Last Monday, The University of Chicago International House hosted University of Louisville professor Justin McCarthy. McCarthy is an adamant denier of the Armenian Genocide, claiming it was part of a civil war between the Ottoman Empire and Armenian rebels during World War I.
According to a Chicago Maroon article published on the event, in response to a question, McCarthy said, “If I’m wrong, prove I’m wrong. If I’m wrong, have a discussion, if they’re wrong, have a discussion. What’s been saddest about this whole business is that we’ve had nothing but protest. What we need is dialogue.”
While I full heartedly respect this approach and value the importance of freedom of speech, discussion, and dialogue, I am deeply disheartened by UChicago’s lack of response on the importance of debate and the presentation of diverse opinions.
Upon learning about the event, I composed and sent the following email to an International House staff member:
My name is Francesca Freeman and I am a fourth year at UChicago. I am also the Student Director of STAND, the Student Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities.
It has come to my attention that Professor Justin McCarthy will be talking at I-House on Monday, April 25. He has broadly been acknowledged as a denier of the Armenian genocide. While I value the right to freedom of speech and the importance of dialogue among those with differing opinions, I was wondering if you could respond with information on the decision to hold this event as we face the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide (which is widely acknowledged as being on April 21). It seems as though this fact has pointed political inclinations that are deeply disrespectful and isolating to the Armenian community on campus. I am not personally Armenian but have talked with the Armenian Students Organization and they are deeply uncomfortable with this event. Furthermore, I am wondering if you could also speak to the fact that there are very few events acknowledging the counter-point on campus. It seems inappropriate to bring in such an isolating figure if we are not also given the opportunity of understanding the other viewpoint.
Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you.
I never received a response.
I am disappointed with the university and their lack of diversity on opinions on this complex topic and disappointed in their lack of response to concerns about the isolation of students of the Armenian community.
The Armenian Students Association of UChicago is creating a petition that will demand that the administration explain it’s reasoning in hosting Justin McCarthy. I am eager to sign and share the petition and to hold my school accountable for their decisions and actions.