[Editor's note: the following letter to the editor of The Hoya, the student newspaper of Georgetown University, was not published by the paper and so is reproduced here.]
In "13 Professors Boycott Israeli Universities," September 13, Katherine Richardson writes that "Georgetown has become the most-represented university involved in the American Studies Association's boycott of Israeli academic institutions since the petition's creation last month."
In fact, the ASA's boycott was launched last December. The boycott to which Ms. Richardson refers is unrelated, represents "scholars and librarians working on the Middle East," and was launched in August. There is no linkage between the two groups.
An important issue unaddressed by the article is whether two directors of federal Title VI-funded Georgetown centers who signed the pledge speak for themselves or for the centers they lead. Under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, recipients must give "assurances" to "maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education"—an assurance threatened by a pledge to boycott Israeli universities and academics.
Asked recently via email, John Esposito, director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, did not respond.
Far worse was the misleading response of Osama Abi-Mershed, director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, who claimed erroneously, "we are not tax supported." When asked to clarify this statement, Abi-Mershed's dean, James Reardon-Anderson, contradicted him: "We are very proud that the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies has been, and we hope will remain, a recipient of Title VI designation and support." Abi-Mershed has yet to comment on his initial response.
Also unanswered: do Esposito and Abi-Mershed, acting as directors, intend to honor the "assurances" they pledged when accepting taxpayer dollars via Title VI? Or will they act in violation of federal policies?
Director of Academic Affair and Director, Campus Watch
Middle East Forum