Monday, November 24, 1997
Armenians protest over proposed Turkish studies chair
$1 million endowment spurs debate between students; history
department will meetBy Dennis Lim
Daily Bruin Contributor
A small group of Armenian students demonstrated the power of
organization and petitioning last Tuesday.
They successfully asked USAC to approve a resolution to object
to the establishment of a chair in Ottoman and Turkish Studies.
"It is the equivalent of having the Nazis fund a Jewish-studies
program," said Ardashes Kassakhian, president of the Armenian
The resolution expresses USAC’s "solidarity … in opposing the
proposed Ottoman and Turkish Studies endowed chair."
Turkey has been highly criticized for its less-than-perfect
human-rights track record, and accusations of attempts to cover up
the Armenian genocides of 1915 and 1916.
In response to this, USAC voted unanimously to approve the
The Turkish Student Association, however, sees the issue
"It’s sad to see that (the Armenian Students Union) attacks the
integrity of the History Department and the UC’s integrity by
claiming that they can be influenced by foreign governments," said
Ahmet Faralyali, president of the TSA. "We were not even contacted
in regards to this resolution. I hope USAC will make an effort to
hear both sides of the story."
The resolution came in response to an agreement signed between
the international studies department and the Turkish Foundation, an
arm of the Turkish government, which included a $1 million
endowment for the establishment of the chair. In order to receive
the $1 million, the university must match the $1 million.
The first meeting in a process that could take years of research
and study will take place Dec. 8, when the history department will
convene to discuss the matter. No discussion or decision has been
made in regards to the chair.
"An agreement was signed by the international studies department
and the Turkish Foundation," said Richard Von Glahn, chair of the
history department. "However, that agreement will have no standing
unless the history department approves it."
Should the department approve it, the Academic Senate must then
review the proposal, followed by the chancellor and the Board of
Regents. At any step, the proposal can be denied and the agreement
But to help secure the decision in favor of a Turkish chair, the
Turkish ambassador to the United States, Nuzhet Kamdemir, made a
$250,000 good-faith contribution to the UCLA Foundation. The
contribution has been placed in a holding account until a final
decision can be made.
"The review process for an academic chair is a very long and
lengthy one," said Brian Copenhaver, provost of the College of
Letters and Sciences.
"There will be many steps before we render a judgment. We want
to make sure that we make an appropriate academic review."
This is where USAC hopes to have the largest influence. Although
the resolution has no direct impact on the history department, it
can help influence the department’s decision, according to members
Much of the resistance to the establishment of a Turkish and
Ottoman studies chair arises out of fear that Turkish historians
may attempt to rewrite history, especially in regards to the
Armenian genocides, opponents said.