Echoes of the 1930s
The aggressive attack on the Central European University (CEU) at Budapest by the Hungarian government concerns us all. It is a transparent attempt to pervert democracy in an EU country. All Europeans and all academics should support President, Michael Ignatieff, and his colleagues.
Having twice taught at CEU, I can attest not only to its high international standards, but above all to the opportunities the university has given to thousands of students from all parts of the old Eastern bloc. It is little short of a miracle.
This is a tragedy and, without exaggeration, is disturbingly a step towards rolling back the clock to the 1930s, and implicitly the horrors of those times.
Below, a letter from CEU.
Dear Friends, Today, Hungarian media outlet Figyelo carried an article listing a few hundred people including members of the CEU community, who 'may' be on the list of so-called "Soros mercenaries." The publication of such a list is contemptible. CEU issued a press statement condemning this. This is a flagrant attempt at intimidation that is dangerous for academic freedom and therefore for all of Hungarian academic life. Any academic associated with CEU is a distinguished scholar who has earned an appointment at the university through peer-reviewed publications and a strong teaching reputation. CEU also finds it unacceptable that those who work for an organization supported by George Soros would be called ‘mercenaries.’ In CEU’s case, as we have said, the university administration answers to a 21-member Board of Trustees, not to our founder, George Soros. CEU is proud of its association with each of its founders—among them academics, public servants, and civic-minded leaders, including then-president of Hungary Arpad Goncz; Czech president Vaclav Havel; and Polish historian and finance minister Bronislaw Geremek—and their shared vision for a graduate university to provide future leaders with an education based on critical thinking, open debate, and academic inquiry. CEU also condemns the attempt at intimidation of NGOs, which in a democracy carry out the important work of analysis, awareness-raising and advocacy of societal issues and development of solutions that serve the greater good. Despite such attempts at intimidation, we remain committed to our educational mission and determined to stay in Budapest, on the basis of the agreement negotiated last year by the Government of Hungary and the State of New York. CEU calls on the Prime Minister to sign this agreement without further delay and in doing so to create a climate in which academic freedom and scientific research can flourish in Hungary. Best regards,
Michael Ignatieff President and Rector