This was the hashtag in the last days which has brought our information science community slightly closer.
The story behind this hashtag is the faculty decision on the closure of the information science department at the Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany. The dean himself said that the faculty council always have to decide between disappointing decisions when there is the need to economize and to cut a professor’s position at the faculty. He has decided to cut the position of Prof. Wolfgang G. Stock, who is the only professor at the department on information science in Düsseldorf and to close the department which was responsible for four degree programs, in the same vein.
This is a hard and radical decision which the dean and the faculty council have to take. As there are objective arguments for and against the closure of the information science department in Düsseldorf an open discussion is needed.
Colleagues from Germany and abroad have followed as Isabella Peters, Dirk Lewandowski, Jasmin Schmitz, Violeta Trkulja, and Katrin Weller asked for their voice and arguments in an open letter against this decision. More than 60 letters from the community have reached Prof. Stock and his department. All letters have been forwarded to the dean (Dekan) and the university president (Rektorin).
Further activities by the students of Information Science at the University in Düsseldorf have mobilized and activated the community. They started an online petition and reached more than 1500 subscribers on change.org/saveIWS. They gave an interview in the local university radio station and got popular attention by other local reporters.
Then, on Tuesday, January the 26th was decision day: after heated discussions that lasted more than 2h the faculty council decided for the closure of the department (10 for, 2 against, 3 abstentions). You can follow the live tweets under https://twitter.com/hashtag/saveiws.
Unfortunately, the faculty council have not changed or even open their mind. Neither the many arguments from the letters which have reached the University Düsseldorf nor the students who have flooded the room have been able to change the decision of the faculty council members.
But how could the faculty council take an objective decision? In my eyes, this is not and cannot be an objective decision. If the cuts won’t affect the information science professor it will affect another professor. It was not possible to decide between different professors and no argument have been given why there is no open decision making progress. The dean’s argument was that he has made his decision based on (closed) data and now the council has to decide if they are for or against it. Even the requests to postpone the decision on the closure, due to the lack of arguments, was rejected.
All faculty members belong to any department and institution that could be affected and thus, each member has to decide: should it be another department or mine that will be affected by the cuts? Therefore the department of information science is not really surprised about the faculty decision. But they don´t stop to fight! The students and members of the department are open for interviews and will open the discussion to the public. They hope to find further advocates.
At least the university president has to decide if there will be a future for the information science department at the Heinrich Heine University.
We are now hoping for the university president to reverse the decision and to find another solution. She might be more open to the voices of the community. By Isabella Peters