Prejudiced German prof denies Ind student internship
The matter came to light after a colleague of the Indian student posted emails exchanged between Annette G Beck-Sickinger, the professor at Leipzig University, and the student on a popular website.
Both the student and the colleague did not identify themselves. The incident comes in the backdrop of furious debate over the country’s poor record in women’s safety, especially after the heat generated by the banned documentary, India’s Daughter, which ruffled many feathers. By Monday evening, another student told media that Beck-Sickinger had refused his PhD application in March 2014. In an email purportedly sent by the professor to this student, she wrote she no longer accepted “any male Indian guests, trainees, doctoral students, or post docs due to the severe rape problem in India”.
German ambassador Michael Steiner reacted strongly to the professor’s denial of internship and endorsed India’s efforts to deal with violence against women. Beck-Sickinger, the professor of biochemistry and bio-organic chemistry named by the student, did not deny the email exchange with the Indian student. One email from Beck-Sickinger posted by the student’s colleague stated: “Unfortunately I don’t accept any Indian male students for internships. We hear a lot about the rape problem in India which I cannot support. I have many female students in my group, so I think this attitude is something I cannot support.”
The German professor later played down episode as a “misunderstanding” and the outcome of an “unpleasant discussion” with an Indian student. She also said the university did not discriminate with Indian students and that she had accepted several Indians in her department in the past.
“Unfortunately, this mail was a misunderstanding. Of course, I have nothing against male Indians and I have accepted several Indian students in the past. Currently, two male Indian students work in a lab course with me in my labs,” she said.
“However, my lab is full and I cannot take any additional student in summer. This led to an unpleasant discussion with one of the Indian student,” she added.
Beck-Sickinger said she had informed the head of the university about the situation and a press release would be issued later. “I hope this helps to clarify the situation and make clear that we are an open university for everybody,” she said. Leipzig University was founded in 1409, making it one of Germany’s oldest universities. Its website describes it as an “interdisciplinary, international comprehensive university” that was placed among the top 25 in Germany for four consecutive years by a global ranking agency. In a letter to Beck-Sickinger, which was made public, Steiner said, “Your oversimplifying and discriminating generalisation is an offense to these women and men ardently committed to furthering women empowerment in India; and it is an offense to millions of law-abiding, tolerant, open-minded and hard-working Indians.
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