The Hill: Colleges Must Reconsider Campuses in the Middle East

Veiled Indian Kashmiri Muslim activists of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of the Faith) organization look on during a press confrence held to urge the government to reveal the names of people caught up in a prostitution scandal in Srinagar, 10 May 2006. Police in April 2006 unearthed an alleged racket involving …

A recent op-ed in The Hill condemns American colleges that operate satellite campuses in the Middle East based on the woeful state of free speech in many countries in the region.

A recent op-ed in The Hill by Varsha Koduvayur takes a look at American colleges and universities that operate satellite campuses in the Middle East in light of the the United Arab Emirates’ arrest of British academic Matthew Hedges. Hedges says that he was force-fed a mix of drugs and forced to confess to spying. After a five-minute hearing, Hedges was sentenced to life in prison.

In the past few years, several major American colleges and universities, despite their claims of “social justice” values, have established campuses in the Middle East.

Over the past few years, major Western universities have established branch campuses in the Gulf. Paris’ Sorbonne has a campus in Abu Dhabi, while Rochester Institute of Technology and Britain’s Cambridge and Manchester have branches in Dubai. Georgetown, Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Texas A&M, and Virginia Commonwealth have Qatar-based campuses.

And this issue doesn’t end there. Some of these schools have been on the receiving end of massive grants from national governments in exchange for government control over the type of academic that can be done there. In America, we call this censorship.

Gulf governments have been incredibly generous to many of these institutions, doling out hefty chunks of their hydrocarbons-based wealth. In 2014, for example, among other grants, Qatar gave $59.5 million Georgetown University and $45.3 million to Northwestern University. In 2008, New York University opened its Abu Dhabi campus with the help of $50 million from the emirate. According to data from The Gazelle, an NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) student newspaper, more than 99 percent of NYUAD’s revenue comes from UAE grants. Abu Dhabi even committed to financing a chunk of NYU’s New York campus when the NYUAD deal was inked.

The column goes on to ask all American colleges and universities operating in the Middle East to cease their operations there.

“Unless Western governments bring strong pressure to bear on Gulf states to reform their rights records, cases like Matthew Hedges will become the norm rather than the exception,” the column finishes.


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