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Objections to SUNY Event With Turkish Partner

October 29, 2018

Middle East studies scholars are objecting to a panel event the State University of New York is cosponsoring this Friday with Turkey’s Council of Higher Education, a supervisory body that goes by the Turkish acronym YÖK.

A letter from the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom argues that SUNY should not lend legitimacy to YÖK, which it says has been complicit in the dismissal of thousands of Turkish university personnel since a coup attempt in 2016. The Turkish government has justified the mass dismissals based on alleged connections to terrorist organizations, but human rights and academic freedom monitoring groups say the evidence of such ties is often unclear or undisclosed and that many higher education personnel are being persecuted for their political views.

“Given YÖK’s complicity in the purging of Turkish faculty and academic staff on purely political grounds, we do not believe that SUNY or any of its components should collaborate with it or treat it as a legitimate academic entity,” the letter sent to the SUNY system chancellor states.

The panel event scheduled for Friday bears the title “Searching for the Future, Preservation of the Academic Heritage in the Middle East” -- a title that the MESA letter describes as “the height of hypocrisy.” In a written response SUNY said it is “strongly considering the serious concerns raised by MESA.”


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