What to do: Helpful behavior strategies


Threats, insults and physical violence are all clear violations of the rules governing community life.

An insult as defined by § 185 of the Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch (StGB) is a statement of disdain, disrespect or contempt that offends the honour of the person targeted

What you can do:

  • Refute an insult. Do not ignore it.
  • In principle, insult offences are only prosecuted by the investigating authorities upon criminal complaint (Strafantrag). This is to be made in the context of a charge (Strafanzeige). The injured party himself or herself is entitled to file a complaint (Antragsberechtigt).
  • In individual cases, specifically when an insult is directed at a public servant while they are carrying out their official work, or with regard to their work, the public servant's superior (the president), is granted an independent right to file a complaint (Antragsrecht).
  • University employees can contact the Legal Division for advice. If an insult has been made in connection with the workplace, the Legal Division will support employees in making a charge (Strafanzeige) and filing a complaint (Strafantrag).


What is discrimination?

Discrimination comprises forms of discrimination, degradation, stigmatisation or exclusion based on characteristics that are protected from discrimination.

The result, not the motive, is decisive in determining discrimination. It is immaterial whether discrimination occurs purposely, out of thoughtlessness, through application of general administrative practice, or some other reason.

In the General Equality Act Allgemeinen Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG), discrimination on the grounds of the following characteristics are illegal:

  • Ethnic origin and racial attributes,
  • Gender (includes trans* and inter* persons),
  • Religion or conviction (includes non-affiliation with a religion),
  • Disability,
  • Age,
  • Sexual identity.

In addition, the following factors are relevant within the university:

  • Social background or social status
  • Family status.

What you can do

  • Depending on the situation, it might make sense to address the discrimination directly.
  • Compose a memorandum of the incident so you can remember what happened
  • Seek advice and support, for example with the Anti-Discrimination Office
  • If you notice discriminating incidents or practices in your surroundings, take a stand against the discrimination and support the person affected.

Mobbing and cyber bullying

What is mobbing?

Mobbing means that a person is systematically antagonised, harassed or excluded in a hostile way over a long period. As opposed to conflicts, the victim of mobbing is in a position of absolute disadvantage in that they cannot change the situation in their favour through their own behaviour without support.

There are a wide range of backgrounds: mobbing can develop from an escalating conflict, but can also be the result of stress in the course of group dynamic processes.

What you can do:

Mobbing victims should seek professional advice. Employee Psychological Counselling is available to employees in such cases.

Employees who notice that someone is being bullied or discriminated should not look the other way for their own sakes, but take a stand or at least organise support: what is happening to your colleague today could also soon happen to you (see above).

Managers are well-advised to stop mobbing attempts immediately. Mobbing consumes the attention and energy of the entire work group and has a negative effect on the working environment. Employee Psychological Counselling provides support in cases of mobbing.

Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying is any form of insulting, harassing, threatening or ridiculing of another person over a longer period of time using modern communication means. Not knowing who the other person is can make the victim feel insecure and afraid.

Options for intervention:

  • Block the cyber bully or change your own contact information as a last resort
  • Gather evidence by making screenshots of e-mails and SMS messages
  • Consult with the Legal Division
  • In serious cases the police can be notified.
  • The investigating authorities have more extensive options for investigating anonymous perpetrators.
  • Filing a civil claim is difficult and usually requires the involvement of a lawyer.

Sexual harassment or violence

Sexual discrimination and violence refers to any sexual form of boundary crossing, from non-criminal actions such as sexist language and unwanted touching to criminal violations. More information can be obtained in the Workplace Agreement on Conflict Resolution and Workplace Interaction on a Partnership Basis (Dienstvereinbarung zur Konfliktlösung und einem partnerschaftlichen Umgang am Arbeitsplatz) and the brochure “Grenzen wahren. Sexualisierte Diskriminierung und Gewalt an der Hochschule“

What you can do if you are being sexually harassed:

  • Take your feelings of discomfort seriously.
  • Say no if you feel you are being harassed.
  • Make notes of any incident (date, name, place, possible witnesses).

Who you can approach first for help:

  • A supervisor
  • Personnel representative
  • Security on site: e.g., the porter or library security

Confidential counselling is offered by:

  • Equal Opportunity Representative
  • Anti-Discrimination Office
  • Employee Psychological Counselling Services

Disruptions in University Operations

Acts of violence, continued and repeated harassment or threats, and disruptions in the classroom or of regular administrative and service operations may represent a breach of house rules.

In conflict situations, the following behaviour is recommended:

  • Demand that the person causing the disruption leave the room, office, or lecture hall.
  • If the person causing disruption does not comply, repeat the demand and announce that if necessary you will call security.
  • Call security if the person causing disruption still does not vacate the premises.
  • A verbally issued ban from the premises should be followed up with a review by the Legal Division and if advisable confirmed in writing so that formal requirements are met. If a ban from the premises has been issued, this can usually be enforced immediately. Any contrary behaviour is criminal trespassing as defined by §12 StGB (Criminal Code) which justifies calling the police!

Suicide threats and attempts

If students express anxiety, panic or suicidal thoughts to Goethe University staff or teachers, do not ignore this but take it seriously.

  • Listen, and try to understand the situation.
  • Do not give advice or downplay the problem. Avoid moral judgement or expressing shock at what you are being told. Do not discuss the sensibleness or morality of suicide.
  • Seek professional support.
  • In acute crisis situations contact the police, emergency medical services, or local psychiatric institutions.
  • In an acute crisis situation: do not leave the person alone; establish trust. If possible call the person by their name to create personal contact. Do not urge the person to take any particular action or put psychological pressure on them. Establish privacy and ward off curious onlookers. Maintain contact with the person until professional help is available.

Vandalism and anti-constitutional speech

What you can do:

  • Inform the police and university administration: 069/782 11100
  • Speak out against property damage or verbal provocations, do not ignore them.
  • Stop the action without endangering yourself
  • Secure instruments/tools involved in the incident without endangering yourself and hand over to police
  • Secure evidence (e.g., picture). Don't remove texts or symbols
  • Take note of witnesses

Imminent Danger