LOS ANGELES’sThe University of California at Los Angeles has become the latest institution of higher education in the United States to be targeted by the government of Turkey for a Turkish and Ottoman history chair.
The Turkish government’sfollowing a tradition begun in the last decade’shas announced a $1 million donation to UCLA’s Von Grunebaum Near Eastern Studies Center establishing the UCLA Turkish and Ottoman History Chair. The first installment of the donation ($250,000)’sthe likes of which have been made in the last few years to institutions such as Princeton University in New Jersey and Portland State University in Oregon’swas handed over to Irene Bierman’sthe director of the Near Eastern Studies Center and Jennifer Waterhouse Porter’sdirector of development for the International Studies and Overseas Programs at UCLA’sat the Turkish Embassy in Washington by Ambassador Nuzhet Kandemir earlier this month.
While the establishment of cultural and historical chairs is not an unusual occurrence’sthe Turkish government has a track record of disseminating governmental and political propaganda through its carefully selected faculty chair holders.
Turkey’s donation is expected to come with a set of conditions based on which a chair holder is to be chosen. Although such conditions have not yet been announced’sthe Portland State University episode may be an indication as to what Turkey may require from UCLA. In that case the individual under consideration for the chair is to have "published works…based upon extensive utilization of archives and libraries in Turkey…[he is required] to maintain close and cordial relation with academic circles in Turkey." Such conditions’saccording to academicians’sare ways for Turkey to ensure for its revised archives to be prevalently used at universities; it is curious that many times scholars are denied access to the Turkish archives if they clearly do not support the thesis put forth by the Turkish government on various historical periods.
Most recently Princeton’s Heath Lowry’sthe first occupant of the Ataturk Turkish Studies chair at the University was revealed to have been closely tied with Turkish governmental figures’sincluding Kandemir’sas well as others in Turkey. Lowry’s Genocide denial efforts were further publicized’swhen letters to Kandemir by the discredited scholar were inadvertently leaked to the public by the Embassy. The letters clearly demonstrated Lowry’s cooperation with the government of Turkey in denying the Armenian Genocide.
The UCLA academic and the Armenian-American community of Los Angeles have expressed their stern opposition to Turkey’s attempts to once again infiltrate prestigious academic institutions in order to further its political propaganda.
"The Turkish government’s motivation in establishing ‘academic’ studies chairs at American universities is abundantly clear to anyone who has followed their insidious campaign to distort and deny the Armenian Genocide," stated ANCA-WR Board member Steven Dadaian’s"UCLA’s reputation as one of the nation’s great academic institutions will be indelibly harmed by the establishment of Turkish Chair paid for by the Republic of Turkey and beholden o their view of historical revisionism."
UCLA-affiliated scholar Dr. Roubina Peroomian considers these Turkish efforts as another step in Turkey’s ongoing campaign of denying the truth. "[There] are two levels to these efforts. On the one hand it is political…while on the other hand [Turkey] has gone into universities to continue its work," explained Peroomian. "Instead of recognizing its historic past’salong with its mistakes’slike other civilized people’sTurkey continues to white wash its historic stains…it’s disgusting."
In an editorial published Thursday in UCLA’s Daily Bruin Chancellor Albert Carnesale’sduring a Capitol Hill reception this week’sreportedly assured a UCLA alumnus that there would be a clear rejection of any efforts by the Turkish government to influence any academic program at the University.
Although University officials have maintained that the Turkish government will not be allowed to have a say’sTurkey’s track record attests differently’ssay observers.
In an article scheduled to appear in the Daily Bruin Tuesday’sthe Armenian Students Association at the university clearly stated its concerns with the recent developmen’s. "Any chair endowed with a gift of one million dollars by a foreign government would necessitate a modicum of scrutiny. One would think that this should be even more the case when such money comes from the Turkish government," contend the students’s"Its record in terms of human rights abuses’speriodical military coups’sforced Turkicization of its minority population (especially its 10 million Kurds)’simprisonment and violence against unpalatable journalists’sand state control of academic production is unsurpassed."
According to history major Ardashes Kassakhian’swho also leads the ASA as its president’sthere is no objection to the establishment of a legitimate Ottoman history studies program’showever’she says’s"…under the current conditions’sand based on Turkey’s past track record’sthis chair will infringe on academic integrity’sand that is exactly why it should be reevaluated."
According to the student leader’sthis chair’sif it follows the models set at Princeton and Portland State will reflect extremely poorly upon UCLA and its academic reputation and "it will have serious ramifications."
In 1996 some 100 prominent scholars and authors including’sPeter Balakian’s Richard Hovannisian’sNorman Mailer’sArthur Miller’sKurt Vonnegut’sand the late Allen Ginsburg’sdenounced Turkey’s efforts to corrupt legitimate scholarship in a highly publicized petition which appeared in various national magazines’sincluding The Chronicle of Higher Education. In this petition the signatories condemned Lowry’s activities under the guise of legitimate scholarship. UCLA should take note’ssays observers.
UC Regent Meredith Khachigian was unreachable for comment.
Incidentally’swhen reached for comment at her office’s Bierman’swho is considered to be instrumental in the process’swas said to be in Turkey. The nature of her visit was not disclosed.