Students of the University of Warsaw locked up without water and food. “The university authorities exaggerated”

Students of the University of Warsaw locked up without water and food.  "The university authorities exaggerated"

Students organized a sit-in protest on the premises of the University of Warsaw. They demand that the university terminate cooperation with Israeli institutions. During the first days of the protest, the university authorities allegedly ignored the protesters and violated their basic rights. – Even people protesting or gathering illegally have the right to legally leave this place at any time – says Dr. Hab., Prof. for “Wprost”. SWPS University Mariusz Bidziński.

Students organized a sit-in protest at the University of Warsaw. They pitched tents in the Autonomia park at ul. Nowy Świat 69 in Warsaw. The demonstration is a response to Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip. The protesters call for a boycott of Israeli organizations and condemnation of the occupation of Palestine.

Protesting students are also afraid of possible repression, but they hope that the university authorities will not take such drastic steps. – I think most of us are afraid of this. That's why some people don't want to give their names or surnames. We hope that the university will do the right thing, because we know how bad a step it would be for them to ignore and then disciplinary dismissal or other penalties for students who peacefully protest, says Anna, a student at the University of Warsaw, for “Wprost”.

Letter to the rector and no response from the University of Warsaw authorities

The students sent a letter to the Rector of the University of Warsaw, prof. Alojzy Nowak with postulates. They demand not only an end to cooperation with Israeli academic institutions and other organizations and companies that are associated with the occupation of Palestine, but also a public, firm and unequivocal condemnation of Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip and the occupation of Palestine, and a boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels until ending the occupation, and recognizing the right of return for forcibly displaced Palestinians to statehood and equality. In addition to their demands, there is also a request to provide information on which entities having a significant role in the occupation of Palestine by Israel, the University of Warsaw cooperates with and to what extent.

The students started their protest on Friday, May 24, 2024, in the evening. In an interview with “Wprost”, protest participants say that the university authorities closed the park area 10 minutes after the first students arrived.

Additionally, university guards prevented students from leaving the campus. The only way in or out was through the locked park gates. To get into or out of the park, you had to climb a fence.

Students illegally imprisoned by the University of Warsaw authorities

– If an area of ​​a park or property belonging to a university campus has been closed, which is the right of the university, such a decision cannot prevent people who are already there from leaving the place. Even people protesting or gathering illegally have the right to legally leave at any time. This may require identifying these people, writing down their details, and so on. However, they have the right to leave this place – says dr hab., prof. SWPS University Mariusz Bidziński from the Institute of Law.

This means that the protesters were locked on the campus of the University of Warsaw, contrary to the law. Moreover, the university guards did not allow media representatives to enter the venue. Like students, journalists had to climb the fence to get to the protest site and then leave the park in the same way. – The fact that in the event of a protest, the university limits the possibility of entering the campus, in the event of a threat and to ensure public peace – is justified and permissible. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that due to the circumstances, transparency of the situation must also be ensured. This means that journalists should be allowed into the area in question as objective observers. Any event of this type may cause unnecessary doubts and even provocations, says Prof. Bidziński.

For this reason, transparency is safe and desirable for all participants in this dispute, regardless of their views. It seems to me that if there was a top-down order prohibiting admission, it should not have happened and the university authorities, if they knew about it, or the guards, overdid it. However, even if someone finds themselves illegally at the protest site in the sense that they violate the ban on entering the university premises, they, just like students or any other person who are there, have the right to leave the premises at any time – adds Prof. . Bidziński.

In an interview with “Wprost”, the protesters complained that the university guards prevented them from even accessing the toilet, which is located behind closed doors in the university building. Participants had to organize their own food and drinks, and were additionally supported by people from outside the campus who brought the most necessary things to the park gate.

The situation improved on Monday, May 27, 2024. The gates to the park were opened and representatives of the University of Warsaw authorities came to the students.

A modest response from the authorities of the University of Warsaw

We have sent a list of questions to the authorities of the University of Warsaw regarding the treatment of protesting students.

  1. Are any meetings planned with representatives of the students' sit-in protest? If so, when and in what form will they take place? What changes to university policy are being considered in response to the protest?

  2. Are there any specific reasons why the university authorities have not been able to meet the demands of the protesting students so far?

  3. What is the position of the university authorities towards students' right to organize peaceful assemblies and express their opinions?

  4. Why does the University of Warsaw prevent journalists from working on the university premises by blocking access to protesters by university guards and then blocking the possibility of leaving the protest site?

  5. Why did the university guards not allow people to leave the protest site legally?

  6. In the event of an accident in the area where the protest is taking place, do the university authorities feel responsible for making it difficult for participants to conduct a peaceful protest?

– The Conference of Rectors of Polish Universities (KRUP), of which the University of Warsaw is a member, issued a position on hostilities in the Gaza Strip. KRUP, on behalf of the Polish university community, appealed to the authorities and peoples of the countries of Israel and Palestine to end the bloody conflict. This post was published on May 21 onwebsite of the University of Warsawbut also on the KRUP website and other universities.

We respect the right of all community members to express and manifest their views. The university authorities take the protest seriously. May 27, approx. At 12:00, a delegation of the university authorities met with the protesters – Chancellor Robert Gray, Vice-Rector of the University of Warsaw for Students and Quality of Education, Prof. Sławomir Żółtek and the Rector's Plenipotentiary for Anti-Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy, prof. Julia Kubisa. During the conversation, the general principles of manifestation were discussed.

For security reasons, the protest site is secured by university guards. During the week after the end of the university's administrative work, the gate at Autonomia Park will be closed from 21:30 to 6. Protest participants may freely leave the protest area, as well as use sanitary facilities, electricity and water at the university. Additionally, a portable toilet has been ordered and will be placed in the square. The University of Warsaw has appointed a person available 24 hours a day who will respond to the current needs and reports of the strikers.

The talks were conciliatory in nature and will be continued in order to find an optimal solution that will satisfy both parties. Classes at the University of Warsaw are held according to schedule, says UW spokeswoman Dr. Anna Modzelewska.

The initial approach of the University of Warsaw authorities raises doubts as to whether students have the right to protest on campus at all. – Yes, but with certain rules. Please remember that the protest takes place on university premises, so students' actions cannot negatively impact its functioning. It does not matter whether they are students or other people – protesters cannot paralyze or limit the functioning of a given university unit, even in a peaceful way. In addition to the protesters, other people also use the premises and the functions of the university, whose rights may be violated by the protesters' actions – replies Prof. Bidziński.

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