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A Day For All

How the University of Freiburg promotes diversity and why the issue of gender is in the foreground in 2019

Freiburg, May 28, 2019

The national Day of Diversity takes place on 28th May 2019. Dr. Aniela Knoblich from the Office of Gender and Diversity of the University of Freiburg was interviewed by Patrick Siegert about the campaign day, diversity and its importance to the University of Freiburg.

Source: Jakub Krechowicz/

Mrs. Knoblich, what is the Day of Diversity about?

Aniela Knoblich: The German Day of Diversity came into being through the Diversity Charter in 2013. This initiative deals with diversity in commercial enterprises and organizations. The University of Freiburg signed the charter in 2010 and committed itself to equal opportunities and diversity. The Day of Diversity aims to place the spotlight on diversity nationally. At the University of Freiburg we are already celebrating the eighth Day of Diversity, although it does not actually take place until 8th November this year. The event focuses on one of six diversity issues each time: age, background, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ideology, and disability. This year the focus is on gender.

Why is the issue of gender especially important this year?

The new civil status act has reopened ancient gender roles, by establishing that there aren’t just two genders, but at least a third. This fact has to be reflected in all the structures and processes of the university. We now have to work out step-by-step exactly what it means. We will deal with the issue at the Day of Diversity and consider the question: How do we deal with gender diversity and with the fact that our concept of two genders has to be reexamined?

What is the role of ‘gender and diversity’ at the University of Freiburg?

With 40,000 students and staff, the University of Freiburg is as big as a small town. These people are highly diverse, but because of their relationship to the university they are all connected. Their diversity isn’t always visible, yet gives rise to issues that can be both conflict-ridden and enriching. If there is no room for discussion, then these issues don’t come to light or else they pop up unexpectedly. You have to create the necessary space for observing the issues and needs that have to be dealt with. This is known as ‘diversity management’.

Aniela Knoblich heads the Office of Gender and Diversity at the University of Freiburg. Photo: Brian Barnhart

What projects has your office planned for 2019?

First of all we are warmly inviting every member of the University to take part in the Day of Diversity and think about activities with us. Our office works continuously on the question of how we can make gender and diversity an enduring theme at the university. This includes a project called ‘Diversity in der Lehre’ [Diversity in Teaching]: an online toolbox which offers ideas, exercises and small units for teachers, who can incorporate them into diversity-aware teaching. This year we have started to work together with Gender Studies on the ‘Forum Transferwissen Gender and Diversity’ [Gender and Diversity Knowledge Transfer Forum] project: the aim is for this toolbox to transfer content from diversity research into practice for research, teaching and diversity management.

What potential arises from questions of equal opportunities and diversity at the University of Freiburg?

The University of Freiburg has submitted its application for the ‘University of Excellence’ funding line with the theme ‘Connecting Creative Minds’. This theme is precisely the same as that behind the concept of diversity: linking up various people and their ideas, in order to create new productive, constructive and innovative ideas. The potential from equal opportunities and diversity lies in making the university even better. People can develop, draw on their capacities, learn and research together. However this only works in a respectful and open atmosphere. So, equal opportunities and diversity are among the most fundamental elements of a healthy culture of studies and work at the university.

Where do you believe there is need to improve?

People with various disabilities still have difficulties making use of certain services. It starts with many rooms not being barrier-free. And there are even cases of discrimination at the University of Freiburg. We have to counter them decisively, especially in these days when there are questions about plurality, openness and internationalization in wider society – things which for us as an institution are indispensable. The greatest challenge for the office is to make gender and diversity better known as an issue within the university, to carry them into every area and reveal their effects. The responsibility for diversity management does not lie with individuals, it’s really a task for every part of the university.


German Day of Diversity 2019: Diversity Charter

Day of Diversity 2019 at the University of Freiburg