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University of Silesia in Katowice

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Listening to the University. Rector’s letter to academic community

30.09.2022 - 08:46 update 30.09.2022 - 21:35
Editors: OO
Tags: announcements

Ladies and Gentlemen, Academics, Students, Doctoral Students, and Employees of the University of Silesia,

We are entering the third year of the current term marked by a series of bumps in the road that have brought about the kind of challenges we as an academic community have never faced before. Law 2.0 was a kind of prologue of this new university reality, and its consequence, i.e. the organisational reform of our University — a serious, complex, multi-faceted reform, which aim was to create the best possible conditions for dynamic development of scientific research and high quality of education provided by the University. Adapting to and properly utilising such comprehensive changes took time as well as many discussions and amendments to eliminate the unwanted effects of the reform. And at the same time, it has been a period of tremendous effort put into achieving the best possible outcome of the evaluation of the quality of the scientific activity.

This time was taken from us by the COVID-19 pandemic, which suspended the activity of an otherwise living entity that is the University and forced us into emergency mode, requiring us to distance, separate and isolate each other. Nevertheless, thanks to our joint determination, we have maintained continuity in education and research, which has proven to be effective, as evidenced by the high evaluation results of our University. I would like to sincerely thank you for that.

At the beginning of the passing academic year, when we were returning back inside the walls of the university with uncertain joy, none of us could have predicted that four months later Russia’s war with Ukraine would begin. From 24 February onwards, the University again showed itself to be a place and a community unknown to us previously; it turned out to be much more. We became a centre for refugee aid, a coordinator for medicine and food collections for the victims of war, a job placement office, a language school for refugees, and a health care intermediary. It is still taking place, and makes us — I presume — happy and proud in being a community equipped with material and spiritual strengths that empower us to act in solidarity with the victims of this terrible aggression.

And so, in the lingering darkness of war, the new academic year 2022/2023 approaches. We are now certain that our new worry will be the inflation and energy crisis. It will affect the economic conditions of every member of our community and will require special attention and prudence in the University’s finance spending so that its full day-to-day functioning is not compromised.

Witnessing the bravery and the administrative effectiveness of our University fills me with cautious optimism and prompts me to listen especially carefully to the discreet voice of the University, which reveals to us its wisdom, strength and resilience, revealed in these three difficult years.

There I hear:

– that by changing the university structure and working on the new concept of studies we allow ourselves to be bold and daring in creating our vision of the University. Now, rather than just conforming to the regulations, let us create our original creation to serve our research and teaching work;

– that science and education train us in the invaluable art of persistent conversation, which sparks mutual curiosity, trust, and cooperation. And the closely-knit diversity creates the best environment for ingenuity to flourish, and for new works and ideas to emerge. The busy and productive dialogue between the seven public universities of Katowice gave the city the title of European City of Science 2024; established the City of Science Consortium; opened the way for unforeseen weaving of thought and work within the communities of our universities; led to the first joint inauguration of the year of these seven universities in the history of Silesian academia [broadcast at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Ra0ivFhPY; commemorative publication available at https://us.edu.pl/en/inauguracja-roku-akademickiego-publikacja-o-miescie-nauki/];

– that the future of our University will be decided on the soil where our premises are situated; through a strong link connecting science and education with the needs and problems, which we share as scientists, students, doctoral students, and residents of the communities in which we live here together. Science and education should listen to the life surrounding it. Silesia, its industrial and natural history and its local and simultaneously universal problems, are as much a challenge for us as a duty to fulfil. How important they are shown the research trip on the Oder river undertaken by our scientists to collect invaluable evidence on the quality of waters in the river before the catastrophe had taken place. In a similar way, the University’s evocative speech directed us towards Rawa – the river/non-river – which we intend to turn into a living proof that science can redeem its industrial, destructive faults of the past. The Rawa riverside will become a space for recreational activities and scientific laboratories. But first and foremost a place showcasing the presence of science in public space, where we will create suitable conditions for everyone to ask any question requiring specific scientific knowledge without a sense of fear and embarrassment (for a few days now, we have been inviting everyone to join us in the prototyping the area of the campus in Katowice, and from 3 October to take part in a discussion on the future of the Rawa river).

– that good learning and education is not done out of fear; that there is too much anxiety and insecurity in the university. The road to the ideal work of a scholar and a student is paved with passion and joy of learning; they come first, and with them must come the sense of responsibility – for the development of students; for taking up ambitious research problems; for publishing research results in prestigious publishing houses; for building the authority of science and education in public space; for reliable work performance. Consequently, the burning task of all those who manage the university together with the rector is to build conditions and an atmosphere that trigger the joy and dignity of knowledge; energy and commitment in our work.

– that in the face of the crisis of democratic institutions, the wave of populism, propaganda and public lies, and the scandalous attitudes of many influential public life participants, a university can teach what a good state is. In our University, the community of over 20,000 abides by the law created democratically by its representatives in the senate; makes decisions collectively; elects the rector in democratic procedures; establishes and runs self-governing organisations; creates cooperation agreements and alliances with many external entities; takes care of the purposeful, legal and transparent spending of a budget of several hundred million; “When making decisions concerning its members, takes into account their actual achievements, deems unacceptable any forms of unequal treatment and direct or indirect discrimination, in particular on the grounds of sex, age, disability, race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, trade union affiliation, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation”.

In addition to education confirmed by a diploma, this is the greatest gift that the university gives to its students, but also to the entire community.

This is the speech that the University of Silesia suggests to me in the first days of the new academic year 2022/2023. May this year be good, happy and prosperous for all of us.

Ryszard Koziołek
Rector of the University of Silesia

Rektorat Uniwersytetu Śląskiego/Rectorate of the University of Silesia

Rectorate of the University of Silesia | Photo by Julia Agnieszka Szymala

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