I've been mulling over Stanley Kurtz's analysis of the recently released list of donations to universities originating in foreign countries published some time ago on National Review. He discusses the, what shall we say, interesting issue of Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal's $20,000,000 gift to Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He donated the same sum to Harvard University.
This was the same prince that tried to donate $10 million to the Twin Towers Fund - and announced that America should "re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause." It was rightly rejected by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
If the attempted donation to the Twin Towers Fund came with such a purpose, rather than a simple act of goodwill toward the United States, what can be the intentions of twice that amount going to two prestigious American universities? Just to enhance American education and aid mankind's collective search for truth? Hah. I think that "Muslim-Christian Understanding" was intended to serve a particular purpose for this Saudi Prince, and I don't think it's good for American, or Western, interests. Kurtz notes,
Alwaleed clearly means his gifts to shape American views on the Middle East, and there are legitimate grounds for asking...whether such gifts might compromise the content of scholarship at Harvard and Georgetown.
Kurtz notes a rather disturbing incident regarding a $2.5 million gift from the United Arab Emirates to Harvard Divinity School for the establishment of an endowed professorship in Islamic religious studies. The gift was returned after Harvard Divinity students discovered that the UAE institution donating the money "had hosted speakers claiming that the Holocaust was perpetrated by Zionists, and that Israel was behind 9/11." Yikes. They were right to return it. Good for them.
And then comes the inevitable but.
This return happened in 2004. But, in 2005, Harvard received two $1 million gifts from unnamed donors in the UAE and a $1.5 million contract between Harvard and the UAE. In 2006, Harvard received an enormous $14,586,957 gift from an apparently anonymous "non-government" donor. Hmmm. Is there something here? I'd say it looks pretty suspicious and Kurtz also wonders what exactly was taking place. As he notes, we would certainly need more information before we determined that what I clearly suspect happened, actually happened. Harvard should be willing to disclose that information.
Kurtz notes that his reporting on this issue does "not reflect settled conclusions." Fair enough. But he's right to be suspicious. Universities have done little to bolster the American people's waning faith in their good will toward the country that founded, shelters, and primarily funds them.
What I'm getting at here is this: have the universities given us any reason to trust them on issues like this? They ceased long ago to educate students properly, to teach them, as Allan Bloom instructed, to ask themselves the question, "‘What is man?,' in relation to his highest aspirations as opposed to his low and common needs." The university fails in its primary mission. But it has invented a new mission, one that is "progressive" and "open-minded." It more or less amounts to emptying students' minds of whatever thoughts or prejudices they may have previously held, especially if they got such ideas from their parents, and to fill the proverbial vacuum with vapid notions of moral relativism, multiculturalism, and other such intellectual vacuities common to late modernity. Any faith in tradition or trust in ancestral wisdom must be snuffed out and replaced in an unbending faith in the "new," in progress. Whatever comes after must be better than what came before.
One is reminded of the folks St. Paul confronted on the Areopagus in Athens, men who "would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new." Whether it was true was irrelevant, only newness, progressiveness, was what mattered. An ancient and eternally silly idea.
It all brings us back to the universities accepting foreign cash to fund an intellectual attack on the American idea. If there is not truth and evil then there can be no distinction made between America and her enemies. In fact, America is a sign of the old, at least to the universities founded here. America is all they have known. They want something new. America's enemies seem to be prime candidates. The problem is that the resiliency of the American idea, even in its relative youthfulness it still boasts the oldest written Constitution, tends to make its enemies moving targets. If they are perpetually falling then they must be perpetually replaced and, hence, are always new. But American survival cannot be maintained in perpetuity, not when our universities seem to be so tightly tucked under the covers with America's enemies.