History PhD student, Alexandra Medzibrodszky joins delegation to D.C.
A delegation from CEU traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to raise awareness among lawmakers and the public of the amendments to the Hungarian Higher Education Act and the grievous consequences for CEU, a world-class American-Hungarian institution. The delegation included Éva Fodor, Pro-Rector for the Social Sciences and Humanities, PhD History Student Alexandra Medzibrodszky and MA in Public Policy student, Daniel Berg. The main aim of our visit was to emphasize the urgency and the gravity of the situation regarding CEU and to urge U.S. officials to engage with the Hungarian government on the issue. We highlighted that the university administration will soon have to decide about the future of the institution, and it is the last chance for urgent statements and actions. We expressed our deep gratitude for the support we have received so far, but we have also conveyed the message that we need help more than ever.
The delegation also talked about the personal impact of the new legislation – how hard it is to focus on research and teaching when the future of our university in Budapest is under threat. We pointed out that the life of the CEU community has been severely disrupted since the end of March, and none of us could live the life of a regular professor, student or staff member in the past weeks. As students, we should be sitting in the CEU Library and writing our theses or dissertations – not spending most of our time with demonstrations and interviews.
The delegation highlighted that the amendments to the Higher Education Act are discriminative towards American institutions and harm American values and interests. If CEU is forced out of Hungary, a member of the European Union, it will have global repercussions for other overseas American universities operating in a similar structure around the world, and they will become more vulnerable to repression. Lawmakers and officials welcomed our efforts to raise awareness of the situation and expressed concern. There was a general consensus that academic freedom is a universal, non-partisan issue, and an attack on an overseas American institution calls for bipartisan action. We also participated in a public event at George Washington University about the future of academic freedom. Our discussion about the threat to academic freedom in Hungary and the fate of American institutions abroad was followed by questions from the audience.
One of the highlights of the visit was a meeting with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Marcy Kaptur, co-chair of the Congressional Hungarian Caucus. We discussed the current situation and future prospects. Representative Kaptur issued a strong statement at the end of April about the new Hungarian legislation impacting the university and civil society: “Hungary at its best stands for learning and a deep concern about culture, hard work, and a stubborn commitment to independence for all. The proposed legislation would weaken voluntary associations, higher education, and a free press, and are not in this tradition.” The delegation expressed the hope that the issue will be solved via joint efforts soon. As we emphasized, we strongly believe it is in the best interest of Hungary for CEU to stay in Budapest, its home for the last 25 years. We are also determined, however, not to compromise on our academic freedom or our institutional integrity.