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Potential Removal of ELTE and CEU Gender Studies Programs Causes Public Uproar

Gábor Sarnyai 2018.08.13.

The potential closure of Gender studies at ELTE and CEU caused a public outcry last Friday. The Ministry of Human Resources has yet to release an official statement, but it was made clear a year ago that pro-government pundits began suspecting the closure when one of the State Secretaries called gender studies more of an ideology than a science.

Since last Friday, many have expressed criticism regarding the Hungarian government’s new controversial plan to suspend Gender studies. The Central European University (CEU) and Eötvös Lóránt University (ELTE) are the two institutions primarily affected by the regulation. Only CEU’s Hungarian courses would be affected; the institution would still be able to offer American diplomas in the field.

The newspapers and experts main criticism of the initiative is its timing. The Human Resources Ministry sent the proposed amendment last Friday to the universities, leaving just one week to make recommendations. Many believe this period is too short for such a process, and due to the summer holiday, it’s even harder to discuss the proposal.
According to 24.hu, ELTE has already taken note of the suspension, despite initially wanting to keep the course.

Government pundits argue that the final decision has not been made yet, therefore there is no need for the public to panic. Bence Rétvári, the State Secretary of the Ministry, claims that the existence of Gender studies cannot be justified scientifically, nor economically, and that there is no shortage of gender experts in the job market. Rétvári also stated that he believes Gender studies is similar to Socialist-era Marxism-Leninism courses.

The Fidesz commentators appear to be divided over the issue. One of the journalists of Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik, believes Gender studies is scholarly relevant and socially essential as it studies the role of biological sex in society. Without learning the implications of gender, it’s not possible to boost the birth rate and restore familial love. While Bencsik admits that some Gender studies departments follow radical feminist and liberal ideologies, he thinks most of them are valuable. He calls on conservative Christian intellectuals to “protect the government from an ill-advised decision.”