Film & Drama Uni Leaders Resign In Hungary, Board Says It's 'Irresponsible'

  • 2 Sep 2020 10:13 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Film & Drama Uni Leaders Resign In Hungary, Board Says It's 'Irresponsible'
The senate and leadership of Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) announced their resignation, saying the foundation set to take over the university on Tuesday under a government decree had deprived them of “all essential powers”.

The outgoing officials said “any appearance of the leadership’s independence can only be maintained by making unacceptable compromises”. They vowed not to take up any position at the helm of the university “until its autonomy is restored”.

László Upor and Eszter Novák, both outgoing deputy rectors of the university, said the university’s leadership was being forced to operate “without any relevant information or real options” at their disposal during the transition period.

Among other issues, they complained of not receiving any official notification of changes in the regulations of the SZFE’s operating body, and said their own proposals on key areas of supervision and management had been rejected out of hand, Novak said.

Autonomy is key in an effective cooperation, and the recently re-written statutes of the SZFE exclude that, they said. Gábor Németh, the rector’s advisor, said the new documents curb the university’s independence in leadership and organisational issues, in finance, economy, as well as in staffing. Academic and educational freedom are also in danger, he said.

The Innovation and Technology Ministry announced in June that the SZFE’s operations will be taken over by a foundation from Sept. 1, in line with a broader scheme under way to place certain universities under the authority of semi-private foundations.

Attila Vidnyánszky, the director of the National Theatre, has been appointed to head the institution’s supervisory board, sparking protests from many teachers and students.

Board: Senate's Resignation 'Irresponsible'

The new board of curators of the Theatre and Film University has called Monday’s resignation of the university’s leaders and senate members “unacceptable and irresponsible”.

The Theatre and Film Foundation, which under recent legislation took over the university’s management on Sept. 1, said in a statement that the resigned officials had “abandoned their students and colleagues”.

“Leaders of the university must ensure that classes get under way and the buildings and infrastructure are safe,” with special regard to the coronavirus situation, the statement said.

The university’s leaders “must continue their work and ensure that the institution operates lawfully,” the foundation added. Authors of the statement also insisted that the autonomy of the university had not been impacted by the recent changes and expressed their readiness to negotiate with teachers and students.

The foundation is “committed to renewing the 155-year-old university, making its work better, more transparent and more modern”, the statement said.

Meanwhile, students who have blockaded the university over the recent changes have demanded the resignation of the new board of curators.

The students, who occupied the building late on Monday, told a press conference that they rejected the recent law changing the structure in which the university is supposed to operate, as well as “the members of the board of curators and those of the supervisory board, and the way they were appointed”.

They said they also rejected the university’s new deeds adopted by the new operator, and “any, arbitrarily appointed new leadership”. The students have demanded the restoration of the powers of the university senate, and that the state continue to provide funding.


MTI Photo: Csaba Jászai

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Hungarian Opinion: Dispute Over University Of Theatre & Film

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