Ukrainian Americans Question Panel Makeup


The University of Minnesota recently hosted a panel titled “What’s up with Ukraine?” The Q&A after the panel was devoted largely to a number of present Ukrainian Americans voicing their displeasure with the panel.

Much of the anger was directed at the panel’s focus on Russian history, with the Ukrainian history section being limited to centuries-old history. Professor Nikolay Megits of Hamline University estimated that the panel spent only about 15 percent of its time actually discussing the Ukraine. The lack of an actual Ukrainian expert was also widely condemned, as was the lack of strong rhetoric against Russia.

A student identifying herself as being from Georgia said in the Q&A that, “Going in here talking about Russian motivation, it’s all bullshit, they’re just assholes.”

“I don’t want to take responsibility away from Russia. Russia is solely responsible for its own military actions. Those are clearly illegal. They are immoral, they are wrong,” responded Professor Matti Jutila, one of the panelists, “But if we want to understand what goes on, what went wrong, could this have been prevented? We have to think about the wider context.”

“I really appreciate that the University of Minnesota called the panel and brought the current situation in the Ukraine to discuss with the panel,” said Professor Nikolay Megits of Hamline University.

Megits was born and raised in the Ukraine and is now an American citizen, having lived in the United States for several decades. Despite his happiness that the university hosted the panel, he had several concerns with it. His main concern with the panel was focused on the lack of Ukrainian representation on a panel about the Ukraine, although he had other objections.

“Even starting with the topic of discussion, ‘What is up with Ukraine?’” said Megits, “It’s not so much that something is wrong with Ukraine, it’s more what is going in Ukraine. And I didn’t understand why we didn’t have an expert in the field of the topic being discussed. It was a more one-sided discussion.”

The panel was composed of Professor Eveyln Davidheiser, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Global Studies; Professor Thomas Wolfe, also of the Institute for Global Studies and History; Professor Matti Jutila, who is the University of Minnesota’s visiting professor of Finnish Studies and works in the Political Science department; and Professor Tuomas Forsberg of the University of Tampere, in Finland.

“Maybe they did it on purpose,” said Megits, on why there was no Ukrainian expert on the panel. “There was a question of why didn’t they invite anyone and the answer was, ‘Oh we couldn’t find anyone.’ I don’t know if it’s true or not, if they couldn’t find anyone in a community that has five churches and a Ukrainian Cultural and Events Center. Someone should go to Google and do the research on Google. Go to Kramarczuk’s Deliand ask the guy who runs the shop. He’ll give them a couple names I’m sure.”