Orbán’s professors in Hungary and in the US

Tens of thousands rallied in Budapest to protest a law that could force the US-accredited Central European University (CEU), founded by George Soros, a Hungarian-born billionaire, to move out of the country. The attack on academic freedom has attracted worldwide criticism, including from North America where hundreds of academics, including dozens of Nobel prize-winners, signed letters and demanded the law to be withdrawn.

You would think that Hungarian professors are fully behind this protest. Think twice.

In Hungary many professors and academics are quietly supporting Mr. Orbán’s law. They sit on the sidelines, waiting how this will play out. I have a feeling that many of them hate the success of the American “Soros University” and felt schadenfreude when Hungary’s President Áder signed the bill.

80-year-old E. Szilveszter Vizi, a neuroscientist and former President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences who is currently also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, released a statement “in connection with the controversial situation of the Central European University (CEU).”

Professor E. Szilveszter Vizi (right) supports Viktor Orbán

“We do not possess all the information that would be necessary to obtain a complete assessment of the situation. However, I have expressed my concerns personally in an informal way. I can claim surely that the government wants to resolve the issue in form of negotiations and also that nor the activity of the Central European University, neither the freedom of science and research are in danger. In my opinion, the freedom of science and research is fundamental. I am convinced that the Hungarian government continues to guarantee the freedom of science and research.”

Mr. Vizi has ample experience with statements like the above, in the 1970s he was the darling of the Communist Kádár-regime; later he switched colors and became an anti-Communist. Now he supports the Orbán regime.

In North America a large group of Hungarian-American professors are also quietly supporting Mr. Orbán’s attack against the CEU. On April 7 while a handful of Hungarian Americans demonstrated in front of the Hungarian Consulate General in New York, behind closed doors they hosted the 2nd Conference of the Association of Hungarian-American Academicians. The star guest was Tamás Freund, vice president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, one of Mr. Orbán’s favorite professors. (Read here the program and participants of the event.)

Hungarian American academicians with Bell (middle) and Ferenc Kumin, Consul General (next to him) – none of the professors joined the demonstrators outside the building.

A scientific conference at the Consulate? Well, many of us think that this was a carefully choreographed event to prove that there are American professors who willingly support (or at least do not oppose) the closure of an American university in Budapest.

Young protesters lined up in front of the Consulate building and Colleen Bell, ex-US Ambassador to Budapest who had attended the event, joined the protesters after leaving the building. She was the only one! Not one of the attending Hungarian-American professors has expressed support for the demonstrators.

Only Colleen Bell ex-US Ambassador to Budapest joined the demonstrators at the Hungarian Consulate in NYC.

The event was sponsored by the New York Hungarian Scientific Society (NYHSS), an organization which was initiated and financially supported by the Consulate General of Hungary in New York. The president of NYHSS is 72-year-old Laszlo Zaborszky, a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and the vice president is Imre Bartos, a researcher at Columbia University.

I’m sure that many of our readers would love to know their thoughts about the new Hungarian law targeting the Budapest based Central European University. (Read more about NYHSS here.)

We’ll ask them!

György Lázár

3 Comments

  1. This professor has made his views known loud and clear and publicly through the Canadian mass media (e.g. Canada’s largest Ferech speaking daily, La Presse, and in front of University adiences). Professor Christopher Adam, the publisher of this medium, or Stephan Harnad, of the University of Quebec have done so as well. Lex CEU is yet another nail in the coffin of the rule of law in Hungary. The silence of the academic lambs in Hungary may be explained by their fear of losing their jobs, pensions, and perks. The spinelessness of Professor Vizi, or that of the Rector of Corvinus, András Lánczi, the man who supervised Sebastian Gorka’s worthless PhD thesis is simply disgusting The silence of Hungarian academics in North America about the massacre of civil rights in Hungary, their failure to defend academic freedom in Hungary is inexcusable, incomprehensible. They should be ashamed of themselves, and should be named and shamed for their collaboration with the enemies of democratic governance. Thanks for doing the naming and shaming Mr. Lázár. Keep up the good work !!!

  2. The conference of the Association of Hungarian American Academician (AHAA; Amerikai Magyar Akademikusok Tarsasaga) held last Friday (April 5) at the Consulate General of Hungary in NY was planned more than a year ago. Therefore, it was by no means a ‘carefully choreographed event’ to support the purported closure of CEU, as Mr. Lazar states. This meeting, open to the public, was intended to showcase the latest scientific achievements of leading Hungarian scientists working in the USA, who are not “Orban’s professors”, but received their appointments through the rigorous promotion process of their respective institutions in the USA. Needless to say that none of the protesters came in to listen to the lectures or start a polite dialogue, although one of them shouted something unintelligible from the door of the Consulate.

    The concluding event of the conference, a fund-raising dinner was indeed closed to the public. It was open only for those pledging support to the cause of the New York Hungarian Scientific Society (NYHSS; http://nymtt.org/). Contrary to Mr. Lazar’s assertion, the NYHSS is not financially supported by the Consulate General. For example, the establishment of the Szent-Gyorgyi Young Investigator Award for Hungarian Scientists (http://nymtt.org/Szent_Gyorgyi_Award.html) are financed solely by the generous donations of the NY Hungarian community.

    Members of the AHAA are external members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS), and our goal is to promote interactions among Hungarian scientists working in or visiting the USA. We support young Hungarian students and researchers pursuing free education in science. We support academic freedom and as members of the HAS, we fully agree with the public statement of the President of HAS, Dr. Lovasz, with respect to the CEU (http://mta.hu/mta_hirei/az-mta-elnoke-a-ceu-rol-107536).
    On behalf of the AHAA board, submitted by Laszlo Zaborszky, Past President of the NYHSS (2012-2016), and organizer of the 2nd AHAA conference.

  3. György Lázár says:

    Dear Mr. Zaborszky,

    Thanks very much for your comments. Again, I was surprised that not one member of your organization supported the young demonstrators in front of the Consulate building.

    It seems that the New York Hungarian Scientific Society (NYHSS) is registered as a US non-profit 501c3 corporation and was organized as “an informal social club.” You meetings are held at the Hungarian Consulate General offices in New York, in fact, Ms. Zsófia Trombitás, a Hungarian diplomat organized the Society and served as its first Secretary. Your current Secretary is Gábor Takács, 1st Secretary Science and Technology Consul of Hungary. You don’t publish your financial data on your website.

    While your scientific work is commendable, I wonder, how can you claim that you are a fully independent organization when your events are sponsored by the Hungarian Consulate and held at the Consulate Building?

    Sincerely

    György Lázár

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