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Old 09-20-2019, 01:08 PM
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Trump administration threatens federal funding to universities over course content


...Specifically, that their Middle East studies program "portray Islam too positively".
The Education Department wrote in an Aug. 29 letter to the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies that the program disproportionately portrays "the positive aspects of Islam." The agency requested they amend the program by Sept. 22 or lose a grant they've been receiving for almost a decade, The Associated Press reported.

The National Resource Center provides grants to programs that support foreign language learning.

The Education Department said in its letter that foreign language and national security have "taken a back seat to other priorities" that have "little or no relevance" to the objectives of the grant.
This seems like one of the most recent and most public attacks on that ever-popular hotbed of controversy, "campus free speech". The Trump administration is threatening to cut funding to two universities because they don't like the content of the course.

(It is perhaps worth noting that those typically most interested in "campus free speech" when the person prevented from speaking is a racist have been fairly silent on this thus far.)

Is the Trump administration right to censure colleges for pushing content that is "too pro-islam"? Is there anything to this other than outright bigotry?
  #2  
Old 09-20-2019, 01:11 PM
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Reading the actual letter from the Education Department, they list a lot more things than just "the positive aspects of Islam"

It seems like they are just doing whatever they want in the guise of "Middle East Studies" and not really following the terms of the grant.
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Old 09-20-2019, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Budget Player Cadet View Post
...Specifically, that their Middle East studies program "portray Islam too positively".
The Education Department wrote in an Aug. 29 letter to the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies that the program disproportionately portrays "the positive aspects of Islam." The agency requested they amend the program by Sept. 22 or lose a grant they've been receiving for almost a decade, The Associated Press reported.

The National Resource Center provides grants to programs that support foreign language learning.

The Education Department said in its letter that foreign language and national security have "taken a back seat to other priorities" that have "little or no relevance" to the objectives of the grant.
This seems like one of the most recent and most public attacks on that ever-popular hotbed of controversy, "campus free speech". The Trump administration is threatening to cut funding to two universities because they don't like the content of the course.

(It is perhaps worth noting that those typically most interested in "campus free speech" when the person prevented from speaking is a racist have been fairly silent on this thus far.)

Is the Trump administration right to censure colleges for pushing content that is "too pro-islam"? Is there anything to this other than outright bigotry?
When colleges stop discriminating, stop with the illegal speech codes, stop with allowing Heckler Veto’s to shut down speakers, etc then I’ll worry about colleges being consequenced.

But, on the off chance this is some heinous injustice, would you mind providing a link?
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Old 09-20-2019, 02:30 PM
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The letter lists many issues, not just this:

  • Number of students in a particular program was not clarified enough.
  • Academic departments that were collaborated with might not fit the required criteria.
  • Many topics simply were not relevant enough.
  • Course topic was skewed towards certain things and not enough focus on others.
  • Insufficient focus on things that were relevant to U.S. security.
  • The program is meant to support governmental and business stuff, but a lot of it went towards academic paths instead.

There were many red flags, not just one.
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Old 09-20-2019, 02:56 PM
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The feds have grant programs like this in many disciplines - I was involved (as an outside, expert reviewer) in the review of a set of these programs in my own niche expertise, which is relatively uncontroversial on the national political stage. The peer-review was a serious and fair process, and we ended up recommending revoking the grants from one institution out of six that we reviewed, and that was carried out. I can't speak to the terms of this particular authority (the "Title VI") but this does not read too differently from the critical letters that we composed (i.e. "lacking focus in key areas while emphasizing others", etc.). In particular "too academic, not practical enough towards [stated, mandated-by-Congress goal of the particular Title and funds]" was the main reason for our recommendation. Given the hot-button nature of some of the topics, there may be some concern in terms of the "Islam shown too positively" critique, but I'd have to delve a whole lot more into details to decide if it were indeed "troubling".
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Old 09-20-2019, 04:48 PM
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I don't see a link to a source, but just in terms of a SDMB post, count me as one who sees this as deliberately skewed headline writing. As much as I personally would like to see Trump and everyone who works for him and everyone who actively supports him, including posters on this site, dropped into a vat of boiling acid while being devoured by rabid mongooses (did I say that out loud? Oopsie!), the story seems to be that a federal grant has stipulations that are not being honored in practice, and that is resulting in a threat to pull the grant. Does that sound about right?
  #7  
Old 09-20-2019, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
I don't see a link to a source, but just in terms of a SDMB post, count me as one who sees this as deliberately skewed headline writing. As much as I personally would like to see Trump and everyone who works for him and everyone who actively supports him, including posters on this site, dropped into a vat of boiling acid while being devoured by rabid mongooses (did I say that out loud? Oopsie!), the story seems to be that a federal grant has stipulations that are not being honored in practice, and that is resulting in a threat to pull the grant. Does that sound about right?
+1
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Old 09-20-2019, 05:17 PM
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The thread title as written does cause concern, but others have said there's more to the story. I don't have time to do a deep dive right now but I am curious what it means to "portray Islam too positively".

If the federal government conditioned a grant on portraying Islam as more negative than other religions, I might have a problem with that.

~Max
  #9  
Old 09-23-2019, 02:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
I don't see a link to a source, but just in terms of a SDMB post, count me as one who sees this as deliberately skewed headline writing. As much as I personally would like to see Trump and everyone who works for him and everyone who actively supports him, including posters on this site, dropped into a vat of boiling acid while being devoured by rabid mongooses (did I say that out loud? Oopsie!), the story seems to be that a federal grant has stipulations that are not being honored in practice, and that is resulting in a threat to pull the grant. Does that sound about right?
Do not post threats or state or imply that any individual or group is deserving of harm. Do not wish for harm to befall other posters for any reason whatsoever.

[/moderating]
  #10  
Old 09-23-2019, 07:28 PM
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As a grad of an area studies M.A. program that received similar Federal funding, and having read the linked letter (but, of course, not the referenced grant application), it looks to me like:

a) the grant application could have been better written; and

b) a university (in particular, portions of a university focused primarily on humanistic pursuits) created programs that weren't narrowly focused on preparing people for specific careers in business or government!

Shocking! Equally as shocking as the prospect that the current administration might not be thrilled about the use of federal funds for programs that might be useful for developing a broader understanding of a particular set of cultures and civilizations, but aren't narrowly focused on a concrete, measurable goal.

But really, more focus on Islam than on non-Islamic religions of the Middle East? Perhaps that's because they are minorities? And even if religious minorities aren't mentioned in every single course title or syllabus, I'd be shocked to find out that issues involving religious minorities weren't referenced in relevant related courses in political science, history, literature, etc.
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Old 10-05-2019, 08:37 AM
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:: bump ::

Duke U. Faculty reply to Trump Dept. of Ed. demand for Negative Teaching on Islam and Palestinians

The response of the Middle East Studies Association is worth reading, too.

Last edited by Eva Luna; 10-05-2019 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 10-05-2019, 08:46 AM
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(sorry, my edit timed out.) The MESA statement, cosigned by a bunch of other academic associations, reads, in part:

"The education and training provided by academic programs supported by Title VI have consistently linked language training to international education in a range of disciplines that enable students to attain the depth and breadth of knowledge they need to become regional experts. These experts have gone on to use their skills and knowledge in a variety of sectors — government, private, academic and non-profit — fully in accord with the goals of Title VI to meet national needs for regional expertise across the board. We are very concerned that the approach outlined in your letter, tying funding to considerations that have little to do with developing and supporting area studies of the highest quality, will undermine the mission of Title VI, and set back the cause of international studies in this country."

As someone with an area studies graduate degree, and a prior recipient of a Federal grant for advanced foreign language study in the social sciences, I wholeheartedly agree. As a country, we need to interpret the need for acquisition of foreign area knowledge broadly. Knowledge of the words and grammar of a foreign language alone are not enough; we need broad contextual knowledge of other countries and cultures.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Bone View Post
Do not post threats or state or imply that any individual or group is deserving of harm. Do not wish for harm to befall other posters for any reason whatsoever.

[/moderating]

He didn't, can you not tell the difference? Someone toss Bone a bone.

Last edited by Fentoine Lum; 10-07-2019 at 02:03 PM. Reason: Safe spacing it for Bone's "authority"
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Fentoine Lum View Post
He didn't, can you not tell the difference? Someone toss Bone a bone.
Comments about moderation belong in ATMB. Any further comment by you about moderation in any thread in GD and Elections outside of ATMB will result in a warning for you.

[/moderating]

Last edited by Bone; 10-07-2019 at 02:26 PM.
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