A month into a blockade of Hungary’s top arts university, hundreds of students rebelling against control by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government show no sign of quitting.
“The blockade remains until our demands to restore the university’s autonomy are met,” said Aron Heppes, 23, a film set design student at the University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) in downtown Budapest.
Heppes and dozens of other students began the sit-in on Sept 1, a day after the university’s management resigned in protest at their loss of autonomy to a new, government-picked board whose trustees are appointed indefinitely.
“I’ve been sleeping here since then, hundreds of us are inside now,” Heppes, tall with cropped hair and a mask emblazoned with “Free SZFE!” told reporters outside the building.
With no end to the standoff in sight, staff at the 155-year-old institution, which has produced Oscar-winning directors and cinematographers, also plan to strike from today.
At its entrance — barricaded with red-and-white tape — students sit on guard, keeping out the new management and only letting in fellow so-called “university citizen” staff and students, after a temperature check.
Members of the public regularly arrive with cash or food donations.
“If we need something like mattresses or food, there’s an online list, people bring it the next day, it’s been an uplifting experience,” Heppes said.
Each afternoon student performers entertain those below from the first-floor balcony and the facade is adorned with many hundreds of messages of support and portraits of sympathizers.
International acting luminaries abroad such as Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren have also expressed support.
The outpouring of solidarity with the 400-strong student body has not surprised the university’s deputy rector, Laszlo Upor, 67, a drama teacher there for 32 years.
“We may be small, our problem is not everyone’s, but people clearly see how politics intervened in a direct way,” said Upor, who led the management’s mass resignation last month.
“Our autonomy is directly related to the freedom of art,” he said, calling the new board and its leader, theater director Attila Vidnyanszky, “ideological” appointments.
Vidnyanszky, 56, has said he wants a “different kind of thinking” at the university.
“They claim it’s time to teach people to become true patriots or true Christians or whatever, it is hard to deny it is part of a polarizing culture war,” Upor said.
Orban, 57, in 2018 said that “big changes” were afoot for Hungary’s cultural and academic scenes.
Since then, laws have reformed how theaters are controlled and removed autonomy from the leadership of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
An international university founded by US billionaire George Soros also said it was forced to move the bulk of its operations to Vienna from Budapest after a long legal battle for “academic freedom” with Orban.
However, while those earlier moves sparked street protests, the SZFE demonstration is the first major building occupation.
“This is where it leads, people don’t want to tolerate the narrowing of space for critical voices any longer,” said Szabolcs Hajdu, who runs the university’s film-directing department.
“The students have done what no one has yet dared to do, and it seems much of society supports them,” Hajdu told reporters before entering the building to give a class.
On the Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo, enthusiastic slackers share their tips: Fill up a thermos with whiskey, do planks or stretches in the work pantry at regular intervals, drink liters of water to prompt lots of trips to the toilet on work time, and, once there, spend time on social media or playing games on your phone. “Not working hard is everyone’s basic right,” one commenter wrote. “With or without legal protection, everyone has the right to not work hard.” Young Chinese people are pushing back against an engrained culture of overwork, and embracing a philosophy of laziness known as “touching
‘STUNNED’: With help from an official at the US Department of Justice, Donald Trump reportedly planned to oust the acting attorney general in a bid to overturn the election Former US president Donald Trump was at his Florida resort on Saturday, beginning post-presidency life while US President Joe Biden settled into the White House, but in Washington and beyond, the chaos of the 45th president’s final days in office continued to throw out damaging aftershocks. In yet another earth-shaking report, the New York Times said that Trump plotted with an official at the US Department of Justice to fire the acting attorney general, then force Georgia Republicans to overturn his defeat in that state. Meanwhile, former acting US secretary of defense Christopher Miller made an extraordinary admission, telling Vanity Fair that
Boeing set a target of designing and certifying its jetliners to fly on 100 percent sustainable fuels by 2030, amid rising pressure on planemakers to take climate change seriously. Regulators allow a 50-50 blend of sustainable and conventional fuels, and Boeing on Friday said it would work with authorities to raise the limit. Rival Airbus is considering another tack: a futuristic lineup of hydrogen-powered aircraft that would reach the skies by 2035. The aircraft manufacturers face growing public clamor to cut emissions in the aviation industry, which added more than 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019, according to
Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Thursday resigned following a protest over a hospital’s treatment of a new mother who tested positive for COVID-19. Khurelsukh, whose Mongolian People’s Party holds a strong majority in the parliament known as the State Great Khural, stepped down after accusing Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party of orchestrating a political crisis. A small protest broke out in the capital, Ulan Bator, on Wednesday after TV footage appeared of a woman who had just given birth being escorted in slippers and a thin robe from the maternity ward to a special wing for COVID-19 patients