A student movement for religious tolerance has scored a major victory: UCLA's Islamic Studies program will re-open this fall after being frozen since 2007.
Since the fall of 2010, UCLA students had rallied, demonstrated, and attracted more than 5,400 signatures from the international Change.org community who called on the UCLA administration to bring back the program. These activists, led by student Ilona Gerbakher, argued that the fate of UCLA's program was a matter of national importance.
As we at Change.org blogged about - and publicized - their campaign, students kept the petition updated and finely-targeted, marshalling national support to show UCLA administrators that this was far larger than a campus issue.
UCLA has hosted a world-class program in Islamic studies for fifty years--exactly what one would think the American public would need in a time of increasingly heated discussion about such topics as Sharia law and Islam. Yet regents are attempting to quietly shutter this pioneering program as it is poised to become a crucial center education and information crucial to Los Angeles, California, and the country. Why would the administration make such a decision?
The usual answer would be to blame such a decision on a lack of funds, however, UCLA’s Islamic Studies actually brings in millions of dollars in government grant despite spending only $130,000 a year on its faculty. Other humanities’ departments program are able to benefit from Islamic Studies’ presence on campus, as they hire Islamic Studies grad students to TA popular courses such as intro to Islam, Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. Internationally-known scholars of Islam and the Middle East have earned their PhDs in Islamic Studies from UCLA, and members of its faculty have consulted with the State Department on matters concerning American-Islamic relations and interfaith outreach. Graduates of the program, particularly those who speak Middle Eastern and South Asian languages, are uniquely positioned to find jobs in public service, business, consulting, academia, and tech.
Tell UCLA decision-makers that you are in support of students' demands to:
1. Re-open admissions to the UCLA Islamic Studies graduate program by Winter of 2011;
2. Offer courses on Islam to graduate students with the eventual goal of creating an undergraduate program in Islamic Studies;
3. Provide TAships, RAships, and Post-Doctoral Fellowships to students of Islamic Studies Program;
4. Operate with transparency and accountability when making decisions that will impact the long-term viability of the program.
Photo credit: pdbreen