of the HPS Department, Eotvos University, Budapest
8 April 2005
Most readers of this statement are familiar with the current situation of
our Department as described in our http://hps.elte.hu front page and
elsewhere (e.g. The Scientist,
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20050329/01). The Department is
threatened to be dissolved due to financial cuts at the University. The
plans persist despite the fact that the Department has a very high number
of students and has been quite successful with grants. It has an
international reputation in both research and, more recently, in education
In a constant turmoil it is difficult to decide when to make a statement.
Now the process has reached a well-defined stadium. Yesterday (Wednesday)
the Council of the Faculty of Science decided 30 against 3 (6
reservations) to keep the Department. This is a major victory, but not the
end of the issue yet.
On Monday, April 4, the University Council considered to abolish the
Department without a Faculty Council approvement, to end the Faculty's own
financial crisis. Previously, the Faculty Council has dealt with the issue
of the Department twice but without conclusion. Also the University
Council meeting on Monday was non-conclusive, with respect to the fate of
our Department. After so much uncertainty, the President has ordered the
Faculty to reach a final-final decision on Wednesdey, which it did
successfully, and to our favor. The new Faculty decision needs to be
approved by the University Council. Here, each Faculty has one vote
(technically: three votes). But even vote is no money -- our names are
associated with salary cuts, and some other people face ending their
(tenured!) positions if we are kept. This is a difficult situation in
which most decision-makers are reluctant to increase their own losses with
introducing a more even distribution of the cutbacks, when an easy
solution was already in sight.
The logic of the process is that our names were thrown in at the beginning
and it is a hard road uphill. The non-conclusiveness of the several
repeated Council meetings at both Faculty and University level already
indicated that we had some support from the beginning on. However, the
final -- and overwhelming! -- decision at the Faculty level, and the
emerging possibility that the money will also be found by redistributing
the planned cutbacks, is a result of a long development.
Here, the contribution of the international scientific community and of
our own students in Budapest has been critically important. It was topped
by a (national as well as international) media presence that increased
sympathy. We still have significant reserves but hope not to use them.
Let me express our deepest gratitude towards the members of the
international HPS and CogSci community who have been supporting our fight.
For our petition (thanks to Balazs Gyenis, PhD student at Pittsburgh!) we
received more than 500 support signatures from international collegues and
more than 1100 student signatures (of which 500 are on paper).
International support has included voices of the most senior members of
the PS and HPS scientific community, as well as voices of such eminent
non-(H)PS members as Sir Roger Penrose and several others. We are
extremely grateful for this wonderful solidarity with our case. The
petitions and signatures are available from http://hps.elte.hu .
We live in a period when money has a maybe too direct effect on
Universities. At least this is so in Hungary. This easily generates the
paradox that it is profitable to close down successful departments. Only
gain is worth distributing, loss is not. Our Department has more than
2,000 students a Semester and reseach besides. If our fight proves to be
successful it establishes a case against such amibitions. The Faculty of
Science has now dramatically demonstrated that money is not all.
This is not the end of the road yet; the University Council meets Monday.
It will decide about the only HPS Dept in Hungary, and one among three in
Thank you for you all!
Chair, HPS Dept, Eotvos, Budapest