CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology took down a history course Web page after Chinese students complained about a 19th century wood-print image of Japanese soldiers beheading Chinese prisoners.
The complaints led to an apology from one of the professors teaching "Visualizing Cultures," which uses images from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895.
The course was created by Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor John Dower and linguistics professor Shigeru Miyagawa, who posted an apology on his Web page.
"I deeply regret that some of the images on the Visualizing Cultures website have offended you," Miyagawa said. "This was never my intention. I am genuinely sorry that this has caused you pain."
The Web site was pulled Tuesday and the school hosted a forum Wednesday for students, particularly those from the Chinese community, to voice concerns.
The MIT Chinese Student and Scholar Association, in a letter to MIT President Susan Hockfield, called for "proper historical context" at the top of the Web page, and asked for a posted warning that the images are graphic and racist.
Phrases in the beheading image deride the Chinese people, the student group letter said.
Japan won the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, which was a battle against China over control of Korea.
"We are appalled at the lack of accessible explanations and the proper historical context that ought to accompany these images," the letter reads.
Calls to the offices of Miyagawa and Dower were redirected to the MIT president's office. MIT spokeswoman Pam Dumas said no disciplinary action against them is planned.
"They have MIT's strongest support," she said. "The use of the images as part of the course is not an endorsement of the events. This is a scholarly course. It's the free exploration of ideas."
Dumas said the Web site was pulled only temporarily and that the professors and the Chinese community at MIT are discussing ways to add more context to the images.