SUPPORT ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN INTERNATIONAL STUDIES:
CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TO OPPOSE NEW ADVISORY BOARD IN EDUCATION BILL
‘Washington Wednesday’, 4 February 2004
Why? This board poses a serious threat to the independence of US universities, professors, and students — especially in Middle East Studies.
1) On ‘Washington Wednesday,’ February 4 or anytime thereafter, fax, call, and/or email your Senators and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to express your opposition to the creation of an International Studies Advisory Board in any Higher Education Reauthorization Act.
2) Have your organization endorse a petition to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions supporting academic freedom in international studies. To endorse the petition, please see: http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=317
3) Write an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local newspaper and call your local radio talk-show opposing the creation of an International Studies Advisory Board.
Contact information for your Members of Congress can be found at the US Campaign’s Congressional report card: http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.phplist=type&type=59
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee phone number is 202-224-6770 and its fax is 202-224-6510.
Last year the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003. The bill provides for government funding for international area studies and foreign language programs, known as Title VI; however, the bill also contains a troubling provision regarding academic freedom. If agreed to by the Senate, this bill would create a 7-person International Studies Advisory Board. Two members would be selected by the Speaker of the House upon recommendation of the Majority and Minority Leaders, two by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate upon the recommendation of the Majority and Minority Leaders, and three by the Secretary of Education. Two of those appointed by the Secretary of Education must represent federal agencies with national security responsibilities. Advocates of the bill proposed that the advisory board would have oversight of curricula, course materials, and even the hiring of faculty at institutions that accept federal government money for international studies.
This bill is being supported by conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institution and self-appointed campus watchdog groups like Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch. Their support for an International Studies Advisory Board is prompted by a belief that “Title VI-funded programs in Middle Eastern Studies (and other area studies) tend to purvey extreme and one-sided criticisms of American foreign policy,” according to Hoover Institution fellow Stanley Kurtz. Opponents of the advisory board fear that it would function to stifle legitimate debate on US foreign policy toward the Middle East in general and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine in particular.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is expected to consolidate H.R. 3077 and other bills into a larger Education Reauthorization Bill and take action on it shortly.
For more background information , see “Behind the Battles Over US Middle East Studies,” by Zachary Lockman: http://www.merip.org/mero/interventions/lockman_interv.html
I am a constituent who strongly urges you to oppose the creation of an International Studies Advisory Board in any Higher Education Reauthorization Bill taken up by the Senate. In H.R. 3077, the House called for the creation of such an advisory board, to have oversight of curricula, course materials, and even the hiring of faculty at institutions that accept federal government money for international studies. According to the bill, two of the seven members of the advisory board must represent agencies with responsibilities for national security.
I strongly support government funding of international studies and foreign language programs on college campuses. However, the government should have no power to regulate and control the marketplace of ideas on college campuses. The free exchange of differing viewpoints is essential for the functioning of a healthy democracy.
This advisory board is being supported by think tanks and self-appointed campus watchdog groups that want to stifle debate about US foreign policy and the conduct of its allies. I fear that appointments to this advisory board would reflect this very anti-democratic perspective. During such a critical time for US foreign policy, we need to encourage open debate and critical thinking, not act to restrict them.
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ABOUT ‘WASHINGTON WEDNESDAY’
‘Washington Wednesday’ is a project of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and its member organizations. The first Wednesday of each month we coordinate and distribute an action alert to thousands of grassroots activists all over the country. This is done through our Congressional District Coordinator network which currently covers 122 Congressional districts in 31 states. Together we’re changing US policy toward Israel/Palestine to support peace, justice, human rights, and international law instead of military occupation. To find out who is coordinating in your Congressional district, please see our Congressional report card at: http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?list=type&type=59. If no one is coordinating efforts in your Congressional district and you would like to do so, please contact us.