Dr. Philipp Dorstewitz about his role as tutor to Saif Gaddafi
Philipp Dorstewitz, lecturer at Maastricht University since 2007, spent two years as a personal mentor to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son and envisaged successor of the former Libyan leader. Saif Gaddafi started his master’s in philosophy at the London School of Economics in 2002. Dorstewitz was a PhD student at the time. The Daily Telegraph published an article last month in which Dorstewitz’ name appeared. He was said to have been paid handsomely by and even to have written essays for the Libyan.
“He is a great tutor,” wrote a Maastricht student recently on the University College’s Facebook page where a discussion has erupted about their lecturer of political philosophy Philipp Dorstewitz (1973). “But if he wrote the papers, then that is not okay.” Another person sticks up for him: “Life in London is very expensive and his job was well paid, and I think that Saif al-Islam is one of the most interesting people to teach. If I had had the opportunity, I would have done it too.”
Philipp Dorstewitz, born and bred in Germany, is a lecturer at the Maastricht Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and University College. He studied Business Administration at the Fachhochschule für Oekonomie und Management in Essen – a joint programme with the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht – and moved to England in 1998. He did a master’s in philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and did a PhD there.
Things started to happen last March: the LSE was discredited because of close ties with the Libyan regime. The British former judge Lord Woolf started an external investigation; his findings, published two months ago, did not bode well for the School. The links with Libya “were allowed to grow, unchecked and to a degree unnoticed, until their effect was overwhelming.” Most important pivot? Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.
Dorstewitz was doing his PhD at the London School of Economics when his supervisor, professor Edward McClennen – also co-ordinator of the master’s of Philosophy, Politics and Social Value that Saif Gaddafi was taking – asked him to have a look at Gaddafi’s papers now and again. “I was excited, curious. He was famous, the son of the Libyan leader, of course I knew that, but otherwise I did not have much information. Saif liked to paint and had studied architecture and business. Not too long after that, Saif came to my office and we agreed that I would become his tutor, with the approval of the LSE of course.
“I already had experience as a tutor. When I had just started at LSE, I worked at University College Dublin; I taught courses in social sciences to a few PhD students. In England it is common for PhD students to be asked to help out students who are having a difficult time. And yes, one is allowed to ask for compensation. Saif himself did not offer, so after a few weeks I suggested it myself. I charged by the hour, but certainly not 150 pounds, as The Telegraph wrote in an article. I do not want to say anything more about the amount, but it was comparable to the hourly rate I received for part-time tutoring appointments in Dublin. I told Lord Woolf the amount I earned as Saif’s tutor.”
Woolf did not mention this in his report.
“Of course I had my doubts when McClennen asked me to become his tutor. Firstly whether I would be able to combine it with the work for my own PhD; it would cost me a lot of time. Secondly I realised who I would be dealing with. But on the other hand: why not? He didn’t appear to be like his father, or at least that is how he seemed. He wanted a western education, was keen to learn, and was extremely focused on his study and on politics. He spoke out for liberalism and democracy. The press spoke of him as being a ‘moderniser’ of Libya.
“I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but I was always on my guard. Saif's father also spoke publically about democracy while he led a dictatorship.”
“Saif and I had a working relationship, which became more personal after a while. I accompanied him to parties now and again, but that was definitely not a weekly affair. Often we would have worked together and he would ask me if I wanted to go out for a drink with him. Quite often we only went to a party for half an hour, after which we might even return to his study activities in his apartment.
“The press refers to Saif as a playboy, but I cannot agree with that. He did not spend day and night in the party scene. Saif was serious about his studies and politics; he spoke a lot in public and prepared himself well for that. One time I flew with him to Paris in his private jet, but not for fun. He had an exam the following day and I had to explain some things to him. I even advised him not to go to Paris, but he wanted to at all cost.
“I never really got to know the real Saif; our relationship did not go that far. But he did well, made progress during his master’s. Just like his fellow-students, he had to write papers in preparation for an exam. Sometimes grades were given for these papers, but more often than not they were not. I read Saif’s papers, added detailed comments, and critically made him aware of points that he needed to take another look at. The same thing I do for my students here at Maastricht University.
“Saif was always the one who wrote the papers. I never wrote anything for him. I only gave him feedback. He was good at learning by heart; he remembered things by repeating them often. That was the way he was trained. But analytical philosophy requires a different way of thinking and he had to get used to that. Besides feedback on essays, I also gave him texts to practice on, which we would discuss – what does this mean, what is important, et cetera. After his master’s, when he was preparing for his PhD, I gave him lessons in logic; very difficult material. After that we went our separate ways. He was supervised by the department.
“Once, during Saif’s master’s, a professor approached me about his work: ‘Philipp, what do you think? Does Saif write his own papers?’ My answer was yes, I had no reason to assume that he did not write them himself.”
February 2011, revolts in Libya. “I watched television and thought: ‘Oh my God’. I saw a completely different Saif; he had a different expression on his face. This is not how I knew him.
“I did not think of my own role as his tutor. That only came later when Lord Woolf started to investigate the case. Woolf interviewed me; I told him everything. A few days before the report was published, in November 2011, I received a telephone call from the LSE’s communication department. I could expect questions from the press, because my name was mentioned in the report. Their advice was: ‘Do not speak to the press; send them to us’. When Holly Watt, a journalist for The Telegraph, telephoned a few days later asking me if I knew anything about a bill that I had sent to Saif for 4,000 pounds in exchange for tutoring, I said: ‘No comment’. I probably should have reacted, because a piece was subsequently published about considerable payments based on a bill unknown to me. I was shocked. Whatever documents the paper was referring to, they misinterpreted the facts and amounts. My income was much less than 4,000 pounds per month; no PhD student need be jealous of me.”
Then there was the e-mail that Dorstewitz, according to The Telegraph, had sent to Saif: ‘Hey Saif, Just finished your paper on Mill… Let’s discuss that tomorrow, all right. The other one will follow shortly.’
“The newspaper suggests that I am his ghostwriter, but what does the e-mail really say? Everyone who works in the academic world knows that such an e-mail means that I have looked over his papers and gave feedback.
“An acquaintance told me that the University of London has carried out a thorough investigation into the authentic character of Saif’s thesis. The findings are confidential, but neither Woolf nor the investigators from the University of London have spoken to me about any suspicion of plagiarism or fraud.”
After the publication of the Telegraph article, Fasos dean Rein de Wilde invited his lecturer Philipp Dorstewitz for a talk. Based on this talk, a statement from the London School of Economics and the Woolf report, both De Wilde and the Executive Board conclude “that there is no reason to doubt the personal or academic integrity of Dr. Dorstewitz”. A statement was prepared for the press on 8 December 2011, just in case there would be questions. It was published on Maastricht University’s website last Tuesday afternoon.
“I held an information evening for students who were interested; there were approximately sixty present. I got quite a few e-mails; students trust me, buck me up, and find me brave because I have gone public.
“By the way, my tutoring of Saif was on my CV when I was accepted by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. I told a few colleagues at the time. Some were curious, of course, but nobody made anything of it.”
Dorstewitz’ contract with Maastricht University comes to an end in August. Having had three temporary contracts in a row, there is no chance of a permanent appointment because of the hiring freeze. He is looking for a new job, looking at vacancies throughout Europe. Dorstewitz: “As far as timing is concerned, this situation is very awkward.”
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