This article by Richard L. Cravatts at Front Page (among other places) didn't seem to get a lot of attention when it was published last month. It makes this interesting point about Harvard University, academic funding and the ever-present double standard:
In the first incident, Harvard was one of a group of 14 law schools, known collectively as the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. (FAIR), who went before the Supreme Court to contest what is known as the Solomon Amendment, a provision that gives the government the option of refusing federal funding to universities which deny on-campus access to military recruiters seeking to hire some 400 new judge advocate generals each year.
The law school plaintiffs in this caseâ€”including Harvardâ€™sâ€”argued that they had long-existing policies of denying recruiting privileges to employers who discriminate against employees based on race, creed, andâ€”most importantly in this caseâ€”sexual orientation. Given the militaryâ€™s current policy of â€˜donâ€™t ask, donâ€™t tellâ€ in relation to gays being excluded from the armed forces, the complaining law schools asserted that the military recruiters, since they knowingly and openly violated the long-held anti-discrimination precepts of the schools, would not be welcomed guests at recruitment events.
[ . . . ]
In the same weeks that Harvard waited for Courtâ€™s response to the FAIR appeal, good fortune smiled on the institution with the announcement of a $20 million gift from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, with the expressed purpose, in his own words, to "bridge the gap between East and West, between Christianity and Islam, and between Saudi Arabia and the United States." The Prince, reputed to be the worldâ€™s fifth richest man and chairman of the Riyadh-based Kingdom Holding Co., has been intent on â€œbridging the gapâ€ for some time now; he was, it will be remembered, the same individual whose intended $10 million gift to families of 9/11 victims was returned by then-Mayor Giuliani after the Prince off-handedly mentioned that the U.S. had to â€œreexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause . . . Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek.â€
Lest anyone doubt on what side of Palestinian-Israeli debate Alwaleed comes down on, one could point to yet another donation he made in 2002: during a government- sponsored, live-broadcast telethon for the benefit of Palestinian families of suicide bomber â€˜martyrsâ€™ which eventually raised $100 million, the Prince himself made a pledge of $27 million to help show Saudi support for the Palestinian cause.
But politics aside, the more thorny ethical issue for Harvard is how to justify taking a major giftâ€”and agreeing to set up an entire Middle East research centerâ€”from a donor who is a member of the ruling family of a repressive, totalitarian, sexist theocracy. For instance, the â€œdonâ€™t ask, donâ€™t tellâ€ policy that the Law School could not abide on the part of the military is clearly a useful, and necessary, tactic in Saudi Arabia: in the Princeâ€™s homeland, homosexuality is a capital crime and accused homosexuals have not only been shunned but have been beheaded. Since Shariâ€™a law allows punishment for â€œdeviant sexual behaviorâ€ that ranges from imprisonment and flogging to death, other cases, including the conviction by a Jeddah court of alleged transvestites, have resulted in thirty-one men suffering 200 lashes each and multi-month prison terms. Four other men in the incident received two yearsâ€™ imprisonment and 2,000 lashes.
How did Harvard reconcile this apparent contradiction? Beats me. But Cravatts makes another point that also bears repeating:
The more serious issue for Harvard to consider, and one that goes to the very core of the purpose of Alwaleedâ€™s gift, is: what is the intellectual intent of setting up the research center in the first place? Indeed, is this center, with a stated ambition of fostering â€˜peace and toleranceâ€™ between East and West, part of continuing â€˜educationalâ€™ campaign that minimizes the defects of Saudi society and culture and promotes a sanitized, disingenuous view that ignores religious intolerance, a lack of pluralism, and homicidal religious fanaticism? One of the Princeâ€™s earlier gifts for exactly that purpose was a $500,000 donation to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to supply American public schools with books and tapes with a retooled, softened view of the Islamic world. CAIR, however, whose stated mission is to â€œpromote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America,â€ has become an apologist for terror and anti-Americanism. As part of its mission, it provides teaching materials to school systems, such as the Arab World Studies Notebook, which Sandra Stotsky, a former senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, called â€œa piece of propaganda,â€ as opposed to an educational supplement with actual credibility as a teaching tool. A report by The American Jewish Committee about the text was similarly critical, noting that the work book, which â€œattempt[ed] to redress a perceived deficit in sympathetic views of the Arabs and Muslim religion in the American classroom, veer[ed] in the opposite direction â€” toward historical distortion as well as uncritical praise, whitewashing and practically proselytizing.â€
As Harvard begins planning how the Princeâ€™s donations will create research programs and advance honest intellectual inquiry into Middle Eastern studies, they will have to be careful to avoid the conflicting purposes that have arisen in other Middle Eastern centersâ€”particularly at Columbia Universityâ€™s controversial Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures Department where one-sided, biased â€˜scholarshipâ€™ focuses almost exclusively on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and has been accused of being, at its intellectual core, ideology-driven and characterized with an unrelenting contempt for and dismissal of Israel, Zionism, Jews, and the West.
More on the Arab World Studies Notebook anon. That hasn't been receiving nearly enough attention, either.