If Only It Were An April Fool’s

The latest London Review of Books has an article by Sara Roy on a proposed law that could threaten freedom of scholarship, particularly for centers of Middle-Eastern scholarship here in the United States. The International Studies in Higher Education Act, HR 3077 was proposed last fall and back then I didn’t think it stood much of a chance. Now I’m not so sure.

There is a great deal at stake for American higher education and academic freedom. If HR 3077 becomes law – the Senate will review the bill next – it will create a board that monitors how closely universities reflect government policy. Since the legislation assumes that any flaw lies ‘with the experts, not the policy’, the government could be given the power to introduce politically sympathetic voices into the academic mainstream and to reshape the boundaries of academic inquiry. Institutional resistance would presumably be punished by the withdrawal of funds, which would be extremely damaging to Middle East centres especially.
HR 3077 contains other provisions that are equally outrageous. For example, it requires Title VI institutions to provide government recruiters with access to students and student recruiting information. The bill even directs the secretary of education and the advisory board to study – i.e. spy on – communities of US citizens who speak a foreign language, ‘particularly such communities that include speakers of languages that are critical to the national security of the United States’.

Also, here’s an overview of what’s at stake, courtesy of the Graduate Assembly at Berkeley.


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