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Proposed Turkish studies chair voted down

By Daily Bruin Staff

Jan. 11, 1998 9:00 p.m.

Monday, January 12, 1998

Proposed Turkish studies chair voted down

DECESION: History department rejects $1 million grant due to
limits on academic freedom

By Andy Shah

Daily Bruin Contributor

In an unprecedented move, the UCLA history department rejected a
$1 million offer from the Turkish government to establish an
Ottoman and Turkish studies chair, pleasing Armenian American
critics who contend the endowment could have compromised academic
integrity.

On Dec. 5, the department voted 18-17 against the Turkish offer
and brought an ongoing UCLA controversy to an end.

Critics say that some conditions in the offer are part of
Turkey’s revisionist campaign to deny the Armenian genocide of
1915.

One condition obligates the professor to "maintain close and
cordial relations with academic circles in Turkey." Some say this
would have endangered the academic freedom of researchers.

"I hope this rejection will set a precedent for other
universities to exercise the same sound judgment when considering
proposed funding from donors that have nonacademic agendas," said
Pedro Zarokian, a member of the Armenian Students Association.

However, Ahnet Faralyali, president of the Turkish Students
Association, said the rejection was disappointing.

"I’m really sad to see that the history department refused to
take this money because the Armenians didn’t want them to. Other
universities have accepted this money," Faralyali said.

The Turkish government has already endowed chairs at several
American universities, including Harvard, Georgetown and
Princeton.

In 1993, Princeton accepted a $750,000 endowment from the
Turkish government to form a similar Turkish studies chair in the
department of Near Eastern studies.

Critics claimed that Turkey was spreading propaganda by
influencing the selection of the chair.

Professor Heath Lowry, who was appointed to the Princeton post,
was accused of being partial to the government of Turkey.

He was also criticized for saying he does not believe "genocide"
is the right term to use when describing the deaths of the
Armenians.

However, Amy Gutmann, the dean of faculty, said that the
university "does not permit donors of chairs to influence the
outcome of its appointment process."

UCLA is the first university to completely reject the offer.

Both Faralyali and Stanford Shaw, professor of Turkish history
at UCLA, say the offer could have been renegotiated.

Now the money will be given to another university.

The majority of UCLA department members refused to negotiate,
said Richard Hovannisian, a professor of Armenian history, because
it "felt it wasn’t right to accept money from a foreign government
with serious human rights violations."

For years, Armenian critics have alleged that the Turkish
government has been on a relentless crusade to deny the Ottoman
Turks’ role in the murder of a million Armenians during World War
I.

"We denounce as intellectually and morally corrupt Turkey’s
manipulation of American institutions for the purpose of denial of
its genocide of the Armenians," reads a petition signed by 100
scholars and writers, including John Updike, Norman Mailer, Henry
Louis Gates Jr., Peter Balakian and Arthur Miller.

Yet Turkish scholars regard these denouncements as
"nonsense."

Some Turkish officials say that the extermination of the
Armenians was due to a civil war, not a genocide.

Hovannisian said the proposed chair was not necessary, as
Turkish history is already taught at UCLA. "That area of the world
is not being neglected," he said.

A search committee is being formed to hire a senior professor of
Ottoman and Turkish history to replace Shaw after he retires this
year.

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