Ordo Iuris, the Polish ultraconservative organization known for promoting extreme anti-choice and homophobic policies is launching a university in Warsaw. Its aim? Shaping new conservative elites for the Central and Eastern European region.
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"Collegium Intermarium was established as an answer to the crisis of academic life. It is set on the fundamental values of Western civilization and is to be a space for scientists and students who are not afraid to ask serious questions. The mission of the University is to educate the elites of the Intermarium region" – we read on the institution’s official website.

The inaugural conference launching the new university took place on May 28 in Warsaw. Members of the ultraconservative organization Ordo Iuris promote it as an international academic space based on traditional and conservative values with faculty including a dubious Swedish royalty and an associate of Donald Trump’s lawyer.

Shaping the elites of Central and Eastern Europe

- Our college is rooted in the classical academic spirit serving the unchanging values of truth, good, and beauty - this is how Tymoteusz Zych, Ph.D., vice-president of Ordo Iuris, lawyer and rector of the new university, introduces Collegium Intermarium. In an interview with a nationalist YouTube channel "Media Narodowe", he criticized the "low quality of education, mass character, competition, ease of obtaining diplomas" at other universities. – There’s also the issue of anonymity. At our university, each student will have a tutor, a supervisor, throughout the entire period of study- Mr Zych added.

The university, which describes itself as "international" and aims to forge elites of the Intermarium region, will offer a full-time graduate program leading to a master’s degree in law and four postgraduate courses: family policy in local authorities; modern evidentiary methods; management of non-governmental organizations; classical Europe: politics - culture – the art of debate. In addition, a two-year, English-language master's degree in International Human Rights Law is also on offer to train human rights experts. Classes start in October.

Tuition? A full-time graduate program costs PLN 8-9 thousand per semester (depending on the installments). Postgraduate courses cost PLN 5-6 thousand. Enrolment fee: PLN 85. Besides presenting a high school diploma, those interested in studying at the Collegium Intermarium will have to go through an interview with three faculty members on topics including the Polish judiciary, international politics, and migration issues.

 Illiberal faculty members

The inaugural conference took place on May 28. Its keynote speaker was the minister of education Przemysław Czarnek. Panelists of the conference included the former president and prime minister of the Czech Republic, the famous pro-Russian Eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus, Poland’s deputy prime minister Piotr Gliński, the Hungarian minister of justice Judit Varga, advisor of President Duda Prof. Andrzej Zybertowicz, and French Catholic thinker Chantal Delsol.

Ingrid Frankopan, a dubious Swedish princess, an international law scholar and an avid Brexit supporter is to head the university’s International Law Department. Stephen Baskerville, an American lawyer associated with the right-wing Virginia university where he has been alleged to have insulted LGBT people during lectures, has been appointed to head the Department of State Studies. Other conservative "celebrity" lecturers include Ligia De Jesús Castaldi, a law professor associated with an organization founded by Donald Trump's lawyer; Stephen Bartulica, religious affairs advisor to the Croatian president; András Lanczi, a Hungarian conservative and rector of the Maciej Korwin University in Budapest; and Angela Gandra, a Brazilian lawyer working for the Brazilian government.

The faculty will also include Polish politicians, lawyers, judges, and priests. - We want our university to be a safe haven for all those people who dare to think independently. At the same time, we want it to be based on reliable, decent, serious science- said the institution’s rector Mr Zych.

- An accumulation of authoritarian thinkers (Orbán's main ideologue), Eurosceptics (the Brexit lady) and just plain crazies (a Christian fundamentalist lecturing white supremacists in the US) - Professor Wojciech Sadurski of the University of Sydney and the Warsaw University comments on Twitter.

- Other than Chantal Delsol, who is a world-renowned philosopher, none of these lawyers has an international reputation. They have not been published in acclaimed academic journals. They are not qualified to take academic positions at serious universities. They function at secondary or low-ranking strictly religious universities. As far as Polish lecturers are concerned, we have a few scientists, among others from Catholic universities, who have a decent output. There are also many young lawyers with ties to Ordo Iuris. And a few crazy people- says Prof. Sadurski.

A conservative alternative to George Soros

The conservative university is also supposed to be a pushback against the progressive and liberal philanthropy of George Soros. "George Soros, who invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Central European University, recognized the potential of creating an elite training center for Central Europe long ago. In this way, he educated a whole generation of left-wing intellectuals, politicians and lawyers - the Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, for example, is a graduate of this university"- we read in the materials provided by Ordo Iuris.

The ultraconservative organization also mentions the "collapse of academic freedom" and the fact that "takeovers of universities by radical ideologists and a deep crisis of didactics lead to intellectual and formative impoverishment of the future generations".

Professor Wojciech Sadurski believes that "in itself, bringing together a group of extreme, radically right-wing activists - because you definitely can’t call them scholars – into a new university is not necessarily dangerous".

- As a liberal, I believe that everyone should have the right to create whatever institutions they want. But such an approach would be naive if it did not take into account the actual character of Ordo Iuris.

It is not simply another organization participating in the "free market of ideas", but an octopus-type lobbying group, with unclear connections and sources of funding, and members installed in key, strategic institutions of the state- he says in an interview.

As Prof. Sadurski points out, "the list of state officials who have been invited as speakers at the university’s inaugural conference on May 28 indicates the symbiotic relationship between the ruling camp and this institution" - In this context, it is necessary to look at the choice of faculty members. Their academic relevance is minimal, but their brown color is unmistakable. The Collegium Intermarium is supposed to be the equivalent of Soros' educational initiatives - aimed at furthering an open society, liberal democracy, minority rights - with the opposite ideological color: nationalism, Euroscepticism, quackery, populism. If this ends up being an opportunity for the Law and Justice party to create a counterbalance for regular universities, then yes, it will be dangerous"- Prof. Sadurski concludes.


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