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Theater University Students Occupy One More Building in Protest Against Appointing New Vice-rectors

Ábrahám Vass 2020.10.01.

Turbulence around Budapest’s University of Theater and Film Arts’ (SZFE) is escalating further. On the heels of the news that new board of trustees chairman Attila Vidnyánszky unilaterally appointed two vice-rectors, students occupied one more of the university’s buildings last night. What is more, a workers’ strike kicked off today.

They confirmed this latest action with the new board trustees’ move (which in their view is illegitimate) to appoint two new vice-rectors: film director Emil Novák and artist and producer János Zalán, unilaterally, without publishing an open tender. The action took place after saying farewell to the outgoing leadership, whose mandate expired yesterday and had announced their departure back on August 31st, after it had been made public that the new form of operation and the board of trustees stripped them of all powers.

After holding a vote on the move, protesters went to SZFE’s Film and Media Institute located in the 8th district’s Szentkirályi Street, just one street away from the Vas Street building, and occupied it. Only University citizens are allowed to enter the premises now. They insist they will maintain the blockades until the ministry fulfills their demands.

In parallel, the university workers’ (including teachers) strike kicked off on Thursday. Each day they begin boycotting at 8 am, and finish at 4:30 pm, while live-streaming for transparency reasons. The goal, in brief, is to get back the University’s autonomy, and restitution of the outgoing Senate’s power. In their view, the charter and the organizational and operational rules of the new maintainer foundation harms the employees’ interests as well.

Theater Uni Chancellor Replaced with Army Colonel by New Board of Trustees Leader Vidnyánszky
Theater Uni Chancellor Replaced with Army Colonel by New Board of Trustees Leader Vidnyánszky

Although his contract would have lasted until the end of the year, new board of trustees leader Attila Vidnyánszky decided to replace University of Theater and Film Arts’ (SZFE) chancellor Lajos Vonderviszt. He named a former defense minister’s chief of staff, Colonel Gábor Szarka for the post. Protesting students, however, faithful to their promise, didn’t […]Continue reading

Meanwhile, Attila Vidnyánszky insisted that the board of trustees [headed by him] is operating legally. On the other hand, he insists the [aforementioned] strike of the workers is illegal. In addition, he once again repeated his belief about the “narrow minority?” who, in his view creates the conflict. According to him, the students become tools of politics and the left-wing uses the SZFE case as a “glimmer of hope.” In addition, he explained army colonel Gábor Szarka’s appointment as chancellor, arguing that there was a crisis going on, and he is meant to handle it. In addition, he will be suitable for the task of building a brand new campus for SZFE.

Earlier, Tamás Lajos, a member of the board of trustees, said that they would challenge the strike in court and if their position will be endorsed, they would begin to teach alternatively.

Recently, the government announced that according to the new board of trustees’ request, it will double the University’s financial support, allocating HUF 3 billion (EUR 8.3 million). “The government’s only task is to guarantee the university’s budget. Those who want to demonstrate can do so, but conditions must be provided for those who want to study,” PMO Chief Gergely Gulyás said.

Anyhow, another demonstration (a nation-wide torched relay-run to five of Hungary’s university cities) will be held on Sunday. Both Vidnyánszky and the protesting students recently claimed that their enthusiasm has not subsided in the month-long stalemate and insist they will keep up the fight.

Featured photo illustration via Theatre and Film University Students Union’s Facebook page