Three of the outgoing leaders of Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) have had talks with the head and other members of the institution’s supervisory board, promising to continue to carry out their duties until the end of the month. SZFE’s senate and leadership announced their resignation on Monday, saying the foundation that took over the university on Sept. 1 under a government decree had deprived them of “all essential powers”. Attila Vidnáanszky, the director of the National Theatre, has been appointed to head the university’s supervisory board, sparking protests from many teachers and students. Addressing a press conference after their talks with Vidnyánszky and other board members, SZFE deputy rector László Upor, Lászlo Bagossy, the head of the Theatre Institute, and Gábor Németh, the rector’s advisor, said the positions of the outgoing leadership and the supervisory board were still far apart. Bagossy said many of the disagreements between the two sides at the talks stemmed from their differences as to how they regarded democracy. “Our approach to running SZFE is also part of our approach to democracy,” he said, adding that the two sides had also failed to make any progress on resolving their disagreements regarding the university’s recently re-written statutes.
Németh said Wednesday’s talks had made it clear to him that the supervisory board had a different understanding of change than they did. He said that while the supervisory board believed that SZFE had failed to evolve with the times over the past 30 years, the university’s leaders “tried to point out the many ways teaching at the university was modernised” during that time.
Commenting on the talks, Vidnyánszky told public television channel M5 that while SZFE’s outgoing leaders and the supervisory board of the Theatre and Film Foundation had many disagreements, they were in agreement that classes at the university must get under way on Monday. Vidnyánszky also said he was ready to meet with students regarding the changes at the university.
In a statement, the foundation’s supervisory board welcomed the start of talks between the university’s operator and its leaders. The board said it had been made clear at Wednesday’s meeting that SZFE’s outgoing leaders would carry out their duties until the end of September and would ensure that classes are able to start and the institution is able to operate lawfully.
Vidnyánszky told public Kossuth Radio that SZFE needed a new leadership and new employees. Vidnyánszky said after the talks with the university’s leadership that their opinions “differ on all important issues”. He said the only “positive result” was they had agreed that work should resume at the university on Monday. The outgoing management is in charge until the end of September, and it is their responsibility to start teaching on time, he said.
Vidnyánszky, who identifies as a cultural nationalist, said “a sort of elitism has been prevalent at the university for generations regarding certain ways of thinking, methods and concepts”. The teachers working under the old management cannot imagine that “our way of thinking” also has a place in the curriculum, he said.