A proposed U.S. Congress education bill would strengthen federal oversight of university courses in international studies departments across the nation in an attempt to steer them toward the needs of a post-Sept. 11, 2001 world.
The International Studies bill would create an advisory committee to oversee international studies departments, courses and materials, and assess federal aid, jeopardizing funding for departments unwilling to comply.
The seven-member committee would include two appointees "to represent Federal agencies that have national security responsibilities."
"The measure trains Americans to have the international expertise and understanding to fulfill pressing national security needs," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who introduced the bill.
Coming at a time when civil liberties have been pitted against national security in political debate, the bill is causing an uproar among many professors across the nation.
Many UC Berkeley faculty say the act, which would affect 56 universities in the country, would pressure professors to take a more pro-American perspective in their courses.
"The way the act is conceived is meant to be a censorship act," said Nezar AlSayyad, chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. "It is intervention in what faculty members do and it is an attempt to silence those who criticize the government."
AlSayyad said his department would stop accepting federal funding if the bill passed.
UC Berkeley has a strong international program with seven regional research centers affiliated with International and Areas Studies.
"It is not the job of defense intelligence of the CIA to ensure that the public receives a diversity of views presented in our classes," said David Leonard, dean of International Area Studies.
The bill, which would amend the Higher Education Act, has already passed in the House of Representatives and will go before the Senate in January.
"This is definitely a McCarthy moment again," AlSayyad said.