Congress Tightens Up Reporting Requirements on Foreign Funding of Universities


The scandal of certain foreign governments funding programs at American universities that further the interests of their often unsavory regimes is at long last being addressed by Congress. The House has just passed a bill — which will soon be voted on in the Senate — to tighten the reporting requirements for major foreign gifts (above $250,000) and to require greater oversight by universities of the programs being funded. More on this legislation, which is sure to become law, can be found here: “U.S. House Approves Reporting on Foreign Funds to Universities; Includes Key MEF Priorities,” Middle East Forum, December 8, 2023:

American universities will no longer be able to count on a complacent federal bureaucracy and weak legislation to avoid disclosing foreign gifts and contracts, if a House vote two days ago becomes law.

The Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions Act – the DETERRENT Act (H.R. 5933) – passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday in a bipartisan vote of 246 to 170. Introduced by Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) and co-sponsored by Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and 25 other members, the bill significantly strengthens key provision of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

For decades, many universities have ignored requirements to report foreign gifts or contracts of over $250,000. Legislation lacked the teeth to hold academe accountable, allowing parts of the education bureaucracy to ignore violations of the law. Even if universities complied, they did not need to disclose the purposes for which the funds would be used – a loophole that allowed foreign states such as Qatar and China quietly to fund potentially disreputable projects or individuals….

Particularly worrisome are the large sums provided by rich Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, to fund a vast expansion of Middle Eastern Studies, and Islamic Studies Departments, providing for greater numbers of faculty with endowed chairs; these faculty members not surprisingly turn out to share the world views of the states that fund them, including their anti-Israel animus and deep sympathy for the “Palestinians.” Saudi Arabia, and individual Saudis, provide large sums not just to endow individual chairs, but also to set up entire centers for Islamic studies, whose members are not unbiased scholars, but promoters and defenders of Islam. One example is the infamous apologist for Islam, John Esposito, who was the founding director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, which got its start with a $20 million gift from Prince Alwaleed himself. Qatar, which has supported Hamas for decades, including providing refuge for the leaders of its political wing, has funded chairs in Islamic law, as has Saudi Arabia. The amounts provided by Arab states to American universities has been staggering. Qatar has given American universities $4.3 billion over 35 years, between 1986 and 2021, according to a 2021 report by the Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Dr. Mitchell Bard. By December 2023, that amount has risen above $4.5 billion. That buys a lot of goodwill in American universities, and a desire on the part of both faculty members and administrators to please such a funder, in the hope that such sums will continue to roll in from deep-pocketed Doha.

Overall, between 1986 and 2021, American colleges and universities received nearly $8.5 billion from all Arab sources.” That buys the Arabs many friends on campuses, which may help explain why universities have been so lax in policing the antisemitic and anti-Israel student groups that have convulsed so many schools in the last year, and especially after October 7, when the IDF entered Gaza to ensure that Hamas never again poses a military threat to Israel.

The public, the media, and the political class will now see just where all that Arab money is going to in our universities, and for what purposes. How much influence have the Arab states bought, in supporting programs on Middle Eastern Studies and on Islam, that furthers pro-Arab and anti-Israel views? How have faculty members been chosen for these programs? Is there a politically correct test that is being quietly imposed so that, for example, no one sympathetic to Israel will be hired by a Middle East Studies department? Are students taking courses in departments subsidized by Arab money being instructed, or indoctrinated? Thanks to the new requirements for universities to report all foreign money received, and how it will be spent, it will be much harder to hide from the government, and the public, what these vast sums from Arab governments and individuals are meant, and largely have managed until now, to accomplish.