GROUPS TO SENATE: STOP BIASED, POLITICIZED MIDDLE EAST STUDIES
Higher Education Reauthorization Must Include Accountability to Stop Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars, Strengthen National Security
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, Jan 25, 2018 – As the Senate begins to reauthorize the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA), AMCHA Initiative and more than a dozen leading organizations focused on education policy, the Jewish community and civil rights urged Senators to prevent misuse of federal funds under HEOA Title VI.
“Our groups are concerned that federal funds under Title VI of the HEOA are being misused to promote biased, one-sided, and anti-Israel programming in our nation’s Middle East studies centers. Congress sought to address this problem in 2008 by requiring that each recipient ‘reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views,’ among other provisions. Nonetheless, many recipients of Title VI funds continue to support Middle East studies programs that provide only a monochromatic –and biased, anti-American, and anti-Israel- perspective,” wrote the groups in their letter to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will hold a hearing on HEOA reauthorization today. The letter was drafted and coordinated by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.
Title VI was established to strengthen U.S. security by training students as national security specialists and to educate the public on international affairs. The goals of the program, which funds 100 National Resource Centers (NRC), including 16 Middle East Studies departments, is to equip students with a full and unbiased understanding of regions and countries vital to U.S. security. However, in the absence of federal oversight, these programs have devolved into hotbeds of anti-American and anti-Israel activity, disseminating falsehoods both in universities and (through the congressionally mandated “public outreach programs”) to K-12 teachers and to the general public.
AMCHA’s research exposed this rampant abuse. In 2014, AMCHA released a three-year study that tracked anti-Semitic discourse and anti-Israel bias in public events sponsored by UCLA’s Center for Near East Studies (CNES). It found that CNES events disproportionately focused on Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict, with 93% of events on Israel being anti-Israel, and 75% displaying anti-Semitic discourse. In 2016, AMCHA issued a report chronicling the “Anti-Israel Bias of Directors and Speakers at Title VI-Funded Middle East Studies Programs from 2014-2015,” which found that the 42% of NRC directors who endorsed the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement were more than twice as likely to host federally-funded events with pro-BDS speakers. And, two months ago, AMCHA released new research demonstrating the abuse is escalating. Middle East Studies departments with one or more pro-BDS faculty were five times more likely to sponsor events with BDS-supporting speakers, and the more faculty boycotters, the greater the likelihood of BDS-supporting speaker-events. In addition, academic units with BDS-supporting chairs or directors were 3.5 times more likely to sponsor events with BDS-supporting speakers than units headed by non-faculty boycotters.
“Studies have repeatedly shown that Federal funds are being used by our nation’s top universities to promote one-sided, and often anti-Semitic, programming that masquerades as scholarship,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s director and a retired University of California faculty member. “Sadly, left unchecked, too many professors are illegally using taxpayer dollars to push their own personal, political crusades to impressionable students. This must stop. It violates the law and completely distorts the scholarly and educational mission of the university.”
The coalition recommended three simple steps to address this growing problem: 1) Approve reforms recently included by the House Education and the Workforce Committee to require annual reporting by the U.S. Department of Education on its administration of the program; 2) define key terms in the statute to ameliorate continuing confusion and 3) require the Department of Education to “score” the pertinent portion of universities’ Title VI applications, giving credit to those schools that comply with federal requirements.
AMCHA monitors more than 400 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. Campus anti-Semitism increased 40% and genocidal expression doubled in 2016, according to AMCHA’s most recent annual study. The organization recorded 626 known anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. Its daily anti-Semitism tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.