Western faculty discuss their international research in CHSS Dean's Lecture Series
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster and human rights abuses in Iran were the subject of two installments of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the City of Bellingham and held in the Bellingham City Council Chambers.
Edward Vajda, professor of Modern and Classical Languages, gave a lecture titled “The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster” in February. A translator and news analyst in the Moscow office of CBS News during the crisis, Vajda recounted his experience in helping cover the story at the time and explained what is known in hindsight about the causes leading up to the disaster. He also analyzed Chernobyl's role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and assessed its continuing environmental, political and social effects a quarter century later.
Michael Karlberg, professor of communication, gave a talk titled “Denial of Education as a Strategy of Oppression: Examining Human Rights Abuses in Iran” in April. Karlberg discussed the Bahá’í community in Iran, which has suffered from waves of violent oppression for over 150 years. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, this oppression has intensified. Hundreds of Bahá’ís have been executed; thousands have been imprisoned; tens of thousands have lost their jobs, homes, and property. Crimes can be committed against Bahá’ís with legal impunity. Bahá’ís are systematically vilified through the media and from the pulpit. Bahá’í cemeteries and places of worship are being bull-dozed. Bahá’í children are harassed and intimidated in primary and secondary schools. And Bahá’í youth and young adults are denied access to higher education. In the face of this oppression, the Bahá’í community has adopted a non-violent response characterized by constructive resilience. One example of this is the construction of a decentralized nation-wide system of higher education, conducted out of Bahá’í homes, offering over a dozen bachelor’s degrees in the arts and science. Recently, however, the government of Iran began imprisoning Bahá’ís for their participation in this university.