From the Director's Desk: YÜKSEL SEZGIN
The Middle East region continues to be a vastly misunderstood part of the world. In the minds of most Americans, the region is often associated with violence, terrorism, warfare and authoritarianism. Social and mainstream media produce, and reproduce, biased and prejudiced representations of the region and its people. Unfortunately, American political institutions and policy-makers not only increasingly subscribe to these misinformed, racialized and ahistorical representations, but also base their policies in the region on these fallacies.
The Middle East region is going through some of the worst times in its history since the end of World War I. The people’s dreams of freedom, peace, prosperity and democracy now look even less attainable. And what’s worse, the Middle East is not alone in this bleak picture. As political developments of the last few years attest, democracy and freedoms are under threat all over the world. The rule of law, civil and political rights and freedoms are diminishing right here at home, too. Trust in democratic institutions, the judiciary and the media are at an all-time low.
One of my favorite words in Farsi and Ottoman Turkish is Dar ul-Funun. It literally means “the house of sciences” or “university.” Syracuse University is a world-renowned house of sciences. Here, we are dedicated to the production and dissemination of data-driven, impartial and objective scientific knowledge and truth. We do not see people as “whites” or “blacks,” we do not ban people because they read a different scripture or turn their faces in a different direction when they pray; we do not have walls separating those who dare to dream from those who dare to love, and we do not have any political agendas. Here, we seek only knowledge, nothing but the knowledge.
Syracuse University’s MESP is an interdisciplinary program dedicated to the advancement of scientific and scholarly knowledge in Middle Eastern cultures, languages, history and politics. We are a community of educators, scholars and students who every day carry out cutting-edge research and knowledge production, and engage in world-class teaching and learning. We empower our students by teaching them skills that are critical not only for their academic and professional development, but also for participation in public life as global-minded citizens.
The education of the citizenry is the key. In the absence of such education, the democratic experience suffers and leads to deterioration of our freedoms and the rule of law. Throughout the year, we organize workshops, panels, language tables and cultural events, which are attended by hundreds of students and community members. As the director, I am happy to report that we continue to grow as a program and shine as a beacon of knowledge and learning on our campus, in our city, in our state, and in the nation.
We are aware of our intellectual responsibilities and civic duty. We are working very hard to succeed in them. In the days ahead, we will work even harder to make sure we are not just educating our students, but also contributing—in meaningful ways—to the intellectual evolution of our communities beyond the campus.
I would like to thank our deans at the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences, the staff and leadership of the Moynihan Institute, our dedicated faculty, our students, the friends of the program and our donors for their generosity and continued support. I hope that you will consider supporting our programs and activities by making a tax-deductible donation at http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/giving (please designate “MESP” as the recipient in the comment box).