Constanze Jeitler (MA, History) and Stefan Roch (PhD, SPP) were invited by Charles University to participate in a debate on the role of volunteers and universities in Europe’s refugee crisis at the Vaclav Havel library in Prague in December. Academics, activists and students from various European universities shared their experiences and thoughts on the current refugee crisis and the lessons learned from their own activism. Jeitler and Roch were able to draw from their own experience volunteering at Keleti station and their involvement in some of the activities that were initiated through the CEU helps Facebook group and the CEU Refugee Task Force.
Jeitler and Roch emphasized the complexities and obstacles faced while getting active in Hungary. The situation they encountered, along with the many other volunteers, was highly unstable and involved dealing with a number of human and technical factors that were not anticipated. The discussion pointed to a number of key questions within the realm of universities, activism and the refugee crisis that demand further debate, such as: Should universities try to actively influence the public debate or should they rather remain a forum for diverse opinions? To what extent should universities encourage their students to become active? Should universities reach out to their national governments on key issues concerning the refugee crisis? Jeitler and Roch brought back valuable insights that will inform the ongoing discussion within the CEU community.