Follow the big issues that shape Polish politics and society by signing up to our weekly newsletter “News from Poland: Democracy at Stake”. It allows you to stay up to speed on developments concerning the ongoing assault on democratic institutions, rule of law and human rights in Poland.
Prof. Jan Majchrowski is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law of Warsaw University. He is also a judge of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court - in 2019 the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Supreme Court decided that the Chamber is not a court under the meaning of the EU law. In the past he was also an advisor to Marek Kuchciński (former Speaker of the Sejm from Law and Justice).
On Monday afternoon, Prof. Majchrowski was holding a remote lecture on statehood. He sent an e-mail to his students hours before their meeting, in which he wrote that during his classes "any manifestations of students of a political and ideological nature will not be tolerated, no matter what form they take (verbal, textual, graphic, including references to symbols of such nature).
The letter ends with a threat. It reads that "those who violate this principle must be prepared to be removed from these activities with all the formal consequences.
Prof. Majchrowski, justifying the principles he introduced, referred to the position of the Presidium of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland from September 2019. In his letter to students he arbitrarily quotes some passages out of their context. Among them, he cites that "the supreme value is respect for dignity and respect for man", that "in the academic environment (...) we should give a model of restraint in the use of language", that "language must not hurt", that "the radicals of both sides influence the general social atmosphere more and more clearly" and that "a further escalation of this conflict is dangerous for everyone".
However, Prof. Majchrowski did not mention that the conflict and the context in which the CRASP spoke over a year ago. It concerned the anti-LGBT campaign promoted by the government and was written in opposition to the state-sponsored homophobia.
"Attempt to intimidate students".
Professor Majchrowski ended his letter with another quote from the CRASP position: "We express our deep opposition to the activities of those members of the academic community who use language evoking the darkest pages of Polish and world history. Such acts - which violate the duties of an academic teacher and the dignity of the academic profession - should be unconditionally subject to disciplinary responsibility in our universities". But again, he did not point out that this position was a response to the brutal, state-organized campaign aimed at dehumanizing the LGBT+ community. Many of the same people who protested against the government's homophobia back then now protest in defense of women's rights.
Professor Majchrowski's letter to students ends with another threat: "Due to the fact that students are members of the academic community, reprehensible behaviors of this nature will be reported to the Disciplinary Ombudsman for Students.
We wanted to ask Majchrowski about the purpose of this letter. He has not yet answered the questions sent by e-mail.
Meanwhile, the University spokesperson for equal treatment and spokesperson for student's rights penned a response defending the students.
"Solidarity with the values of the Women's Strike movement is within the area of values represented by our university, as well as many other Polish universities whose rectors have spoken on the matter and have introduced, like the UW, the Rector's Hours. The University of Warsaw supported those who took part in the protests through a number of activities - leaving the gate of the UW open, offering legal and psychological support. This is an expression of UW's responsibility and concern for its community" - we read in an extensive statement posted on the University of Warsaw website.
The statement also states that the lecturers should make sure that no student feels excluded. They may, for example, underline their consent to diversity of views and willingness to discuss. "On the other hand, lecturers who do not identify themselves with the Women's Strike have no right to exclude or punish any student due to the use of this sign, because there are no grounds for doing so". - we read further in the statement.
More cases are following
Similar incidents of discrimination against students supporting the protests took place in several high schools across Poland. In Szczecin, a student was excluded from her religion class by a priest who saw a picture of her participating in the protest in the newspaper. In Szydłowiec, central Poland, a math teacher and local PiS councilman dismissed female students from his remote lesson for having the symbols of the protest displayed on their screens.
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus pandemic for you.
They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.
We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.
The access to information should be equal for all.