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Northwesterns support from Qatar scrutinized amid student protests

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Amid concessions to pro-Palestinian protesters on its campus and financial support from Qatar, the president of Northwestern University Michael Schill admitted his college has “an antisemitism problem.”

Schill was one of a handful of university presidents who were called before the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Education and the Workforce to testify on Thursday.

“Northwestern University, like many universities, has an antisemitism problem,” Schill said, according to a statement released by the committee. “Doing all I can to protect our Jewish students from antisemitism is among the most basic of my responsibilities as Northwestern’s President of Northwestern.”

Schill added, “I called on the Northwestern community to reject statements or banners that have taken on a meaning of promoting murder and genocide, including the slogan ‘from the river to the sea.’ Statements or banners with this type of expression should have no place in our community.”

Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, was critical of the college presidents, including Schill.

“Mr. Schill, you cut a disgraceful deal with the encampment that prompted seven Jewish members of your own Antisemitism Advisory Committee to resign in protest,” Foxx said, according to a statement released by the committee.

“You and [Rutgers University] President [Jonathan] Holloway struck deals that guarantee jobs and admissions to Palestinians in apparent violation of federal antidiscrimination law. I’d like to know how you think your quotas comply with the Civil Rights Act,” Foxx said. “Those who are in charge of universities who negotiate with pro-terror protestors are not doing their jobs. Taxpayer dollars have no business funding universities without principles that align with the principles of this country. Each of you refused to enforce your own rules, preserve campus safety, and protect Jewish students.”

Northwestern University administrators, including Schill, released a statement April 29 announcing a settlement with the student protesters. The agreement stated that the University would allow peaceful demonstrations through June 1 when spring classes ended. Northwestern agreed to revise its Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility in the fall and would include students and faculty on the committee. Protesters want Northwestern to divest from Israel. Among the concessions, Northwestern also stated it would support visiting Palestinian faculty and students at risk. It would fund two faculty positions for two years and provide full cost for attendance to five Palestinian undergraduates to attend Northwestern for the duration of their undergraduate careers.

OpenTheBooks reported on May 20 that Northwestern has received $689.6 million from Qatar since 2007. Northwestern operates a campus in Qatar.

“University leadership allowed terrorist-sympathizing demonstrations on their campus, creating a hostile environment for Jewish students,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of OpenTheBooks, in an email to The Center Square. “And then Northwestern gave the occupiers ‘negotiated concessions.’ With $700 million of Qatar foreign funding, this certainly looks like Northwestern has a conflict of interest. The foreign involvement and domestic chaos deserved scrutiny from Congress, the press, and the American people.”

“Is Northwestern operating in the public interest or coddling bigotry, discrimination, and anti-Semitism for their own private enrichment?” Andrzejewski asked. “The Congressional hearing was a first step in bringing accountability to the school. U.S. taxpayers have a big stake in Northwestern. Since 2018, Congress appropriated over $4 billion in federal contracts and grants. So, is Northwestern today an unabashedly American university? After this hearing, there are more questions than answers.”

The Anti-Defamation League claimed in 2021 that its research found that Qatari school textbooks “teach that Jews are treacherous.”

“Qatar’s curriculum still places exclusive blame on Jews and Israel for the Arab-Israeli conflict, including in ways that could fuel hatred or even terrorism,” David Andrew Weinberg, ADL’s Washington Director for International Affairs, wrote in a 2021 blog post.

Northwestern’s Middle East and North African Studies Program published a statement in favor of supporting the recent student protests on campus.

“Supporting diverse student perspectives is especially critical because, for many decades, there have been concerted efforts to intimidate and silence voices inside and beyond the academy that are critical of the policies of the State of Israel,” the statement read. The Middle East and North African Studies Program also released a statement in support of Palestine in May 2021.