March 19, 2004 – The recently established Edward Said Chair at Columbia has caused much controversy, in part because it is held by former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi and in part because the donors of the chair’s estimated $4 million endowment have until now been kept secret.
As Campus Watch has reported, it is highly irregular for the identity of academic chair donors to be concealed. It is all the more alarming that a university, naming a chair for one political activist and then awarding it to another political activist, would then prevent the public from knowing who had funded the chair. Columbia University continued to refuse disclosure.
On Friday, March 12, 2004, Columbia’s Office of Public Affairs finally released in print (not on its website) the full list of donors:
Yusef Abu Khadra
Abdel Muhsen Al-Qattan
Ramzi A. Dalloul
Richard and Barbara Debs
Richard B. Fisher
Gordon Gray, Jr.
Rita E. Hauser
Walid H. Kattan
Said T. Khory
Munib R. Masri
Morgan Capital & Energy
Olayan Charitable Trust
Kamal A. Shair
Abdul Majeed Shoman
United Arab Emirates
With the list now public, it is clear why Columbia University preferred not to disclose the donors’ identities. Columbia is already known for the lack of balance in Middle East studies. The list of donors to the Edward Said chair only confirms the problem.
Particularly worrisome is the presence of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) among the donors. As Martin Kramer has pointed out, the incumbent of the Said Chair has also been named the director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, a federally-subsidized National Resource Center for the Middle East, and as such administers over $1 million in U.S. government subsidies intended to improve national security. The conflict of interest is obvious.
Jonathan Calt Harris, managing editor of Campus Watch points out, “In brief, at Columbia right now, a political activist professor, paid in part by an Arab state, currently administers funds from the U.S. taxpayer, in part for the purpose of ‘outreach’ to the public. Both Columbia alumni and taxpayers should find this shocking.”
A previous UAE government donation to an American university has come under fire – the gift of $2.5 million in 2000 from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan for a professorship at Harvard Divinity School (HDS). Rachel Fish, then a student at the Harvard Divinity School, showed the antisemitic activities of the UAE’s Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up. HDS President William Graham has promised an investigation.
Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, addresses five problems in Middle East studies: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students.