Three of six directors of federally-funded university Middle East studies centers who signed a letter pledging "not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions" have yet to clarify whether they spoke for their centers or merely for themselves. They are:
- miriam cooke, Middle East Studies Center, Duke.
- John Esposito, Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown.
- Osama Abi-Mershed, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University.
CW revealed in September that Abi-Mershed's claim that "we are not tax supported" was refuted by his dean, who confirmed that, "the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies has been, and we hope will remain, a recipient of Title VI designation and support."
Recently, New York University dean for the humanities Joy Connolly confirmed that in pledging to boycott Israeli academic institutions, incoming director of the taxpayer-supported Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies Helga Tawil-Souri speaks only for herself and not for her center or NYU. Lila Abu-Lughod, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, and Gabriel Piterberg, who directs the Center for Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, confirmed earlier that their pledges were merely personal and will not affect the centers they lead.
As CW has noted, directors of U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers are administrators of bodies required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act to give "assurances" that they will "maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education and other organizations that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center."
Therefore, if their pledges aren't simply personal but apply to the centers they lead, they stand in conflict with the assurances they gave in exchange for federal funds.
Did Osama Abi-Mershed, miriam cooke, and John Esposito pledge their personal boycott of Israeli institutions? Or do they speak for the centers they lead?
Taxpayers deserve to know if their dollars are being used to support academic centers that fail to follow federal policy.