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Modernist dormitory Jowita will be saved - thanks to students and new ministry

22 of December '23

Rising housing and rental prices are causing mobilization among female students. After ten days of occupation, they succeeded in defending the modernist Jowita dormitory in downtown Poznań, which was slated for liquidation. Finances to maintain the dormitory's function were provided by the new Minister of Science and Higher Education.

We wrote about the case of the modernist Jowita dormitory in April of this year. At the time, students were fighting to preserve the nearly sixty-year-old dormitory, which was planned for sale by the Adam Mickiewicz University (UAM). There was also unofficial talk of demolishing the building, which had become a permanent part of the city's space at the Kaponiera traffic circle. However, the students were not primarily concerned with the architecture, but with the student house itself. They stressed that the liquidation of Jowita in the downtown area was, first, another step on the way to weakening academic life in the inner city (UAM has moved a sizable portion of its departments to the peripheral campus in Morasko), and second, the elimination of affordable rooms.

foggy and stormy

Representatives of the university, on the other hand, reported that the dilapidated building needed a general renovation and adjustment to today's regulations, and that there was no money for such an operation. They also pointed enigmatically to problems with the ownership of the land next to the dormitory, although they were unable to explain clearly what these problems are and what their consequences are. At the same time, Professor Bogumiła Kaniewska, rector of UAM, emphasized that the replacement for Jowita are the dormitories built this year at the university's Morasko campus(we showed them in September). It was reported that with the money from the sale of Jowita, UAM will build more student dormitories.

Tytuł zdjęcia: Dom Studencki Jowita, Poznań (proj. Witold Milewski, Zygmunt Skupniewicz, realizacja: 1965)

Photo title: Jowita Student House, Poznań (designed by Witold Milewski, Zygmunt Skupniewicz, construction: 1965) - entrance to the canteen pavilion from Zwierzyniecka Street

photo: Jakub Glaz

The spring protest and the students' discussion with the university authorities were tumultuous, because the university was unable to communicate its intentions in a transparent and partnership manner, and members of the Student Housing Initiative and the organizations supporting it were too aggressive in scoring UAM's actions. We also wrote about the whole situation in detail in an April text, pointing out that it was, however, the university, which is rich in sociologists, urban planning specialists and lawyers, that should have adequately prepared the ground for a substantive discussion.

Czarnek refuses twice

In the fall, as announced, the dormitory began to be "extinguished," and the university planned a full "shutdown" on January 1, 2024. The aforementioned DS Meteor in Morasko was also opened (we showed it in October). The students, however, did not fold their arms. After waiting six months for a response from university authorities and further talks, they decided to occupy the building. Since December 8, students from Poznan and several other Polish cities have occupied the rooms of the lower floors, including conference rooms, studied there, took part in meetings and discussions and spent the nights. They demanded that the function of the dormitory be maintained in its old location, as well as, among other things, student canteens and the provision of social rooms at individual faculties for the preparation and heating of meals, for example. They pointed to the increasingly worsening material situation of students related, among other things, to soaring rental prices for apartments on the open market.

Tytuł zdjęcia: Dom Studencki Jowita, Poznań (proj. Witold Milewski, Zygmunt Skupniewicz, realizacja: 1965)

Photo title: Jowita Student House, Poznań (designed by Witold Milewski, Zygmunt Skupniewicz, construction: 1965) - main entrance from the Kaponiera traffic circle

photo: Jakub Głaz

The Poznan action echoed in the country, with esteemed publicists such as Adam Leszczynski coming to Jowita for lectures and debates, and the esteemed Poznan Polish and literary scholar, Prof. Przemyslaw Czaplinski, also expressed his support. After two days of occupation, the rector, having returned from her trip, invited students to the rector's office and declared that the sale of the dormitory was on hold until the end of her term. She also informed that UAM had twice asked the Ministry of Education and Science, led by Przemyslaw Chernak, for finances to thoroughly renovate the dormitory. To no avail.

Wieczorek saves the situation

The protesters, however, demanded a visit from the university authorities to Jovita and did not leave the dormitory. The exchange of information therefore took place by correspondence. Finally, Dariusz Wieczorek, the newly appointed head of the new Ministry of Science and Higher Education, visited Jowita on Thursday, December 14 . He announced that his ministry would finance the renovation, estimated to cost 100 million zlotys. Following this declaration, the students decided to end the occupation and - after cleaning the occupied rooms - left Jowita on Sunday, December 17.

In doing so, they staged a demonstration in front of the dormitory. They called for the dorm's conference rooms to henceforth serve permanently as a center for student initiatives, a place for debates, meetings and workshops, which would be coordinated by the Student Housing Initiative. Slogans resonating with the situation also rang out about how "a university is not a corporation." The protesters also encouraged students in other cities to take similarly radical action, because - as Jowita's case proved - only then will the university and political decision-makers begin to take the students' demands seriously. They also recalled that - although the UAM authorities did not forcibly expel them from their dormitory, they tried to make the occupation more difficult (e.g., by closing the bathrooms).

Rector Kaniewska countered in the letter that at the moment, "for security reasons," it is impossible to use even the conference rooms. She announced, however, that after the renovation

a place will be created in the building for the activation of the student community - including those affiliated with trade unions operating at UAM - once an appropriate legal framework has been created.

think before renovating

So for now, the situation seems to be under control, although there should be a solidly prepared substantive debate and workshop on Jowita before the renovation. This is in order to determine the future framework for the operation of the student house, the amount of fees for the rooms, as well as to consider how to develop the space around the dormitory.

Tytuł zdjęcia: Dom Studencki Jowita, Poznań (proj. Witold Milewski, Zygmunt Skupniewicz, realizacja: 1965)

Photo title: Jowita Student House, Poznań (designed by Witold Milewski, Zygmunt Skupniewicz, construction: 1965) - view from Kaponiera traffic circle, left: Bałtyk office building

photo: Jakub Głaz

This is because its surroundings have changed a lot in the last decade. Next door, right at the Kaponiera traffic circle, the distinctive Bałtyk office building(designed by MVRDV) sprouted up in 2017, and an attractive courtyard in the form of a pedestrian walkway was created between it and the renovated Concordia printing house (now an office and conference center). It would be nice if the space between Jowita and Concordia had a similar quality in the future.


DS "Jowita" on Zwierzyniecka Street in Poznań - View of Jowita and Zwierzyniecka Street from the walkway between the former printing house (pictured) and the Bałtyk office building

photo:Jakub Glaz

Finally, on the sidelines of the Poznan events, Minister Wieczorek announced that his ministry intends to work on amending the law on subsidizing communal buildings and socialhousing, so that government subsidies will also cover the creation of new dormitories. He hastened the announcement of these intentions in the face of an appeal by the occupiers of Jowita, who also called for the provision of dormitory places to at least ten percent of the students at each state university.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast