Mass. Bill to Block Foreign Funding of State Colleges

*Representatives Kaprielian–Koutoujian introduce act on academic freedom.

BOSTON–Representatives Rachel Kaprielian of Watertown and Representative Peter Koutoujian of Newton last week filed legislation to ban publicly funded universities and colleges from accepting gifts or bequests from donors who place restrictions on the use of the funds–thus limiting the academic freedom of the institution.

Prompted by the concern that the Turkish government has been utilizing educational gran’s to deny the Turkish government’s genocide of 1.5 million Armenia’s in public as well as private universities and colleges throughout the United States–Kaprielian and Koutoujian filed the legislation in an attempt to put an end to the distortion of the history of the Armenian Genocide in Massachusetts.

The legislation–An Act Relative to Academic Freedom in State Colleges–mandates that "The trustees are hereby prohibited from accepting any gifts or bequests from any source that places conditions or restrictions on the use of such gifts or bequests in such a way as to interfere with or otherwise limit the academic freedom of a state college."

The Turkish government continues to undertake a policy of denial and distortion of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 which prevents a necessary atonement by the Turkish people–noted a release issued by Rep. Kaprielian’s office. "The Armenian community in Massachusetts has steadfastly held to its mission to attain the acknowledgment by the Republic of Turkey and all nations of the atrocities that befell our ancestors and families in 1915," stated Kaprielian. "This bill is another facet of this mission. Academia is a place for the pursuit of truth–and what happened to the Armenia’s is an important truth in understanding who we are."

"The Massachusetts branches of the Armenian National Committee of America applaud and support this legislation–which would ensure that academic integrity will not be compromised in the colleges and universities of the Commonwealth," stated Grace Kehetian Kulegian–Executive Director of the ANCA Eastern Region. "We are very pleased that this legislation mandates that the Commonwealth’s academic institutions maintain their independence–academic freedom–and integrity."

When Portland State University signed an agreement in 1997 accepting $750,000 from the Republic of Turkey to endow a chair in Contemporary Turkish Studies at the university–the contract stipulated that the professor hired as chairholder have "published works based upon extensive utilization of archives and libraries in Turkey" and to "maintain close and cordial relations with academic circles in Turkey." The controversy at Portland State is being noted on college campuses across the country.

Earlier this year–the State Senate in Rhode Island passed an act similar to the legislation introduced by Kaprielian and Koutoujian–and–last year–similar concerns led the University of California at Los Angeles to reject Turkish government funding of a history chair. Also earlier this year the University of Michigan announced that it had effectively withdrawn its application to the Turkish government to fund a chair in Turkish studies.


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