Congressman Urges Probe Into Georgetown University Over Support for ‘Anti-American, Pro-BDS’ Scholarship
Congressman Denver Riggleman (R-VA) called on the US Education Department on Wednesday to investigate a federally-funded program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, over its links to the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
In a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Riggleman accused Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) of demonstrating “systematic support for biased, anti-American, pro-BDS individuals and scholarship,” which was “not in accordance with the mission of Title VI funds and contrary to America’s national security interests.”
Title VI of the Higher Education Act provides federal funding to international studies and foreign language centers nationwide. In 2018, CCAS announced that it received a $1.9 million, four-year grant to be a National Resource Center under the Title VI program, which would support “education outreach and public programming, and the teaching of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew.” The center was also awarded a Foreign Language Area Studies grant to support student scholarship and language study.
Despite this federal funding, “the Center is run by openly pro-BDS faculty,” Riggleman’s letter read.
Among those named were CCAS director and associate professor of cultural anthropology Rochelle Davis, as well as professors of history Osama Abi-Mershed, Yvonne Haddad and Judith Tucker. All four signed a BDS pledge in 2014 agreeing to boycott Israeli academic institutions, and committed “not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel.”
“While all of these individuals are entitled to their views,” noted Riggleman, “and Georgetown’s CCAS is entitled to spend private and other funds on whatever they like, they should not be allowed to spend taxpayer funds, directed by law, in ways not in accordance with statutory mandates.”
The congressman also called out the presence “of several Gulf luminaries” on CCAS’s Board of Advisors, alleging their “interests in American academe surely stem from their desire to influence it” and “raises serious concerns about conflicts of interests.”
“I urge the Department of Education to undertake a thorough review of CCAS’s activities to determine how Title VI funds are spend on such undertakings, and whether or not they are in accordance with statutory mandates,” Riggleman wrote.
CCAS and Georgetown University did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Riggleman represents Virginia’s 5th congressional district, beating Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn in 2018.
During the race, Cockburn had come under fire for her 1991 book on US-Israel ties that a New York Times review said was “largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake.”