NICOLAUS COPERNICUS UNIVERSITY IN TORUN AT THE TIME OF THE 'FIRST SOLIDARITY' (1980-1981)
At the time when 'Solidarity' was emerging along the Baltic coast, the Nicolaus Copernicus University (UMK) was a relatively small institution which, however, due to its scientific and social status, played an important opinion-creating role. The views expressed by the University always took on special importance at the time of political breakthroughs. The first 'Solidarity' cell at the UMK was set up on 1 September 1980 in the Technical-Storage Base, and registered itself in 'Towimor' as the fourteenth union organisation. 'Towimor', an enterprise connected with the ship-building industry, played a leading role in shaping the new union movement in the region of Torun. Another source of inspiration proved to be the local Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP) organisation together with its first secretary, Zbigniew Iwanow. The Party organisation at the University also proposed assorted pro–reform concepts for which it was to pay a high price in the near future. Soon, the first 'Solidarity' cell at the UMK was followed by successive rungs of the new union. The engineering-technical workers were the quickest to join, while the scientific and teaching staff declared its access with a certain delay, probably caused by the summer vacation season. A Provisional Presidium of the 'Solidarity' trade union was set up on 18 September, with Prof. Juliusz Narebski as chairman. From 15 October 'Solidarity' representatives were included into the Senate and department boards. Under Rector Prof. Ryszard Bohr and his successor - Prof. Stanislaw Dembinski, the University authorities remained extremely supportive of all 'Solidarity' initiatives. Torun University became a significant centre of political life. Resourceful activity was conducted not only by 'Solidarity' structures or the PUWP, but also involved other social and political organisations and the youth movement. Statutory collegiate bodies and the administrative authorities also did not remain passive. Sessions of the Senate and the department councils conducted lively discussions, and passed numerous resolutions. The largest lecture halls and the UMK auditorium became the sites of lectures on heretofore carefully avoided topics, with polemics and debates were conducted by leading representatives of the democratic opposition. One of the unquestionably most relevant of the multiple initiatives and undertakings of the academic milieu was a postulate calling for the quickest possible democratisation of higher learning in Poland. This question was closely connected with a pertinent new statute. Other noteworthy themes included mutual relations between the newly established Independent Union of Students and the University authorities and staff, which throughout the whole period under examination remained, as a rule, proper. A certain clash was caused by divergent opinions about the long-term occupation strike organised by the students of Torun at the turn of November 1981. The ambitious plans and projects of the Torun academic environment were dashed by the martial law period.
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