Petition Against Armenian Chairs Continues to Concern Students

In our February 16 issue, we discussed a recent online petition against texts and methods being used at Armenian studies chairs at universities across the US.

The organizers of the petition are a small group of Armenian history students who are backed by six organizations that have issued the petition. These six groups are not student associations, with four of them being directors of Armenian television programs and two of them representing two organizations in the community.

The petition campaign calls on university heads to remove “The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times,” textbook from circulation, saying the textbook is filled with “outrageous mistakes and falsifications.”

The organizers of the petition have also appealed to the president of Armenia, the Diaspora minister, the director of the National Academy of History, the director of the National Academy of Armenian Studies and Social Sciences and the director of the Yerevan State University Aram Simonyan, urging them to “assist and facilitate the creation of an online Armenian history textbook to be used by universities in Armenian, English, Russian and perhaps Turkish.”

Deputy Diaspora Minister Stepan Petrosyan responded to this appeal by saying plans were underway to “create a pan-national Armenian history online textbook” in the near future.

The campaign, which aside from the online petition (1722 signatories at press time) includes a series of videos posted on YouTube on the general heading of “Falsification of Armenian History” is targeting a group Armenian Studies chair holders (among them the UCAL Armenian Language chair Peter Cowe) who are being accused of depicting Armenia’s as “colonists” of their homeland, calling this approach a deliberate effort by these academicians to falsify Armenian history.

Last month we discussed this campaign and expressed that a call for the removal of textbooks and having one history textbook is a perplexing and unacceptable approach in academia. We reiterate that the tenor and recommendations of this campaign–instead of resolving certain valid concerns and providing more accurate or less controversial alternatives to textbooks–come off as narrow-minded and extremist and thus will be deemed as non-credible by any critic.

The first response to this campaign came from the All-Armenian Student Association (A grouping of ASAs from 14 Southern California universities, the ARF Shant Students Association and the Armenian Youth Federation) who, on February 22 issued an announcement calling upon “the public not to be deceived by this campaign and to reject and repudiate the reprehensible attempts to discredit professors and scholars.” The All-ASA announcement asserts that the organizers of the petition campaign are not students and the videos that are included in the campaign are character assassinations that do not benefit academia. The group also announced that it will “firmly stand against this attempt at compromising the work” of Armenian Studies Chairs in the United States.

The organizers of the “Falsification of Armenian History” campaign allege that the All-ASA does not represent a cross-section of Armenian students in universities, on the other hand, the All-ASAs assert that many students have signed the petition inadvertently thinking that it was targeting Turkish academicians deliberately altering and revising history.


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