We are the university
The Hungarian government introduced a new law in June, 2020 which transferred ownership of the University of Theatre and Film Arts, whose history goes back 155 years, to a private foundation. The country’s leadership insisted that this new system would decrease dependence on the government, but teachers and students protested the decision. They saw it as a way to limit the university’s freedom by placing members and affiliates of the governing party on the foundation’s board, as happened with several other universities already.
The leadership of the university resigned a day before the changes were to take effect in protest of the restructuring, citing the institution’s loss of autonomy as the primary reason.
Following the resignations, on September 1st, the day the new law took hold, SZFE students organized a demonstration and barricaded themselves inside the university’s main campus and dormitory in Vas street in central Budapest. They refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the university’s new leadership. They developed a complex system of task-management, discussion forums held inside the occupied building, as well as at other institutions.The students have sealed the building’ entrance with red and white tape, which – along with the yellow masks and logo of an open hand with the inscription “FREE SzFE” – are now widely recognised symbols of artistic resistance.
Finally, the students of the University were forced to give up their barricade of the institution’s main campus on 11 November due to Hungary’s new coronavirus restrictions. But the protesters, who guarded the building’s entrance and held classes inside during the blockade in what they called an “educational republic,” They continued their protest outside the building.
“We won’t give up the blockade, but we’ll take it with us. We are the university. The blockade will last until the repression of the people in power stops.”
Finally, despite a months-long blockade of the building, protests, and several demonstrations, the government eventually pushed through its will without any consultation, resulting in the collective resignation of the university’s former administration and democratically-elected Senate.