Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) has become the fifth member of Congress to call for an examination of a Title VI-funded Middle East studies center during this session of Congress. He wrote to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos requesting an investigation into the Council on Middle East Studies (CMES) at Yale University’s MacMillan Center for its use of grants allotted under Title VI of the Higher Education Act.
The letter details systemic problems, including widespread faculty support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Title VI requires recipient institutions to “promote access to research and training overseas, including through linkages with overseas institutions,” including Israeli universities. Any active boycott is therefore against the law. DesJarlais also notes that since 2012 Yale has received some $2 million from such governments as those of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Because current federal law requires little transparency in foreign giving to universities, potential conflicts of interest exist.
Title VI was created to “develop a pool of international experts to meet national needs” in the field of “international studies and world languages.” Programs funded by Title VI are required to “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.” Yet, available information indicates Yale’s programs disproportionately demonize Israel and are obsessed with not offending the sensibilities of Muslims, including even Islamists. In its investigation of Middle East studies at Duke/UNC, the Department of Education found that putting “considerable emphasis” on one religion over another was not in accordance with Title VI.
“Campus Watch congratulates Rep. DesJarlais for calling attention to the numerous issues at Yale’s Council on Middle East Studies,” said Winfield Myers, director of the Middle East Forum’s Campus Watch. “That he is the fifth member of Congress to call out a Title VI center demonstrates the nationwide scope of abuses. The Department of Education must get serious about these problems by launching its own investigations.”
The first letter requesting an investigation of university use of Title VI grants came from Rep. George Holding (R-NC) and concerned the Duke/UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies; it sparked an investigation that found “most … activities supported with Title VI funds are unauthorized.” Letters have also been sent by Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA, about Georgetown University), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ, about the University of Arizona), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO, about the University of California at Berkeley).