Middle Eastern Studies center hit by budget cuts


While the Center for Middle Eastern Studies is struggling to build itself and gain national attention, budget restrictions are threatening the Center in a very large way.

CMES Academic Director Peter Golden said that University Centers are only partly funded by the University, while much of the funding is left up to grants from the federal government and fundraising from community organizations.

"Given the current budget situation, we are looking for renewed community support and funding from government sources, but most funding comes from Rutgers," Golden said.

At least two professors specializing in Iranian and Persian Studies will have their contracts terminated beginning in the Spring 2009 semester, including Amir Djabini.

"Those are personnel issues; I really can't say anything about them without ramifications," Golden said. "Ideally what we would want is for a professor to be on a tenured track, such as history or religion. We sometimes establish our own courses taught by part time lecturers, [but] they are annual appointees."

Professor Charles Haberl also teaches with CMES as well as the newly created language department AMESALL, which combines African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures at the University.

Haberl said University departments have tenured lines whereas University Centers appoint faculty for one to three years.

"Finances are somewhat tricky," he said. "Salaries are the major part, and they can either be paid by the state or by the Center through private sources — and sometimes a combination of the two. Nowadays, half my salary is paid by CMES and the other half by AMESALL. As you can imagine, that leaves quite a lot to be desired. The remainder of our expenses are covered by third-party sources or loans."

Students have expressed their concern with the Center's funding and worry that professors that are with the Center may be leaving.

Rutgers College senior Sara Kharazi helped organize a meeting of about 30 people in the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus, all gathered to help keep Djabini researching and teaching at the University.

"We are brainstorming about what we can do as a community to see what we can do to get him back into the Rutgers system," Kharazi said.

During the meeting held Nov. 11 in the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus, Livingston College junior Sami Jaffery said Djabini is very noticeable in his field.

"If we lose him, Iranian Studies is in jeopardy," Jaffrey said.

Professor Golden said he did not think Iranian Studies taught through CMES was in danger.

"We've had a lot of email on this subject; letters are being sent and so on," Golden said. "The executive dean is aware of this issue, and all the people that need to be aware are aware. Overall, is there a commitment to Iranian Studies? Overall it is not contingent on any one individual, but the commitment from Rutgers and from the Center is strong."

He also said that two of the professors that teach at the Center have uncertain futures, but the Iranian Studies is not going anywhere.


Pablo Albilal

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