Reveal Plans of Usc to Establish Mideast Center Financed by U.S. Firms Doing Business with Arabs

The Los Angeles Chapter of the American Jewish Committee recently revealed plans of the University of Southern California (USC) to establish a Middle East Center financed by American multi-national corporations who do business with the oil-rich Arab states. The AJCommittee charges that the Center, which has the backing of Saudi Arabia, is part of a nationwide program to politicize and control universities.

The initial funding of $7 million will come from the newly incorporated Middle East Center Foundation, using gifts contributed by the Fluor Corporation and other businesses with large dealings in Saudi Arabia. According to Neil C. Sandberg, Western Regional Director of the AJCommittee, the USC Board of Trustees approved a contract which would have given the Center the authority to select its own faculty and set its own curriculum. In effect, the university proposed to give control of its academic programs to outsiders, with their own private agendas.

“It is our view,” said Sandberg, “that the university itself has these responsibilities and that it is required to avoid the kind of politicizing that can lead to skewed program offerings. In approving the contract, we feel that the university has compromised its commitment to its objective academic role and has taken sides in an international political controversy.”

Following exposure of this plan by the AJCommittee, the Faculty Senate and President’s Advisory Council at USC protested the attempt to remove the Center from their control. Subsequently, the university issued a Memorandum of Understanding which appears to supersede establishment of the Center under the original contract.

“While we are pleased at this new development, we remain deeply concerned with the need to monitor the Center’s program,” Sandberg said. “The AJCommittee is now working with other interested Jewish groups to see that a satisfactory final outcome is reached.”

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