Commentary coming. In the meantime, please distribute widely, and feel free to re-post on your own sites. [Disclaimer: We are not part of the Task Force. However, I believe the issue is important enough to get out the word.]
Title VI Funding Renewal Poses Dangers to Academic Inquiry, Integrity and Security
Dear Fellow American Citizen:
We are writing to alert you to proposed legislation, HR 3077, which poses a potential threat to academic freedom. Professor Rashid Khalidi has noted that this legislation creates “an ideological litmus test for academics” which could limit freedom of expression in the classroom as well as in scholarship. We urgently request your assistance in halting this legislation and preventing narrow political strictures from being imposed on our scholarly community, on our students, and on the wider public that looks to academe for guidance on serious and complex issues, such as those that now confront the United States in the Middle East.
Please take a few minutes to read this email, and if you share our sense of its urgency, please follow up with action: Pass this information on to all your contacts, and then call, write to, or meet with your senators as soon as possible (HR 3077 has already passed in the House of Representatives). If you have further questions or comments, please email us at MEAnthro@yahoo.com.
The Task Force on Middle East Anthropology
THIS ALERT CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING SECTIONS:
1) a summary of the legislation regarding Title VI funding renewal and the provisions that are of concern to scholars,
2) links to the legislation (HR 3077) itself,
3) a concise set of talking points about the legislation,
4) links to information about the legislation, and
5) contact information for relevant senators.
1) SUMMARY OF THE SITUATION: Title VI refers to Title VI of the 1965 Higher Education Act, which provides funding for area studies centers and programs at universities in the U.S. Title VI funding affects teaching, study and research in modern languages, area studies, and international studies, as well as fields related to area studies such as anthropology. Programs such as Fulbright and FLAS also fall under Title VI.
Title VI funding has come up for renewal. As part of this process, HR 3077, which is the International Studies in Higher Education Act, has been proposed in Congress. While HR 3077 proposes to renew Title VI funding for another five years, the legislation also contains a number of provisions that many scholars, especially those affiliated with area studies programs, find disturbing and even un-American.
These provisions include the establishment of an “International Higher Education Advisory Board,” directing the Secretary of Education to study “foreign language heritage communities” within the U.S. for national security purposes, and requiring Title VI institutions to provide federal recruiter access to students. (Details below).
In early 2004, the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will be drafting a version of the legislation for the full Senate to consider. If the Senate version is confirmed, the House and Senate will set up another committee to merge the two bills. At that point, discussion of these bills will take place behind closed doors, with no input whatsoever by the academic community or the general public. It is therefore imperative that scholars clearly voice their concerns about this legislation NOW, since this is virtually the last stage in the legislative process in which citizens can have an impact on HR 3077.
At the end of this email, you will find the phone numbers of the members of the Senate HELP Committee. Phone calls are always more effective than emails. Better still are meetings with senators, many of whom will be in their home states in December before the Senate reconvenes in January 2004. Please take the time to make a phone call, set up a meeting with a senator, and discuss this pending legislation with your colleagues.
2) MORE ON THE LEGISLATION:
To access the full text of HR 3077, type the following into your browser: http://thomas.loc.gov/then do a search by Bill Number for HR 3077.
Sections of 3077 you should pay particularly close attention to are:
Section 6 Details the independent International Higher Education Advisory Board, which will include two members of national security agencies. The tasks of this advisory board include making recommendations “to improve the programs under [Title VI] to better reflect the national needs related to the homeland security, international education, international affairs, and foreign language training.”
Section 7 – Details requirements for Title VI institutions to provide Federal Government agency recruiter access to students and student recruiting information.
Section 8 Directs the Secretary of Education, along with the International Advisory Board, to study “foreign language heritage communities” within the United States, “particularly such communities that include speakers of languages that are critical to the national security of the United States.”
3) TALKING POINTS:
A) ADVISORY BOARD IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO ADDRESS NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS: When approaching senators, express appreciation that HR 3077 extends the Title VI programs. Then note that this new advisory board is not the best way to address national security and political concerns, and listen to those concerns as well. An alternate suggestion might be to propose a non-legislated working group comprised of academics and other area specialists from a wide-range of perspectives that would cooperatively and consensually devise the best interdisciplinary strategies to address Congressional concerns about international education. This would make much more sense than the proposed legislative changes, as these changes were instigated by the testimony of one person, Stanley Kurtz, an ideologue and partisan who represents a narrow constituency of the neoconservative right-wing, and works with the Hoover Institute and The National Review.
B) NOTION OF LACK OF DIVERSITY/BIAS IN AREA STUDIES IS FALSE: The language in the legislation that suggests that the advisory board is necessary to promote “diverse perspectives” in Title VI international educated programs stems from testimony before the Education Subcommittee presented by Stanley Kurtz (see link below). This testimony included false assertions regarding bias in international and foreign language studies. This is related to an argument that those in support of U.S. foreign policy are being suppressed institutionally. One need only examine the membership of the Middle East Studies Association and other academic associations to realize that the full spectrum of political, ideological, and theoretical perspectives are represented, reflecting the wide range of views that are in fact offered to students in U.S. research institutions. Furthermore, the rhetoric characteristic of Kurtz and his supporters is rooted in the logical fallacy that any criticism of U.S. policy is tantamount to sedition or a lack of patriotism. Critical debate and consideration of multiple perspectives is crucial to the academic process, and would serve the national interest far better than blind support for the foreign policy of a given administration. Critical debate constitutes the essence of American values.
C) GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT HAVE INFLUENCE OVER SCHOLARSHIP: This legislation suggests that the government will have influence over what kinds of research and ideas are produced in Title VI institutions. It is in the best interest of scholarship and intellectual inquiry for institutions of higher learning to be independent from government policy. Governments can encourage the free exchange of ideas and the development of stellar scholarship through financial support, but they should not have any measure of control over these ideas or scholarship in a democratic society. Tying government funding to particular political perspectives poses a threat to freedom of academic inquiry, thereby endangering the larger principles of freedom that the U.S. professes to uphold.
D) REPERCUSSIONS FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT COMPLY REMAIN UNCLEAR: The jurisdiction of the advisory board remains unclear, leaving open questions about repercussions for those who do not follow the board’s recommendations, and questions about who will not receive funding under the new legislation.
E) HR 3077 WILL LEAD TO PRIVATIZATION AND ELITISM: The new legislation may have the negative consequences of further privatizing research and removing it from the public domain, because centers and programs at private institutions, which may be less dependent on Title VI funding than those at public institutions, might choose to refuse the funding under the new legislation. This could result in students in public universities having less access to knowledge about the outside world.
F) POTENTIAL FOR STUDENT COERCION: The mandate of the board to make recommendations on how grant recipient programs should encourage their students to serve national security needs is a form of coercion that constitutes an attack on basic American freedoms.
G) SURVEILLANCE IS UNETHICAL AND WILL IMPEDE SCHOLARSHIP: The legislation’s directive for the Secretary of Education to study “language heritage communities” within the United States is tantamount to surveillance. Surveillance of communities in the U.S. should not be tied to education or to research in any way. Such surveillance will impede scholarship by damaging researcher relationships with those communities. It also has the serious potential to damage the relationships these communities have with others in the U.S., relationships which make them an integral part of U.S. society.
H) DANGER POSED TO RESEARCHERS AND INFORMANTS: Both the advisory board and the “language heritage communities” research may increase the perception abroad and at homeamong academic colleagues, government officials, in the media, or in public opinionthat U.S. researchers and students are an arm of the intelligence community. This is problematic on an ethical level, and could put both U.S. researchers, and their informants, in danger.
I) NEO-CONSERVATIVE AGENDA: In addition to Kurtz (see talking points A and B), this legislation is being pushed by a number of other neo- conservative personalities, including Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes. Several members of the Senate HELP Committee, including Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Dodd (D-CT) and Harkin (D-IA), recently opposed Pipes’ nomination to the US Institute of Peace board, describing him as a “provocative” and “highly controversial” candidate whose “decidedly one-sided” views would be in “direct contradiction” to USIP goals. These conservative radicals are not supporters of ideological, ethnic, and political diversity; instead they promote (especially anti-Muslim, anti-Arab) prejudice, which should raise questions about the legislation they are pushing.
4) LINKS TO FURTHER INFORMATION:
http://www.aaup.org/govrel/hea/2003/9-23alert.htm (AAUP Legislative Alert on HR 3077)
http://hnn.us/articles/1218.html (article by Juan Cole)
http://internationalstudies.uchicago.edu/titleVI.shtml (contains history, background, links)
For more on Kurtz’ testimony and the roots of the legislation, see:
5) SENATE COMMITTEE (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) CONTACT INFO:
** If your senators are not on this list, it is still important to contact them, especially in the event that the legislation is confirmed by the HELP committee and goes to the entire Senate.
Contact information for senators is available at: www.senate.gov
Judd Gregg (R-NH) — (202) 224-3324 or (603) 225-7115
Senator Edward Kennedy (MA) — (202) 224-4543 or (617) 565-3170
Senator Christopher Dodd (CT) — (202) 224-2823 or (860) 258-6940
Senator Tom Harkin (IA) — (202) 224-3254 or (515) 284-4574
Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) — (202) 224-4654 or (410) 962-4510
Senator James Jeffords (I) (VT) — (202) 224-5141 or (802) 223-5273
Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM) — (202) 224-5521 or (505) 988-6647
Senator Patty Murray (WA) — (202) 224-2621 or (206) 553-5545
Senator Jack Reed (RI) — (202) 224-4642 or (401) 943-3100
Senator John Edwards (NC) — (202) 224-3154 or (919) 856-4245
Senator Hillary Clinton (NY) — (202) 224-4451 or (212) 688-6262
Senator Bill Frist (TN) — (202) 224-3344 or (615) 352-9411
Senator Mike Enzi (WY) — (202) 224-3424 or (307) 682-6268
Senator Mike DeWine (OH) — (202) 224-2315 or (614) 469-5186
Senator Christopher Bond (MO) — (202) 224-5721 or (573) 634-2488
Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) — (202) 224-4944 or (615) 736-5129
Senator John Ensign (NV) — (202) 224-6244 or (702) 388-6605
Senator Jeff Sessions (AL) — (202) 224-4124 or (334) 244-7017
Senator Pat Roberts (KS) — (202) 224-4774 or (913) 451-9343
Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) — (202) 224-5972 or (864) 250-1417
Senator John Warner (VA) — (202) 224-2023 or (804) 771-2579