Quick Takes
January 19, 2011


Middle East Studies Group Urges End to Suit Against U. of Minnesota

The Middle East Studies Association is urging the Turkish Coalition of
America to withdraw a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota
materials, since removed from the university's genocide studies website,
calling a website of the Turkish group an "unreliable" source for
information about the Armenian genocide, which most scholars say
happened, and which the Turkish group questions.

In a letter to the coalition,

the Middle East studies group said: "Your organization, and those who
hold perspectives different from those expressed by scholars associated
with the Center, certainly have the right to participate in open
scholarly exchange on the history of the Armenians in the late Ottoman
Empire or any other issue, by presenting their views at academic
conferences, in the pages of peer-reviewed scholarly journals or by
other means, thereby opening them up to debate and challenge. We are
distressed that you instead chose to take legal action against the
University of Minnesota and its Center for Holocaust and Genocide
Studies, apparently for having at one point characterized views
expressed on your website in a certain way. We fear that legal action of
this kind may have a chilling effect on the ability of scholars and
academic institutions to carry out their work freely and to have their
work assessed on its merits, in conformity with standards and procedures
long established in the world of scholarship. Your lawsuit may thus
serve to stifle the free expression of ideas among scholars and academic
institutions regarding the history of Armenians in the later Ottoman
Empire, and thereby undermine the principles of academic freedom."

Bruce Fein, one of the lawyers for those suing the University of
Minnesota (a group that includes a student there), rejected the
criticisms from the Middle East scholars. Via e-mail, Fein said that "it
is obvious that the letter writers never bothered to read the
complaint.... The complaint explicitly renounces what the misinformed
letter authors assert: that we are challenging the right of professors
to voice their opinions about the reliability of web or other
information sources. The complaint questions the authority of a state
school to de facto prohibit students from visiting websites solely
because of the viewpoint expressed and not for any bona fide educational
purpose. If I were a teacher, I would give an F grade to the letter for
failure of the writers to do their homework and egregiously
misrepresenting the facts without even contacting the opposing side."

From: A. Papazian