Middle East studies in the News
Title VI Fix Passes in House
by Martin Kramer
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the International Studies in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3077)—the Title VI fix that will establish an advisory board for the federal program that subsidizes Middle Eastern (and other area) studies in American universities. The bill, having won overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, now goes to the Senate. Sandstorm has already underlined the bill's importance, and I know that many readers wrote to its author, Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) in support of it. But the road is still long.
We believe the current legislation leaves open the possibility that the Advisory Board could intrude into the academic conduct and content of higher education and could impinge on institutional decisions about curriculum and activities. Indeed, the powers vested in the proposed Advisory Board make it more of an investigative, rather than an advisory, body.
This is so bald a misconstrual of the bill that I dare to call it a lie. The board has no formal investigative powers. It cannot subpoena witnesses or hold anyone in contempt. Only government departments and agencies are obliged by law to provide information to the board, presumably so that it can determine whether the program is meeting the manpower needs of any agency of government. (My guess: it isn't.) The law would enjoin the board to "monitor" the activities of Title VI. That's an essential function: how else is the board to make intelligent recommendations? There is also a provision for public hearings, so that the many stakeholders and constituencies can make their voices heard. The board can also commission research on Title VI—something the Department of Education has done every decade anyway. But the board has no investigative "powers" at its disposal.
I was delighted to see a liberal Democrat and civil libertarian rise on the House floor to endorse the idea of the board. Representative Howard L. Berman of California, a man wise in the ways of foreign affairs, who has been described as a "libertarian-leaning liberal," put his finger on the problem. It's this: as it stands, taxpayers are being ripped off by university programs that serve no national interest. Academic scammers are the problem; the board is the solution. This Sandstorm entry concludes with Representative Berman's remarks:
I am encouraged that the creation of this Advisory Board will help redress a problem which is a great concern of mine, namely, the lack of balance, and indeed the anti-American bias that pervades Title VI- funded Middle East studies programs in particular. To the extent that it advances the national interest to commit taxpayer funds to institutions of higher education for the purpose of fostering expertise with regard to key regions of the world—and I would emphatically affirm that it does—then surely it is troubling when evidence suggests that many of the Middle East regional studies grantees are committed to a narrow point of view at odds with our national interest, a point of view that questions the validity of advancing American ideals of democracy and the rule of law around the world, and in the Middle East in particular.
Give Representative Berman a slap on the back. His email is Howard.Berman@mail.house.gov
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