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May 23, 2011

AUIS Professor Answers Russ Baker: Come, Visit AUIS and See the Reality

Russ Baker 

Student Eye has reached to a letter which is sent by a professor at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani criticizing an article and an interview written by Russ Baker, an American journalist. 

The AUIS professor accuses Baker of laziness and asks him to come to AUIS to see the reality by himself. 

Read the letter below:

I am currently at AUI-S (although heading back home after a very illuminating year inKurdistan). I can't comment on all that's been written in this piece and in the remarks below since many of them predate my time here in Suli.  What I can say, though, is that little ofthis squares with my own experience. I watched the bizarre "interview" R. Baker did and can only say that it was among the more amateurish performances I've witnessed on the tube in awhile. The facts that seemed so suggestive to Baker are really quite straightforward: the school was founded in 2007 with seed money from the US with the remainder of the school's funding coming from private sources in Kurdistan. Baker suggested that somehow this represents some unholy alliance between US oil interests and those who lured us into Iraq. Not quite. Yes, students at AUIS can major in business and engineering - why wouldn't they? They're in Iraq!!! What do you want them to major in to get their country back on its feet - post-colonial studies? Be reasonable, or at least rational, please. They have oil and want business to invest in Iraq. Seems pretty logical to me. We don't have to imagine some sinister plot to account for this.

As for sex scandals, there were none that occurred at AUIS and to suggest otherwise is simply engaging in the kind of skewed journalism supposedly held in contempt by this site. This is a classic case of trying to assign guilt by association and is reprehensible.

The sources for this article have themselves not been properly researched by Mr. Baker. In his rush to judgment he accepted as fact the word of two teachers who got the sack. Why they got the sack, I couldn't say. But I do know that such sources are usually handled with some caution by real journalists. In Mark's case I communicated with him awhile back over John Dolan's charge that the faculty are here only for the money. I told him that I wasn't - that I have a good job waiting for me in the States when I'm done here, and that I knew many others who were in similar situations. Mark told me I was naive and I'd find out. Well, it's a whole academic year later and I think I was right afterall. I can't say for sure.

My favorite moment in the TV interview that sums up for me how ill-informed and amateurish this whole "investigation" is was when the young woman interviewing Baker took a stab at a big picture conclusion by noting that there were all these shady American campuses out there subverting the world - AUIS, the American University of Nigeria, the American University of Afghanistan and the Ameircan University of Beirut. Beirut! Really? The AUB founded in 1866? That one? One of the premier institutions of higher education in the Middle East? That one? The one staffed almost entirely by pre-eminent Arab scholars? Does anyone involved with this nonsense even have a clue?

AUI-S is hardly a perfect institution. There is some substance to some of the more sensible criticisms of the joint offered in this article. But from my own experience most of what has been written here by Baker, et al. is irresponsible. If Baker would like to redo and resubmit I would be happy to talk with him and give him another perspective from which to understand the institution. He might even want to actually visit AUI-S and see for himself so that he will no longer be guily of the worstof  journalistic sins - laziness.

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