»In a gesture that consolidates the 1990s culture wars, the post-9-11 chill on dissent, and the relentlessness of hawkishly pro-Israel lobbying, the U.S. House voted unanimously last fall to establish an advisory board to monitor how effectively campus international studies centers serve "national needs related to homeland security" and to assess whether they provide sufficient airtime to champions of American foreign policy. Currently the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is considering a parallel provision for its upcoming higher education reauthorization bill. The bill will likely go to the floor in March.«
»But the very possibility of legislation sounds old alarms anew. Even if the measure does not make it past the Senate—ranking Democrats on the panel don't expect it to get much traction—the very idea of ideological feds inspecting campus lecture halls takes the culture wars to a perilous new level.
The seven-member advisory board—which would include two appointees "from federal agencies that have national security responsibility"—would oversee the country's 118 international studies centers. This year, they shared about $95 million under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. Centers may use the funds only for graduate student fellowships, language instruction, and lectures and other public programs. They do not hire faculty or offer courses—traditional departments such as art history or political science do that. The centers then involve local faculty from across the disciplines who have expertise in such areas as Latin America, Russia, Africa, and East Asia. Only 17 of the nation's international studies centers focus on the Middle East—covering the Arab countries, Turkey, Israel, and Iran—but no one doubts that they are the intended targets of the legislation.«