Secular Hungary

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Morals at the protestant university

Hungary has about 80 universities and colleges. Many of them are of course minor province institutions, including a lot of theological schools caring to the needs of one particular denomination for pastors  (needless to say that they receive their funds from the Hungarian state, too). Not so Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church (KRE), which, together with Pázmány Péter Catholic University is an institution with scientific ambitions, and has not only a theologial faculty, but also one for humanities and one for law. Until now, it also had three PhD schools. One of them, the law school, has now been closed down by the Accreditation Committee for continuos non-compliance with basic academic standards. One of these says that in order to run a PhD school, an institution needs to have a certain number of specialists in the field who already have students awarded a PhD degree, and not only the now closed down PhD school, but also the PhD school in literary history is unable to meet this criterion.
However, according to the weekly HVG, the latter seems to have also committed fraud.
Probably in order to produce the necessary amount of PhD graduates, they have awarded three degrees in Spring 2009 which had to be revoked by the Accreditation Committee. In order to provide one of the professors, András Szabó, with a PhD graduate, they transferred the supervision of one aspirant to him, just three weeks before he had to defend this dissertation (the opponent was the wife of Szabó, who also teaches at the univesity, and also the direct boss of the PhD applicant was involved in the process - she, by the way, is the daugther-in-law of a well-known professor on the PhD-board of the Accreditaion Committee). The original supervisor wasn't informed about the transfer of her student, and when she protested, she was dismissed from the school. Anyway, the school got a year to solve their problems, which they were apparently unable to do--accroding to the weekly HVG, if the Committee does keep to its standards, they will have to close down the school, leaving KRE with one PhD school only.
The university is practically the warplace of the reformed church's internal conflicts. The university was founded in 1993 by the bishop Loránt Hegedűs who at the time was head of the reformed church of Hungary, but has been removed from his post. As the university was formally maintained by his diocese but supervised by the head of the church, conflicts were programmed. There were also financial irregularities in 2008. The then rector left, and at the time, it also turned out that he had worked for the communist secret service before 1989. Another ex-rector, Sándor Tenke is being accused of forgeing official documents. The present one is an in-law of the Hegedűs clan, which is well konwn for its activities in the far right scene, with a Mrs Loránt Hegedűs (I understand she's the sister of the rector) being MP for the very right wing party Jobbik.

Teachers and students are also fighting online. If you speak Hungarin and want to read a rather disgustion version (probably partly of questionable reliability) of the deeds of the univesity officials (extending the above mentioned charges, including ad hominem attacks, accusations that the university does not require enough religious studies for non-theology students, and claiming that funds have been redirected to the far right wing party Jobbik), you can find their blog here.