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Statement regarding student complaint

College and department leaders respond to a student complaint and messages of concern.

The University of Utah has received a student complaint and messages of concern from the Armenian community about the content of an article written by and assigned in a class taught by Hakan Yavuz, professor of political science.

The United States, the state of Utah and the University of Utah (as a state entity), recognize the historical events of 1915 as the Armenian genocide. The genocide involved extensive suffering and the brutal deaths of more than 1.5 million Armenians, and the pain of those events is still felt in the Armenian community today.

The dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the chair of the Department of Political Science have corresponded with the student who made the complaint, Yavuz and other students in the class. A statement from the dean and department chair is posted below.

The University of Utah stands by a faculty member’s right to academic freedom and the right to examine and communicate ideas by any lawful means even should such activities generate hostility or pressures against the faculty member or the university (Policy 6-316).

Statement from Cynthia A. Berg, dean of College of Social Behavioral Sciences and Brent Steele, chair of the Department of Political Science:

We spoke with Yavuz, who recognizes and teaches the reality of the Armenian massacres of 1915 and understands them to be a catastrophe. As a political scientist, his work is focused primarily on examining the current political impact of the massacres in a way that cultivates a shared language in which Turks and Armenians can both engage and that helps to unpack the motives of this time. He welcomes dialogue on the massacres from the students in his courses and regrets that his work was understood differently than he intended.

He will continue to strive to make his scholarly points more accessible and continue to have clear and open discussions on the events of 1915, sensitive to the deep wounds that they inflicted on a nation and a people, wounds that continue to be felt today. He cares about his students, understands the sensitivity to these challenging topics, strives for students to form their own opinions, and desires for an open discussion in ways that do not result in hurt and distress for students.

Yavuz’s scholarship is internationally recognized and is published in highly regarded journals and academic presses. He is also a respected teacher, as expressed by students here who have issued their support for Yavuz, especially this past week. He is a valued member of our department, college and university.

We value at the University of Utah dialogue on such issues by members of our broader intellectual community.