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Theater Uni’s New Chancellor Excluded from Building While Students and Staff Reject Proposal, Strike Continues

Fanni Kaszás 2020.10.09.

Gábor Szarka, the newly appointed chancellor of the Theater Uni, tried to get into the Vas Street building of the University of Theater and Film Arts on Thursday morning after sending their 8-point offer to the university students and the strike committee, which they rejected and then did not allow the chancellor into the building. According to the university’s management, the only solution is to try reaching some sort of compromise step by step. Until then, the maintainer has already found a place where the new chancellor can start working.

On October 4th, the new management of SZFE presented its eight-point agreement proposal. The deadline for accepting the offer was set for midnight on Wednesday. As a condition, workers were required to end the strike on campus.

SZFE Students, Strike Comittee Reject New Leadership's 'Ultimatum'
SZFE Students, Strike Comittee Reject New Leadership's 'Ultimatum'

The new deputy rector and the chancellor of Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) said on Wednesday that the students and the strike committee of the university have rejected the leadership’s recent “conciliatory gestures” in connection with the current standoff. The deadline for accepting the new management’s offer was set for midnight on […]Continue reading

However, the students and the strike committee of the university rejected the ultimatum. The committee responded to each point one by one and stressed that the call for a strike would be maintained until there was full consultation with students, faculty, and all university staff and all eight demands were agreed to.

Novák and Szarka appealed to students and the strike committee to “reconsider” and accept their offer. They said that, “it’s still not too late to start cooperating.” The deputy rector and the chancellor noted that in a written statement sent to the chancellor, one-third of SZFE’s employees said they rejected cooperation with organizers of the university’s blockade, and indicated their willingness to work with Szarka.

On Thursday morning just before 10 o’clock, Gábor Szarka, the newly appointed chancellor, tried to get into the building of the University of Theater and Film Arts on Vas Street; however, the students were not surprised by his attempt. The members of the university had gathered early in the morning in front of the entrance, saying that they believe they can and will protect their university. Szarka appeared in front of the entrance in the morning and asked who he could talk to. The students reported that SZFE does not currently have legitimate leadership.

Szarka read out a six-point statement, in which he stated, among other things, that the university’s management’s work is being hindered, and said that he would write to the board of trustees to designate a new location where they could start work. As of yesterday, he said that the management of the university is not responsible for the operation of the occupied building and the educational activities taking place there. Thus, the fate of the academic semester is in the hands of the university occupiers. The chancellor eventually left the scene.

After the rejection of the agreement proposal, the management of Budapest’s University of Theater and Film Arts (SZFE) on Thursday vowed to “exclusively focus on tasks aimed at completely remaking the university” going forward. As the students prevented Gábor Szarka, the university’s recently appointed chancellor, from “starting his work in the chancellor’s office,” management said they would ask the university operator to assign a new location for them to work from. They said that they rejected the blockade “as an illegitimate form of expression,” adding that they would “try to ensure operations through employees inside the building.”

Representatives of student union SZFE HÖK said at a press conference that most students supported their blockade on the campus. Referring to a survey, they said that 95% of the student body believed that the new board, tasked to run the university as of last month, was illegitimate. Union head Mihály Csernai insisted that members of the university board had been “appointed on the basis of an unconstitutional legislation,” and demanded guarantees for the university’s autonomy.

Csernai said students rejected the law under which the university was turned over to a foundation, as well as the “arbitrary” way the institution’s board and supervisory board had been appointed. The students demand the full restoration of the powers of the university senate and the resignation of the members of the current board, he added. They also demand that the state continue to finance the university, he said.

At yesterday’s press conference of the government, PMO Head Gergely Gulyás said the government would provide funding for the institution. “The rest is not under our purview,” he said, referring to a stalemate between students blocking two university buildings and its new leadership.

SZFE’s previous senate and leadership announced their resignation on Aug. 31st, saying the foundation that took over the university on September 1st under a government decree had deprived them of “all essential powers.” The students cordoned off the university’s main building and employees went on strike.

featured photo: Színház- és Filmművészeti Egyetem HÖK Facebook page