The Heath Lowry Affair

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The Heath Lowry Affair

The university has long since sold its soul. It's just selling its soul now in more ways, for a higher price.

Ralph Nader, Princeton Class of 1955

Dr. Heath Lowry is a professor at Princeton University whose recent appointment to a named chair funded by the Turkish government has prompted a firestorm of protest.

The Situation
  • It is universally acknowledged that even the appearance of influence by the donor of a chair on the selection process must be avoided. However, this precept was ignored inasmuch as Dr. Lowry is known to be, in the words of the Boston Globe "a longtime lobbyist for the Turkish government."
  • In particular, he has worked extensively to further Turkish efforts to deny responsibility for the extermination of over a million Armenians during the Armenian genocide of 1915, ignoring evidence such as the records of the Turkish Court-Martial of 1919, reports by Turkey's allies, and over 80 years of scholarship.
  • The selection was especially questionable, since Dr. Lowry's career was noticeably short on scholarly accomplishments. He had never held a full-time teaching position at an American university, and had never written a scholarly book published by a mainstream trade or university press.
  • His service to Turkish interests was further exposed in a memo to the Turkish ambassador inadvertently mailed to Holocaust scholar Robert Jay Lifton. The memo was included with a letter that Lowry had ghost-written for the ambassador attacking Lifton's references to the Armenian genocide.
  • The chair carries a requirement that the appointee have conducted research in Turkish archives. Since Turkey controls access to its archives, and has been known to ban scholars that it considers unfriendly, the Turkish government is allowed to manipulate the pool of applicants. UCLA recently rejected a similar chair that had such a stipulation, while Harvard accepted such a chair only after the stipulation had been removed.
  • Ten years ago, Lowry threatened an Armenian journalist with a lawsuit for printing an article about his activities.
The Response
  • Over a hundred prominent scholars and writers have signed a petition decrying "Scholarly Corruption".
  • A flurry of embarrassing articles have appeared in several periodicals including the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Trenton Times, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the Daily Princetonian.
  • Drew University sponsored a symposium on April 28, 1997, entitled The Armenian Genocide: Political and Historical Controversies; "Controversy and Academic Responsibility". Of particular significance is the involvement of Drew's President, Thomas H. Kean, who is also a Princeton alumnus and the former Governor of New Jersey. An article on the symposium appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger.
  • The Princeton Alumni for Credibility is sponsoring a petition to register our concerns and to have this matter investigated by our school. In addition, we have set up this web site to provide information on this issue.
Academic Manipulation at Princeton and Elsewhere

The manipulation of knowledge goes deeper than censorship and is more subtle than outright propaganda. It can include conditions under which research will be funded and given a forum, and also the designation of legitimacy to be conferred or withheld in specific fields of inquiry. Jobs, tenure, professional advancement, all can come to depend on taking the approved line. Holocaust expert Terrence Des Pres

The money doesn't have to come with strings, but there is always a natural inclination to be grateful to the donor.

Director of a research institute at the University of New Mexico
from Universities Find Foreign Donations Sometimes Carry Price New York Times , December 9, 1996

It isn't enough that you're smart and knowledgeable, you have to have independent allegiance, that you're not consulting with these companies on the side the way some [Princeton] professors were.

Ralph Nader from interview by David Frost.

Regulatory policy is increasingly made with the participation of experts, especially academics. A regulated firm or industry should be prepared whenever possible to coopt these experts. This is most effectively done by identifying the leading experts in each relevant field and hiring them as consultants or advisors, or giving them research grants and the like. This activity requires a modicum of finesse; it must not be too blatant, for the experts themselves must not recognize that they have lost their objectivity and freedom of action.

Excerpt from a business textbook

A university invites the sitting President of the United States to deliver its commencement address. The university gives said President an honorary degree. The President proposes a new education subsidy. The university already receives millions each year from the federal government. Because the university is Princeton, no one suspects any impropriety.

Letter in Princeton Alumni Weekly

[Government funding] has twisted the focus of many universities away from teaching and towards the goal of securing more funding.

Princeton alumnus and recent Presidential candidate Steve Forbes

In connection with Federal assistance, the more Federal assistance you get, of course, the more Federal control of your institutions there is, because there is a great deal of truth in the old adage "He who pays the piper calls the tune."

Claiborne Pell (Princeton '41) Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Education, 1974
Quoted in Scholars, Dollars, and Bureaucrats, by Chester E. Finn, Jr., p. 139.

The long arm of the Turkish state has enlisted, directly and indirectly, some prominent academic spokespersons (both Turks and non-Turks) who have outrageously muddied the waters of truth by obscuring and distorting the story of Armenian genocide in the 1915-18 period.

Princeton professor Richard Falk

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