PORTLAND–Portland State University has agreed to accept a $750,000 grant from the government of Turkey–making it yet another in a long line of recent American institutions of higher learning to accept such a monetary gift from a source outside the United States.
Turkish ambassador to the US Nuzhet Kandemir presented PSU Foundation head Lee Scott Theisen with a down payment check of $200,000 Sunday in a low-key Washington ceremony–which will establish an endowment fund for the university–the interest from which–supplemented by state funds–will hire and pay a professor specializing in Turkey’s modern history and–according to PSU officials–resurrect the fledged Middle East Studies Center at the institution.
The decision by PSU to accept the gift has–as expected–raised questions about academic integrity in the United States that will undoubtedly be less and less rare as public universities turn increasingly to outside financing. Hurt by a slowdown of governmental support–schools are becoming more entrepreneural and tapping new sources of money.
And with that push–questions of conflict of interest are coming up in Oregon and elsewhere.
Serop Nenejian of the Armenian National Committee of Oregon has spearheaded the distribution of a statement by the ANC protesting the financial grant–expressing his and the organization’s disappointment with PSU and calling into question where the line between political propaganda and academic freedom is to be drawn.
The ANC activist in a statement said–"Our concern is based not only on the undeniable fact that Armenia’s have suffered Tukey’s more than eighty-year denial of the Genocide…but also-and more importantly-the wasy the Turkish government has used similar academic programs in the US to revise history and to influence public opinion and political decision making."
Armenian-Americans in Portland have protested the donation–which they say is yet another avenue of Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide–and that gifts such as this–Harvard–Princeton and Georgetown and other schools also have received gran’s–will buy a scholarly coverup of history.
Last year–a group of renowned scholars and writers–including Peter Balakian–Norman Mailer–Kurt Vonnegut and Israel Charney–published an open petition condemning Turkey’s blatant attempts to "cleanse its image and deny its history" by placing so-called scholars who are well versed in denial of the Armenian Genocide.
However–Frederick Nunn–director of PSU’s international affairs department–has stated that his department–and the university as a whole–has no reservations about taking the money from Turkey–saying he is confident the grant has no strings attached–and will do nothing to taint the pages of history.
Greg Goekjian–a PSU English professor–has risen in opposition of his institution’s decision to accept the grant–saying only that now–the university must prove by its actions that the money will not bind its hands.
The remaining $550,000 of Turkey’s $750,000 pledge will change hands by year’s end–according to the Turkish embassy–after which–PSU will begin structure of its Turkish studies program as per the agreement with the Turkish government.