University of Michigan Withdraws Bid for Turkish Government Funding

*"The application to the Turkish Government for funding is realistically no longer before us." –Lee Bollinger–President–University of Michigan

BIRMINGHAM–Mich.–After considerable discussions with Armenian American community leaders–the University of Michigan has announced that it has effectively withdrawn its application to the Turkish government to fund a chair in Turkish studies.

In a March 1 letter to Armenian American community activist Edgar Hagopian–University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger stated that the application to receive funding from the Turkish government for a history chair "is realistically no longer before us."

Bollinger states that the University does not "disagree on the facts of history–regarding the great pain and suffering of the Armenian people and its causes." He goes on to note that the University is "continuing to seek private donations to fund their study and teaching." Hagopian released a copy of the letter to the Armenian press–the text of which follows.

The University’s action comes after months of communication between University officials and the Armenian American community. These talks centered on the Turkish government’s history of using gran’s and other means of financial support to manipulate educational institutions and compromise academic integrity–particularly on the teaching of the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s contemporary human rights record.

"We appreciate the respect afforded by President Bollinger to our concerns over Turkish government funding of academic programs at the University of Michigan–and share his commitment to ensuring academic integrity and to providing the highest quality education for the students who attend this institution," said Hagopian.

The prospect of Turkish government funding for a Turkish studies chair sparked widespread controversy within academic circles at the school. University students–administrators–and faculty voiced concerns that accepting funding from a foreign government–particularly one that denies its own citizens freedom of expression–would taint the University’s reputation for academic integrity. Similar concerns led the University of California Los Angeles–last year–to reject Turkish Government funding of a history chair.

Edgar Hagopian–President of the Metropolitan Detroit chapter of the Armenian American Business Council–chaired a Michigan based committee established to educate and sensitize the University of Michigan about the academic integrity issues surrounding the acceptance of funds from the Turkish government. Committee members included Harry Derderian–John Jamian–Robert Thomasian–Paul Kulhanjian and Dr. Dennis Papazian. Working with a coalition of other groups–they called on the University to turn down the Turkish proposal–based on the Turkish government’s track record of using its funding of history chairs to advance the Turkish government’s official policy of denying the Armenian Genocide.

"The value of a community wide effort for any Armenian cause is clearly evident to other communities who may be faced with potential further efforts to distort Armenian history," stated Harry Derderian–Armenian National Committee representative to the committee.

For further information–contact Edgar Hagopian–(248) 646-7847.

Text of the Letter from University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger to Edgar Hagopian

March 1–1999

Edgar Hagopian–President

Armenian American Business Council Inc.

Metropolitan Detroit Chapter

850 South Old Woodward

Birmingham–MI 48009-6722

Dear Mr. Hagopian,

I am writing to share with you my personal concern for any possible misunderstandings between us. We do not disagree on the facts of history–regarding the great pain and suffering of the Armenian people and its causes. I would also like you to know that some of the Regents of the University have expressed their concern for the propriety of funding from the Turkish government.

The application to the Turkish government for funding is realistically no longer before us. The University remains committed to the academic study of Turkish history–language–culture–economics–and politics–as it does for Armenian studies. The scholars and teachers affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies have worked and continue to work diligently and with care–in an honest and unbiased manner. We are continuing to seek private donations to fund their study and teaching.

I would like to have an opportunity to talk with you–personally–about what we might do–together–to advance research and teaching in the critically important areas we have discussed over these months in our correspondence. I will have my assistant call your office to set up a time for us to meet.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger

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