The Civil Rights Act, updated on July 28, 2017 appears under the title Types of Educational Opportunities Discrimination of the US Department of Justice. It notes that "The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the landmark legislation prohibiting discrimination in several areas including housing, employment and education. The sections of the Act relating to education are Title IV, protecting students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin by public elementary and secondary schools and public institutions of higher learning; Title VI, prohibiting discrimination by recipients of federal funds on the basis of race and national origin; and Title IX, permitting the United States to intervene in pending suits alleging discrimination. Additionally, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 prohibits, among other conduct, deliberate segregation on the basis of race, color, and national origin."
Although the Civil Rights Act is clear, on January 24, 2018 a number of Jewish educational groups have written a letter to the U.S Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in support of amendments to Title VI of the Higher Education Opportunities Act. The groups concern is that federal funds "are being misused to promote biased, one-sided, and anti-Israel programming in our nation’s Middle East studies centers." Although in 2008 the Congress addressed this issue by requiring that recipients “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views,” yet, many recipients of Title VI funds continue to support programs that "provide only a monochromatic –and biased, anti-American, and anti-Israel—perspective." The groups requested a clear enforcement of the Act.
Much of the abuse of federal funds and worse was discussed in 2016, by Endowment for Middle East Truth which published an article in the Weekly Standard, contemplating how "US Taxpayer Dollars Contribute to BDS Activity and Anti-Semitism on Campuses." It detailed the misuse of funding from the Title VI educational grant programs as an underlying factor in contributing to the growth of BDS and anti-Semitic activities on American college campuses.
All this was discussed also in September 2014 by the journal Inside Higher Education. The article reported that a "coalition of Israel advocacy organizations concerned by what they describe as the prevalence of anti-Israel programming at federally-funded Middle East studies centers." The coalition is lobbying for "changes in the Title VI program". Two main requests were reported: "recipients of Title VI funds to establish grievance procedures to address complaints that programs are not reflecting diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” and that the "U.S. Department of Education to establish a formal complaint-resolution process similar to that in use to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The coalition published their report “The Morass of Middle East Studies” issued by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law" which stated that already "Six years ago, Congress recognized the need for “diverse perspectives” in federally funded Middle East Studies programs. Congress had created the so-called “Title VI programs” in 1958 to address Cold War national security demands. After September 11, 2001, it was more important than ever to provide United States intelligence and armed services agencies with a pipeline of skilled workers. Unfortunately, Title VI programs were not serving their intended purpose." The statement referred to the H.R.4137 - Higher Education Opportunity Act by the 110th Congress which was introduced in 11/09/2007 to the House Committees of Education and Labor; Judiciary; Science and Technology; Financial Services by the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The allegations about the bias actually go back to 2001. Martin Kramer addressed the maladies of Middle East studies programs in his widely discussed book, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America which was published soon after the tragedy of 9/11. Kramer postulated that "it has been a long time since scholars of the Middle East looked critically at themselves. In the 1970s, the field underwent a wrenching crisis, prompted by Middle Eastern turmoil, academic radicalization, and budget cutting. It ended in a great shakeout and a shift of academic power. The new leaders of the field claimed to be more competent, and prided themselves upon possession of more potent paradigms for explaining and understanding the Middle East. They would not make the mistakes of their predecessors. For more than twenty years they have interpreted and predicted Middle Eastern politics with a supreme confidence in their own powers. Only now have hesitant voices been raised from within the ramparts, pointing to serious problems. They run even deeper than insiders are prepared to admit. It is no exaggeration to say that America’s academics have failed to predict or explain the major evolutions of Middle Eastern politics and society over the past two decades. Time and again, academics have been taken by surprise by their subjects; time and again, their paradigms have been swept away by events. Repeated failures have depleted the credibility of scholarship among influential publics". Kramer intended to "probe how and why a branch of academe once regarded with esteem has descended to such a low point in the public estimate, and what might be done about it."
Kramer concluded by calling for amendments to Title VI funding. "Changes in Title VI can help erode the culture of irrelevance that has pervaded Middle Eastern studies. But no amount of tweaking this program can cure the more fundamental ailments that afflict the field. This healing can only be achieved by the guild: the physicians must heal themselves." Kramer wished that a new generation will emerge to save Middle Eastern studies, "they will have to cast aside the monopolizing practices of their teachers and actively promote intellectual diversity." For Kramer, Middle East studies "lack a culture of tolerance for diversity in ideas and approaches." he suggested that, "it can be solved only by a deliberate effort to open Middle Eastern studies to debate."
The repeated requests dating from 2001 to 2018 to amend Title VI funding, ring hollow. In fact, the latest appeal to the U.S Senate Committee, mentioned above, did not get any media attention. Instead, the news reports focused on "Why Trump’s pick to head the Education Department’s civil rights office is so controversial." Marcus who heads the Brandeis Center, already headed the Education Department’s civil rights office in the Bush Administration. But according to the media, Marcus's "ardent support of Israel" has "sparked protests" mostly by Muslim Advocates, which confirms a public anti-Israel bias intended to silence the debate.
The Middle East is a highly important part of the world and has played a huge role in American foreign policy. Shaping this policy requires a cadre of people who are educated in the arcane aspects of the region. The Middle East studies have been created for this purpose but over the years activist-scholars from the Middle East Studies Association have distorted the goal of providing an objective knowledge. It is incumbent upon Congress to assure that the original mission is preserved.
JEWISH, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND EDUCATIONAL GROUPS URGE HIGHER EDUCATION REFORM
Washington, D.C., Today, fourteen Jewish, educational, and civil rights organizations urged the U.S. Senate to reform the Higher Education Act to prevent misuse of federal funds by publicly supported, university-based Middle East studies programs. In a letter to Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the coalition charged that “federal funds under Title VI of the [Higher Education Opportunity Act or HEOA] are being misused to promote biased, one-sided, and anti-Israel programming in our nation’s Middle East studies centers.”
To address this problem, the coalition urged the senators to ensure that these programs comply with existing requirements to provide “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.” “Urgent reform is needed,” said Alyza Lewin, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Policy at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB). “Our groups have been concerned for years that federal funds are being misused in ways that undermine the purpose for which they have been authorized, which is to strengthen America’s national security. Congress now has a real opportunity to prevent manipulation of this program for political purposes.”
The coalition of signatory groups included major Jewish, educational, and civil rights organizations: Academic Council for Israel, AMCHA Initiative, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ), American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), American Jewish Committee (AJC), B’nai B’rith International, Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), IAC for Action, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), Middle East Forum, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs (SWU), and Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). “It has been gratifying,” Alyza Lewin remarked, “to work with these diverse groups to ensure that federal funds are properly used and that universities permit a wide range of voices to be heard.”
The coalition urged the Senate to expand upon reforms that have already been adopted by a key committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce addressed this issue in H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The Prosper Act, which passed Committee last month and is awaiting a vote on the House floor, would reauthorize the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA). “We commend Chairman Virginia Foxx for the important Middle East studies reforms that her House committee adopted and hope that senators will expand upon them,” Alyza Lewin added.
Congress previously addressed the misuse of federal funds by Middle East Studies programs a decade ago in its 2008 reauthorization of the HEOA. At the time, Congress required that publicly-funded Title VI programs “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.” Despite this important reform, many Title VI recipients have continued to engage in the same misconduct that led Congress to act a decade ago.
The coalition letter observed that, “many programs funded under Title VI do not serve the program’s basic objectives of advancing the interests of American national security and foreign relations. They often exclude scholars with diverse perspectives and stifle discourse on critical issues. The biased learning environment that results suppresses the academic freedom of students and faculty; at some institutions, students are afraid to disagree with their professors.”
“It is unfortunate that many universities and the U.S. Department of Education have not done what Congress required ten years ago,” Alyza Lewin explained. The coalition letter emphasized this point. “While we would have thought that Congress’ intention in 2008 to assure that programs funded under Title VI presented diverse points of view—not only diversity as to the identity of instructors or as to their respective disciplines—was clear,” says the letter, “the Department of Education (ED) has failed to adequately apply the “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” requirement, and many universities have ignored this requirement.”
To help solve these systemic problems and ensure taxpayer funds are spent properly, the coalition letter urges the Senators to accept three simple reforms. First, they should approve reforms recently approved by the House Education and the Workforce Committee to, inter alia, require annual reporting by the Education Department on its administration of this program. Second, they should define key terms in the statute to ameliorate continuing confusion. Third, they should require the Department of Education to “score” (or evaluate) the pertinent portion of universities’ Title VI applications, giving appropriate credit to those universities that take effective actions to comply with federal requirements.
Alyza Lewin continued, “At the end of the day, these reforms are all about ensuring that students are exposed to the widest range of viewpoints, research, and scholarship. This should be welcome news to those universities that embrace freedom of speech and academic freedom – and a wakeup call to those that do not.” Indeed, the coalition letter emphasized this point. “Much as we believe that the programs at or organized by Title VI-funded Middle East studies centers are unbalanced and biased efforts at indoctrination—to the point that they fail to adhere to basic academic norms,” the coalition wrote, “It is not our intention, or Congress’ role, to silence those perspectives.” Rather, the groups explained, “it is, however, imperative that steps be taken to ensure that Title VI grant recipients comply with the “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” requirement and not promote a monochromatic view on the issues with which their Title VI-funded programs deal.
JEWISH, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND EDUCATIONAL GROUPS URGE HIGHER EDUCATION REFORM – LETTER
January 24, 2018
The Hon. Lamar Alexander
Chairman, Senate HELP Committee
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Hon. Patty Murray
Ranking Member, Senate HELP Committee
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Amendments to Title VI of the HEOA as adopted by House Committee on Education and the Workforce
Dear Senator Alexander and Senator Murray:
We write on behalf of fourteen Jewish, educational, and civil rights organizations in support of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce-passed version of Title VI of H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, which seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA).
Our groups are concerned that federal funds under Title VI of the HEOA are being misused to promote biased, one-sided, and anti-Israel programming in our nation’s Middle East studies centers. Congress sought to address this problem in 2008 by requiring that each recipient “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views,” among other provisions. Nonetheless, many recipients of Title VI funds continue to support Middle East studies programs that provide only a monochromatic –and biased, anti-American, and anti-Israel—perspective.
To help solve these systemic problems and ensure taxpayer funds are spent properly, we urge the Senate HELP Committee to (a) approve those sections of Title VI of the PROSPER Act as adopted by the House Committee, as outlined below, and in addition, (b) define key terms necessary for enforcement, as well as (c) require the Department of Education to revise its scoring standards for Title VI applications.
Title VI of the HEOA came into existence to (1) strengthen U.S. security by training students as national security specialists and (2) educate the public on international affairs. Today, Title VI provides federal funds to National Resource Centers (NRC) at 100 institutions of higher education nationwide, including the 16 programs that include Middle East studies.
These centers are obligated to conduct “public outreach” programs for K-12 teachers, educators, and the public with their Title VI funds. During the 2008 reauthorization, Congress stipulated that “grants should be made … on the condition that” applicants describe how the program “will reflect diverse perspective and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.”
While we would have thought that Congress’ intention in 2008 to assure that programs funded under Title VI present diverse points of view—not only diversity as to the identity of instructors or as to their respective disciplines—was clear, the Department of Education (ED) has failed to adequately apply the “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” requirement, and many universities have ignored this requirement.
Although the HEOA was set to expire in 2013, annual Congressional extensions have kept it funded. ED made an incremental improvement in December 2015 by requiring recipients’ annual spring reports to detail how their programs ensure that diverse perspectives and a wide range of views are represented. But no meaningful efforts have been made to hold universities accountable for their use of Title VI funds.
It remains the case that many programs funded under Title VI do not serve the program’s basic objectives of advancing the interests of American national security and foreign relations. They often exclude scholars with diverse perspectives and stifle discourse on critical issues. The biased learning environment that results suppresses the academic freedom of students and faculty; at some institutions, students are afraid to disagree with their professors.
Over the decades, biased professors have leveraged Title VI funds to cement their control over both their programs and the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the principal academic organization for scholars of the region. MESA is no longer a catalyst for balanced, objective scholarship. Instead it now empowers an intellectually corrupt elite and encourages polemical politicized work that has transformed Middle East studies centers into a source of anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda.
These biases have harmed America’s national security. For example, the unwarranted (and one-sided) focus on Israel by centers of Middle East studies has led them to either ignore or understate the impact of the Syrian revolt against Assad and the rise of ISIS, and to ignore or understate the expansion of Iranian hegemony in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Afghanistan. These analytical failures cost America both lives and billions of dollars. These and other policy prescriptions based on inaccurate, ahistorical, and tendentious recommendations from professors damage U.S. credibility, undermine our allies, and weaken our ability to fight terrorism at home and abroad.
Such systemic weaknesses also affect the general populace. Title VI centers’ obligatory “public outreach” efforts funnel politicized materials to K-12 teachers, educators, and the public. Consequently, students too young to recognize biases are indoctrinated and arrive at college predisposed to accept politicized interpretations of the Middle East.
In short, Title VI-funded Middle East centers have failed to comply with federal law by using taxpayer dollars to support programs that do not represent a balance of views and diverse perspectives.
Much as we believe that the programs at or organized by Title VI-funded Middle East studies centers are unbalanced and biased efforts at indoctrination—to the point that they fail to adhere to basic academic norms—it is not our intention, or Congress’ role, to silence those perspectives. It is, however, imperative that steps be taken to ensure that Title VI grant recipients comply with the “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” requirement and not promote a monochromatic view on the issues with which their Title VI-funded programs deal. To that end, we urge that the Senate, in considering reauthorization of HEOA:
- Adopt the reforms to Title VI of the HEOA, as approved by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in the PROSPER Act, as follows:
- 601 (Amends Section 602 (20 U.S.C. §1122) of the HEOA): APPROVAL.—The Secretary may approve an application for a grant if an institution, in its application, provides adequate assurances that it will comply with paragraph (1)(A). The Secretary shall use the requirement of paragraph (1)(A) as part of the application evaluation, review, and approval process when determining grant recipients for initial funding and continuation awards.
- 604 (Amends Section 636 (20 U.S.C. §1132-5) of the HEOA): ANNUAL REPORT ON COMPLIANCE WITH DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES AND a WIDE RANGE of VIEWS REQUIREMENT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this subsection, and annually thereafter, the Secretary shall submit to the authorizing committees a report that identifies the efforts taken to ensure recipients’ compliance with the requirements under this title relating to the ‘diverse perspectives and a wide range of views’ requirement, including any technical assistance the Department has provided, any regulatory guidance the Department has issued, and any monitoring the Department has conducted. Such report shall be made available to the public.
- 629 (added by a voice vote): COMPLIANCE WITH DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES AND A WIDE RANGE OF VIEWS.—When complying with the requirement to offer a diverse perspective and a wide range of views, grantees shall not promote any biased views that are discriminatory towards any group, religion, or population of people.
- Require ED to clarify the diverse perspectives requirement and have Congress adopt the following definition: “In addition to any other definitions the Secretary, through the rule-making process, may require, the diverse perspectives requirement means that the activities funded by the grant must present, encourage and disseminate a range of positions, analyses and assessments on world regions and international affairs.”
- Require ED to score Title VI applications and adopt the following definition of scoring by adding the bracketed language after the word affairs in 20 U.S.C. § 1122(e)(1) of the HEOA: “(1) an explanation of how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs [which explanation shall be treated as a factor to be scored under 34 CFR part 656, or any succeeding regulation setting forth criteria for evaluation, as part of the Secretary’s evaluation of an application for a center or program to receive a grant under this section].”
Thank you for your consideration of our views on the urgent need for corrective measures to rectify a long history of ED inaction on this critical matter.
Academic Council for Israel
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ)
American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA)
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
B’nai B’rith International
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
IAC for Action
The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB)
Middle East Forum
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME)
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)
ABOUT THE LOUIS D. BRANDEIS CENTER:
The Louis D. Brandeis Center, Inc., or LDB, is an independent, nonprofit organization established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all. The Brandeis Center conducts research, education and advocacy to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses. It is not affiliated with the Massachusetts university, the Kentucky law school, nor any of the other institutions that share the name and honor the memory of the late U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Why Trump’s pick to head the Education Department’s civil rights office is so controversial
By Valerie Strauss
January 18, 2018
Kenneth L. Marcus, President Trump’s pick to head the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, is coming under fire from critics who say they fear he will not protect the rights of racial and ethnic minority students. And his ardent support of Israel has sparked protests.
Marcus, president of a Jewish center for human rights who previously served in the George W. Bush administration, was approved Thursday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee along with two other key Education Department officials. They include Mitchell Zais, a former South Carolina state schools superintendent who will serve as deputy to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The full Senate still must vote on the nominations.
Marcus was tapped by Trump shortly after the president was criticized for blaming “both sides” for violence that erupted in Charlottesville in August between white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members and people who were protesting their presence.
If confirmed, as expected, Marcus will be assistant secretary of civil rights, a position with which he is familiar; during the Bush administration, he was staff director of the United States Commission on Civil Rights and he carried out the duties of the assistant secretary at the department.
He would take over duties that have for months been carried out by Acting Assistant Secretary Candice Jackson. She also was a controversial department official, in part for saying that 90 percent of campus sexual assault complaints are the result of too much drinking. She later apologized.
Marcus has been vocal in criticizing supporters of what is known as the Palestinian-led BDS — or Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — movement, which works to diminish international support for Israel economically, politically and academically. In a 2016 piece he wrote for Newsweek,
Marcus called BDS’s academic boycott “arguably anti-Semitic” and criticized academic organizations that supported it.
He has urged universities not to support calls to divest from Israel in support of BDS, and he has filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights against several University of California campuses alleging anti-Semitic harassment of students. (The complaints were rejected.) In 2014, his center was one of a number of groups asking Congress to “end or mend
” federal funding for Middle East studies centers with what it called “biased, politicized, anti-Israel and anti-American programming.
At his confirmation hearing last month before the Senate panel, Palestinian supporters sat in the audience with their mouths taped shut, an effort to underscore their accusation that Marcus does not support free speech and that he makes no distinction between being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.A nonprofit group called Muslim Advocates sent a letter to Congress expressing concerns about Marcus’s positions on a range of issues, including rights for LGBTQ students. It said in part:
While we take no position on the foreign policy merits of Mr. Marcus’s views regarding the Middle East, his hostility to the civil right of free speech is well documented. He is a vocal antagonist of the right for college students who criticize Israel to express themselves and has even openly advocated for the abuse of OCR’s civil rights complaint process to chill the speech of those with whom he disagrees.
Marcus is supported by Republican senators on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, including Lamar Alexander, who is chairman. Alexander, of Tennessee, said at Marcus’s confirmation hearing that Marcus “has a deep understanding of civil rights issues.” And he said the committee had received letters from 13 individuals and organizations supporting Marcus’s nomination, including one from Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, which said:
Mr. Marcus has been a longtime champion for civil rights and for college students. We have worked personally with him on several campuses across the country in response to specific issues of bigotry and discrimination, and we have found him to be extremely skilled and knowledgeable in civil rights laws. Mr. Marcus has been a true leader in fighting discrimination.…”
But several civil rights organizations have come out against Marcus, including UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, and the National Urban League. The groups issued a joint statement saying that Marcus had a “troubling record with regard to enforcing the rights of immigrant students and English learners, and past attempts to undermine critical policies aimed at remedying racial discrimination, including affirmative action.”
Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said in the statement: “Mr. Marcus has a demonstrated history of hostility toward affirmative action and all race-based remedies to discrimination. He lacks a commitment to enforcing civil rights protections for students of color, and does not believe in disparate-impact or unintentional discrimination. All of which makes him unfit to lead ED’s civil rights division. America’s children both require and deserve an assistant secretary for civil rights who believes it is their birthright to receive a great, equitable public education.”
At his confirmation hearing in December, Marcus spoke about
his experience in the Bush administration and said he worked hard to protect the educational rights of minorities and English-language learners. He said that all students, including transgender students, “deserve equal access to education and should not be harassed and bullied.”
But he would not commit to investigating all complaints, saying they would be handled on a case-by-case basis. And he said he wasn’t sure if the department had jurisdiction to protect the rights of undocumented students, as seen in this exchange with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.):
WARREN: Given the climate of fear and uncertainty that Donald Trump has created for Dreamers, if the school said happy to enroll all 5-year-olds in kindergarten, but kids who can’t prove that they are citizens will be barred at the door. Would your office step in to protect the civil rights of those students from discrimination?
MARCUS: Well, to my ear, senator, that sounds like a violation of law, but I don’t know whether it would be a violation of one of the laws of which OCR has jurisdiction. There are certain rules here that would fall under the Equal Protection Clause. We would step in, if I were confirmed, if there’s a violation of one of OCR’s statutes.
Here’s another exchange between Warren and Marcus:
WARREN: Mr. Marcus, if confirmed, you would be responsible for protecting the civil rights of American students at a time when Nazis and white supremacists are marching across college campuses with tiki torches, and many young people are literally afraid to go to school because of the hateful climate that has been fostered by Donald Trump. If confirmed, will you commit to fully enforcing civil rights laws and protecting all students from discrimination and harassment?
WARREN: Good. So, I just want to find out a little more detail about what that commitment means to you, and I thought we might go through a few fact situations. So, let’s start with an easy one. Say there’s a school district that has some mostly white schools and some mostly black schools, and let’s say that the mostly black schools have less experienced teachers, teachers with fewer qualifications, those schools have fewer books, they have fewer computers in the library, fewer AP courses available. By any objective measure, those schools have clearly been shortchanged. If confirmed, would your office step in to protect the civil rights of that district’s black students?
MARCUS: If I were confirmed, I would ensure that any complaints alleging violation of Title VI would be — would be reviewed.
WARREN: Mr. Marcus, I don’t want to start a dance here. This is a set of facts that come to you in your position, if you are confirmed, and my question is are those facts adequate? Will you step in to protect the civil rights of the district’s black students?
MARCUS: Senator, I would certainly hope to be able to provide protection for the civil rights of those black students to the extent possible under law, but what . . .
WARREN: But, that’s the question I’m asking how you see this. You’re allowed to answer hypotheticals, here, so this one should be easy. A yes or a no, would you step in on those facts, or not?
MARCUS: I appreciate that, senator, but unfortunately in my experience the cases that OCR deals with are much more complicated than hypotheticals.
WARREN: So, you don’t think that’s enough evidence, what I’ve just said?
MARCUS: I think I would need to look at it very carefully.
After questioning him, Warren said: “I don’t think we need someone in this position whose view of civil rights enforcement is to do as little as possible to protect as few students as possible. I think that would be bad for students overall, and with Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, I think it would be even worse.”
The Senate committee also approved Zais as the department’s No. 2. He is a former president of a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
And it approved Jim Blew, who was nominated to be assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development. He was director of the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 reform efforts for nearly a decade, and also national president of StudentsFirst, the reform organization started by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
There are 15 positions in the Education Department that must be confirmed, and so far the committee has confirmed four. One nominee was withdrawn by Trump, and six positions have no nominee awaiting committee attention, according to a Washington Post tally.
There are five positions with pending nominees, including Marcus, Zais and Blew.
The committee announced Thursday it would hold a hearing next week to consider Trump’s nomination of Frank Brogan, a former lieutenant governor of Florida and former chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.
US Taxpayer Dollars Contribute to BDS Activity and Anti-Semitism on Campuses
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been dominating the conversation on anti-Israel activity at universities over the past few years. Yet few have heard of the interconnected issue involving the misuse of funding from Title VI educational grant programs, which is an underlying factor contributing to the growth of BDS and anti-Semitic activity on college campuses around our nation. Both problems urgently need to be addressed.
In October 2014, more than $3.3 million of federal grant money was awarded
to Middle East "National Resource Centers" (NRCs) at 16 universities
throughout our nation under a statute called Title VI of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA). More than $13.4 million will be awarded to 19 Middle East NRCs for the entire 2014-2018 cycle. Reports show
some programs and faculty funded under Title VI
advance the BDS movement
, and help feed the rise of anti-Semitism on some campuses. The legislative intent of Title VI of the HEOA was to establish language and area studies centers to produce graduates that can better serve our nation's national security interests. In other words, it was meant to educate and inspire the next generation of CIA operatives, FBI agents, and national security experts.
Unfortunately, for decades, Title VI grants have supported programs and faculty that advocate for the destruction of Israel, whitewash terrorism, and create a false narrative of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. The Title VI grant program as it currently exists no longer educates and inspires American students to better serve our nation's national security interests.
Title VI-funded programs help perpetuate the narrative that the United States is at fault for all of the ills occurring in the Middle East, and that Israel is a liability to the United States, rather than an ally. This narrative comes from the 1978 book Orientalism, authored by the late Edward Said. Said, a Palestinian and post-colonial theorist, served as a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, as well as a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's top body, the Palestinian National Council. Said wrote that Western scholars cannot understand the "Orient", and "(i)t is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric."
Today, nearly 40 years following the publication of Orientalism,
and nearly 13 years after Said's death, Said's writings continue to dominate the syllabi and teachings at many of our nations' finest universities, thanks to Title VI of HEOA. And, with Said's writings comes a virulent hatred for the State of Israel. Said repeatedly
praised the Yasser Arafat, blamed Israel for Palestinian terrorism, compared
Israel to apartheid South Africa, and falsely alleged that the Palestinians are "paying a very heavy price in dispossession, ethnic cleansing, military occupation and massive social injustice." Said also advocated for the "one-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, in this case, was a plan put forth
by anti-Israel activists who seek to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish state of Israel.
Thus, it comes with little surprise that many of Said's disciples currently teaching at U.S. universities are also supporters of the BDS movement, as that movement is inherently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. Yet it is extremely troubling that a number of the Said disciples, and the pro-BDS programs organized by their respective Middle East studies Centers, are supported by U.S. taxpayer dollars under Title VI of HEOA. Out of the 19 directors of the Title VI-funded Middle East studies Centers, eight of them have expressed public support for BDS, according to a 2015 report
from the AMCHA Initiative, which monitors anti-Semitic behavior on college campuses. (Five of them endorsed an academic boycott of Israel). The report also shows that 45 out of a total of 111 speakers who participated in 81 Israel-related events sponsored by Title VI-funded Middle East programs during the 2014-2015 academic year endorsed BDS.
By supporting the BDS movements, these directors are violating U.S. law. The directors have a duty under Title VI of the HEOA to give "assurances
" that they will "maintain
linkages with overseas institutions of higher education and other organizations that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center," Campus Watch
. The BDS movement actively seeks to sever ties with Israeli academic institutions on campus.
Furthermore, under Title VI of the HEOA, grant recipients are required to "reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs." Advocating for BDS is clearly just one perspective.
In addition to the directors, a considerable number of faculty members at Title VI-Middle East Studies Centers support BDS. For example, of the 54 faculty listed
on Columbia University's Title VI-funded Middle East Institute website who teach Middle East courses, 14 have signed a petition
calling on Columbia University to divest from Israel, and "divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people for over 68 years." At Georgetown University, 19 faculty members have endorsed
the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Of those, 10 are faculty members
of Georgetown's Title VI National Resource Center on the Middle East and North Africa.
BDS activity on campuses—including anti-Israel divestment resolutions and opposing Israel's right to exist—is also contributing to the rise of anti-Semitism on campuses. "The primary sources of antisemitic activity are anti-Israel students and faculty who support an academic boycott of Israel," the AMCHA Initiative Report on Antisemitic Activity in 2015 at U.S. Colleges and Universities With the Largest Jewish Undergraduate Populations
states. Another AMCHA initiative report on anti-Semitic activity during the first half of 2016 at U.S. universities states
that "the rise of anti-Zionism—particularly BDS campaigns and anti-Zionist student groups and faculty—is fueling the rise of anti-Semitism on campus…" The report examined 113 schools, showing that there were nearly 100 more anti-Semitic incidents on campuses in the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, including examples from some schools with Title VI-funded Middle East Centers.
As the 2016-2017 academic school year begins, it is past time that our Members of Congress, educators, and the American populace call for reformation of Title VI of HEOA. Not only do U.S. college students deserve to receive a balanced education on the Middle East, but American Jewish students have the legally mandated right to be protected from the virulent rise of anti-Semitism on our campuses to which our federally tax payer dollars are helping to support.
A Smoke Screen for Palestine-Pushers
MARTIN KRAMER / NOV. 3, 2014
Whenever criticism is leveled at federal funding for area studies in universities—especially those bias-laden, error-prone Middle East centers—someone jumps up to claim that this funding is crucial to the national interest. Now it’s the turn of Nathan Brown, a political scientist at George Washington University and current president of the Middle East Studies Associations (MESA).
that federally-funded area studies centers are “essential” for U.S. policy, a “vital national asset,” and “often the only sources of knowledge when crises erupt in unfamiliar places.” They’ve done an “outstanding job
of training” Middle East experts, and “political” criticism of them “threatens the ability of the United States to understand the world and act effectively in it.” If you don’t like it that “an individual faculty member offends a supporter of a particular political position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should students of Swahili and teachers of Tagalog be caught in the crossfire?” Should “programming that is critical of Israel on some campuses endanger all funding for international education?”
Those are valid questions, but they’re posed disingenuously. Here are Brown’s two main elisions:
1. The only people who think that these centers are a “vital national asset” are the professors who collect the money. Over the years, there have been a series of government-sponsored reviews of these Title VI programs (reference is to the authorizing title of the Higher Education Act), and not one review has concluded that the programs do anything resembling an “outstanding job,” especially on languages. (The last major review, by the National Academies, concluded
there was “insufficient information to judge program performance.”)
The claim that these centers are “often the only sources of knowledge” on emerging trouble spots is just untrue. That’s rarely the case, and as regards the Middle East, it’s now never the case. Government has had to assemble the full range of capabilities, from area expertise to language training, in-house. That’s why the Obama administration—yes, the Obama administration!—cut
the budget of this “vital national asset” by 40 percent back in 2011. The only lobbying for Title VI funding comes from within academe itself.
2. The “political” criticism of Title VI Middle East centers is a response to the rampant politicization of some of these centers by those who run them, and who’ve mobilized them against Israel. This isn’t a matter of “an individual faculty member” here or there. It’s a plague that arises from overall attitudes in the field. Brown knows the problem, which is why he recently issued a letter to MESA’s members effectively imploring
them not to drag the organization into a BDS debate.
One obvious effect has been to drive the study of Israel almost completely out of these centers, into separately-funded and administered Israel studies programs. Some Title VI Middle East centers, thus relieved of the burden of fairly presenting Israel, have become even more blatant purveyors of pro-Palestinian agitprop. This fall, for the first time, half a dozen Title VI center directors openly pledged
to boycott Israeli academe. How might that impact the centers they administer? No one really knows.
A case can be made for Title VI. Not every Middle East center is a shameful disaster, and most of the funding goes to centers specializing in other world areas. Brown alludes to some of these arguments. But his broader defense of the Middle Eastern end of Title VI is a misleading attempt to throw up a smoke screen for the very people who really threaten the program: radical professors who treat it as a slush fund to promote their political causes on campus. If Title VI gets rough treatment in the present reauthorization, students of Swahili and teachers of Tagalog should know who’s at fault: the Palestine-pushers who’ve fouled the academic nest with their relentless propagandizing.
Pro-Israel Groups Question Federal Funds for Middle East Centers
By Elizabeth Redden
September 18, 2014
A coalition of Israel advocacy organizations concerned by what they describe as the prevalence of anti-Israel programming at federally-funded Middle East studies centers are lobbying for changes in the Title VI program that would 1) “[r]equire recipients of Title VI funds to establish grievance procedures to address complaints that programs are not reflecting diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” and 2) “[r]equire the U.S. Department of Education to establish a formal complaint-resolution process similar to that in use to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
The full joint statement, signed by 10 groups, is included as an appendix to a new report
on “The Morass of Middle East Studies” issued by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The statement also references a paper produced by the AMCHA Initiative
that reports on anti-Semitic activity and an anti-Israel bias in the programming at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Center for Near Eastern Studies. The Brandeis Center and the AMCHA Initiative are both parties to the statement, as are Accuracy in Academia, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Middle East Forum, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the Zionist Organization of America.
The groups behind the statement argue that Middle East studies centers are not being held accountable in regards to a provision of the Higher Education Act
requiring Title VI grant applicants to present “an explanation of how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.” They argue that in using tax dollars “to present biased, anti-American, anti-Israel views in their outreach programs,” the federally-funded centers are not serving the national interest. They maintain that, without reforms, Congress should consider cutting Title VI funding to Middle East studies centers altogether.
In an emailed statement, Amy W. Newhall, the executive director of the Middle East Studies Association, rejected such "politically motivated attacks on scholars and academic institutions" as a serious threat to free speech, academic freedom and the role of colleges as sites of free and open discussion.
“MESA resolutely opposes all forms of hate speech and discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” Newhall wrote. “It supports prompt and forceful action in response to anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses.”
“However, MESA is concerned that some of the reports issued by partisan political groups based outside academia may actually weaken efforts to combat anti-Semitism by portraying all criticism of Israeli policies as a form of anti-Semitism or as ‘anti-Israel.’ Their real goal seems to be to shut down open discussion of issues of public concern by demonizing academic and other critics of Israel, Zionism, and U.S. policy in the Middle East, in many cases by tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. They are even willing to threaten federal funding for university-based Middle East studies centers, which have a long and distinguished history of providing the United States with thousands of people trained in the languages, politics, cultures and histories of this critical region."
UPDATE: UCLA's media relations office issued a statement saying that the university "remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints. Academic units all across our campus are constantly working to provide programming that exposes our students and the public to a vast range of perspectives and topics. In fact, three centers at UCLA focus on Middle Eastern Affairs and regularly provide programming on Israel, among other topics: the Center for Near Eastern Studies, the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and the Center for Middle East Development. Israeli academics, students, speakers and artists are regularly part of programming at UCLA. We recognize many subjects may engender passionate debate and difficult conversations and we encourage civil dialogue that appreciates the paramount importance of free expression, academic freedom and a respectful exchange of ideas."