24 December 2021

An Open Letter to Academics and Civil Servants

I write this letter to draw your attention to an extreme case of professional misconduct and discrimination from Dr. Anna Zalcewicz, dean of the Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences at the Polytechnic Warszawska/Warsaw University of Technology (WUT). The writing of this letter is prompted by the exhaustion of all other local options, as seen by the research team (P.I. Dr. Frank Zenker, Postdoc Dr. Michał Sikorski, Postdoc Dr. Dilectiss Liu) and my lawyer adw. Mateusz Radomyski from Kancelaria Prawna Capital Legal. This step is just short of escalating the issue to the ECHR. So I hope that a good and just outcome would result from the letter without having to take the step towards causing collateral damage (I would like to point out that the issue is not with the WUT at large, and that there are many able people at the university who have worked hard for many years towards the internationalisation of the WUT).

My name is Dilectiss Liu, an Australian citizen who currently lives in Warsaw. I’m currently unemployed and sitting in a legally, financially, and professionally perilous situation due to actively uncooperative and discriminatory actions from the dean Anna Zalcewicz.

The story goes back to late September, when I accepted a postdoctoral research position at the WUT, under the NCN project 2019/35/B/HS1/03281 “Theory Construction in the Empirical Social and Behavioral Sciences” (TESBS). The post was offered for a period of 21 months. The agreed starting date for the post was November 2021 (although in the call, the post would ideally start in October).

After having accepted the post for good professional and personal reasons, it turned out that neither conditions would be met – I would be hired neither in November nor on a 21 months contract.

The latter was due to the administrative decision to hire me for an initial period of until the 25th of June 2022. This was because the project had a hard ending date on the 25th of June 2022. But since a one-year extension was to be granted by the NCN, the total period for the research post would be 21 months. This seems OK, but the fact that my initial contract is to be drafted for a period of less than 12 months (barring me from applying for the EU blue card) amplifies the dire situation into which the dean Anna Zalcewicz has put me. Moreover, the hurdle of not being able to start my work in November has turned into a legal and professional red tape that is negatively affecting not only me, but the entire research team, forcing us to now consider relocating the project elsewhere.

The initial problem: I was informed by the administration that I must wait for around four months for a work permit.

This came as a surprise to me, since according to Polish regulations on immigration, as agreed upon by our lawyer, who specialised in immigration and labour law, a researcher working at a public institution in Poland (https://edziennik.mswia.gov.pl/DUM_MSWIA/2020/34/akt.pdf) can work on the basis of the Residence Permit for the Purposes of Scientific Research, which exempts one from having to have a work permit (https://www.euraxess.pl/poland/information-assistance/entry-conditions/information-citizens-third-countries/residence-permit). So I sent citations and asked that my contract be drafted, so that I could apply for the residence permit after signing my contract.

The administration has informed us that the reason I cannot apply for the aforementioned residence permit was due to the fact that my contract type is not in the category of an ‘academic’, but in the category of a ‘professional’ (such as technician, janitor etc.), despite the fact that the name of my job is that of a ‘researcher’. The administration offered to ask the dean Anna Zalcewicz to change the category of my contract so that I could be hired as an academic researcher, since this decision rests in the hands of the dean alone.

On the 18th of October, Anna Zalcewicz, via her secretary, invites Frank Zenker to her office in person 19th at 12 p.m. Frank was not in Warsaw, since he had professional duties elsewhere. So he created an online meeting, inviting the dean and the research team to participate. However, Anna Zalcewicz refused to show up. Afterwards, to our shock and again via her secretary, the dean has told Frank that he has failed to show, and asked Frank whether he would like to hire me, so that they may initiate the procedure of applying for my work permit. It should be noted that we have submitted the documents addressed to the university requesting my employment in late September.

At the online meeting between the researchers on the 18th of October, I learned that the initial call offered to Michał Sikorski at the beginning of 2021 was indeed that of an academic research position. However, following a faculty meeting that voted to reject employing the PI's postdocs, the dean had decided on her own to change the contract category to that of a professional, without any discussion with our P.I. Frank Zenker, and later ignored Frank’s objections to this decision. (There are details of power differences for the two contract categories, but the relevant one is that a ‘professional’ as opposed to an ‘academic’, has no power to vote on the dean’s position.)

Given that the dean has repeatedly ignored our emails and pleas, the research team decided to hire a lawyer for legal advice. On the 21st of October, our lawyer Mateusz Radomyski has accepted our case. In the meantime, I had also written a report addressed to the NCN, on behalf of the research team, detailing the communication regarding my employment and issues encountered. The report is linked here (https://www.dropbox.com/s/we25b4v1e1w7tm1/NCN report 10:2021_log_con.pdf?dl=0).

Our lawyer has since written a letter to the dean and the administration, detailing the problems at hand, reiterating my right to a work permit for scientific research, and demanding that my contact be immediately drafted. However, that letter has been ignored completely up till this point. Our lawyer has also made phone calls to the dean and the administration on our behalf but he has reported a complete refusal to communicate.

In the past two months, we have seen a gradual shift in attitude from the dean – from a refusal to directly communicate with our P.I. Frank Zenker to emails that amounted to threats of removing Frank from his professorial post on the grounds that he is failing to appear on her short (one-day) notices, and unreasonable demands on both Frank and Michał for NCN reports on which the dean has no authority.

The baseline is: I cannot afford to wait for four months for a work permit, and the dean knows this. Since my previous residence permit expired at the end of October, I am currently staying on a 90-day visa-free basis. My own solution to this is to visit Ukraine at the end of December, and stay there on a separate 90-day basis till the administration has my contract ready. Of course, the current situation with the pandemic might make border crossings difficult even if I’ve been vaccinated, not to mention the further costs incurred on me. However, another issue is that I might not be hired at all due to regulations (according to the administration) that a foreigner must sign a contract that’s at least for four months. (Currently the NCN has yet to officially approve our request, submitted in early December, to extend the project period so that my contract can last for 21 months). In the light of this it appears that the dean does not want me employed at all. On top of that, she has been completely silent on us since the lawyer’s letter in early November. This has led to a build up of pressure on me, with significant investment of all kinds of resources towards settling in and working here, both from me and from the research team. Unfortunately, both Frank and Michał have also been negatively implicated by the dean’s actions. Currently, my mental and physical states are deteriorating despite my best efforts to stay hopeful, which explains why I am pushed to write this letter.

Currently, the rector and the vice rector of research have also been informed of the issue, by both our principle investigator and by the lawyer. We have been informed that the rector wishes to discuss the matter with the faculty dean first. We have not heard back since. We can only hope that the dean would at last act in a professional way to see to it that I am employed, as initially promised. My next steps is to apply to the ECHR in hope of finding justice, given the blatant discrimination I (and Frank) have experienced from the dean as foreigners, and the damages done to my career and personal wellbeing via unlawful and unprofessional acts on part of the dean.

Our P.I. Frank Zenker has sought for relocating the project to AMU Poznan, and both the NCN and the AMU faculty has provided what support they could, which we dearly appreciate. Although ultimately, this isn’t ideal, due to the extra administrative hurdles that the research team would undergo. However, both Frank Zenker and Michał Sikorski no longer wishes to stay at the WUT due to the oppressive power abuse they have also experienced from the dean Anna Zalcewicz.

Our lawyer has also written to the ministry of education. However, all of us agrees that this is a last-ditch effort that would likely yield no result. Given the ministry’s record under the current Polish administration, they appear to be highly anti-international. Moreover, it would likely take at least six-month for them to even take up my case, let alone solve it.

Since the issue is a direct consequence of the dean’s actions (of singlehandedly changing the contract category of the postdocs under the P.I. Frank Zenker); given that the dean has the sole practical power of rectifying the issue but refuses to do so, after several attempts at communication from both the research team and my lawyer; given the oppressive power abuse towards the currently hired members of the research team (and as far as I know, other foreigners employed at the faculty); and given the actions of the dean which are contradictory to the general direction of internationalisation at the WUT: I am calling for the resignation of Dr. Anna Zalcewicz – the current dean at the faculty of administration and social sciences at the WUT.

Thank you for taking your time to read through this painstakingly written letter, and the events which I have absolutely no desire to recount. And thank you for any support you might be able to offer.

Dilectiss Liu
24 December 2021, Warsaw

P.S. There are various further governmental links to the official Polish regulations, which are mostly provided in the report linked above. For logs on the communication between the administration at WUT and the research team, please also refer to the report. If you would like to read the lawyer’s letter (in Polish), please send me a personal request: dilectiss.liu@pm.me

Update 06 March 2022

Update 6 Mar 2022

Dear signees,

Thanks to your support, the rector had stepped in and helped us to deliver my contract for the position of 'adiunk' (equiv. lecturer/assistant professor) starting on the 1st of February. I am thus employed. The administration has since been mostly cooperative and helpful.

The only remaining issues are 1. the settling of my residence permit and 2. to have my promised hiring period of 21 months fulfilled given that the NCN funding for my employment is for 21 months, but the contract must end on the 25th of June 2023 (since I was hired later than planned). We will update you on this matter when we have an answer.

41 verified
  1. Silvia Caprioglio Panizza, Researcher, University of Pardubice, Pardubice
  2. Philipp Haueis, Assistant Professor, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld
  3. Mich Ciurria, Instructor, UMSL, St. Louis
  4. Krystian Bogucki, PhD Student, University of Warsaw, Warszawa
  5. Gregor Bös, PhD Student, King's College London, London
  6. Marta Kozłowska, Researcher, Technische Universität Dresden, Drezno
  7. Marta Gmurek, Associate Professor, Lodz University of Technology, Łódź
  8. Tomasz Zyglewicz, PhD Student, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York
  9. Maciej Tarnowski, PhD student, University of Warsaw, Warsaw
  10. Jakub Szymanik, Associate professor, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  11. Fabien Capeilleres, Maître de conférences, Université de caen, Paris
  12. Maciej Juzaszek, Assistant Professor, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
  13. Raymond Brassier, Professor, American University of Beirut
  14. Sorin Baiasu, Professor of Philosophy, Keele University, Keele
  15. Joanna K. Malinowska, Assistant Professor, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań
  16. Bartosz Janik, Adjunct Professor, University of Silesia in Katowice, Katowice
  17. Bartosz Kaluziński, Assistant Professor, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań
  18. Irene Olivero, Research fellow, Polytechnic University of Milan, Milan
  19. Mario Günther, Assistant Professor, LMU Munich, Munich
  20. Jan Forsman, Researcher, Tampere University, Tampere
  21. Bernhard Geißler, University Assistant, University of Graz, Graz
  22. Luis Rosa, Assistant Professor, University of Cologne, Cologne
  23. Colin R. Caret, Assistant Professor, Utrecht University, Utrecht
  24. Vladimir Krstic, Assistant professor, Nazarbayev University, Nur-Sultan
  25. Siegfried Van Duffel, Associate Professor, Char, Nazarbayev University, Rekem
  26. Sahotra Sarkar, Professor, University of Texas, Austin
  27. Dominic Kelly, Philosopher, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester
  28. Hannes Leitgeb, Professor, LMU, Munich
  29. Tomasz Steifer, mathematician, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Providencia, Santiago
  30. Julien Murzi, Associate Professor, University of Salzburg, Salzburg
  31. Wojciech Henryk Sady, philosopher, Uniwersytet Śląski, Kkarów
  32. Paweł Jarnicki, Poland, Warsaw University of Technology, Wrocław
  33. Paula Quinon, Research Assistant Professor, Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw
  34. anonymous, self employed
  35. Thomas Sattig, Professor, University of Tübingen, Tübingen
  36. Michał Sikorski, Postdoc, Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw
  37. Liliana Pohoriliak, Student, Catholic University Ružomberok, Ružomberok
  38. Klaus Corcilius, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Tübingen
  39. Denys ZHDANOV, Senior Lecturer, Piano Department, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Graz, Graz
  40. Elina Akselrud, Research Assistant; Dr.Artium Candidate, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Graz
  41. Asya Achimova, Postdoc, University of Tübingen, Tübingen
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