An Open Letter in Support of Central European University

Dear European Parliament, European Commission, and Government of Hungary:

We write to you as the Directors of Centers for East European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies across the United States, in Germany and in the United Kingdom. As scholars and experts on the region, we forcefully protest the recent amendments to the Hungarian National Higher Education Act that pose an existential threat to the Central European University in Budapest (“Attack on Central European U. ‘Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Academic Life’,The Chronicle, April 6).  These actions threaten academic freedom across the region and in Europe as a whole.

We join the vigorous protest from observers around the world: academic, intellectual and political leaders in Europe, the United States, and globally who most vehemently object to this assault on the CEU. This legislation constitutes a violation of freedom of speech and of inquiry. It is unwarranted interference in a private educational institution that has been operating productively and with careful observance of Hungarian law for over 25 years.

We respect and admire the academic excellence of the CEU, the great contributions that it has made to Hungarian, European, and global scholarship. The CEU is a valued member of the international academic community. It has nourished cooperation across countries through the training of young people from Hungary and the entire east European region. As an English-language university accredited in New York State as well as in Hungary, it has enabled young people from Hungary and other parts of the region to more effectively participate in business, governance, scholarship, and law both nationally and internationally. It has complemented and enhanced other institutions of higher education across the region.

The CEU has added to Hungary’s status on the international stage, supporting Budapest’s and Hungary’s artistic, scholarly, and economic growth, furthering the city’s and country’s powerful heritage of intellectual life. This attack goes against Hungary’s long-term interests and its tradition of excellence in higher education. It damages Hungary’s strong academic reputation and its relationships with European partners and the United States.

We call on the Hungarian government to rescind this legislation; to recognize the CEU; to provide a stable legal basis for its open and innovative intellectual inquiry and to enable the continuation of the CEU in what has been a productive cooperation with the Hungarian government, beneficial to the young people of the region, for a quarter century.

We stand in solidarity with the students and faculty of the Central European University.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Gal (Anthropology and Linguistics)
Director, Center for East European, Russian and Eurasian Studies
University of Chicago

Martin Schulze Wessel (History)
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München
Graduiertenschule für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien

Geneviève Zubrzycki (Sociology)
Director, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, CREES, CES, CPPS
University of Michigan

Julia L. Mickenberg (Amerian Studies)
Acting Director, Center for Russian East European and Eurasian Studies
University of Texas at Austin

David L. Cooper (Slavic Languages and Literatures)
Director, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Theodore P. Gerber (Sociology)
Director, Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jan Kubik (Political Science)
Director, School of Slavonic and East European Studies
University College London

Rawi Abdelal (International Management)
Director, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies
Harvard University

Pavle Levi (Art and Art History)
Director of Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
Stanford University

Sarah D. Phillips (Anthropology)
Director, Russian and East European Institute
Indiana University

John Connelly (History)
Director, Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Jill Bystydzienski (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Director, Center for Slavic and East European Studies
The Ohio State University

Scott Radnitz (International Studies)
Director, Center for Russian East European and Central Asian Studies
University of Washington

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