The Freedom of Thought & Intercultural Diversity

“Joint Russian and German Constitutional Values on Teaching: About the Freedom of Thought & Intercultural Diversity”, Impulsvortrag anlässlich des “First-year Student Day” in Manege of the Manor of His Serene Highness Prince Menshikov der Saint-Petersburg Academic University, St. Petersburg (Russische Föderation).

Redemanuskript (es gilt das gesprochene Wort):

Dear Students,
Dear President Professor Dr. (Victor Andreyevich) Gnevko,
Dear Rector (Oleg) Smeshko,
ladies & gentlemen.

It is an honour and a real pleasure to be with you in this nice place of St. Petersburg. Your excellent International Office made me feel welcome from the first minute we got in touch with each other. Special thanks go to the Head of the International Office Mrs (Ksenia) Nagornaia, preparing everything for this visit in advance.

Today is one more day where I regret not to speak Russian. But nevertheless we have got staff in our International Office in Würzburg speaking russian as mother tongue. Because Russia is an important Partner to us.

The academic mobility of students, professors and researchers is a valuable key to the successful development of what really makes a modern institution of higher education! Since 1994 we are active in Russia – starting with Plekhanov Univ. Moscow. In October of this year the president of my university of applied sciences FHWS will visit several Russian institutions of higher education together with a bavarian ministerial delegation.

To turn diverse academic mobility plans into life we are partnering with open minded and excellent players of the academic community – St.Petersburg University of Management and Economics is such a player and reliable partner. For nearly 2 years we do have an active and growing partnership with successful student exchange. We are working on a Double Degree Agreement and are ready to expand our network to other faculties near to business and engineering, to enhance the utility of our cooperation for the most valuable people: you – the students!

In my opinion students and staff exchange and the intercultural exchange through delegates is the most important part of our cooperation. Because it´s the people, that are the heart of our calling as educators in the scientific community. Promoting intercultural understanding together is something, that works best in the way we practise this together.

What we do is personal, intangible and cannot be copied at all. It is one of over 880 partnerships between higher education institutions in Russia and Germany. In the past year alone, there were more than 15,000 Russians studying abroad in Germany. All these partnerships are unique. Based on friendship and strong shared values. I really mean it, when I say that it is a pleasure and a great honor being here as your guest, partner and friend! We do have chance to intensify our friendship further, for even better success.

Sustainable economic success needs integrity and a serving motivation:

  • to serve customers
  • to serve stakeholders
  • to serve the community
  • to serve people / you, me, us

Even in a pluralistic and globalized world we see these values at the heart of working business models: Co-operation and serving together in solidarity.

Let me show you two of the basic values that motivate me intensively in our academic setting. I want to cite the Basic Law for Germany:

Article 2  (1) Every person shall have the right to free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or the moral law.

Article 5 (3) Arts and sciences, research and teaching shall be free. The freedom of teaching shall not release any person from allegiance to the constitution.

The Russian Constitution is as beautiful as the German basic law in this point:

Article 28 Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or together with other any religion or to profess no religion at all, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them.

Article 29 Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.

Article 44 Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of literary, artistic, scientific, technical and other types of creative activity, and teaching. Intellectual property shall be protected by law.

Personal Freedom is the most important value in the educating community. Making students – all of you – choose their own way of life, of meaning and calling with a wise intellect. This can only work, when teaching is free, diverse and at the same time transparent to others. It is important to show what values professors really have and where they come from. Intrinsic motivation comes out of your individual worldview. Therefore free teaching implies showing up our own worldviews, for that students can judge and choose for their own.

In Würzburg it is known, that my worldview is a Christian one. In this value set it is “normal” to respect the freedom and dignity of everybody. There is no second class people all over the world. It is therefore normal, that our activities should respect dignity of all people, that they should be sustainable and responsible. This is the main reason, why for me our Bavarian constitution is a wonderful law that I want to realize in the specific context as professor for business ethics. Our teaching does not focus on economic success alone. It is embedded in a greater responsibility for humankind!

Let me cite the Bavarian constitution, too:

Art. 151 (1) The entirety of the economic activity shall serve the public good, in particular the guarantee of a decent existence for every person and the gradual increase of the standard of living of all social classes.

Our worldviews have direct effects on how we act and what goals we are setting. All the higher education institutions respond in their individual way to the long list of societal issues. But there is one key Learning in common for all excellent Universities: We need each other to reflect our own worldviews, our own realities our own ways of doing research and teaching. We need transparency of our values, worldviews, goals and we need cultural diversity in a pluralistic world, to further unfold full potential of humankind.

You are a an excellent Partner doing this together with us. And that is the reason, why I am thankful for your partnership with our faculty! It really is a pleasure learning from you and with you in this beautiful city of Russia.

Students – enjoy this wonderful part of your life. The personal adventure of intellectual freedom in responsibility just begins here and now for you!

Prof. Dr. Harald J. Bolsinger
Dean – FHWS, Faculty for economics and business administration