Jobbik breeding grounds: The student associations in Hungarian universities
Early yesterday morning an incredible news item appeared on ATV’s website. It reported that for years the Hallgatói Önkormányzat (HÖK) of ELTE’s faculty of arts (BTK) has been keeping tabs on incoming students’ alleged religious affiliation, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and political views. For good measure they also assessed the sexual potential of female students. What one ought to know about this particular HÖK is that it has been a breeding ground for Jobbik politicians and activists. But if for years no one got wind of this group’s illicit activities, why it is that someone, undoubtedly from the inner circle of BTK HÖK, decided to spill the beans?
I guess because someone decided that HÖK is supposed to represent the interests of the student body and not go to the president of the university and complain against student activists and those faculty members who are siding with them. Because this is what Ádám Garbai, the present chairman of BTK HÖK, did. By the following day ATV had access to a spreadsheet compiled by BTK HÖK on the salient qualities of incoming freshmen from 2009.
I must admit that I was unfamiliar with many of the descriptions. Although I could figure out what “cigó” and “libsi” could mean, when it came to “ratyi” I had to look it up on the Internet. Among the notations: “atheist, acquaintance of Demszky” (SZDSZ mayor of Budapest between 1990 and 2010), “stupid Lutheran girl, revisionist, Transylvanian picture,” “he has an ugly Jewish head,” “ugly broad who bicycles,” “little liberal fag,” and so on. I urge people who know the language to take a look at the original text. Some of the notes also described actions of the student association. For example, the almighty HÖK leaders who decide whether someone can have a room in the dormitory remarked that “we aren’t going to give him a place.”
Beside each name there was a hidden question whether the person is Jewish or not. Answer: I for igen and N nor nem. Party preferences were noted too: A = MSZP; B = LMP, C = Fidesz, D = Jobbik.
Every year the great minds of BTK HÖK created this kind of Excel spreadsheet on the incoming freshmen. In 2009 Ádám Garbai, the current chairman, was only a freshman. Máté Silhavy was in charge of the spreadsheet. Silhavy doesn’t deny that he compiled the list, but he claims that the obscene, degrading, and illegal comments on the personal habits of students were not his. They were added to the list later, he claims. Garbai yesterday still loudly proclaimed that he was going to sue ATV. I somehow doubt it.
Both the university and Attila Péterfalvy, the government official in charge of privacy issues, are taking the case very seriously because what these young student leaders did is a crime. The university this afternoon suspended HÖK activities at ELTE”s BTK.
I find it hard to imagine that the university’s administrators didn’t know what was going on in BTK’s HÖK. Moreover, they had to know that ever since 2005 the chairmen and all the important leaders of HÖK have been either Jobbik party members or activists. The current chairman, Ádám Garbai, is expecting to hear shortly whether he can be a full-fledged member of the party. His predecessor, László Nemes, was a member of Jobbik. So was his predecessor, István Szávay. According to an article that appeared in Magyar Narancs in May 2012, Garbai’s election in January 2012 was most likely fraudulent: his predecessor, Nemes, fired the top student leaders who were opposed to Garbai’s election. The election had to be repeated because the first one was a draw. Yet after this disgraceful election, the dean of the faculty, Tamás Dezső, delivered a laudatory speech and bestowed a commemorative medal on Nemes who organized the fraudulent election. Or at least this is what one could read on BTK’s HÖK web site before the section on Ádám Garbai was taken off .
Here is a brief curriculum vitae of István Szávay who today is a Jobbik member of parliament. He finished high school in 1999 but graduated with his first degree in history only in 2008. So, it took this fellow nine years to receive a diploma. He was so attached to university life that he immediately pursued a second degree in political science which he received two years later in 2010. In 2012 he received another diploma in pedagogy and psychology. He is currently a PhD. candidate, but apparently he didn’t get there exactly fair and square. His credentials for entering graduate school were not in order, but one of his professors helped him out by changing a grade or two. Because of his great academic accomplishments he was the recipient of a “Republican Scholarship.” But he was not simply a perpetual student. In 2009 he was on the board of Duna Televízió!
Anyone who wants to learn more about some of these characters might want to look at a good article about them in Népszava from 2010.
Why didn’t the universities and the governments do something about the whole student self-government system a long time ago? The problems were known. HÖKs were captured by extremists who most likely used the organization for recruiting purposes. They misappropriated money given to them by the government. We are talking about millions which they could distribute as financial aid. Some of the money went for lurid parties where, for instance, Szávay was caught in a most embarrassing sexual pose. So, all this has been known for a very long time.
The whole system should have been reorganized. But it seems to me that the socialist-liberal governments were too timid while some of the right-leaning faculty sheltered the HÖOK-Jobbik students.
Will the Orbán government take this affair seriously? I doubt it. After all, as is clear by now, Viktor Orbán doesn’t want to alienate Jobbik. He might need them one day.