CEU Launches President's Seminar Series to Examine Open Society Ideals Amid Challenges

November 15, 2016

CEU is launching a President's Seminar series that will examine the ideals of open society in the face of many challenges. CEU was founded in 1991 as democratic change swept across the region, with the mission to promote the ideals of open society, democracy and the rule of law. The following is the text of an announcement of the initiative, sent by President and Rector Michael Ignatieff to the CEU community Nov. 14. 

"We're a university with a difference and the difference is our open society mission. Over the past 25 years, we've never hesitated to re-think our mission in the light of new circumstances. In the wake of the US election, Brexit and the recent referendum in Hungary, many of you have said to me: now our mission is more important than ever. More than ever, we need to stand for open minds and open frontiers at a time when political forces of anger, exclusion and closure are in the ascendant.

Today with this message, I'd like to initiate a new dialogue within our community about how we understand the new forces of anger and change unleashed in the world and how we re-think our university mission in the light of these new challenges. I hope you will join the CEU community discussion  [accessible with CEU email and login].

Our ideals of open society will petrify into a sterile ideology unless we subject them to unsparing scrutiny. If we believe in open societies, why are so many people in so many societies calling for closed borders? Has our vision of open society failed to understand the longing for identity, security and sovereignty in a globalizing world? How do we preserve the openness that has characterized the European project, when so many political forces are working in the opposite direction?

Finding new answers to such fundamental questions in our research and teaching is the great challenge our university must embrace.

As a contribution to these efforts, I will be launching a President's Seminar, beginning in January 2017 to bring leading thinkers to CEU to re-think open society, its history, its achievements and failures during the transitions in our region and its future prospects in a political environment that has turned hostile to its ideals. In June, 2017, we will collaborate with our sister organization, the Open Society Foundation, in a global conference of activists, organizers and thinkers to reflect together on the dilemmas facing work on behalf of open society and how we overcome them together."