NEW YORK (May. 21)
A nationwide effort to get state legislatures to enact laws compelling colleges and universities to disclose large gifts from foreign sources has been announced by Theodore Mann, president of the American Jewish Congress.
Such legislation is needed because Arab countries have initiated a major anti-Israel propaganda effort on American campuses, the AJCongress said. The first such disclosure law was passed in Illinois last year. Similar legislation is currently being considered in some eight other states.
Under a model bill drafted by AJCongress, both public and private colleges and universities would be required to disclose public gifts and contracts from foreign sources that exceed $100,000 invalue per year. The disclosure requirement would also apply to registered foreign agents and corporations doing business in the U.S. whose principal place of business is located outside this country.
ELEMENTS IN THE MODEL BILL
The model bill would give schools receiving grants or contracts 120 days to submit information to state educational authorities on any conditions imposed by the giver, such as the right to name professors, as well as the name, title and qualification of any person or group whom the grant is to benefit. The disclosure provisions would be administered by the state agency that licenses institution of higher education.
Eight states are currently considering such legislation: California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the AJCongress said. A legislative committee in Maryland recently voted against bringing a disclosure bill to the floor of the House of Delegates but AJCongress said lawmakers in Maryland are planning to reintroduce such legislation next year.
EFFECTIVE WAY TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM
Will Maslow, general counsel of the AJCongress, said university disclosure laws are on effective way to deal with “crude attempts by some Arab governments to bring improper influence to bear on academic teaching and research on Mideast problems.”
He said huge gifts by pro-Arab interests are endangering academic freedom and distorting the educational process. He cited Arab grants to Georgetown University to set up an Arab study center as an example of efforts to mount an anti-Israel, pro-Arab propaganda campaign. Georgetown subsequently decided to return funds for the study center that it had received from Libya.
Saudi Arabia, Maslow noted, cancelled a major contract to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when the university demanded Saudi assurances that there would be no discrimination against Jewish faculty members. The Saudis refused to give such a pledge.
These gifts or contracts often include provisions that give the Arab donor the right to dictate academic curricula or determine who is to work under the grant or contract. Such conditions, Maslow said, represent an “unacceptable intrusion” on institutional autonomy. The most effective weapon against such interference with academic objectivity is to require the university to disclose the receipt of large grants and the conditions under which they are given, he stated.