The Anti-Defamation League's chief executive and other Jewish organizations, along with national and international scholars, criticized Arkansas Tech University on Thursday for a scholarship honoring a former professor who, they said, was a Holocaust denier.
The Russellville university questioned the allegation.
In a letter to Arkansas Tech President Robin Bowen, the Jewish leaders wrote, "The administration of Arkansas Tech deemed it appropriate to honor Dr. [Michael Arthur] Link despite being presented with compelling evidence that, throughout his tenure, Dr. Link repeatedly espoused Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism to his students and in his writing."
In response, Arkansas Tech spokesman Sam Strasner said the university has taken the "concerns seriously."
"Former students and former faculty colleagues of Dr. Link, some of the remaining living individuals who knew him best, are among those we have consulted during our review of the matter," Strasner said in an email. "Through our process, we did not find evidence supporting the [Anti-Defamation League] claims."
Anti-Defamation League letter to Arkansas Tech UniversityView
Arkansas Tech announced the Michael Arthur Link and May Reid Kewen History Scholarship in December in memory of the late professor and his mother.
A university news release at the time said a $190,900.68 gift from Link's estate endowed the scholarship. Link, who joined the school's faculty in 1965, was an associate professor of history when he died at age 79 on April 25, 2016.
The Jewish leaders' release, issued by the Anti-Defamation League's South Central office but signed by the national organization's director, cited a 2005 incident in which it said Link had "presented anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi published texts in a graduate seminar as though they were legitimate historical works."
The release said the league, leaders of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas, and Holocaust scholars have reviewed the evidence.
"All have found it credible and convincing, and all agree that Dr. Link presented hate-filled, non-factual, anti-Semitic misinformation to his students as though it offered a historically-valid point of view," the release said.
However, Strasner said, "When we asked the ADL South Central for evidence, the organization provided Dr. Link's graduate dissertation from 1966 and a 1975 self-published book entitled 'The Social Philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr: An Historical Introduction' authored by Dr. Link that examined the theories of another scholar.
"After reviewing these documents, we responded to ADL South Central with a request for specific evidence supporting their claims from within those documents and did not receive a response," Strasner added.
Strasner also said Thursday that the letter to Bowen "does not reflect an accurate or complete account of the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the scholarship."
The letter to Bowen said Arkansas Tech's administration "has had months to remedy its honoring of Dr. Link at the request of the ADL and concerned faculty members, but it has done nothing."
"We condemn the inaction of Arkansas Tech University in the strongest possible terms," the letter added. "By simultaneously honoring and seeking to conceal the anti-Semitism of Dr. Link, the university has become complicit in his hate. We call upon Arkansas Tech University to immediately remedy this situation."
The letter said Link had "presented the question of whether the Holocaust occurred -- an irrefutable historical fact -- as though it were an appropriate, valid point of debate."
Those signing on to the letter were Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer and national director of the Anti-Defamation League; Marianne Tettlebaum, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas; Silvana Berlinski, president of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas; Grace Donoho, director and founder of the Arkansas Holocaust Education Committee; Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University; and 40 others. The others came from as close as Hendrix College in Conway and John Brown University in Siloam Springs and as far away as Jerusalem and London.
The university has previously said it would award the scholarship each year that funds are sufficient for an Arkansas Tech senior who is majoring in history and who has a demonstrated financial need.
State Desk on 04/19/2019
Print Headline: Groups criticize Arkansas college for honoring former professor, claim he denied Holocaust