg AStA criticized at the time that in the 14 years of Spoun’s presidency, "management and marketing processes … increasingly dominate our university." Processes were being "enforced from the top down," including important decisions such as program closures. Strong criticism also provoked a cost explosion in the construction of the university’s central building, which opened in 2017.

Last week, an unsuccessful competitor filed a complaint with the Administrative Court against the decision of the Gottingen search committee. He wants to prevent Spoun’s appointment as university president with an interim injunction. On Monday, the Gottingen court asked that the university not appoint Spoun until a decision is made.

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