Middle East studies in the News
You Stupid Armenians, You Deserve to be Massacred
by Shaké Hovsepian
The incident of hate that took place at the University of California, at Berkeley between a group of students and Hamid Algar, a professor at the University, is an issue that Usanogh has been covering since it occurred in April of 98.
A group of students were commemorating the Armenian Genocide when Hamid Algar approached them and began making racist statements. His remarks included slurs such as "It was not a Genocide, but I wish it was, you lying pigs!" He was also quoted as saying, "You are distorting the truth about history. You stupid Armenians, you deserve to be massacred!"
One student confronted Algar and asked that he reveal his identity. Although Algar didn't answer this question, his parting words were, "I've been here for 30 years you bastard!"
After this unfortunate incident, the students filed a grievance through the Student Advocate Office. The university conducted an investigation, and came to a decision on January 9, 1999. They concluded that the professor's words "seem to fall within the bounds of constitutionally protected speech", but that "this conclusion does not mean that the University condones the type of speech used by the parties".
The university may not condone this type of speech, but does it condone hate crimes committed by its employees? The university does not see this incident as creating a hostile environment for students, nor have they taken measures to show that they feel it is improper for one of their faculty members to conduct themselves in this manner. They describe the incident as follows: "a single individual addressed a group of eight to ten persons with a view on a historical issue, the Armenian killings of WWI, to which the targeted group had itself invited public attention. However much a particular group may desire or even expect the support of the campus community, opposition to the group's position is just as legitimate as advocacy of it."
However, the humanitarian community of UCB has achieved a small level of victory in regards to this incident. A bill was passed by the Associated Students of U.C. Berkeley (ASUC). The bill is written against hate speech and in support of reprimand for Professor Algar.
"Whereas it is the duty of the university to protect students from harassment and a hostile learning environment," reads the bill that was passed on March 10, 1999. "Whereas Professor Hamid Algar inexcusably, provokingly, and maliciously screamed ethnically demeaning statements and threats to students on university property while students were commemorating the memory of 1.5 million Armenian civilians killed in the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923." And "Whereas the University Police twice refused to file a report from a University student regarding this incident."
No later than 8 days after the bill was passed, the ASUC sent a letter to the university expressing the need for substantial increases in funding directed to educate university officials on the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. The ASUC also sent a letter to the university demanding that the university take a disciplinary action in reprimanding Professor Hamid Algar by means of censure unless an acceptable written apology is submitted by Professor Algar to the student body.
The ASUC Senate immediately directed the ASUC President, Student Advocate, and Acting External Affairs Vice President to have the respective officers assist the Armenian Student Association in initiating a campus-wide activist movement by means of campus group coalition building, petition signing, and the censure of Professor Hamid Algar by the university unless Professor Algar submits an acceptable written apology to the student body.
Even though this is a great victory, it's not the end. This is only a recognition of the professor's wrong doing on the part of the students. We must get the university to recognize the injustice and discipline the offending faculty. The university administration has yet to take any disciplinary action towards Algar. We encourage everyone to write letters directly to the Chancellor of UCB. A sample letter can be found at the Usanogh Webpage at www.usanogh.comNote: 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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