Late last week, more than a dozen Jewish and civil rights groups lobbied Congress to stop an abuse of federal education funds under a law related to higher education.
Title VI of the 1965 Higher Education Opportunities Act gives federal funds to 129 international studies and foreign language centers at universities across the United States in an effort to strengthen national security. A bill to amend the act is pending before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The specific cause for concern is regarding the funding that has been apparently allocated to Middle East programs at universities which present an anti-Israel agenda.
"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," according to a letter penned by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and signed by the groups involved. "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," the letter added.
A spokesperson for Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., did not respond to a request for comment.
"This letter, spearheaded by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law, gives us a good indication of how Kenneth L. Marcus will act as the new head of the [Office for Civil Rights]," Syracuse professor Miriam Elman told Red Alert Politics. "As clearly noted in the letter, he won't be undermining anyone's free speech rights — including those who advance virulently anti-Israel and unbalanced and biased perspectives on the Middle East."
Elman added, "They'll be free to continue to do that, after he's confirmed. But if they continue to do so at the institutional level — in the form of instructional programming of entire centers and departments — then Marcus will work to make sure that they'll be forced to kiss federal funding goodbye."
According to a press release by the AMCHA Initiative, which monitors anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on campuses nationwide and is one of the letter's signatories, 16 Mideast studies departments nationwide receive funding, and "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 to K-12 teachers and to the general public."
According to an AMCHA study released two months ago, Mideast studies departments with one or more faculty members who support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement were five times more likely to sponsor events with BDS-supporting speakers. The more faculty boycotters, the greater the likelihood of BDS-supporting speaker events. Additionally, departments with BDS-supporting chairs or directors were 3.5 times more likely to sponsor events with pro-BDS speakers compared to academic departments headed by nonfaculty boycotters.
In 2016, AMCHA released a report which found 42 percent of NRC directors who endorsed the anti-Israel BDS movement were more than twice as likely to host federally funded events with pro-BDS speakers.
A couple of years beforehand, AMCHA released a three-year study which tracked anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias in public events sponsored by the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Near Eastern Studies. It found that the Center for Near East Studies events disproportionately focused on Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict, with 93 percent of Israel-related events being anti-Israel and 75 percent displaying anti-Semitic content.
"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," AMCHA Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin said in a statement. "Sadly, left unchecked, too many professors are illegally using taxpayer dollars to push their own personal, political crusades to impressionable students."
"This must stop," Rossman-Benjamin added. "It violates the law and completely distorts the scholarly and educational mission of the university."