Please see an important note at the end.
A few days ago the Washington Post concluded in Self-Muzzled at Yale:
In effect, Yale University Press is allowing violent extremists to set the terms of free speech. As an academic press that embraces the university’s motto of “Lux et Veritas,” it should be ashamed.
Would it be that the truth were so benign.
Last week in response to Roger Kimball’s column about Yale’s decision not to publish the cartoons, InstaPundit quipped:
I suspect that they were mostly afraid of scaring away Saudi money.
Martin Kramer fleshes out the further:
Imagine, then–and we’re just imagining–that someone in the Yale administration, perhaps in President Levin’s office, gets wind of the fact that Yale University Press is about to publish a book on the Danish cartoons–The Cartoons That Shook the World. The book is going to include the Danish cartoons, plus earlier depictions of the Prophet Muhammad tormented in Dante’s Inferno, and who-knows-what-else. Whooah! Good luck explaining to people like Prince Alwaleed that Yale University and Yale University Press are two different shops. The university can’t interfere in editorial matters, so what’s to be done? Summon some “experts,” who’ll be smart enough to know just what to say. Yale will be accused of surrendering to an imagined threat by extremists. So be it: self-censorship to spare bloodshed in Nigeria or Indonesia still sounds a lot nobler than self-censorship to keep a Saudi prince on the line for $20 million.
Now Prince Alwaleed’s gift was not the first Saudi gift to Yale, back in 2002, the Yale Herald wrote about a gift from (then) Crown Prince Abdullah.
… Abdullah’s comes with several stipulations. Five million dollars will fund a named professorship in the international relations department dedicated to United States-Middle East relations; $2 million will be earmarked for the burgeoning Near Eastern languages and civilizations department, with an emphasis on courses in Arabic language instruction. Smaller, as-yet-unspecifed amounts will be funneled to the Yale University Art Gallery, the Religious Studies department, and a future DeVane Lecture. A large portion of the remaining sum, roughly $350 million, will enable the construction of a 13th residential college–a project previously postponed by the Yale Corporation, which thought it was years away from execution for fiscal reasons.
Now think about it, given these “stipulations,” what would be the orientation of that professor of international relations? Is he likely to harbor any sympathy for Israel? I think we know the answer to that one. And yet the Yale PR machine compares King Abdullah’s stipulations, to those of Paul Mellon.
Perhaps you remember that Yale once returned a $20 million endowment for the teaching of Western civilization. The stated reason was that the donor, Lee Bass, had stipulated that he wished to have veto power over professorial appointments. Perhaps Saudi royalty makes no such explicit demands, but the episode with the book about the Danish cartoons shows that it had no need to. The Yale administration knows its limits.
Perhaps, then, Yale President Levin’s recollection about meeting (then) Crown Prince Abdullah should raise some concern.
THE ENTIRE TRANSACTION WOULD HAVE BEEN ALL BUT IMPOSsible were it not for a whispered conversation held in a United Nations (U.N.) elevator at the end of the summer of 1998. Along with a delegation of Saudi Arabian diplomats, the Crown Prince was attending a conference on the global integration of educational networks and the nation-derived economic determination of such processes, with a focus on the Middle Eastern states. One of the panel’s speakers was none other than Levin himself. After the conference, Levin found himself next to Abdullah in a crowded elevator in the U.N.’s Secretariat office building. “We had talked only formally during the conference,” Levin said, “though I felt we had an unspoken affinity with each other. He showed a pointed interest in the American university system… I don’t know exactly why–perhaps out of habit–but I invited him to campus.” Abdullah accepted, and a week later he became the first member of the royal family to visit an institution of higher education in the United States.
Got that? The (present) King has a strong interest in the American university system. And as Martin Kramer showed, that interest is not altruistic but strategic.
Two years ago, in what read like a press release from the Saudi government the New York Times reported that Saudi King Tries to Grow Modern Ideas in Desert.
On a marshy peninsula 50 miles from this Red Sea port, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is staking $12.5 billion on a gargantuan bid to catch up with the West in science and technology.
Between an oil refinery and the sea, the monarch is building from scratch a graduate research institution that will have one of the 10 largest endowments in the world, worth more than $10 billion.
Its planners say men and women will study side by side in an enclave walled off from the rest of Saudi society, the country’s notorious religious police will be barred and all religious and ethnic groups will be welcome in a push for academic freedom and international collaboration sure to test the kingdom’s cultural and religious limits.
The report goes on to portray this as the enlightened monarch attempting to bring his country into the modern world. But at the end of the article we learn that there limits to that enlightenment.
But the kingdom’s laws will still apply: Israelis, barred by law from visiting Saudi Arabia, will not be able to collaborate with the university. And one staple of campus life worldwide will be missing: alcohol.
So even though some of the top scientists in many disciplines are from Israel, the Saudis won’t bend their rules to enhance science. And I love the juxtaposition: No Jews and no beer, as if these restrictions are of equal import.
This makes a mockery of the claim made by another academic about its partnership with the Saudis.
“We are working with a university that has guaranteed nondiscrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender,” said Peter Glynn, director of the Stanford institute. “We recognize that this university operates in Saudi Arabia. Having said that, this university recognizes that if it wants to be world-class, it has to be able to freely attract the best students and faculty from around the world.”
If the Yale scandal was simply a matter of bowing pre-emptively to fears of extremism, the damage to intellectual inquiry would be discrete. But if, as it appears, the calculation was to avoid offending a benefactor – whose generosity Yale (and other universities) seeks, then its an ongoing problem. It is a corruption of academia.
There seem to be many who feel it is necessary to question their assumptions about Israel, who are diffident about challenging bogus charges of undue Jewish influence in the world. But when it comes to oil money, they are noticeably incurious. That money would seem to buy both influence and silence.
Saudi money speaks louder than ideas.
UPDATE: One reason I like blogging is because it involves linking to my sources. Readers can check out my sources and determine if I read them correctly.
I quoted from a Yale Daily Herald article from 2002. It was a perfect example of the deference academic institutions showed towards the Saudis.
It was in fact, too perfect. It was an April Fool’s satire. I think that my basic contention that the Saudi investment in academia corrupts the institutions that take the money. However one of the bases of my contention was mistaken. I should have been more careful.
In fact the tone of the satire matched the tone of at least one of the New York Times articles I used. Still, I should have been more careful.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad.