CEU formally launched its 2020/21 Academic Year on September 25, 2020, welcoming nearly 700 new students from 90 countries to the university. They join 600 current students, and almost 18.000 alumni worldwide, all part of the global CEU community. The virtual Opening Ceremony is available at https://youtu.be/gVrJHVBM2is.
With the university preparing to mark its 30th anniversary in 2021, it is particularly apt that CEU welcomes its first-ever undergraduate cohort of students to its new home in Vienna.
In his Presidential remarks, CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff addressed the community with his vision for a university that is, above all else, together: "What unites us is the curiosity and passion to share knowledge and create new knowledge for the future in the humanities and social sciences... and the mixture of these that makes CEU so unique."
Referring to the Hungarian government actions that lead to the University's move across a national border, the President and Rector warned that the attack on CEU was part of a larger pattern of systematic attack on academic freedom in Hungary, noting that what happened to CEU was just the beginning.
Following this, the President and Rector reaffirmed CEU's belief in open society and its values, increasingly under siege. Speaking on the pandemic ("a radical test for open society"), the Rector pointed out that CEU's values—open public debate based on a consensus about the facts—are being challenged as never before. CEU's role is to "vindicate what a university is for", said Ignatieff. "We create the free space in which knowledge flourishes, minds come alive and freedom becomes the value we live by."
As is tradition, Master of Ceremonies Provost Liviu Matei opened the ceremony, welcoming the audience of students, faculty, staff and guests wherever they might be, and reminding the audience that as a private university with a public mission and a public consciousness, CEU has "a distinguished mission, which is to promote open society and democracy". Provost Matei then announced the winners of several awards:
Sarah Morton (University College Dublin) and Donata Romizi (University of Vienna) for the 2020 European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities; Jozsef Laszlovszky, Professor at the Department of Medieval Studies, and Erzsebet Strausz, Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, joint winners of the 2020 CEU Distinguished Teaching Award; and Jean-Louis Fabiani, Professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, winner the 2020 CEU Award for Outstanding Research.
Pro-Rector Agnes Batory welcomed the incoming and returning students on behalf of faculty and staff. Referring to the move from Budapest to Vienna made by many from the CEU community, Pro-Rector Batory, said that while leaving the Hungarian capital—"our home"—was an emotional time for many, at the same time Vienna represents "a new chapter for CEU" and expressed the hope that the new community would work "help build this new institution, together with us".
It was then the turn of Dean of Undergraduate Students Dorit Geva to take to the podium. Welcoming the university's first-ever cohort of undergraduates, Geva noted that when the university decided to introduce a new undergraduate offer, its leadership "saw in this an opportunity for rebirth, a repurposing of our mission in our new home. Far from the headlines, a group of professors huddled together, and over the course of two years planned and made these programs happen. It was a challenging and exhilarating labor of love, a truly a collective effort."
And so the AY 2020-21 begins. A labor of love, a commitment to the future and a vindication of everything a university stands for. Welcome to CEU.