‘Rectifying mistakes’: UC Berkeley reopens Krouzian Seminar Room after disappearance a decade ago

Nikhar Arora/Staff

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After nearly a decade of absence, the Krouzian Seminar Room reopened Monday in Doe Library in honor of the late Krikor Krouzian, a respected member of the Armenian-American community and a survivor of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

The reception hosted about 30 people and included remarks from Chancellor Carol Christ, Armenian studies program director Stephan Astourian and Armenian studies program advisory committee chair Irina Paperno. Two student speakers, Sevana Nourian and Hakob Mesropian, also gave insight into their experiences with the Armenian studies program.

“This room is fundamental for Armenian students,” campus senior and Armenian Students’ Association president Harout Pomakian said. “It gives us the space we really needed to get together to study, to learn and collaborate for our Armenian studies classes.”

In his speech, Astourian honored the late Krouzian and Krouzian’s sister Zovinar Davidian, and recalled how the UC Berkeley Armenian studies program transformed from a semesterlong visiting professorship to “one of the best in the U.S.”

Astourian, who has been a campus professor for two decades, was instrumental in the establishment of the Armenian studies program, which was able to add a second full-time faculty member, Myrna Douzjian, in 2017.

The original seminar room was established in 1993 and was funded by Krouzian and his sister, Davidian. Christ said she remembered the first talks of establishing the Krouzian Seminar Room back in the ‘90s.

According to Christ, the room was “displaced” because of renovations to Doe Library, which left the Armenian studies program, Armenian alumni and students without a permanent meeting space for years.

Pomakian said he appreciated how the administration acknowledged its error and amended it in “the greatest way possible.” Before the newly reopened seminar room, the only space for Armenian students on campus was “a desk in Eshleman (Hall),” according to Pomakian.

“On behalf of the campus, I regret that (the room’s displacement) happened — but I am glad that we have finally rectified the mistake,” Christ said.

Nourian said she was grateful for the Armenian community on campus, which gave her a sense of belonging. Similarly, Mesropian thanked the Armenian studies program for giving him the opportunity to incorporate Armenian studies into his curriculum as a history major.

“As a young kid I grew up with my parents telling me that no one cares about the Armenians,” Mesropian said, and added that he is now able to discuss the knowledge he has gained in class with family and peers.

The event concluded with a performance from Ardzagank, the Armenian student choir, which sang traditional Armenian folk songs.

“The support from the Armenian community is unique and unprecedented,” Paperno said. “The university is a community of students and faculty, but it cannot exist … without the warmth and trust of the community it serves.”

Francesca Munsayac is the lead race and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.