Jennifer Loewenstein Archive



Ori Nir, Forward, 11/25/05

WASHINGTON - Members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights rejected calls
from Jewish organizations last week for federal oversight of
government-funded Middle Eastern studies programs at American universities.

At a November 18 hearing devoted to the issue of antisemitism on college
campuses, the commission heard from three representatives of the Jewish
community who argued that many Middle Eastern programs are biased against
Israel. They sought the commission's support for legislation that would
restrict Middle Eastern studies programs receiving federal funding.

The main proposal, which Jewish groups have been lobbying Congress to write
into law, would be the establishment of an "advisory board" to monitor
Middle Eastern studies departments and report to the Department of Education
on whether these departments are balanced in their teaching of regional
affairs. The advisory board would include political appointees.

Citing academic freedom, universities strongly oppose the proposal.

At last week's hearing, members of the civil rights commission made it clear
that they do not see any role for government in the classroom. Commission
members were not even willing to endorse the position that a university
ought to have a "balanced" curriculum in such departments.

"I am extremely nervous about the idea of administrative oversight on
university campuses," said Abigail Thernstrom, the commission's vice chair,
who moderated the hearing.

"You really don't want university administrators walking into classrooms and
deciding whether what the professors are teaching is acceptable or
unacceptable," she said. Her comments were echoed by other members of the
commission. (MORE)

Jennifer Loewenstein