Turkish Grant at University Sparks Controversy

The Detroit News recently reported that a request by the University of Michigan for Turkey to underwrite a professorship has triggered a debate about whether the grant would be a manipulative way for foreign officials to influence what is taught.

According to the Detroit News–Armenian-American critics charge that the Turkish government wants to endow such positions so it can influence what version of history is taught–whitewashing Turkey’s role in the massacre of more than 1 million Armenia’s during World War I.

Similar attempts have been made by the Turkish government involving several other universities.

Administrators at the department of Turkish Studies at the University of Michigan argue that the grant will help encourage Turkish studies and provide necessary resources.

Nevertheless–Armenian-Americans see through the intentions of the Turkish government and remain skeptical.

"These chairs are being established for the purpose of revising history," said Metro Detroit businessman Edgar Hagopian.

Taking money from foreign governmen’s can infringe academic freedom.

In the long run–the government donating the money will have some say–however small–in what is going to be thought and how its going to be thought.

According to the Detroit News–"Michael Bonner–director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African studies who is seeking the grant–said he would ensure that no conditions are put on the financing. He has talked with diplomatic representatives and is awaiting a response from Turkish officials."

Often as was the example with UCLA last year–the Turkish government offers gran’s under the condition that research be conducted based on Turkish archives.

These archives contain only "selective" information at best–and integrating this information into the curriculum can be lethal.

Currently–there are two endowed chairs of Armenian studies at the University of Michigan. The Department of Turkish Studies does not have any endowed chairs.


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