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actions & protests | education

University protests spark in Poland!

Protests at Lublin university, Poland - part of the world students' dissent
A number of students and lecturers at Curie UMCS University in Lublin oppose its authorities' plan to commercialize this biggest university in Eastern Poland, established in 1944. Support grows for the democratization of the university and for joining forces across borders with the students protesting in Austria, Germany and from November 18 Berkeley.

To develop the movement of resistance, the Academic Alternative of Thinking&Acting Lublin 9-L'Etrangere/The Strangeress was founded. The aim of the Alternative is to realize the postulates of equality and freedom (democratization of universities, parity, access of the disabled and immigrants) and care for the culture of women and queers. The project was born precisely during our protests against the planned firing of 400 least privileged women workers from Curie University, grew into dissent and joined the international wave of students' protests.

The demands of the Alternative Lublin 9 are the following, many of them shared with the demands of protesters in other countries
(1) Academic formation rather than simple job training
(2) Free entry to university-level education
(3) Democratization of the universities
(4) Full funding of the universities
(5) Access of the disabled, immigrants, refugees and elderly to the universities
(6) The precarious working conditions for university personnel must be put to a stop
(7) Call for a 50 % proportion of female staff at all levels and universities
(8) Women's, immigrants', minorities' and queer rights and culture as important part of the university

On November 10 the Alternative of Lublin 9 held a meeting of solidarity with the protesters in Germany and Austria, and of protest against the commercialization and for the democratization of universities in Poland. We talked via skype to the students of Tuebingen (their general meeting of 5000 people!) and of Marburg (Justyna who spoke Polish and other members of the International Students' Movement). It was very important to hear thousands of voices applauding the right to education as human right. The protesting students and lecturers in Lublin were impressed and moved. We also read a fiery and sophisticated letter of support from our friend at Berkeley Ewa Majewska where the strikes are beginning. We presented our demands which we share with world students. Mariusz Tarkawian's drawing of our patroness, Mme Curie, weeping over the state of universities, moved us all. At the Alternative of Thinking&Acting Lublin 9/The Strangeress, we hold another meeting of solidarity with students protesting in Germany and Austria and for the democratization of universities in Poland on November 18 at 19 in the Space of Creative Activities Tektura, organized by the Alternative of Thinking&Acting Lublin9/The Strangeress in Lublin, Poland.

In general, Poland's universities are lacking in democracy and maintain a rigidly hierarchical structure. There is too little exchange of new ideas and introduction of innovative trends, e. g., women's studies and lgbtq programs are rare. Poland's current neoliberal government announces a gradual introduction of tuition fees. Fees for special examinations, additional courses and extramural studies are already required. Social help for students is minimal. Tha is why a new students' organization with a social agenda emerges: Demokratyczne Zrzeszenie Studenckie (Democratic Students' Association).

The original idea of the authorities of Lublin University was to fire 400 women workers of auxiliary personnel. The University is the biggest employer in the city of Lublin where a van plant went bankrupt. As the area of Lublin is one of the most underdeveloped regions of the European Union, massive reduction of employment at University would cause major social problems.

In September 2009, 580 lecturers of the University signed a letter of protest against the firing of 400 workers. In October 2009, the Lublin club of Krytyka Polityczna journal colllected the signatures of over 1000 students who opposed the personnel reduction.

In Poland women have a particularly precarious position at the job market and are vulnerable to unemployment and homelessness. Fearing the social exclusion awaiting the fired women, feminist Katarzyna Bratkowska initiated a petition of Women's Alliance 8 March to defend the workers of Lublin University. Poland's leading scholars Maria Janion, Marek Bienczyk, Kazimiera Szczuka, Stanislaw Obirek, Agata Bielik-Robson, Magda Mosiewicz as well as international public intellectuals (Irena Grudzinska-Gross, Princeton; Anne Berger, Paris 8; Elzbieta Matynia, New School; Niccolo Milanese, European Alternatives; Angela Harutyunyan, Erevan/Cairo; Christian Klesse, Manchester Metropolitan) signed the petition.

The auxiliary workers established a new trade union a the University Solidarnosc 80. The rector of the University withdrew his original plan and negotiations began. 400 workers will not be fired. The reductions will be considerably fewer, probably 150 persons.

Lublin protests were covered by Poland's independent radio stations: by Roman Kurkiewicz in TOK FM, Marta Dzik in Altergodzina, Przemyslaw Wisniewski in Godzina Krytyczna and Kazimiera Szczuka in Roxy Radio. Krytyka Polityczna journal and Poland's leading newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported on Lublin protests. Video of the demonstration of 100 university workers in front of the rectorate during the commencement is available at
Photos of the demonstration and text in Krytyka Polityczna:
 link to www.krytykapolityczna.pl
Texts and photos in Gazeta Wyborcza:
 link to miasta.gazeta.pl

Dear All and dear Naomi Klein at Berkeley, we support your demands of free education. Only across borders can we struggle for equality and social justice at universities.

In solidarity with protesters everywhere,
Sylwia Nadgrodkiewicz&Tomek Kitlinski&Others  tkitlinski@gmail.com