Statement of the rector to the results of the investigation at the Department of Painting
Statement of the rector of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava to the results of the investigation of the initiative on prof. Ivan Csudai, akad. mal. at the Department of Painting, AFAD
On April 26, 2022, I requested the AFAD Ethics Commission by letter to open proceedings in case of suspected unethical behaviour of prof. Ivan Csudai, akad. mal., which was publicised several times in the daily press and on social networks. I established the Ethics Commission and a group of experts - observers from the internal and external environment of the school to assess the teacher's actions. The Ethics Commission obtained the testimonies of the victims, listened to 15 witnesses from the ranks of graduates, current and former colleagues, who testified about the teacher's behaviour towards students in the years 2008 - 2012.
After familiarising myself with the content of all the testimonies and the written conclusions of the AFAD Ethics Commission, I state the following. Prof. Ivan Csudai, akad. mal. – the head of the 4th studio at the Department of Painting violated the principle of equal treatment as defined by the anti-discrimination law no. 365/2004 Coll., committed psychological violence and incitement of physical violence, humiliation, ridicule and bullying towards students, did not respect freedom of speech and critical thinking, created an intimidating environment at the Department of Painting.
I recognise the initiative of the victims as legitimate. As the rector of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, I apologize on behalf of myself and the entire school, namely to Mgr. art. Ivana Šáteková, Mgr. art. Katarína Sido and Mag. art. Èv van Hettmer, as well as their families and relatives. I also apologise to their fellow students from the Department of Painting, who experienced the teacher's incidents towards the bullied students and the tense atmosphere in the department.
At the same time, I realise that recognition and apology are not enough because the lives of young people will be forever scarred. I understand the opening and verification of the initiative as the beginning of the process of the institutional policy of preventing unethical behaviour on the campus of the AFAD. It made visible the fundamental lack of tools that would allow the school to punish such serious actions. As far as the case of prof. Ivan Csudai, akad. mal. for proceedings in the years 2008 - 2012, from the point of view of the anti-discrimination law, the initiative is already time-barred. Thanks to the public complaints of the victims, we as a school started to take steps towards creating a safe and fair space, to introducing tools to draw consequences for unethical and discriminatory behaviour, for example by terminating the employment contract. The Codex of Ethics was adopted, the Ethics Commission and the school ombudsman were established, the procedure for how and to whom to submit a complaint was published on the school's website and in informational study materials. Cooperation with experts in the field of anti-discrimination law, psychology, gender equality and the issue of sexual harassment began. The School's Work Regulations are currently being finalised, which will also apply to the Codex of Ethics in case of serious violations of the work discipline of employees. Student polls focused on the "school climate survey" will be important, as well as training for teachers, students, which should be aimed at building a collegial and safe environment for strengthening respect and responsibility on the campus of the AFAD. I perceive that for the formation of the school as an ethical and fair space, it is essential that students, employees have confidence in the school and the institution of the AFAD Ethics Commission, so that adequate conditions are created in which they can define without fear or fear of violating the Codex of Ethics.
This is a process for the next few years, it will not be easy or painless. I believe that together we will create clear rules with defined boundaries on the campus, where the freedom, creativity, critical thinking and personality of each and every student can develop.
In Bratislava, on February 24, 2023
doc. Mgr. Bohunka Koklesová, PhD.
rector of AFAD
A few notes on studio teaching at art academies.
Terms such as School of that teacher or master studios, or studios represented by the charisma of one cantor belong to the past. The role of a teacher is not to harshly and uncompromisingly demand results in a hierarchically structured studio or, on the contrary, condescendingly state that the purpose of pedagogical practice is to accompany students on their way to becoming an artist. Education in the field of art is an honest and responsible work, which should be more civil than adoring art as a phenomenon built above all "mundane" everyday things. I am convinced that studios at art schools should be led by important artistic personalities of international importance. However, changes should occur in the way individual studios are managed. Studios built on old principles create autonomous, closed spaces in which one possible view of art is promoted. At the same time, the closedness of such studios not only weakens the critical way of thinking, but it is also a space in which it is very difficult to observe the ethics of mutual relations. The school is responsible for its fair environment and must inevitably open questions about the updated forms of pedagogical practice in art schools. More than one voice of the head of the studio appears to be an important reflection of the wider plenary discussing the student's work. Not only with the help of assistants and doctoral students, whose focus on classic assistantships has since long become empty, but it is also important to actively connect creative work in the studios with deeper theoretical thinking. I am convinced that schools that understand the need to actively connect practical teaching with theoretical thinking directly in the studios will find a way out for further progress. Theoretical teaching and studio practice should not be two independent situations. In the common free space, an active debate on the works of students is to take place, where several opinions or professional profiles are connected. The ways of thinking of all the professions can be extremely inspiring to each other and can bring a lot of positive things into the dynamics of teaching. There is no one standard for teaching art. But I am convinced that it is necessary to rethink what we understand by academic rights and freedoms. They should not be just a gloriole of the inviolability of the academic environment, on the contrary, they should be directly integrated into the daily teaching process, complemented by other interpretations of their meanings. Academic rights and freedoms must be rethought for the needs of the 21st century.