Letter of concern regarding the Open Learning Initiative (OLIve)

To: Professor Shalini Randeria, President and Rector, Central European University
10 February 2023

Dear Professor Shalini Randeria
We address you as the current President and Rector of CEU, and also as a former President of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), of which we are currently in the handover process between two executive committees.

EASA’s executive committees are expressing concerns over the sudden and unexplained closure of the CEU Refugee Education Initiative - OLIve. With over 1400 students of refugee backgrounds having graduated from OLIve, the programme is a globally acclaimed effort to support refugees and signals a strong opposition to increasingly authoritarian and violent forms of governance of people displaced by invasions, conflicts, and climate disasters. This is particularly important in a country like Hungary, where national politics are renowned for their anti-refugee stance.

The closure of the programme is all the more surprising since OLIve had received a record number of applications this academic year and is in the process of solidifying even more its flagship position through an international conference and subsequent publication. The closure is a major blow for academic involvement in refugee support, and unwittingly contributes to silencing the debate on an urgent topic with earnest implications in terms of human rights violations and human suffering. The decision stands in striking contrast to the CEU’s affirmed engagement for academic freedom and to the values of democratic debate and support for human rights that it aims to embody. This is not the CEU we have defended when it was itself under threat of closure by the Hungarian authorities.

We are very concerned about the lack of transparency regarding the reasons for the programme’s closure. We urge you to communicate clearly and publicly, in the ethos of anthropology, our association, and academia in these dark years, the rationale for the decision. Without a convincing justification for your decision, and without knowledge of a plan to mitigate the reputational, political, and personal damage that this decision has caused to CEU, OLIve, affected staff members, and ultimately the students from the most vulnerable populations, we cannot but strongly oppose your administration’s decision and are decided to lend support to OLIve, its staff, and its future activity.

Yours sincerely
Dr Ana Ivasiuc (University of Maynooth)
President of EASA 2023-24

Dr Mariya Ivancheva (University of Strathclyde, CEU Social Anthropology MA & PhD alumna)
President of EASA 2021-22

On behalf of EASA's Executive Committee

EASA has sent similar messages to Members of the senior leadership team at CEU, the Board of Trustees of the CEU, and the CEU Senate Members and urges all EASA members to express support for the OLIve initiative by signing & disseminating the I Stand with OLIve petition.