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The Brandeis Center recently issued a public policy White Paper on “The Morass of Middle East Studies: Title VI of the Higher Education Act and Federally Funded Area Studies” to address shortcomings in Title VI of the Higher Education Act.  The LDB is particularly concerned about biased, politicized, anti-Israel and anti-American programming at Title VI Centers that violate both the letter and spirit of 2008 congressional reforms.  Many Title VI recipients were ideologically polarized institutions notorious for one-sided approaches hostile to the United States, the West, and Israel.  Some programs were reportedly so hostile towards Israel that they would not even remotely entertain views that contradicted their unrelentingly anti-Israel perspective.

The White Paper is comprehensive in content, which includes a brief history of Title VI from its Cold War origins through post 9/11 reform efforts, the current status of Middle East Studies programs, analysis of failures, and recommendations for more effective Title VI funding. In an analysis of Middle East Studies programs, the Center found that:

  • “No proper complaint-resolution procedure exists to ensure compliance with the HEOA’s key Diverse Perspectives requirement” – highlighting Congress’ Failure to Provide an Enforcement Mechanism.
  • The Department of Education has not indicated what is required by the Diverse Perspectives requirement or how it can best be implemented.
  • “The Department [of Education] does not ensure compliance with this requirement through well-established processes that it uses to monitor grantees actions under other programs.”

The Department’s failure to clarify the Diverse Perspectives requirement has meant that universities applying for Title VI funding do not know what must be done to achieve “diverse perspectives,” and government officials do not know what to look for in reviewing applications.  To address this, the White Paper offers recommendations to Congress, the Department of Education, and the universities, on how best to reform Title VI funding.

Recommendations to the universities.

  • Establish a 3-step compliance procedure. Faculty should ensure that public outreach programs reflect the full range of academically legitimate perspectives on each issue.
  • Utilize generally accepted standards of postsecondary educational evaluation to review Title VI-funded programs.
  • Administrations should establish an internal grievance procedure to bolster compliance.

Recommendations to the Department of Education

  • Define ‘diverse perspectives’ to require differing viewpoints that foster positive learning outcomes, establish a “critical mass” of diverse viewpoints, ensure diversity relates to substantive perspectives, and protect the academic freedom of students and professors.
  • Ensure compliance by strictly evaluating each application of Title VI funding and periodically monitoring each program.

Recommendations to Congress

  • Establish an accountability system to hold Title VI programs accountable for meeting HEOA’s requirements, especially with respect to the Diverse Perspectives requirement.
  • Direct the Department of Education to establish a formal compliance process including a complaint-resolution system, a program of proactive compliance reviews, and a program of technical assistance and public education.

Authorization for current programs under the HEOA expired at the end of 2013.  As Congress turns to reauthorization, the LDB has provided clear guidance for Title VI improvements.  As the White Paper states, Congress should direct the Department of Education to enforce Title VI, or shift program funds to other recipients.  Also, if the program is reauthorized, recipients of Title VI funds should take firm and effective steps to include diverse perspectives and a wide range of views, and the Department of Education should establish a proper accountability system to ensure that they do so.

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