American academics protest Hungary’s gender studies ban

Henry Reichman, Professor Emeritus California State University, East Bay has published an article on the Academe Blog (the blog of Academe magazine) about the Hungarian government’s proposal that gender studies courses may no longer be offered in Hungary. The blog also published a protest letter addressed to Mr. József Bódis, Hungarian State Secretary. Prof. Reichman has raised some interesting issues and we republish his letter with the permission of the Managing Editor of Academe. (Click here to read Academe Blog.)

*

Henry Reichman

Letter to Hungarian Minister of State for Education

Yesterday the following letter was sent to József Bodis, Hungarian Minister of State for Education:

Dear Minister of Education,

We write to protest the Hungarian government’s proposed law which would cancel an accredited, well-performing MA program, with consistently high enrollments. Never before has the government sought to legislate the curriculum of universities without consultation with appropriate university institutions. According to The Hungarian Journal, “the part of the amendment which concerns gender studies provides no explanation whatsoever. Two universities are concerned: Hungary’s biggest state-funded university ELTE, and the Central European University. If the amendment becomes official, it will mean that nobody can attend gender studies courses in Hungary and get a degree in the subject.” It also sets a dangerous precedent for state intervention in all other university courses. By denying to faculty and administrators the academic freedom that is the guarantee of the autonomy of higher education, the Hungarian government puts itself outside the community of democratic nations. We call upon the Minister of Education to refuse this amendment. We also call upon the European Union, of which Hungary is a member nation, to condemn this action as a violation of its principles. And we call upon academic institutions in our own countries to join our protest.

Joan W. Scott
Professor Emerita
School of Social Science
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, NJ
and Member, Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, American Association of University Professors

Peter Goddard
Former Director and Professor Emeritus
School of Natural Sciences
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton NJ

Henry Reichman
Professor Emeritus
California State University, East Bay
Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, AAUP

Lynn Pasquerella
President
American Association of Colleges and Universities
Washington, DC

Copies have been sent to:

European Union officials:
sue.pavis@eua.be, info@eua.be ,
maria.kelo@enqa.eu, secretariat@enqa.eu

Hungarian ambassador to the US
informacio.was@mfa.gov.hu

American ambassador to Hungary
CulturalAffairsBudapest@state.gov

**

Hungary Seeks to Ban Gender Studies

Earlier this week Hungarian universities received 24 hours from the Ministry of Human Capacities and the Ministry of Justice to comment on a proposed amendment, which declares that gender studies courses may no longer be offered in Hungary, the Hungarian economic and political weekly Heti Világgazdaság (HVG.hu) reported yesterday. According to a report in Hungary Journal, “the part of the amendment which concerns gender studies provides no explanation whatsoever. Two universities are concerned: Hungary’s biggest state-funded university ELTE, and the Central European University, founded by George Soros. If the amendment becomes official, it will mean that nobody can attend gender studies courses in Hungary and get a degree in the subject.”

The government’s rationale is that the discipline is “economically irrational” because there are no jobs in Hungary for graduates in the field. According to the ministry, gender studies takes resources from other courses and harms the economic stability of the universities. Members of the government say gender studies is an ideology, not science.

Ironically, I first heard of the ban from a posting on the notorious right-wing website, Breitbart News, not usually considered a friend of academic freedom. Nevertheless, they argue, “Conservatives should be concerned about the precedent this sets considering their limited influence on academia. Not only does the decision risk making gender studies an intellectual forbidden fruit, progressive governments could use this decision as a catalyst to restrict conservative and libertarian thought in classrooms around the globe in the future.”

The point is well taken. But I hope that Breitbart and others of its ilk will join those many principled academic conservatives who have already recognized the dangers in American efforts to eliminate or reduce programs in a wide range of humanistic disciplines, including gender studies (for example, at Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Superior), a development decried by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) in a joint statement issued May 31. That statement noted that, like the authoritarian nationalist Orban regime in Hungary, American “politicians have proposed linking tuition to the alleged market value of given majors. Students majoring in literature, art, philosophy, and history are routinely considered unemployable in the technology and information economy, despite the fact that employers in that economy strenuously argue that liberal arts majors make great tech-sector workers precisely because they are trained to think critically and creatively, and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.”

Henry Reichman

16 Comments

  1. Here is a list of under-employment of recent graduates in the US, by field:

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/642226/underemployment-rate-of-us-college-graduates-by-major/

    One can notice that most fields where it falls under that 43% overall average, are fields where one learns some practical skills, with real life applications in the current job market.

    Also, the current total student loan debt in the US is $1.5 Trillion. That is about $15,000 for each and every household on average.

    It is a broken institution that is prevalent throughout the Western World. In the US, the costs are shouldered by households, while in many other countries it is a public-government partnership of burden sharing of this broken institution. Yet this letter argues that nothing should be done to fix it, by perhaps aligning what is offered with the demands of the labor market. Perfectly logical!!!

    In other news, Forbes announced its list of top 500 companies. China now has more companies on that list than entire EU. European infrastructure also crumbling, but we clearly need more of our human and financial resources going to “gender studies”!

    • Reality Check says:

      Joe thinks a major that attracts few students is responsible for tuition inflation. He ignores the real reasons including bloated adminstrations, ammenity arms races, upgrading IT, and cuts in government aid.

      Tell us Joe, what percentage of University resources go to Gender Studies? Please, provide proof it is the budget buster you suggest.

      And it is up to students and their parents what they major in. Not you Joe. If they want to invest in a “risky” major, that’s their descision.

      • I agree with you to some extent that when tuition is 100% out of pocket, it is the business of students & parents what they waste their often borrowed money on, but not when the education is paid by government or subsidized. Then it is the business of every taxpayer. Even where it is 100% out of pocket, the negative net effect to society cannot be denied. The 43% underemployment means that every year millions of young people in the Western world graduate with a useless investment in their education, which negatively affects the entire economy. And yes gender studies is one of those mostly useless degrees that contributes to this problem. If we are to add up only the wasted money on tuition, we are talking about $ billions per year. The effect of graduating millions of kids every year with degrees that are useless in the economy is far larger. These are people who will never make a significant contribution to the economy. They will mostly struggle. Your comments betray a lot of ignorance in this respect.

        • Reality Check says:

          Nonsense. My niece had such a major and she is making low six figures five years out. Most colleges and universities now require all majors to take courses to build writing, communication, team-work, and problem solving skills.

          You have no evidence that people taking this major are a drag on the economy. Please provide proof that gender stuidies major disproportionaltely represent students who hve trouble making their loan obligations. I teach at a major university and it you who are ignorant of this subject.

          • Well, this explains your insistence of ignoring reality. Your bread and butter depends on people getting themselves into debt, getting an education that increasingly provides no return on money, time, effort and opportunity cost lost. You asked for proof? I think the link I provided at the beginning of this conversation speaks volumes. Gender Studies is not on the list, but we know it does not belong with Engineering or Nursing at the bottom of the list, but rather most likely at the top of the list of underemployment. Good for your niece, but that tends to be the exception, as the stats show in regards to most such degrees. Something tells me that you teach a subject that also scores above average in terms of underemployment.

    • Reality Check says:

      Oh and I missed the laughable statement about how ending gender studies would free up money for infrastructure improvements. “European infrastructure also crumbling, but we clearly need more of our human and financial resources going to “gender studies”!”

      Does he have any idea how little money is spent on Gender Studies?

      Next we’ll hear about all the Hungarian children who are starving and shoeless because of the money spent on the major.

  2. Reality Check says:

    “By denying to faculty and administrators the academic freedom that is the guarantee of the autonomy of higher education, the Hungarian government puts itself outside the community of democratic nations.”

    What kind of governments strip autonomy from academic institutions? Hungary before the system change.

  3. Just why the hell is it forbidden here to state that Hungary did NOT forbid “gender-idea-studies”, just the use public money to pay for it.

    • Váci Klebelsberg Kultúrkör says:

      That is the case, absolutely.
      If Mr. Henry Reichman wants to open a course of ‘gender studies’ and maintaining it on his proper money nobody will block him in Hungary.

    • Reality Check says:

      What was banned was giving accredidation. Taking accredidation away from a course is equal to an outright ban. What good is a course if you can’t get credit for it towards your degree?

  4. Robert Morrison says:

    Of course they protest, that’s what academics do whenever the HU Government acts against their “progressive” agendas. What is so news worthy here?

    I suggest these US citizens to stay within the boundaries of the USA and try to solve their own social problems, some or many of them created by their approach to “gender studies”.

    Perhaps start with this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV440PbnIPI
    or for gender equality studies 101 view this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HCR1QR4zMU
    and than advance to gender equality 102 here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWMYmZMiQLk

    If you didn’t get my points yet, let me summarize it for you:
    WE DO NOT WANT THESE KIND OF EQUALITY in Hungary.
    Period. I am pretty sure you will figure the connection between the two.

  5. Robert Morrison says:

    And whilst at the subject of protesting ……. could someone show me where to find his protesting article about the suspended sentencing of the Eric Clanton?
    https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=11207

  6. To Reality Check and Robert Morrison;

    In Hungary maintains the higher educational system from the taxpayers pocketbook.

    So than just who should have any supperevisory authority to keep some checks and balances ?

  7. Robert Morrison says:

    Reality Check on August 17, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    “What good is a course if you can’t get credit for it towards your degree?”
    The correct question is what good a course is if you cannot use the studies for the benefit of the society! Why would a society support and acclaim a study that the given society has no use for therefore has no need to create graduated good for nothing degree holders?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *