The speech of the TEU Rector, dr hab. Anna Siewierska-Chmaj associate professor during the Inauguration of the Academic Year 2019/2020

Ladies and Gentelmen! Distinguished Guests, Dear Students and Colleagues!

I have the great honor and pleasure to welcome you to the 17th Inauguration of the Academic Year at Tischner European University in Krakow.

Last year was a time of hard work for universities in Poland - implementation of the University 2.0 Act and implementation of the Constitution for Science required from us not only a huge organizational effort, but also tons of patience. A sense of humor has come in handy to save us in the moments when we had to face the nonsense of the unexpectedly growing bureaucracy. We went through this period not without wailing and gnashing our teeth, but strengthened as a team, which I already consider to be a huge success and most probably unforeseen by the Ministry - bonus. Therefore with even greater joy and hope we look forward to the new academic year that promises to be extremely interesting:

- We have almost 600 new students, of which almost half study full-time. In total, we have already over 1360 students attending full-time and part-time courses and from this year also part-time evening classes.

- Nearly 400 students start post-graduate studies in several fields, including, for the first time - Home Design, Psychology of interpersonal competence development, and Mediation and negotiations with elements of psychology.

- We implement a total of 11 projects, for a total amount of over 13 million PLN, and under the largest of them "TEU = University 2.0", we raise the qualifications and professional competences of both our students and employees.

- We are also starting a completely new initiative - the Young Student University, that will be attended by almost 100 school children and youth

- We are opening two new courses: Game Design and dual studies Strategic management - Business analytics. Both courses implemented in cooperation with business.

- We have added two new subjects to the study program: Fundamentals of critical thinking and Anti-discrimination Workshops, because the mission of the European University is not only to pass knowledge and skills, but also to shape courageously thinking citizens who are aware of their rights and responsibilities. Please remember that within the University's walls there is a place for everyone - regardless of their beliefs, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. For everyone who can be "beautifully different".

All these changes have made us proud but at the same time appear as a huge challenge. However, I have no doubt that we will be able to successfully manage them all with such an excellent teaching staff and such a great administrative team.

Let me now address our 1st year students.

My dear!

The majority of you were born in the landmark, symbolic year 2000 - at the beginning of the new Millennium. It was an interesting time for Poland and the world - Krakow was put in the Guinness Worold Records Book thanks to the performance of Mariacki Hejnal (bugle call) by 2,000 trumpet players, the inhabitants of the Market still remember this event with mixed feelings; MTV Polska began broadcasting; the first episode of the series "M-jak miłość" was broadcast.

The world's population reached 6 billion people; Tarja Halonen was the first woman to win the presidential election in Finland; Vladimir Putin won the presidential election in Russia; the bridge over the Sund was opened, connecting Sweden and Denmark and Britney Spears hit the top the record charts with the song under the ambiguous title "Oops! .. I Did It Again".

But all this was of little importance to you (well, unless you lived at the Krakow Market Square at that time). More important was and is that you were born in a free, democratic country that was incorporated into NATO structures the year before. At the age of four, you probably celebrated, together with your parents, Poland's accession to the European Union. Maybe you even have a picture with a blue balloon with 12 gold stars from that period - hundreds of thousands were distributed then.

You were born free, in a free, democratic and safe country, which is why today liberal democracy, the European Union and world peace appear to you as obvious and natural as clean air and open access to the Internet. For someone from my generation, a generation born in the times of People's Republic of Poland, the Cold War and black and white television - that's great! And at the same time - it is deeply worrying, because those obvious things we take for granted and we neither notice nor respect them. 

And maybe that's the reason why nowadays your generation chooses safety, often even illusory, instead of freedom. Please forgive me if it sounds too pathetic in your ears, but the situation provokes sincerity and our Patron, Father Professor Józef Tischner, explains and justifies my tone. I have a request and a tip for you at the same time: choose freedom, even when security seems to be an easier choice. Choose freedom as long as you can make choices. And I'm not talking about politics, or at least not only about politics. I am talking about life in all its richness and diversity.

We live in interesting times, which can be a curse. It may be but doesn't have to be. We live in a time when those who manage our fear win. And everyone tries to intimidate us - with ecological disaster, artificial intelligence, superbacteria. They threaten us with refugees, LGBTQ and World War III. And the more we are afraid, the easier it is to manipulate us: to lock us in "information bubbles", to provide simple and final solutions, to infect with all kinds of radicalism.

There are currently over 7.5 billion people in the world. That's 7.5 billion problems, rubbish and bad emotions. There is a lot to fight with, there is a lot to defend against and to run away from. The thing is that fighting, building high walls and escaping are never good solutions. And they are certainly not long term solutions. So don't make decisions out of fear and hatred. Make decisions with love, a sense of responsibility and empathy. And remember - the effect of scale works both ways - many can hate, destroy and kill, but many can also love, repair and plant a tree. The world is only the way we create it, that's why proper education is the foundation not only of our development, but also of survival.

My dear! There is a long way ahead of you. I deeply believe that you can make it better! We will do our best to help you with this. On this day important for you and for the entire academic community, myself and on behalf of the entire staff of Tischner European University I wish you courage in thinking, perseverance in action and prudence in making decisions. Let the years spent within the University's walls be a great intellectual adventure. 

Good luck!