Middle East studies in the News
Letter to Members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee
Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) and the National Council for Lang
September 22, 2003
TO: Members of the House Education and the Workforce CommitteeNote: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
FROM: Coalition for International Education
RE: HR 3077, International Studies in Higher Education Act
DATE: September 22, 2003
We write in reference to HR 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act which is scheduled to come before your committee for consideration on September 24. Thank you for your leadership in extending these programs that are so important to enhancing our nation's understanding and engagement in the world.
The Coalition for International Education is an ad hoc group of national higher education organizations with concern for improving the nation's expertise and knowledge about foreign languages, world areas, international business and other international issues.
We are pleased that HR 3077 extends the Title VI programs intact and adopts most of the Coalition's recommendations for reauthorization. However, we have several concerns, as follows:
1. SEC. 633 INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD.
We have no objection to the creation of an advisory board for Title VI. However, we are extremely concerned that HR 3077's advisory board provisions create a set of purposes and functions that would hamper, rather than enhance, efforts to strengthen our nation's international expertise. Many in the education community are concerned that this advisory board sets a precedent for Federal intervention in the conduct and content of higher education.
With apparently unlimited authority and no checks on the exercise of that authority, the advisory board is charged with functions that could place it in conflict with the Department of Education Organization Act, which explicitly prohibits federal interference in curriculum decisions. For example, the Board could review curricular materials of grantees and insist on changes, dictate reading lists and insist that certain materials be taught from a specified perspective.
The Board also could dictate to the Secretary selection criteria for grant awards or changes in regulations to reflect its own perception of national needs and/or world regional issues and international affairs.
An additional problem is the assignment of annual tasks to the advisory board, especially since grant awards typically are on 2, 3 or 4 year cycles.
Under current Department of Education grant requirements, Title VI grantees are required to submit to the Secretary annual reports, and to submit outcome data on a regular basis to the Evaluation for Exchange, Language, and International and Area Studies System (EELIAS). Imposing another administrative layer of oversight will prove to be disruptive and counterproductive to the long-term success of Title VI. Capacity building in international and foreign language studies at our nation's institutions of higher education is a long and challenging process under the best of circumstances.
Finally, the composition of the advisory board fails to take advantage of the wide array of federal agencies that for decades have made and continue to make important contributions to U.S. national interests through international education and exchange programs. Such agencies as the Departments of State, Commerce, Interior, Agriculture, HHS and others play a significant role in ensuring the nation's broad and still expanding economic and national security interests.
We believe replacing the current purposes and functions of the board in HR 3077 with a visionary mission and with a concrete outcome would be a far more productive investment of modest Title VI funding. First, we believe the board should be charged with commissioning a study by a politically neutral but highly esteemed body such as the National Academy of Science to assess the nation's needs for international expertise in all major sectors: government, education and business. Second, the study should also assess how well the K-12 through higher education system is producing graduates to meet those needs and identify the obstacles to recruitment in the various professions. Finally, the board should submit the findings and recommendations to the Congress prior to the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. We believe this approach will yield a productive outcome useful to the education community, federal agencies, the Congress, and the private sector.
Our idea builds on what has already been developed by the Coalition at a major research conference with the aid of more than 300 leaders in international education and keynote speeches by distinguished figures including Rick Wagoner of GM and Admiral Bobby Inman. (See http://www.duke.edu/web/cis/globalchallenges/)
2. AUTHORIZATION LEVELS FOR PARTS A AND B.
Given the urgent imperative to strengthen our nation's foreign language and international expertise to meet global challenges and homeland security needs, we believe setting the FY 2004 authorization levels for Parts A and B at the FY 1999 authorization levels is inadequate. These targets have nearly been met. The FY 2003 funding level for Part A is only $3 million below its FY 1999 authorization level and for Part B, Section 612, the FY 2003 level has actually exceeded its last authorized level by $100,000.
Yet, two key programs alone are roughly $20 million, or 20-30% below their FY 1967 levels in constant dollars, a fact which has contributed to the nation's shortfall in international expertise. We strongly urge reconsideration of the Coalition's recommendation to increase the Parts A and B authorization levels by 50% to enable these programs to adequately address national needs.
3. RESTORATION OF FLAS FOR UNDERGRADUATES.
We urge reinstating undergraduate FLAS awards for those undergoing advanced training in foreign languages and area or other international studies. This is needed to support efforts to produce graduates with high levels of foreign language proficiency, especially in the less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). LCTLS, including those of recent strategic concern like Arabic, Pashto, and Dari, take many years and time on task to learn. This is an important way to encourage students to accelerate their international skills as early as possible in the pipeline. The 1992 reauthorization inadvertently closed the door on FLAS awards to undergraduates undergoing advanced training by inserting a subsection heading that refers only to "Graduate Fellowships." The Coalition recommends inserting the words "and Undergraduate" after "Graduate" in the title of Sec. 602(b).
4. RALPH BUNCHE SCHOLARSHIPS
Much like FLAS fellowships enable National Resource Centers to recruit students for advanced study, we urge your reconsideration of adding a new scholarship program under Part C, Institute for International Public Policy, to encourage and support needy eligible participants. The scholarship would be for an academic year and would not exceed $5,000 to pay tuition, room and board, mandatory fees and other costs related to the cost of attendance at the institution at which the student is enrolled full-time. This new activity would not require a new authorization, but would come under the existing authorization for Part C.
5. Sec 602(a)(2)(J) AUTHORIZED ACTIVITIES FOR THE NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTERS.
HR 3077 adds a new paragraph to the authorized activities of the National Resource Centers, as follows:
(J) widely disseminating materials developed by the center or program to local education agencies, public and private elementary and secondary education schools, and institutions of higher education, presented from diverse perspectives and reflecting the full range of views on the subject matter, except that funds under this section may not cover more than 50 percent of the cost of dissemination;"
We support dissemination of materials to K-12, but suggest striking all after "institutions of higher education" and inserting a period. Rather than diversity of perspectives and full range of views, which would be difficult to administer without involving curricula questions and violating the Department of Education Organization Act, the focus would be better placed on scholarly excellence. Additionally, the National Resource Centers are not now adequately funded even to carry out their main mission of producing expertise and research. They should be allowed to use Title VI funding for 100% of the cost of dissemination.
6. SEC 607(b) SELECTION OF CERTAIN GRANT RECIPIENTS.
HR 3077 adds a new sentence that qualifies the definition of excellence on which the National Resource Center and Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship institutional recipients are selected to include certain outcomes:
"In keeping with the purposes of this part, the Secretary shall take into account the degree to which activities of centers, programs and fellowships at institutions of higher education advance national interests, generate and disseminate information, and foster debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives."
The Coalition suggests deleting the phrase "fostering debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives." The mission of the National Resource Centers is to train experts and inform, not conduct, debate on foreign policy as well as on a myriad of other international issues. Emphasizing their selection on this criteria contradicts the goal of producing well-informed experts in a wide variety of fields and professions.
We thank you for your consideration of our views.
Submitted by the following organizations of the Coalition for International Education:
American Association of Community Colleges
American Association of State Colleges and Universities
American Council on Education
American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS
American University of Beirut
Association of International Business Education and Research
Association of International Education Administrators
The College Fund/UNCF
Consortium of Social Science Associations
Council of American Overseas Research Centers
Council of Directors of National Foreign Language Resource Centers
Council of National Resource Center Directors
The Forum on Education Abroad
Joint National Committee for Languages
Middle East Studies Association
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges
National Humanities Alliance
cc: Committee Staff
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