Controversy Over 2018 German Symposium

The German Symposium was overshadowed by a conflict between the German Society and LSE Events. The German Symposium is one of the traditional annual student-led events at LSE. Organized by the SU’s German Society, various speakers from different political and economic backgrounds have contributed to the event over the years. This year the symposium played host to speakers like Ursula von der Leyen, German Minister of Defense and Brigitte Zypries, Minister of Economics and Energy.

Despite a successful symposium, several points lead to discontent among German Society members. They accuse LSE Events of not having properly credited the union for their effort and their involvement in the late-afternoon event. In a statement for The Beaver, LSE events ensured “the joint nature of this event was recognized throughout the process”. A member of German Society stated that the event’s reputation might have been harmed for future symposiums by not giving enough credit for their efforts.

However, complaints were raised about LSE Events using LSE-hashtags in social media instead of the symposium one and for not including the society’s logo sufficiently throughout the event. LSE Events opposes this claim by stating that the “society’s handle was included on social media promotion of the event” and that “the chair acknowledged the involvement of the society in the introduction and the Society’s banner – featuring its logo – was on stage throughout.”

The German Society accuses LSE events of opportunistic behaviour for taking advantage of Ursula von der Leyen’s prominence. The society further states: “Our guest list, including high members of the German Embassy, was not recognized, which has put us in a quite embarrassing position. The fact that members of the diplomatic corps and other guests have gained a bad impression of the way LSE treats its student societies is certainly not what LSE should want.”

Members of the German Society raised their complaints in last week’s student-only forum with LSE Director Dame Minouche Shafik.

Several German-speaking students have complained about this year’s program of the symposium. Therefore, some even refused to attend the events for they felt the announced speakers do not represent German political and economic landscape adequately. Some students regarded the program as too one-sided, portraying and promoting a neo-liberal and economy-focused agenda. Furthermore, the invitation of Bernd Lucke, founder of the right-wing nationalist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), has been criticised. Students have raised deep concerns for having given him the stage considering his political background. Even though speakers like Ursula von der Leyen grasped the interest of many, some students were overall not enthused by the selection of speakers and representatives



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