By Eliana Rudee
The extraordinary anti-Israel bias in a federally funded program at UCLA isn’t just shocking. It may violate federal regulations.
Last month, an education watchdog group reported that the Center for Near East Studies (CNES) produced 28 events focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict from 2010-2013. Twenty-six of those 28 events, “or 93 percent, exhibited bias against Israel.”
That’s a violation of an agreement the university made with American taxpayers when it accepted funds from the Department of Education under Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Title VI requires groups that receive funding to “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.”
The CNES mission sounds straightforward and reasonable: “Interest in the Middle East and the Islamic world is at an all-time high, generating a corresponding increase in demand for specialized knowledge.”
But in this case, “specialized knowledge” appears to mean “highly simplified information reflecting only one side of an incredibly complex situation.”
The student in me is baffled. The purpose of the center, and education in general, should be to explore a topic from a wide variety of angles. Considering UCLA’s history of student-run, anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns as well as professors who endorse the boycott of Israeli academics, the center might be preaching to the choir when it hires speakers with an anti-Israel bias. If so, that’s all the more reason to diversify lectures through CNES. Education should not be a tool for indoctrinating or institutionalizing a belief system already in place; after all, we grow most when we ponder dissenting opinions and try to reconcile them with our own beliefs and experiences.
As John Stuart Mill says in On Liberty, “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.”
The taxpayer in me questions Congress’ allocation of federal funding that goes to a university resource center that violates Title VI. We pay taxes under the principle that the funds are being allocated in accordance with the law.
One of the purposes of Title VI is to ensure accountability for agencies receiving federal funds. When that agency is found in violation of Title VI, it may lose its federal funding. Thus, if Congress is to be accountable to taxpayers, the government must look into this matter with great scrutiny. The center may not only be biased, but it may also be violating Title VI and misusing taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
Eliana Rudee is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. Follow her @ellierudee.