Middle East studies in the News
Islamic Studies Program Likely to Reopen for 2011-2012 Academic Year [incl. Khaled Abou El Fadl]
Pending an official vote during winter quarter, the currently suspended UCLA Islamic Studies program will likely be able to accept applicants for the 2011-2012 academic year.
In order for the program to officially reopen admissions, the Academic Senate's Committee on Rules and Jurisdiction must approve the department's revamped bylaws, said Steve Nelson, Graduate Council chairman, after a meeting Tuesday.
After the bylaws are approved, the Graduate Council will vote to lift the suspension on Islamic Studies.
These votes could take place as early as January and will likely result in the admittance of new Islamic Studies students for the fall 2011 quarter, Nelson said.
Delegates discussed the Islamic Studies program's improvements since the Academic Senate froze its admissions in 2008 because of budget concerns and complaints of poor management, said Khaled Abou El Fadl, Islamic Studies department chair. They also met to consider the possibility of lifting the suspension and reopening enrollment to Islamic Studies.
About 40 protesters made their way from Meyerhoff Park to Murphy Hall before Tuesday's 3 p.m. meeting, shouting choruses of "Hay, ho! Islamic Studies will not go!" They continued to chant and wave signs while delegates convened inside the building.
Ilona Gerbakher, a fourth-year Middle Eastern and North African studies student, requested acceptance to the program in spite of its suspension. When her request was denied this summer, she launched her campaign to get the program reinstated.
Gerbakher utilized social media to rally worldwide support for the department. Using outlets such as Facebook, Gerbakher got 5,000 signatures on an online petition and informed students of Tuesday's protest.
"The administration can't close Islamic Studies because it sends a horrible message to those who have a bigoted attitude about Islam," Gerbakher said, citing anti-Islam blog posts that praised UCLA's suspension of the program. "Some people think that closing the program is a victory for bigotry."
Islamic Studies graduate student Amaani Shams and a smattering of her fellow protesters chanted through an open window while delegates met inside Murphy Hall.
"UCLA is known for its academic diversity," Shams said. "Keeping Islamic Studies would keep the diversity of education alive. It would keep the reputation of UCLA alive."
An influx of support, including the protest and letters from around the globe, greatly influenced the meeting's outcome, Abou El Fadl said.
"Administrators are human beings, and you can't expect them to know what programs have a lot of interest," Abou El Fadl said. "There has been a new spirit injected into the discussion because there is proof of worldwide interest in the health of this program."
The new bylaws will feature changes to the program that Abou El Fadl presented to the Academic Senate during Tuesday's meeting.
The Islamic Studies department currently does not have a full-time Islamic Studies professor, so faculty from other departments teach the program's students. In the past, this has resulted in inadequate student support from professors and has contributed to apathy about the program, Abou El Fadl said.
To remedy this, Abou El Fadl has collected a roster of 25 faculty who have pledged to treat Islamic Studies students as students of their own departments, more readily open courses to them, advise them, and serve on Islamic Studies departmental committees.
Abou El Fadl said the new bylaws will also include a modified curriculum and more rigorous standards of admission.
He added that he would not be surprised if a full-time Islamic Studies professor was hired within the next two years.
While anticipating a final vote, Bruin supporters of the program are generally hopeful.
"There is a sense of urgency about re-opening the program," said Kristina Benson, a fourth-year Ph.D. Islamic studies student. "For two years, it seemed like nobody really cared about it. But now, I think the administration does."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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