Hauptgebäude der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin an der Strasse Uner den Linden Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Main building the Humboldt University to Berlin to the Road the Linden Humboldt University to Berlin

Excitement about a canceled lecture at the Long Night of Sciences in Berlin: Actually, Marie-Luise Vollbrecht, doctoral student at the HU in behavioral physiology, was supposed to speak on the subject of gender on Saturday afternoon in the HU main building Unter den Linden. “Gender is not (gender) gender, sex, gender and why there are two sexes in biology,” is the title. But after groups of students registered protests, the HU canceled the lecture at short notice.

It was a “decision in the interests of the overall event,” said HU spokeswoman Birgit Mangelsdorf to the Tagesspiegel. “There was a risk that the science festival would have been completely overshadowed by the conflict surrounding the lecture.”

The “working group of critical lawyers” called for the protests, among others, a group of students who, according to their self-description, “understand their studies in a crisis-ridden society as a means that can help the marginalized to get their rights”.

From the students’ point of view, the stumbling block was that Vollbrecht was one of the five authors of a “Welt” article that was widely discussed a month ago. Under the original title “How ARD and ZDF sexualize and re-educate children”, the authors accused public broadcasters of pursuing a “threatening agenda” on the issues of gender and sexual identity. In numerous programs “the fact that there are only two genders is denied”: “We demand a departure from ideological perspectives – especially with the trend topic ‘trans’,” was a core demand. The text was accompanied by a “dossier” of cases intended to prove the theses, to which Vollbrecht contributed little.

There had also been heated debates within the Springer publishing house about the “Welt” text. Springer boss Matthias Döpfner later distanced himself from it. He explained that scientifically, the text is at best roughly one-sided, the “whole tone superficial, condescending and resentful. Not far removed from the reactionary attitude: homosexuality is a disease.”

The students’ appeal now said: “United against trans*phobia – no stage for the co-author of statements on a ‘biological reality of dual gender”‘. They also took issue with the term “woke trans ideology” in the said “Welt” article. The lecture was also described as “hostile to trans”. In an email to all HU students, the RefRat of the HU had also created a mood against Vollbrecht’s appearance. Overall, there have been numerous at the HU in recent years Conflicts between student representatives and the university management.

HU spokeswoman Mangelsdorf said that in the two days before the Long Night of Science, there had first been calls for massive protests against Vollbrecht’s lecture, and finally on Saturday morning there was also a call for a counter-demonstration.

Against the background that more than 30 events were planned in the main building and that many people – including old people and children – were expected at the HU, the university would have decided to cancel for safety reasons – also to protect the numerous other actors of the Long Night, who put a lot of time and work into their presentations.

“The cancellation is not accompanied by any content evaluation,” said Mangelsdorf. The lecture should now be made up for “to enable a constructive debate”. A short-term relocation from the main building, which is traditionally very well attended during the Long Night, to another location was not organizationally possible.

In her doctorate, Vollbrecht is researching at the Institute of Biology how lack of oxygen affects the brain cells of electric fish. In her Twitter feed, shortly before the lecture, she asked her followers not to escalate the situation any further. On Twitter, however, she is very active on the topics of gender and trans – with some pointed tweets and retweets that do not indicate a great willingness to engage in dialogue.

Vollbrecht himself said in the “Bild” newspaper: The cancellation made her “sad”. “The cave-in to radical, violent activists who have no understanding of biology is understandable but alarming.” She cited the planned protests that led to the cancellation as another example of “the radical means used by gender ideologues”.