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Medical University Apologise For ‘Xenophobic’ Letter

A spokesperson for Wrocław's Medical University has apologised for the letter its Vice-Rector had sent out to staff regarding the special monitoring of foreign students.

The letter, which was leaked by Gazeta Wyborcza yesterday, asked University staff to apply restrictions on the use of chemicals to all foreign students – "particularly those of Nigerian and Arab origin".

The letter went on to explain that the new policy was being introduced in order to prevent the students from getting access to potential bomb making materials. There was no suggestion at all in the letter that the restrictions should also apply to Polish students.

Paula Sawicka of the 'Open Republic' organisation described the policy as "open discrimination". Maciej Mandelt from the Nomada association said the letter is "scandalous" and added that it is "adopting a strategy of fear management and may result in increased aggression towards foreigners."

The letter has enraged the Medical University's foreign students, most of whom learned about it via Wrocław Uncut. Since our article on the letter was published yesterday afternoon, over 5,000 people have flocked to wroclawuncut.com – more than ever before in a 24 hour period.

After the letter was leaked yesterday, Wrocław Medical University spokesperson Monika Maziak stressed that all students are "always monitored in laboratories".

She also claimed that the policy was justified as "There are growing tensions in Nigeria and the Arab countries. We would rather anticipate incidents and act preventively so as to minimize the damage. Therefore those conducting classes with students from other countries have received a reminder about the need for special precautions."

However earlier today in an interview broadcast live on TVN24, Maziak's words appeared to be more apologetic:

"It [the letter] should not have been sent. It should not have been sent to any of the faculties, let alone the faculty where the students from foreign countries study."

Maziak also made it clear during the interview that she would apologise directly to the foreign students of the University for the letter.

Nevertheless, she also seemed to come to the defence of the letter's author:

"The letter was immediately perceived as having a narrative of xenophobic and racist attitudes. This is completely wrong, although I do realise that it was written in such a manner that one could legitimately think this way."

The Medical University spokesperson also sought to emphasise that the University's policy does indeed apply to all its students:

"It's important to distinguish two elements: the procedure and the letter. The Deans of all faculties, including those where only Polish students study in Polish, were asked to comply with the procedures." 

When asked "why the procedures are being introduced", Maziak had the following to say:

"For increased vigilance over student access to drugs and potentially hazardous substances. Such procedures are being implemented at the University because the authorities are watching the escalation of tension both in the country and abroad. We are responsible for the students and for the places where we allow them access."

The news that the policy applies to all Medical University students should hopefully help the foreign students feel as though they are not being discriminated against. 

Even so, the University's 'apology' on TVN24 earlier today did not seem entirely unreserved. Maziak's reference to tensions "at home and abroad" seem to strangely differ somewhat from her statement yesterday, when she referred exclusively to "growing tensions in Nigeria and the Arab countries".

Foreign students are an absolutely vital income stream for the Wrocław's Medical University, and it's now up to their hierarchy to ensure that all their students feel equally welcome and treated.

Gregor Gowans

The founder and editor of Wroclaw Uncut, Gregor has been running the website since its inception in 2012. A Wroclawian for almost 10 years, Gregor writes on a wide variety of topics including, food & drink, nightlife, local news and politics. He is also a regular guest on Radio Ram's Sunday lunch programme.

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