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Rethinking the Role of the University - Teach-In @CEU

Friday, May 26, 2017, 7:00 pm

The role of the university in fostering critical thought and social advancement has been and remains crucial. How might academic institutions perform this role in present-day Hungary? With this in mind we organize a Teach-In event to be held at the Central European University. The university has a responsibility to train individuals who participate in different ways in public life and seek its positive transformation. Individuals do not only participate in society but they may be part of effective change. What does it mean to be socially engaged? How should we recognise what needs to be changed? The need for change points to the ethical and critical role of the university in relation to society and leads to other fundamental questions. What is and what should be the relation of the university to society? What does it mean to rethink the boundaries between itself and the communities and societies in which it is located and serves?

These and other questions are key to rethinking the role of the university in contemporary society. In an effort to uphold ongoing initiatives dedicated to enhancing communication and joint action in support of academic autonomy, we invite reflections on these and other issues. We aim to kick-start an ongoing critical reflection on the university and its relationship to knowledge and to society.


19.00-19.30: Opening remarks by Dániel Deák (Corvinus University), Tessza Udvarhelyi (School of Public Life, The City Is For All)

19.30-20.15 Attacks on the Academy in the Age of Authoritarian Neoliberalism: the Boundaries of the University
Working language: English
Participants: Gorkem Akgoz, Anil Duman, Prem Kumar Rajaram, and David Ridout
Moderator: Pinar Donmez

There is a growing trend of statist attacks on academic freedom worldwide. Although the governmental crackdown and control of academics and universities has upsurged in recent years, the neoliberal regime of austerity has in fact been the greatest source of violence against universities. The resulting university is increasingly similar to a corporation with the primary goal of contributing to economic performance. In this context, academic freedom is first and foremost a labour issue and it is threatened once corporate and market logics become normalised in university policies and practices. Therefore, this roundtable proposal starts from an understanding that the recent attacks on universities in Hungary are not isolated occurrences and should be conceived in their internal connection with attacks on broader social, economic and political rights and contextualised within a regional as well as global context. This brings to the fore the importance of turning a (self-) critical gaze into academic institutions, the crucial role and responsibility of university communities in exposing the inequalities, violence and injustices in the era of deepening crisis of capitalism as well as rethinking/extending the boundaries of the university and community of learning in an effort to tackle marginalisation and exclusion within the broader societal context. The specific points of reference of this discussion will be the Roma Graduate Preparation Program and Open Learning Initiative based in CEU, and the ongoing attacks on the academy in Turkey.

20.20-21.05 University and Democracy: Autonomy and the Education for Democracy
Working language: Hungarian
Participants: András Bozóki (CEU), Anna Wessely (ELTE), László Ropolyi (ELTE), Júlia
Bozsó (student at ELTE, Angelusz Róbert College for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences)
Moderator: Zoltán Fleck (ELTE)

The participants of the round-table discuss issues concerning the tasks of education at the university in the maintenance of democracy. Is higher education capable to develop the attitudes and skills that are necessary for the functioning of democracy? What are the internal and external conditions that can make this learning process successful? What are the tools with which universities can support democracy and what needs to be changed in this respect? Can we identify the skills and attitudes – as well as the tools that are suitable
for their development – that may serve this purpose?

21.10-21.55 Value-free Science or Engaged Scholarship?
Working language: Hungarian
Participants: Zsolt Enyedi (CEU), Bálint Misetics (The City Is For All, ELTE, CEU), Gábor
Polyák (University of Pécs, Corvinus University, Mérték Association), Bernadette Somody
(Eötvös Károly Policy Institute), András Váradi (Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Research
Centre for Natural Sciences, Stádium28).
Moderator: Margit Feischmidt (Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Centre for Social Sciences, University of Pécs)

The participants of the round-table discuss the contradiction between the idea of value free science and the social responsibility of the academia. Ultimately, they analyze the role of science in society with special attention on the present situation. Should university professors, students and researchers take a stand on public affairs? If yes, then why and how are they supposed to do so? How can scholars contribute to public debates or the work of civil activists dedicated to social improvement? How to achieve public participation through academic institutions, civil organizations or individual actions? The participants of the round-table – as scholars and civil activists – introduce examples to these three approaches.

22.00-22.15 Summary and break

22.15-24.00 Forum
Working language: English

We invite collective or individual interventions in an open discussion among representatives of the Hungarian public university community and CEU, active student organisations as well as collectives to discuss and comment on the main themes of the Teach-In, moderated by facilitators.