LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An Arkansas university is drawing criticism after accepting a scholarship endowment from the estate of a former professor who reportedly assigned graduate students books that deny the Holocaust.
Dozens of students protested Tuesday at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville against the approximately $190,900 endowment from the estate of former history professor Michael Link.
In December, the university announced the scholarship in a press release, saying the endowment will be presented yearly to a senior student majoring in history who demonstrates financial need.
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, opposes the university accepting the scholarship money with Link's name attached to it, and has proposed naming the scholarship only after his mother, whose name is also on the gift.
In a 2005 letter to the college's president at the time, history professor James Moses said Link assigned students to select one of eight or nine books on the Holocaust to "explore the variations in interpretation of the Holocaust in history." But three of the books Link had included alarmed Moses, who called the works "ahistorical, hate-filled, neo-Nazi propaganda."
The list included "Debunking the Genocide Myth," published by Noontide Press, which the ADL calls a pro-Nazi publisher, and "Made in Russia," which attempts to frame the Nuremberg Trials as faked by the Soviet Union and Jews.
Moses said Link defended the choices as offering a wide range of views on the event, a defense that did not satisfy the history department.
After he sent the letter, Moses said the university took immediate steps to remove the Holocaust from the course. Moses recalls Link being removed from the graduate faculty and the university forbidding him from teaching the next semester, actions which satisfied Moses.
He also stridently argued that he had never personally heard, or was made aware of by anyone, any anti-Semitic views by the Link. It wasn't for lack of trying, Moses said, recalling how after 2005 he would sometimes eavesdrop outside of Link's office, which was near his, to "catch" him. Nothing ever came up.
But English professor Sarah Stein, who initially raised the concern over naming a scholarship for Link in December, said she's talked with a handful people who knew the professor and who say he expressed skepticism over the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
She said that Wednesday, the university's faculty senate voted unanimously to request that President Robin Bowen ask the estate to change the scholarship's name. Samuel Strasner, a spokesman for the university, said she did not intend to do so.
Link, who started at the school in 1965, continued teaching until his death at age 79 in 2016, though he was not promoted past associate professor.
Strasner said the university has "taken the concerns seriously," during a review which consulted with former students and faculty, "no evidence has been found" that Link taught Holocaust denial.
The university intends to keep the scholarship absent any new evidence, he said.
Aaron Ahlquist, ADL's south central region director, said if they university can't change the name, they should reject the money. The ADL cites Link's dissertation and a book he published in 1977, which they say subtly blame Jews for political persecution and refer to Jewish stereotypes.
"A named scholarship is a significant honor," he said. "They have the evidence they need to understand that he, at his heart, was a Holocaust denier and this should not be a difficult decision."
Administrators for Link's estate could not be reached for comment.
Moses said he would understand if the university rejected the money on moral principles, but also knows the scholarship money could benefit a financially distressed student.
"The guy was a crank. He's been dead three years. He has utterly no influence, no lasting legacy in this university," Moses said. "But that money — oh my God, what good could that money do with students who otherwise could not afford to come here, and who then be exposed to the very sorts of classes that would be in opposition to what we assume he thought."
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