Leaders of 30 top international affairs institutions will meet in Washington this week to decide whether to take a unified stance on the International Studies and Higher Education Act in an effort to lobby Congress.
The House of Representatives passed the bill, which would would give the government expanded oversight of the nation’s federally-funded international and area studies institutions, Oct. 21 with wide bipartisan support. Officials at some of the nation’s top universities said they hope a unified position would influence the Senate, which will likely consider drafting similar legislation this year.
If passed, the bill, HR 3077, would influence the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, or YCIAS, which receives more than $5 million in annual federal funds.
Yale administrators and professors said they are sharply critical of the legislation, which would institute an advisory board to monitor activities at the institutions.
“YCIAS is concerned about the advisory committee,” YCIAS Director Gustav Ranis said. “[But] the bill has many other things going for it. Most of [the bill] is to support international education, which a lot of people are in favor of, including myself.”
Drafted by Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the bill originally called for wide government oversight of curricula and activities at institutions in an effort to curb perceived anti-American bias. The first bill sparked sustained vocal responses from many of the nation’s professors.
But the final amended version of the Republican-drafted bill, which passed in the House with strong Democratic support, significantly decreases the advisory board’s authority. The advisory board would be similar to those of other federally-funded programs, but its makeup would be different, Princeton University Government Affairs Director Diane Jones said.
In contrast to other similar government advisory boards, this one would be appointed by members of Congress and the Secretary of Education. Jones said leaders at many universities, including Princeton, are skeptical of the advisory board makeup.
“[There is a] concern that this could become a witch hunt given this period of time where both houses of Congress have a Republican leadership,” Jones said. “All of the members of the board will be decided by Republicans.”
Ranis said he will represent Yale at this week’s Association for Professional Schools and International Affairs, or APSIA, meeting. The organization’s membership includes 30 of the world’s leading international studies institutions.
APSIA President and Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service Dean Robert Gallucci said he thinks the bill has not received sufficient national media attention, but an APSIA declaration may generate buzz before the Senate drafts its higher education legislation.
“If APSIA takes a position, that may help focus attention so that at least all are aware of the potential risks involved in the new legislation,” Gallucci said. “I hope it gets a lot more attention and scrutiny in the Senate.”
Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter said she plans to represent her institution at this week’s APSIA meeting.
“Princeton’s position is going to be in favor of academic independence,” Slaughter said. “No one sets curriculum other than faculty, university administration, and, at the Woodrow Wilson School, the students themselves.”
The bill falls under the Higher Education Act, first passed in 1965 as part of former President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program.