Action alert

North Park University closing Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Action Alert

Dear Friends and Supporters,

In a move eerily reminiscent of DePaul University’s actions denying tenure to Professor Norman Finkelstein, whose scholarship on Middle Eastern studies shed much needed light on the injustice of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, North Park University is closing its Centers for Middle Eastern Studies and denying tenure to its longtime director, the Rev. Don Wagner.

Professor Wagner is an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and has held numerous educational events that helped bring the Palestinian narrative to the American people. The center, under Prof. Wagner’s leadership, has allowed for vigorous discussion and debate on academic, political, economic and social issues as they relate to the Middle East and to Middle Eastern communities locally.

North Park’s action against Prof. Wagner is just part of a troubling trend to stifle debate about the Palestinian cause on campuses across the country. It is imperative that we contact North Park University and support Prof. Wagner immediately and without delay.

The American Muslims for Palestine is calling on its supporters to call or e-mail North Park University President David Parkyn and demand the board reconsider its decision to close the center and to give tenure to Prof. Wagner. Please see the letter from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies board below for more information and talking points. The universipalestty has given Prof. Wagner until tomorrow to agree to its terms. We must call or email this afternoon or tomorrow. Please send a blind carbon copy of your emails to [email protected].


David Parkyn, President North Park University
[email protected]

AMP contact:
Kristin Szremski
Director of Media and Communications

Letter from CMES board:

Dear Friends of Don Wagner and the Center for Middle East Studies,

Many of you are aware of the latest news with Don Wagner and North Park University. Don has been notified that the university is closing the Center for Middle East Studies this summer, terminating its board immediately, and offering Don only a one year contract for 2009-2010. The CMES, along with three other cultural centers, will be replaced by what the university called its "Collabortary for Urban and Intercultural Learning."

Now it's becoming clear that the university is moving in that direction without the leadership of Don Wagner. We have been outraged by the decision but are still negotiating with the university. Yesterday, Don was put under major pressure to sign an agreement with the university by an imposed deadline of tomorrow, June 30th.

We need friends of Don and the Center to call and put out letters to the President of the university today and tomorrow. We apologize for the short notice, but things escalated very quickly. Don is currently working with a lawyer, but we need all your support to keep a Middle East presence at the university and the neighboring community. Please see these talking points for your calls and letters:

  1. Don and the CMES have historically played a major role in the Arab-American community, through educational events, interfaith dialogues, sponsorship of north park's Middle East Student Association (MESA), and scholarships for students from Palestine.
  2. The Arab community in greater Chicago is a huge one, and Don's connection with this community is what promotes its interest in attending activities and events at North Park, as well as sending its Arab students from Chicago and beyond to the university. If North Park is attempting to push Don out, then the Arab community of Chicago must be concerned about North Park's interest in continuing its relationship with our community.
  3. The Palestinian Scholarship Program: Without Don and his connections, we do not believe that the university can find the funds to provide Palestinian students with scholarships to attend North Park. Without the Palestinian students, we believe MESA will suffer and by extension, the Middle Eastern section of the "collaboratory" will suffer as well.
  4. The CMES board must be retained as an advisory council to Don, to assist him in fundraising and programming efforts. The current board of the CMES and Don's personal connections have allowed North Park to bring in highly recognized speakers and lecturers to its campus. Without Don and his board of advisors, the university's lectures and programming would most definitely suffer. And the CMES is independently funded, so university claims that this closing is the result of a budget crisis is disingenuous.
  5. Don Wagner deserves a long-term faculty contract at North Park University. His scholarship is unchallenged and the vast majority of his students give him great reviews and evaluations. Don has fought for a Middle East minor, Arabic language courses, and general students' rights at North Park for many years, which makes him more than just a scholar and academic as well.
  6. Don Wagner would be perfect for the position of "Faculty Fellow" at the new "Collaboratory," because of his vast experience in collaborating with other cultural institutions, and his attendance and participation in dozens of seminars and conferences on issues of justice and peace.
  7. We are afraid that, if Don is pushed out of North Park, Middle East and peace and justice issues will not be supported in the new "Collabortary."

CMES Board

The American Muslims for Palestine is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public and media about issues relating to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage. For more information or to make a donation, call 888.404.4AMP.

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