The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) has appealed a Federal Court’s March 30decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought forth by the TCA against the University of Minnesota for having included the TCA’s website on a list of “unreliable websites” due to the latter’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.
Last fall, the TCA, together with first-year university student Sinan Cingilli, originally from Turkey, sued the University of Minnesota, its then-president Robert Bruininks, and Prof. Bruno Chaouat, the director of the university’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS), for posting a list of “unreliable websites” on the CHGS website. The list of websites deemed unreliable to the study of genocide—because they promoted genocide denial—included that of the TCA. The complaint was dismissed (“with prejudice”) on the grounds of academic freedom.
The TCA is appealing the decision with support from the Rutherford Institute as a “friend of the court,” claiming that Cingilli’s rights to academic freedom, protected by the First Amendment, were violated.
The university filed a reply on Aug. 15, arguing that in order to deliberate on the case, the court would have to decide which viewpoint on the Armenian Genocide was correct. “Such issues of scholarly opinion and debate are not appropriately resolved through the courts,” explained the university.
The university also argued that Prof. Chaouat and the CHGS were protected by the principle of academic freedom, and therefore could deem certain sources of information unreliable.
“Universities and their faculty members have the right to express their views on academic matters. They have the right to provide recommendations and advice to students and others regarding the reliability of sources of information, including websites, and whether the sources should be used for scholarly research and writing,” it stated.
The university added that the TCA had not established a “cognizable injury,” that neither the TCA nor Cingilli were prohibited from expressing their viewpoints, and that no one was restricted from accessing the TCA’s website.
“Cingilli has no right to avoid receiving recommendations and advice from university professors, especially when he affirmatively seeks them out,” stated the university in its reply.
The university also cited the Massachusetts case of Griswold v. Driscoll, where the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), along with two state teachers and a student, had sued the Massachusetts Department of Education over Armenian Genocide education in Massachusetts schools. They had claimed that “contra genocide” viewpoints had to be included in school curricula as a First Amendment right. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, writing for the circuit court, denied that appeal.