Dismissal of (Professor) Adam from Paradise Corvinus

The fate of the wistleblower

Corvinus University has fired Professor Zoltán Ádám on murky grounds that we are given to understand to be violations of internal university rules pertaining to co-operation.  As the Orban regime is confessedly a system of National Cooperation on the national level (NER is the acronym we use here in Hungary), non-cooperation may well be a valid ground for dismissal from the workplace.  University officials have stated that the termination of Professor Ádám’s employment for cause was ‘one hundred percent’ lawful. As we have expressed this in an earlier post, we have no reason to question the lawfulness of this action, and many other similar actions. The final say over lawfulness or lawlessness in this country is in the hands of those university big wigs who make, or simply implement, this very decision: the man must go.

Professor Ádám is a whistleblower, and let there be no doubt that he was dismissed from this Paradise Corvinus for blowing the whistle.  What did he actually do?  The story is not so complicated.  A young student of a prominent Russian oligarch family (let us call them Rs, but readers should not jump to quick conclusions, this is not the Raskolnikov family) flunked Professor Ádám’s Economics course.  Young R’s mother personally intervened, first approaching Professor Ádám and requesting favorable treatment on the next exam.  When this was dismissed by Professor Ádám, she made thinly veiled threats of what her family could do. As she saw that she could not have her way with the professor, she somehow managed to get other faculty members to agree that young R could take a written test as an exception, which he passed.

As one of the Deans and the Rector of Corvinus University knew about this special exam event, Professor Ádám reported the case and asked for an investigation of the story under the University’s code of ethics.  The ethics committee of first instance reprimanded those university officials involved in the special dispensation exam.  The Dean and the Rector were among the parties lightly sanctioned.  Then on appeal, which was adjudicated by a panel of more lenient members (or simply more loyal ones to the higher ups), the reprimand was vacated.  With the assistance of TASZ, a civil rights organization, Professor Ádám sought judicial review of the University ethics decision, and he also went public with material aspects of the story.  The court case was lost, the sharing of the story with a narrow segment of the public must have angered the Board of Trustees of Corvinus University.

To have a full picture one must add to this stand-alone disappointing story that the R. family are, directly or indirectly, material shareholders in MOL, the Hungarian oil and gas giant, and MOL’s chairman and CEO, Zsolt Hernádi, is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Corvinus University.  He surely has the R’s phone number in his register, and vice versa, the Rs must have his open line phone number.  To increase the disappointment of readers savvy in capital markets regulations, one needs to know that approximately 10 percent of MOL’s shares are now held by the Foundation (Trust) that manages Corvinus University.  Nice going.

One must also add that in 2020 Corvinus University was removed as a  publicly financed university, normally funded by the state budget.  With a stroke of the pen, Corvinus was transferred to a so-called “public purpose asset manager foundation.”  For simplicity, we can call this animal a Trust.  Corvinus was endowed with a generous grant of working capital in the form of cash, MOL shares, other securities, real property and other assets by the Hungarian Government.  The Government appointed a five-member Board of Trustees to oversee the operations of the University.  All five members are either politicians or close to Government or party bosses. The background and status of these “public purpose asset manager foundations” is a bit complex and purposefully convoluted.  Suffice to say that members of the Fidesz friendly Board of Trustees were appointed by the Government, and should there be a vacancy for whatever reason, new members would be elected by a majority of the remaining members and the majority of a lightweight Supervisory Board.  This is a co-opting system not unfamiliar in North America.  But in every other respect, this Hungarian system is like day and night from the operation and management of private universities in either the United States or Canada.

We shall return, in due course, to the big picture of these Trust-managed universities, both their status and funding, in another post, which will cover the dispute surrounding the eligibility of these Trust-managed universities for European Union funding of student participation in the Erasmus program.

In this post, we wish to focus on the outcome of the whistleblower process and its consequences.  We learned that Professor Ádám was terminated for cause with immediate effect.  He had to pack up his brown box and leave the premises on short notice.

During the process before the disciplinary panels, more than 200 faculty members supported the fair and unbiased investigation of Professor Ádám’s whistleblower report.  Faculty stood up for strictly observing the fair and equal exam conditions.  We understand that a few days after his dismissal, a group of faculty members expressed a very vocal protest against it.  They called it shameful and outrageous and would adversely affect the reputation of the university.

Among the collateral consequences are two other departures.  Rector Előd Takáts decided this past summer not to extend his position as Rector. Instead of participating in a non-rewarding internal university power play, he chose to return to an intellectually safer and financially more rewarding banking job in Switzerland.  On Előd’s departure, everyone publicly stated that the investigation of favoritism in the case of student R. had nothing to do with his decision, but it is hard to believe that this conflict, along with the power struggles with the Board of Trustees, did not affect his decision to leave.  And now, in mid-October, we read about the departure of Dean Helga Habis, who resigned her deanship and moved behind the safer walls of an institute within the university.  The departure of one Rector and one Dean in less than six months is not a trivial consequence.  And Professor Ádám has been dismissed from Paradise Corvinus.

Irrespective of the sporadic protests, the message was surely not lost within the Corvinus faculty. Reality sinks in.  The professors of other foundation-managed universities also learned their part of the lesson.  And the message also reverberates through other organizations.

If you blow the whistle, do not be surprised if you lose in a battle with the very same powerful folks who write the rules, apply them, and interpret them in adjudications under their watch.

András Hanák


  1. I do not figure to which fascist regime this NER rhymes. The other day I said a bit of Peronism, but it is sui generis Orbanism. The Corvinus saga continues, hang on.

  2. Thanks for article. Orbánism has some characteristics of Mussolini’s corporatism/fascism as you make clear, especially in opening paragraphs. The “NER” aspect of Orbánism- is sadly- as you know, still not well known in US, let alone in many EU countries. In fact, as the rest of your article makes clear, the Orbán model is clearly in debt to other autocrats past (Mussolini) and present (the Turkish leader). Just the other day the “wise” Trump got confused and called Orbán the leader of Turkey. Perhaps the “wise” one was only partly in error.

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