Peace out? 

Center for Peace and Conflict Studies hangs in the balance

In marking the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Wayne State University President Allan D. Gilmour made a stirring pronouncement:

"As we pause to remember the past, this solemn anniversary also gives us an opportunity to look to the future. Sept. 11 is a powerful and lasting reminder of the responsibility of men and women everywhere to promote international harmony."

What Frederic Pearson wants to know is, given that responsibility, why is the university that Gilmour leads planning to abolish its Center for Peace and Conflict Studies? 

Pearson, a political science professor at Wayne State, isn't exactly a neutral observer. He does double-duty as director of the center, which has been in existence for more than 40 years. 

The center, according to the university's website, seeks to: "... develop and implement projects, programs, curricula, research and publications in areas of scholarship related to international and domestic peace, war, social justice, arms control, globalization, multicultural awareness and constructive conflict resolution."

It is also noteworthy that some of its most important work takes place outside the traditional classroom. As an example, Pearson tells News Hits that in recent years the center has hosted two groups of Arab university students from across the Middle East, taking them on tours of different parts of the United States in an attempt to help broaden their understanding of, among other things, civil rights issues, nonviolent protest and civic engagement. 

Most perplexing of all for Pearson is the fact that the university appears ready to abolish the center despite the fact that enough outside funding has been lined up to keep it going for at least three years. Given the scope of conflict — not just worldwide, but also in the ongoing amount of violence right here in Detroit — it is hard to disagree with the assertion that the center's mission is as vital as ever.

Pearson says he is willing to forgo the additional salary that comes with running such a program. In return, he only asks that his courseload be reduced by one class each semester.

Keeping the program alive actually generates revenue for the school, Pearson argues in a letter to Gilmour, pointing out that "our net annual budgetary return to the university is approximately $400,000 using very conservative accounting assumptions. ..." 

The university administration, told that News Hits was writing about this issue, was unable to provide a response by press time. 

At this point, with the program deleted from the budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Pearson is merely asking for a "stay of execution" so that "we may demonstrate conclusively to those who might be skeptical that we can and will operate on outside funding." 

To grab a line from John Lennon, all they are saying is give peace a chance. 

More by Curt Guyette

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