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October 29, 2020

We, Polish academics in the United States, as well as friends and supporters of human rights in Poland gathered across American and European universities, watch with increasing concern the continued encroachment on basic freedoms in Poland.

In response to the decision of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, which ruled abortion on the grounds of fetal deformity to be unconstitutional, Poles expressed strong opposition to the ruling by taking their concerns to the streets.

Some members of the Tribunal were appointed in violation of the Polish constitution. Furthermore, their decision undermined an already extremely restrictive 1993 abortion law, which allowed for abortion in only three cases: when the pregnancy causes a serious threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman; when pregnancy is a result of rape or incest; and when prenatal tests confirm that the fetus is seriously and irreversibly damaged. The recent decision removed the third case as a possibility for Poles, making abortion virtually illegal in Poland as 98% of all legal abortions were performed based on that particular article of the 1993 law.

The strike of Polish women is supported across Poland, especially among Polish youth concerned that individual freedoms and basic human rights continue to be supressed in their homeland. Among them are university students, who have become another symbolic enemy of the Polish government. In its search for internal imaginary enemies, the Polish government has targeted immigrants, refugees, ethnic and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and women. Now, in an attempt to supress academic freedom, the government has shifted its divisive discourse towards the universities.

On October 28, 2020, in solidarity with the nationwide women’s strike, students at many institutions of higher learning in Poland decided to protest, and some of these actions took place on campus grounds. The authorities of many universities responded by offering the students excused absences from their academic responsibilities, so that they may organize and voice their opinions. Today, the Minister of Education, Przemysław Czarnek, openly threatened those university administrations by stating:

Classes were cancelled yesterday in several Polish universities. This is an outrageous decision! Please do not forget that as the Minister of Education, I have the competence to allocate funds for grants and I have no doubts that we will take into account what is happening at these universities.

This is a gross violation of academic freedom, and yet another example of how rights and liberties are being curtailed and academics bullied or blackmailed in today’s Poland. We, the undersigned representatives of academic institutions in the United States, Britain and Europe want to express our solidarity with our colleagues in Poland. We stand by such basic rights and principles as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, as well as the responsibility of the institutions of higher learning to create an open space for intellectual debate. We also support students in Polish universities, as well as their professors/our colleagues, in their fight for human rights and social justice.

We support you in your efforts and assure you that your voices are being heard all over the world. 

Anna Müller, University of Michigan-Dearborn 

Marta Cieslak, Center for Arkansas History and Culture, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Kate Wroblewski, University of Michigan 

Anna Cichopek-Gajraj, Arizona State University

Natalia Aleksiun, Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Touro College 

Jill Massino, UNC Charlotte 

Ilona Kryczek, University of Michigan 

Mary Erdmans, Case Western Reserve University

Michał J. Wilczewski, University of Illinois at Chicago 

Justyna Beinek, University of Kansas

Andrzej Brylak, University of Southern California 

Jack J. B. Hutchens, Loyola University Chicago

Hayley Negrin, University of Illinois at Chicago 

Annika Frieberg, San Diego State University

Nell Koneczny, Independent Scholar

John Merchant, Loyola University Chicago

Rebecca M. Townsend, University of Hartford 

Agnieszka Jeżyk, University of Toronto

Bozena Nowicka McLees, Loyola University Chicago

Katie R. Peel, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Eve Levin, University of Kansas

Erica Lehrer, Concordia University, Montreal

Sean Martin, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio

Jaroslaw R. Romaniuk, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio

Steven Seegel, University of Northern Colorado 

Neal Pease, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Krista Hoffmann-Longtin, IUPUI

Ewa Barczyk, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, emerita

Trae Toler, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Beth Holmgren, Duke University, Durham, NC

Malgorzata Fidelis, University of Illinois at Chicago

David A. Goldfarb, Independent Scholar, Honolulu, HI

Nina Witoszek, Oslo University, Norway.

Monika Nalepa, The university of Chicago, IL USA

Maureen Linker, University of Michigan - Dearborn

Ania Zalewska - University of Bath, UK

Wojciech Paczos - Cardiff University UK 

Marta Havryshko, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv, Ukraine

Joanna Syrda - University of Bath, UK

Krzysztof Jasiewicz, Washington and Lee University

Paulina Kewes, University of Oxford, UK

Paweł Bukowski, London School of Economics

Luiza Bialasiewicz, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Corey Dolgon, Stonehill College, Massachusetts, USA

Dariusz Wójcik, University of Oxford, UK

Anita Starosta, Pennsylvania State University, USA

Joanna Bagniewska, University of Oxford i Brunel University London, UK

Jonathan P. Eburne, Pennsylvania State University, USA

Katya Motyl, Temple University, USA

Magdalena Waligorska, Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany

Pola Cebulak, University of Amsterdam

Agnieszka Wierzcholska, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany

Grzegorz Ekiert, Harvard University, USA

Melissa F. Weiner, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, USA

Silvia Dominguez, Northeastern University, Boston, MA

Johnny E. Williams, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Jayne Mooney, John Jay College, NYC, USA

Rochelle Davis, Georgetown University, USA

Donna Gabaccia, University of Toronto, Canada 

Kinga Kosmala, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Joanna Szupinska, PhD Student, University of California, Los Angeles

Irena Czernichowska, Stanford University, California, USA

James M. Thomas, University of Mississippi

Julian Myers, Independent Scholar, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Rayan Ghazal, Stanford University, California, USA

Kaoru Ueda, Stanford University, California, USA

Magdalena Moskalewicz, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA 

Samira Bozorgi, Stanford University, California, USA

Jan Zielonka, University of Venice, Ca Foscari

Ladislau Dowbor, Professor at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo

Marci Shore, Yale University, USA

John Vsetecka, Michigan State University, USA

Katherine R. Jolluck, Stanford University, USA

Scott Riggs, University of Michigan-Dearborn, USA

Lora Soroka, Stanford University, California, USA`

Meghann Pytka, Northwestern University, USA

Maria Kapajeva, University for the Creative Arts, UK

Marta Figlerowicz, Yale University, USA

Mira Rosenthal, Cal Poly State University, USA

Thomas Patrick Jaworowski Pineros-Shields, UMASS Lowell, USA

Johanna Mellis, Ursinus College, USA

Małgorzata Ćavar, Indiana University, USA

Vitaly Chernetsky, University of Kansas, USA

Lenny A. Ureña Valerio, University of Florida, USA

Susan M. Williams, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan, USA

Yuliya V. Ladygina, Pennsylvania State University, USA

Katarzyna Bartoszynska, Ithaca College, USA

Krzysztof Borowski, University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA

Stefania Marghitu, Chapman University, USA

Elena Gapova, Western Michigan University, USA

Larisa Fialkova, The University of Haifa, Israel

Bethany Hicks, Ouachita Baptist University, USA

Andrea Lanoux, Connecticut College, USA

Siobhan Doucette, Quincy University, USA

Alana Holland, American University, USA

Wojciech Sadurski, University of Sydney and University of Warsaw

Krzysztof Pomian, Center national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS

Graham Hodges, Department of History, Colgate University, USA

Zohar Weiman-Kelman, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva

Viktoria Lavriniuk, University of Ottawa, Canada

Jagoda Banjac, University of Split, Croatia

Robert Blobaum, West Virginia University, USA

Hubert Izienicki, Purdue University Northwest, USA

Timothy Black, Case Western Reserve University, USA

Donata Blobaum, West Virginia University, USA

Kathryn Ciancia, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Katherine Lebow, University of Oxford

Katarzyna Kietlińska, Oakland University, Rochester, MI.

Michael Bernhard, University of Florida

Holly Case, Brown University 

Jana McAuliffe, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA

Heather Hummel, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA

Belinda Blevins-Knabe, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA  

Brian Gran, Case Western Reserve University, USA

Suzanne Bergeron, University of Michigan Dearborn

Marilee Benore, University of Michigan Dearborn

Maya Barak, University of Michigan Dearborn 

Amy Brainer, University of Michigan Dearborn

Camron Michael Amin, University of Michigan Dearborn

Hillary Mellinger, American University 

Anita Prazmowska, London School of Economics

Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Goldsmith, University of London

Barbara Krupa, Stanford University

Bruce Pietrykowski, University of Michigan Dearborn

Anne Lounsbery, New York University

Eliot Borenstein, New York University

Gabriella Scarlatta, the University of Michigan-Dearborn

Pam McAuslan, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Bill Martin, Independent Scholar

Grażyna J. Kozaczka, Cazenovia College, USA

Agnieszka Pasieka, University of Vienna

Janina Wurbs, Bern University 

John C. Swanson, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Irena Grudzińska Gross, Princeton University  

Jan Gross, Princeton University 

Joanna Sliwa, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

Stanisław Jarecki, University of California, Irvine

Piotr J. Wróbel, University of Toronto

Bohdan W. oppenheim, LMU

Brian Porter-Szucs, University of Michigan

Robyn Smith, Independent Scholar

Oxana Shevel, Tufts University, USA 

Piotr H. Kosicki, University of Maryland

John J. Bukowczyk, Wayne State University (Detroit)

Geneviève Zubrzycki, University of Michigan

Carolina Némethy, University of Copenhagen

François-Xavier Nérard, Panthéon Sorbonne University, France

Guven Witteveen, Midwest Institute for International Intercultural Education

Alice Freifeld, University of Florida

Nadine Anderson, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Jessie Labov, Central European University

Alissa Klots, University of Pittsburgh

Halina Filipowicz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Elwira Grossman, University of Glasgow 

Anna Jaroszynska-Kirchmann Eastern Connecticut State University

Katrina Yeaw, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

A. Fiona Pearson, Central Connecticut State University

Nancy S. Kursman, UM-Dearborn 

Stephen Adair, Central Connecticut State University

Rahsmi Luthra, UM-Dearborn 

Tricia Mackenzie, George Mason University 

Emilia Urbanek, Swansea University, UK. 

Lisa Cooper Vest, University of Southern California 

Jan Grabowski, University of Ottawa

Ewa Trębacz, University of Washington

Robert J.S. Ross, Clark University

Joanna Mishtal, University of Central Florida

Benjamin Paloff, University of Michigan

If you are interested in signing this petition, please contact Anna Muller at anmuller@umich.edu

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus pandemic for you.

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