Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago (AFT/AAUP) stand in solidarity with the staff, students, and faculty of Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary, against efforts by the Fidesz government to close the university.
One of foremost universities in Hungary and central and east Europe, CEU is at significant risk of forced closure by the Hungarian government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. PM Orbán’s campaign poses a significant threat to academic freedom, freedom of association, and all forms of opposition to the ruling Fidesz government. The Hungarian government has proposed, and as of 10 April 2017, signed into law amendments to the National Higher Education Law (Act CCIV of 2011) that would make it impossible for Central European University to continue operations in Hungary, jeopardizing the economic and academic livelihoods of over one thousand CEU graduate students as well as hundreds of staff and faculty. These amendments endanger the independence necessary for CEU’s continued operation in Budapest, and further threaten national institutions of higher learning throughout Hungary.
While the Orbán government has stated that these amendments affect all international universities in Hungary, debate within Parliament on 4 April 2017 made it abundantly clear that the staff, students, and faculty of CEU are its primary targets, especially those students and faculty working in the Department of Gender Studies. And despite protests across Hungary drawing over 70 000 demonstrators in support of CEU, the Hungarian government has stated that these protests have failed to draw a “critical mass” and have ignored their demands.
In its 25 years of operation, CEU has established itself as a university with a global reputation for excellence in teaching and research in the social sciences and humanities and acts as an important part of the academic life of Hungary on the whole. Its student body comes from 117 countries and its faculty from 40. CEU is accredited by the US Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), and its masters and doctoral programs are registered by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Its programs are accredited and certified by the appropriate Hungarian authorities.
In the past three weeks, tens of thousands of statements of support for the staff, students, and faculty of CEU have shown and will continue to show the Hungarian government that these attacks will not go unnoticed. They remain our best way to pressure PM Orbán to withdraw these amendments and participate in a direct dialogue with the university. Therefore, we, the members of Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago (AFT/AAUP) would like to clearly state our solidarity with our colleagues at CEU.