Unis to remain spaces of pluralism and dialogue: President

On the occasion of the academic year inauguration, President Andrzej Duda stressed that “universities are to remain spaces of pluralism and dialogue,” adding that researchers could contribute to “the improvement of the level of debates by giving an example of a substantial and constructive conversation between representatives of various opinions.”

In his statement on the occasion of the beginning of the academic year 2020/2021, the President noted that it commenced in extraordinary conditions that stemmed from the pandemic and historical anniversaries such as the centenary of the Polish-Bolshevik war.

“Thanks to the victory to which many student and scholar soldiers of the Polish Army contributed, Polish science could continue to develop for the following two decades in conditions of freedom. The Independent Republic of Poland made education and higher education much more accessible by developing well performing universities and creating a range of new ones such as the Catholic University of Lublin and the AGH University of Science and Technology. Their research achievements served as a springboard for the future development of modern Polish science. Above all, the patriotic ethos of Polish academia formed at that moment, thanks to which student and research milieus served as a sanctuary of free thought and independence pursuits during WWII and the communist era,” the head of state wrote.

In his letter addressed to university chancellors, professors and students, Andrzej Duda stressed that the Independent Students' Association (NZS) grew from that tradition 40 years ago. He also recalled that “many people earnestly concerned with public matters and those credited with the reconstruction of a sovereign state in free Poland” originated from the NZS.

“I rejoice from the fact that academic youth remains active in the social and political sphere also today, electing leaders of professional milieus, creating future state elites and various NGOs,” the President noted.

Referring to the epidemiological situation that forced universities to execute measures preventing the spread of the coronavirus such as remote and hybrid lecturing, the President wrote that “we undertake these challenges and comply with the impediments resulting from the sanitary requirements motivated by mutual care for our health.”

President Duda also stressed that the pith of the academic education was the master-student relation “based not just on the transfer of information but rather on individual contact and the passing-on of virtues of inquisitiveness and solidarity in intellectual work. Thus upholding the remote mode of academic life without direct meetings between university lecturers and students does not seem tenable in the long run.”

He also stressed that the new academic year began in a time of fervent political disputes in Poland. “The recent years brought about a significant spike in interest in public matters of our society – something which is proven by consequential record-breaking election turnouts. The discussions that the Poles live naturally do not bypass academia. Scholars partake in them bringing a valuable contribution of expertise from their domains of knowledge into the discussion,” he wrote.

“A very important task lays before the universities, which is to remain a space of pluralism and dialogue held substantially and in line with the utmost standards. The world of academia has an important role to play in the search for solutions that reconcile variegated expectations and social interests. To a large degree, researchers may contribute to the cooling of excessively heated discussions, while improving the quality of debate by giving an example of a substantial and constructive conversation between representatives of various opinions. Their ultimate goal should be to develop ideas and projects that are the best for the development of the economy, security and the prosperity of the entire state,” the president wrote, wishing all academia members creativity, boldness and many a success in wrestling with the aforementioned challenges of modern times.