Florida Feminist Friday lecture discusses academic repression in Hungary

repressionvia FIU Flickr

Conor Moore | Assistant News Director

To conclude International Education Week, FIU’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies held a lecture to discuss a litany of topics ranging from academic freedoms to feminism.

Titled “The Landscape of Knowledge Production in Illiberal Contexts: Gender Studies & The Central European University”, the lecture was hosted by Dr. Andrea Krizsan, a Hungarian professor from the Central European University specializing in inequality and social justice.

“Just as a starting point – in Hungary in 2010, a right-wing populist government took over, headed by Viktor Orbán. They have been in power ever since”, Dr. Krizsan said.

Fidesz, Orbán’s party, has been blanketed with numerous criticisms such as attacking democracy, spying on journalists, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.

“One year after he came to power, he introduced the Higher Education Act, which gave power to the Minister of Education to appoint preferred directors to universities”, Dr. Krizsan continued.

The control of higher education has been a priority for Fidesz, who seeks to make Hungary’s universities more “national” and “Christian”.

“The same year, the Public Education Act was also mandated. This act has set up a central authority tasked to control the curriculum of all schools in Hungary.”

Public school teachers have consistently protested the way the government in Hungary has punished what they deem “dissent”.

Dr. Krizsan segued into discussing the challenges the Central European University faces, being a private liberal institution in the middle of Europe’s most right-wing nation.

“A solid set of series and conditions has made accreditation impossible. It was the launch of a prolonged process of fighting to remain in Hungary. In 2018, accreditation for Gender Studies was revoked”, Dr. Krizsan said.

She also discussed the impact that the Central European University’s founder, billionaire George Soros, has had on the University’s existence.

Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish man, has been a longstanding political opponent of Orbán for much of his time in power.

Fidesz has been consistently accused of promoting anti-Semitic attacks against Soros. Dr. Krizsan speculated that the attacks against Soros and the CEU are one and the same.

“In the Hungarian context, and beyond the Hungarian context, these attacks need to be interpreted within the wider context of academic freedoms, attacks on higher education and school curriculums”, Dr. Krizsan said.

Discussions on the academia’s sanctity have not been out of place in Florida, where criticism against Governor Ron DeSantis’ perceived attacks on academic freedoms has been a frequent part of the news cycle. 

“Now looking at my story, and then across the world, I cannot do anything but compare. I think they are quite similar in many ways, and that’s really frightening”, Dr. Krizsan concluded.

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