We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the students and faculty affiliated with the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) who have written open letters to you regarding the decision to replace the Center’s Associate Director, Dr. Anny Bakalian, with a part-time college assistant following her retirement in summer 2016.
MEMEAC serves as nexus for the CUNY system as an interdisciplinary center that provides training for Ph.D. and MA students as well as resources for faculty across campuses. Furthermore, MEMEAC welcomes students from the Middle East and of Middle-Eastern backgrounds at a time when the Graduate Center’s lack of diversity has only become more acute. To terminate this line would remove a space that fosters a diverse atmosphere and critical scholarship within the CUNY system.
More widely, MEMEAC’s academic and cultural credibility, which relates to the all-important matter of fundraising, depends significantly on the nationally and internationally-rated cultural and scholastic events that have become its trademark. These are the dedicated responsibility of the Associate Director, demanding a specialist facility, long and flexible hours, diplomatic and many other related skills, and self-evident contemporary authority likely to be far beyond what can be reasonably required from a part-time college assistant. By making the latter sort of appointment, these value-added but essential functions of MEMEAC will quickly deteriorate, eventually leaving little of what has been achieved during the last fifteen years.
Therefore, replacing the Associate Director with a college assistant working 20 hours per week will diminish a thriving center that serves several stakeholders in the university. While we are aware of the gravity of the fiscal crisis, we support MEMEAC affiliated students and faculty in their firm belief that terminating the position of Associate Director is shortsighted and will in the long term be harmful to the interests of CUNY, its current and future graduate students and faculty working on the Middle East.