Middle East studies in the News
Memorandum in Support of The International Studies in Education Act (H.R.3077)
American Jewish Committee
In October, the House passed the International Studies in Higher Education Act, H.R.3077, with broad bipartisan support. We expect language along the lines of H.R.3077 to become part of the Higher Education Reauthorization bill in the Senate.
H.R. 3077 would amend Title VI of the Higher Education Act, which provides federal funding for international area studies and foreign language centers. Congress enacted Title VI to help meet national security needs, including educating the public on international affairs and training experts for government service - essential functions in today's world.
Unfortunately, many Title VI funded centers fail to serve the basic objectives of the program. They are dominated by a monolithic "post-colonial," anti-American, anti-Israel perspective. They frequently discourage students from government service in the national security arena - and they prevent alternative viewpoints from getting a voice on campus.
H.R.3077 addresses some of these critical flaws in the Title VI program. It would: 1) require that Title VI centers "reflect diverse perspectives and represent the full range of views" on international affairs; and 2) establish an independent Advisory Board to study a sample of activities funded under Title VI and make recommendations to Congress and the Secretary of Education. H.R.3077 explicitly states that it gives the Advisory Board no authority to direct or control curriculum or instructional content.
The Problem of anti-Americanism in federally-funded area studies centers
An ideology that is deeply cynical of the West and the
The problem is most acute in
Ideological orthodoxy prevents academics from exploring unsavory developments in the
Title VI of the Higher Education Act
Title VI of the Higher Education Act authorizes federal support for selected foreign language and area studies centers around the country, including funding for graduate fellowships. Congress passed Title VI because it recognized that
Following September 11, Congress increased the Title VI budget by $20.5 million, a rise of 26%, to meet the government's needs for people knowledgeable in foreign languages - especially Arabic, and Area Studies - especially Middle East (Alan Elsner, Reuters, 12 Feb 2003).
Part of each Title VI Area Studies grant is earmarked for educational "outreach" activities - such as providing seminars for K-12 teachers, preparing K-12 teaching kits, and lecturing to church and civic groups.
H.R.3077 ¨C A Proposed Amendment to Title VI of the Higher Education Act
Last session, the House passed the"International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003," H.R.3077, containing proposed amendments to Title VI. The legislation is part of this year's triennial reauthorization of Title VI, and is the product of detailed negotiations between bill supporters and opponents. The major elements of H.R.3077 are:
When the Secretary of Education selects programs to receive Title VI grants, he must take into account the degree to which programs "advance national interests, generate and disseminate information, and foster debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives." Also, grantee institutions must allow the
Programs supported by Title VI should "reflect diverse perspectives and represent the full range of views" on international affairs.
An independent International Higher Education Advisory Board ("Board") is established to "study, monitor, apprise, and evaluate" activities supported under Title VI. The Board is strictly advisory - it has power only to make recommendations to the Secretary and Congress.
The Secretary appoints three members of the Board - including two who represent federal agencies with "national security responsibilities." The Speaker of the House, and the President pro tempore of the Senate, each appoint two members, in consultation with the Majority and Minority Leaders. The Advisory Board must include representatives of States, institutions of higher education, cultural organizations, educational organizations, local education agencies, students, and private citizens with expertise in international concerns.
H.R. 3077 explicitly states: "Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the International Advisory Board to mandate, direct, or control an institution of higher education's specific instructional content, curriculum, or program of instruction."
Reasons to Support H.R.3077
1) H.R. 3077 would enhance intellectual freedom on campus by enabling diverse viewpoints to be heard.
The essence of intellectual freedom is the freedom to express diverse ideas. The goal of academic freedom is to give voice to viewpoints on all sides of a question, enabling students and others to compare and assess competing perspectives. That is not what prevails in most area studies programs today. On the contrary, scholars and graduate students, and even undergraduates, are expected to subscribe to a fixed set of "post-colonial," "post-orientalist" beliefs. Alternative perspectives are not welcome. That is not intellectual freedom.
The goal of H.R.3077 is to restore some measure of intellectual freedom to programs receiving federal funds under Title VI - by bringing diverse views into the academic discussion. The proposed legislation does not seek to exclude current scholars, with their single-minded perspective, from federally funded centers. Rather, it seeks to assure that these centers also give voice to scholars who have other perspectives. The legislation does not even seek "balance" - it simply asks that programs funded by our taxes represent a range of diverse views.
2) H.R.3077 would enable students and others to be exposed to alternative viewpoints on the Middle East - a pivotal region in today's world.
Today, almost all scholars at Middle East centers research and teach from the "post-colonial" framework - hostile to American foreign policy and to
In addition, because
3) This legislation only applies to Areas Studies and Foreign Language programs that receive federal funds under Title VI.
Significantly, H.R. 3077 would have no impact on the many area studies and foreign language programs that do not receive Title VI funding. In
4) The government is obligated to engage in oversight to assure that Title VI is meeting its objectives. Receiving federal grants is a privilege, not an entitlement.
Universities that receive Title VI funds must recognize that the funds are intended to help meet national security needs and other needs for foreign language and area studies experts. The government requires sufficient oversight to assure that the program is meeting its important objectives.
Currently, many Title VI area studies and foreign language centers are far from serving the program's objectives. On the contrary, they distance themselves from the U.S. government in many ways, sometimes refusing even to participate in totally benign government research programs,  and often refusing to allow government recruiters access to the campus on a par with other potential employers. Many Title VI centers refuse to cooperate with the National Security Education Program, which supports foreign language study for students who agree to work for national security-related agencies after graduation. Michigan State University, a Title VI recipient, sends a letter warning students to think hard before accepting NSEP funds - expressing faculty concern that "funds for NSEP are provided by the Department of Defense to achieve national security goals."
Title VI funds are intended to help meet national security needs. Centers that are unwilling to help meet those needs should not be receiving the funds. H.R. 3077 will enable the government to direct Title VI funding to centers that help achieve the Title VI objectives.
Under H.R. 3077, area studies and foreign language centers would remain free to discourage government service, and otherwise demur from meeting national security needs. However, because these centers would not meet the Title VI objectives, they would be less likely to continue receiving Title VI funding. The government may, instead, channel its funds to other centers, which offer a more diverse range of viewpoints.
5) This legislation would help assure that Middle East Studies Centers do not disseminate monolithically anti-American, anti-Israel propaganda through their "outreach" programs.
Significantly, through their outreach programs, Title VI centers disseminate their one-sided views to an audience far wider than even the college campus - including K-12 teachers, educators, and the general public. Egregious examples of propagandizing mar the record of these Title VI outreach programs. In a striking example, the Center for Middle East Studies at the
Much of the Title VI outreach is not even done by academics themselves - the centers often delegate outreach to local political and religious activists, including radical Islamic leaders.
6) Independent review of Title VI Middle East Studies Centers is particularly important in light of the Saudi funds, and other outside funding, that they receive.
While Middle East Studies Centers claim that H.R.3077 would infringe on their independence, many of these same centers receive millions of dollars in Saudi and other outside funding. Such highly politicized funding certainly is not calculated to assure the centers' objective and independent study of the
7) Analogous government programs that provide funding for academic purposes have boards - in its current configuration, Title VI is unusual in having no independent review of the program.
For a long time, Title VI has enjoyed a general exemption from any outside review or input on how the funds are spent. Rather, the academic institutions that receive the funds essentially treat them as an entitlement, exempt from any consideration of how they are used. Clearly, taxpayer money should not be used for one-sided, polemical purposes - completely without review. By contrast, independent boards oversee the following programs, which also provide federal funding for academic purposes: the National Security Education Program; the Fulbright program, another major source of fellowships; and the U.S. Institute of Peace, which makes grants to academics. Even Title VI once had a board, a few decades back.
The proposed board would have less authority than most. It would be an advisory board - rather than a governing board - with only the power to make recommendations. The Secretary of Education would not be obliged to accept any of those recommendations. The Board, whose members serve gratis, is required to meet only once per year, and has no formal investigative powers - it cannot subpoena witnesses or hold anyone in contempt. By contrast, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, for example, sets the policies and procedures for administering the Fulbright Program, selects the educational institutions qualified to participate, has final responsibility for selecting all grantees, and supervises the conduct of the program. The U.S. President appoints all twelve members of the Board.
Significantly, the following passage in the bill—inserted at the behest of spokespersons for the higher education community—further assures that the Board can in no way infringe academic freedom: "Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the board to mandate, direct, or control an institution of higher education's specific instructional content, curriculum, or program of instruction."
 See Stanley Kurtz's persuasive testimony before the House.
 Following the Sputnik wake-up call, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which later became Title VI of the Higher Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1121 et seq.).
 (Sec. (2) (b)(2)(C); see also Sec. (2)(b)(3)(E)). Similarly, the bill specifically authorizes Title VI funding for outreach materials that are "presented from diverse perspectives and representative of the full range of views on the subject matter"
 The term "agencies with national security responsibilities" probably would include most
 An early example is a 1981 Department of Defense program inviting "unclassified, publishable research studies using only open source material" to "supplement analyses and policy deliberations within the Defense Department." The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) determined that open source research that assists the
 See Kurtz testimony to the House; see also, http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz051602.asp.
Federal funds also flow to similarly one-sided programs under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) and its predecessor legislation. One notorious instance is a
Two additional examples: At Harvard, Saudi businessman Khalid Alturki donated $2 million to create a Contemporary Arab Studies Program within the Middle East Studies Center. Columbia's Middle East Institute - where Edward Said created a downright a McCarthyite atmosphere - is slated to get $1 million in federal funding over next three years. Rashid Khalidi, the Institute's new director, also holds the Said Chair. Amazingly, Columbia has refused to disclose who funded the chair, although Kramer has discovered that the anonymous donors include a foreign government. (http://www.geocities.com/martinkramerorg/2003_09_08.htm).Note: 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.
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