The Volokh Conspiracy

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President of Cal State Northridge Opines on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict


Dianne F. Harrison, the President of California State University-Northridge, posted the following item to the Cal State Northridge Facebook page earlier this month (referring to an earlier statement):

Support for Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh

To the Campus Community,

I am writing to expand on my message from last week relating to the conflict in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) that was followed by a productive conversation with students, faculty, staff and administrators from the CSUN Armenian community. Despite the recent tenuous truce, I am deeply troubled by the unprovoked aggression against the Armenian people and the civilian population in Artsakh. This is a humanitarian crisis, and I call on the United States to join others from around the world in condemning Azerbaijan's military violence, which is aided by Turkey and includes destroying civilian targets, and pushing for a permanent peace.

CSUN is home to the largest population of Armenian and Armenian-American students of any university outside of Armenia and noted for our Armenia Studies Program. This conflict hits close to home for many in our community. The terrible lessons of the 1915 Armenian Genocide demand that we never allow this horrific history to repeat itself through ethnic cleansing in this war.

If you would like to join us in making a statement for peace, I encourage you to support the Armenia Fund ( Also, CSUN students who need counseling during these troubling times may connect with University Counseling Services through their website at

Anytime our campus community faces conflict, we as Matadors come together as one. Thank you for showing sympathy and support for our Armenian brothers and sisters during these challenging times.

Dianne F. Harrison, Ph.D.

This is pretty clearly not just her statement as a citizen or as a researcher. ("She holds a Ph.D. in social work from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's of social work and a bachelor's in American Studies, both from the University of Alabama. Her academic and research areas of expertise include HIV prevention among women and minority populations and higher education issues related to university leadership.") She is making a statement as the President of a prominent local university, with over 30,000 students.

My question: Should universities take stands on such matters, however popular they may be with a large student group, whether they deal with Armenia vs. Azerbaijan, Israel vs. the Palestinians, China vs. Tibetan separatists, or whatever? Note that this isn't just a call for protection of very broadly shared values (life, democracy, freedom of speech, and the like): It's a judgment about which nation is at fault in the fighting, and which nation should have sovereignty over particular territory.