Contact Senate to Oppose Creation of Government Oversight Board to Monitor International Studies Programs
Join ADC in our effort to stop this infringement of academic freedom. This board poses a serious threat to the independence of America's universities, professors, and students—especially in Middle East Studies
Individuals can immediately take action by sending a letter to the Senate. Enter your zip code in the box above.
Organizations can click here to endorse a petition that will be sent to the Senate.
Issue: The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) asks members, supporters, academics, students, universities and all Americans who care about academic freedom to contact your Senator and especially members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (click here to contact committee members) to express your opposition to the creation of an International Studies Advisory Board (Board) which could be part of the Education Reauthorization Act now being drafted by the Committee.
Language coming out of the House and soon to be considered by the Senate calls for the creation of such an advisory board. This board, which would have at least two appointees representing national security agencies, would oversee curricula, course materials, and even the hiring of faculty at institutions that accept federal government money for international studies. While all area studies programs-Asian, African, European, Latin American-will be affected, the current target of this legislative effort is Middle East studies.
This advisory board is being supported by think tanks and self-appointed campus watchdog Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch that want to stifle academic debate in institutions across our nation.
Ironically this push to narrowly define the scope of American international studies programs comes at the same time that our policy is to demand reform and diversity of foreign governments in their educational systems and textbooks. If we expect an arena of academic freedom and openness in other countries, why not our own?
This movement to politicize the content of what is taught at our universities is incompatible with the cherished American values of free speech and inquiry. Please join ADC in stopping the creation of the International Advisory Board.
Last year, in the House of Representatives, the Subcommittee on Select Education held a hearing on bias in international studies programs. The bill, H.R. 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003 was first discussed at this hearing.
The Congressional hearing was the culmination of work by conservative think tanks and self-appointed campus watchdog organizations, like Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch. ADC and other civil rights groups had already been outraged by the Bush Administration's nomination of Pipes to a position at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Mr. Pipes has been on record as opposing peace efforts in the Middle East and making racist remarks about Arabs and Muslims. After ADC and other groups worked to inform the members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of Pipes statements and convictions, several of the Committee's Senator's expressed opposition to his nomination. To override Congressional opposition and faced with increasing public outcry, President Bush was forced to make a recess appointment of Pipes to USIP.
During the hearing some witnesses, portrayed academic institutions, particularly area studies programs, as hotbeds for anti-American sentiment. According to Stanley Kurtz, a witness at the hearing and research fellow at the Hoover Institution, "Title VI-funded programs in Middle East Studies (and other area studies) tend to purvey extreme and one-sided criticisms of American foreign policy." Proponents of the bill proposed the creation of an advisory board that has the final word on curricula taught at Title VI institutions, course materials assigned in class, and even the faculty who are hired in institutions that accept Title VI funding.
H.R. 3077 passed through Committee and on the House floor with but a few rumblings and misgivings about academic freedom by Members of Congress. This bill, and all others coming out of the House of Representatives concerning higher education reauthorization, will be rolled into one bill for consideration by the Senate early this year.
It is expected that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing on the larger issues within the Education Reauthorization bill; however, a hearing on this specific bill or the issue of the International Advisory Board is not expected before floor consideration in the Senate.
The Congressional intention of Title VI funding was to create a program to support international area studies and foreign language programs; thus preparing an educated American workforce that can bring skills in language and area expertise to jobs in service to the American government and military. The very purpose of this program is to create a pool of experts to respond to the shifting foreign policy needs of our country. To politicize the nation's international studies programs at the policy whims of different administrations is counterproductive to the intent of Congress.
At this most critical time when as a country and as a people we need to know all sides of a conflict to bring forth a secure nation and a just foreign policy, those who seek this knowledge are being labeled by this bill and this movement as insufficiently patriotic. This measure threatens to suppress dialogue. Such intellectual intimidation also serves to cut off avenues for exploring possibilities of peace. This attempt to politicize the content of what is taught at our universities is incompatible with the cherished American values of free speech and inquiry.