In response to Anna Shahnazaryan’s Comments in “Armenia: The Struggle for Justice (Part II)”
The American University of Armenia (AUA) was troubled to read about the malinformed comments by Anna Shahnazaryan in her interview with David Barsamian in the piece titled “Armenia: The Struggle for Justice (Part II).”
First, Ms. Shahnazaryan’s claims that AUA is a “part of the establishment” and is “not an independent academic platform where critical thought is developed” are an unfortunate distortion of reality. The American University of Armenia is renowned for its independence and encouragement of free expression. Furthermore, the development of critical thinking skills is among the qualities most frequently cited by alumni as being learned in the course of an AUA education.
Then, Ms. Shahnazaryan dismissively states that the American University of Armenia is proud of its alumni who work at the World Bank and within the government of Armenia, including in a number of ministries. Indeed we are. These institutions have a role in the future of Armenia, as do others of which AUA alumni are a part. These “others” include opposition political parties, activist groups, and myriad non-profit and non-governmental organizations. The diversity of viewpoints represented by the multifarious career paths pursued by AUA alumni testifies to our commitment to being an open platform for all. We do not dictate where our alumni should work.
As an environmental activist in Armenia, it is unfortunate that Ms. Shahnazaryan fails to mention the significant role played by AUA and, in particular, the university’s Acopian Center for the Environment, in promoting a greener and more environmentally-conscious Armenia. Most recently, AUA launched a program in environmental studies, the first of its kind in Armenia. Or, as a feminist, it would have been more artless for Ms. Shahnazaryan to note that the university has been at the vanguard of promoting an honest discussion of women’s issues within the country, not least through a recent multi-day conference with the express goal of empowering girls and women within the country.
In line with the American University of Armenia’s principled belief in the freedom of expression, Ms. Shahnazaryan is certainly entitled to having her own opinions on issues about which she is concerned. However, she is not entitled to her own facts. We hope that in writing this response, we have righted any misperceptions that may have arisen from her comments and we likewise hope that future discussions will be informed by facts so that the civil discourse, which is so integral to Armenia’s development, is effective.
—The American University of Armenia