NY Governor Signs Law Requiring Disclosure of Foreign Gifts to Schools

Governor Mario Cuomo signed Friday a bill requiring public disclosure of gifts by foreign sources of more than $100,000 to New York state institutions of higher learning.

The new law requires the state’s colleges and universities not only to inform the State Education Department of grants from foreign sources which exceed $100,000 in any given year, but also about the accompanying conditions and purposes of the gift.

The new law will ensure that such grants “do not undermine academic integrity” according to Avron Brog, chairman of the NY State Public Policy Committee of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. The measure was drafted by the ADL, Brog said.

He said the ADL became concerned several years ago by reports of large gifts from Middle East countries being made to American colleges and universities which contained conditions which he said breached academic responsiblities. He said some tried to control the hiring and firing of faculty, admission of students and what fees should be charged. Other gifts appeared to have been made on condition certain public stands or actions be taken by the recipient school.

Declaring that, in some cases, “undisclosed strings were attached to foreign gifts,” tainting neutral administration and unbiased scholarship, Brong said that this meant, in effect, that the public was deceived, the quality of education undermined and the students given distorted information.

One of the targets of the measure was understood to be offers of contributions from Arab governments which required recipient schools to give the donor the right to name faculty members or to set up study centers at the schools.

The measure was approved last month in the State Senate by 52 to six and by the Assembly, 139 to zero.

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