Led by Ariana Mirzada '18, a petition aiming to convince the University to allow Research Scholar Michael Barry '70 to offer courses about Afghanistan and the near east through the Wilson School is being circulated among University students.
The petition notes that Barry's classes were extremely popular, and that some of his lectures on YouTube garnered several thousand views in some cases. In addition, the petition notes that there is "tremendous interest from the student population" on the relationship between Afghanistan and the Western powers, and that Barry's experience as a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan lends him a unique perspective to this issue.
Barry was a lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies until May of this year, when the NES department did not renew his contract. University's Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination then rehired him as a research scholar.
Since LISD is part of The Wilson School, Mirzada said that she wants the Wilson School to allow Barry to offer his class "Afghanistan and the Great Powers, 1747-2001."
"This course is of vital importance, as Afghanistan often emerges as a key player in many encounters with the Great Powers throughout history," Mirzada said. "Given the United States' current involvement in the country, a class like this is in high demand but low supply, and as future leaders of the modern world we ought to take advantage of Dr. Barry's expertise."
The petition is addressed to Dean of the College Jill Dolan, Dean of the Faculty Deborah Prentice, Wilson School Dean Cecilia Rouse and Vice-Dean Brandice Canes-Wrone '93, and Wilson School Professor Wolfgang Danspeckgruber.
Elisabeth Donahue, the associate dean for Public Affairs and Communications at the Wilson School, said that Barry is free to propose courses, and that any proposal would be taken into consideration when planning offerings for next year. She noted that the list of offerings depends on what other Wilson School faculty propose and whether these courses are policy focused.
University Media Relations Specialist Min Pullan declined to comment. The 'Prince' previously reported on the non-renewal of Barry's contract in March.
Barry said that he is humbled and gratified that so many students want him to teach courses again, and that he has always responded to his students' affection by offering courses of the highest quality. He noted that he would spend many hours personally coaching and advising students, and translating original sources by himself for his classes.
"I would take extreme care reading and grading every single paper as the single most important issue at hand every time no matter how many [had been] submitted," Barry said, referencing the 302 papers he had to grade during the Spring 2016 semester.
He explained that he would be interested in teaching a course on Afghanistan, as he has a personal moral and intellectual commitment to share Afghanistan's modern history with his students. He added that many of his students have gone on to work in the Middle East as diplomats or humanitarian workers.
Barry noted that apart from Afghanistan, his teaching interests include Middle Eastern literature, art, philosophy, and mysticism. In particular, he is fascinated by the history and culture of the Iberian peninsula, especially the complex relations between the Muslims, Christians, and Jews that stem from the medieval period.
"My fascination for Iberian culture in the medieval period stems both from the utter and absolutely delightful impossibility there of still continuing hermetically to segregate in our present scholarship what is Muslim, Jewish, and Christian," Barry said. "I therefore love to teach and share observations about medieval Iberia, its social struggles, and its schools of thought."
He added that his experiences in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Morocco provide him with some insights into the world of medieval Iberia, and that he would enjoy sharing these insights with his students.