Rhode Island Legislation to Block Foreign Funding of State Colleges

PROVIDENCE–RI–If an Act introduced in the State Senate passes–state colleges and universities would be prohibited from accepting funding from foreign governmen’s and institutions which place restrictions on the use of those funds that would interfere with or limit academic freedom and integrity.

"When institutions of higher learning start taking money from foreign governmen’s or organizations with serious strings attached–we’re opening the door teaching revisionist history and the indoctrination of our young people," Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis explained.

The Act Relating To Education would prohibit the Board of Governors for Higher Education from accepting funds from any source which would place conditions or restrictions on the use of said funds in such a way as to interfere with or otherwise restrict the academic freedoms of state colleges and universities.

Introduced on February 9 by senators Raptakis–McBurney–Lenihan–Coderre–and Igliozzi–the legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance–which will conduct hearings on the matter on March 18.

When Portland State University signed an agreement in 1997 accepting $750,000 from the Republic of Turkey to endow a chair in Contemporary Turkish Studies at the university–the contract required that the professor hired to fill the Chair have "published works based upon extensive utilization of archives and libraries in Turkey" and to "maintain close and cordial relations with academic circles in Turkey."

Raptakis noted that the debate over Portland State University’s action raised a red flag for Rhode Island and states across the country. Just last year–similar concerns led the University of California-Los Angeles to reject Turkish government funding of a history chair–and last week the University of Michigan announced that it had effectively withdrawn its application to the Turkish government to fund a chair in Turkish studies.

"The Armenian National Committee of Rhode Island applauds and supports this Act–which would ensure that academic integrity will not be compromised on Rhode Island’s campuses," stated Ani Haroian–ANC of Rhode Island spokeswoman.

"We are very pleased that this Act mandates that our academic institutions maintain independence–and academic freedom and integrity," she added.

"Can you imagine a class on the history of Turkey or contemporary Turkish life that fails to recognize the Armenian genocide or the plight of the Kurds?" asked Raptakis. "Yet that is exactly the purpose behind the restrictions on the choice of a program chair to make sure that he or she follows the ruling party line," he explained.

"Our goal in introducing this legislation is to make sure that no foreign government or interest group can come onto Rhode Island’s campuses and limit dialogue and the free exchange of ideas," Raptakis concluded.

The Act Relating to Education-Board of Governors for Higher Education would take effect upon passage.

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