The bill is being pushed by conservatives and pro-Israel forces concerned that Middle East studies programs funded in the name of improving
Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat, has spoken of "the anti-American bias that pervades…
The lobbying effort has the potential to put Senator Clinton in a conundrum. She's a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction.
Mrs. Clinton has also tried to stay on the good side of the pro-Israel community, which is a powerful constituency in
The head of federal relations for
Representatives of a group of
The main goal of the grants is to recruit government employees, according to the Department of Education web site. "There is a tendency to see the grants as entitlements," said Daniel Pipes, a founder of Campus Watch, which monitors Middle East Studies on campus. "The purpose of the program is to strengthen the government capabilities in key areas…which seems like an outrageous proposition to the universities."
A Hoover Institution fellow and National Review Online contributor,
He cited a Web site at
A House bill creating the advisory panel was sponsored by the chairman of the Subcommittee on Select Education of the Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. Peter Hoekstra. The section that the universities oppose says,"Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the board to mandate, direct, or control an institution of higher education's specific instructional content, curriculum or program of instruction."
"The Board is authorized to study, monitor, apprise, and evaluate a sample of activities supported under this title in order to provide recommendations to the Secretary or Congress for the improvement of programs under the title and to ensure programs meet the purposes of the title," the bill says, referring to the secretary of education.
Even though the language says the board will not have authority to change curriculum, many universities and academics say it is not enough of a safeguard for free speech. "Put bluntly, the fear in the academic community is that even if the Board can't review syllabi,funding can be used as a weapon to enforce the promulgation of a particularistic view of American interests," said a lecturer in the department of political science at
The language stating that the board could not "direct" universities was added to the bill following lobbying from higher-education interest groups, who have said they are still not satisfied with the safeguards.
"We believe the current legislation leaves open the possibility that the Advisory Board could intrude into the academic conduct and content of higher education and could impinge on institutional decisions about curriculum and activities," said the president of the American Council on Education, David Ward, in a letter to Congress. "Indeed, the powers vested in the proposed advisory board make it more of an investigative, rather than an advisory, body."
The director of government relations for
Ms. Hurley said that the government exercises the appropriate amount of oversight through the grantmaking process. She said the best way for the government to recruit students was through loan-forgiveness plans.
Proponents of increased oversight say many scholarship programs, including Fulbright Fellowships and National Security Education Programs, have boards and that the government has a specific interest in ensuring that students move into government positions.
Mr. Kurtz suggested redirecting Title VI funds to the Defense Language Institute until the program can be reformed. "Under the umbrella of the Defense Language Institute, students with a desire to serve their country would have no fear of retaliation or ostracism from professors who view cooperation with the American government as immoral," he said.
The Senate is not planning to pass a stand-alone bill like the House and will address the board issue as part of a larger higher-education bill early next year, said congressional aides close to the bill who asked not to be identified.
Ms. Hurley said