Advocate questions motive behind Qatar's financial ties to U.S. colleges

Doha, Qatar | Contributed photo
U.S. newspapers have reported that the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1995 by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has paid $400 million in 2014 to host six U.S. universities in a facility near Doha, Qatar's capital.

Education City is a development near Doha that includes satellite campuses for Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Northwestern, Virginia Commonwealth University and Weill Cornell Medical College, as well as British, French and Qatari universities.

As part of the hosting deal, the foundation pays about $76 million to Texas A&M, $60 million to Carnegie Mellon, $60 million to Georgetown, $45 million to Northwestern, $41 million to Virginia Commonwealth University and $121.7 million to Weill Cornell Medical College.

The Qatar Foundation has objected to the publishing of these numberrs. At the same time, transparency advocates argue that it's important to know about these financial arrangements, which suggest possible influence on international politics.

“Money from states or state actors is always provided with an implicit understanding that the benefactor (in this case, the state of Qatar) will not be criticized,” William Palumbo of Stop Qatar Now told Gulf News Journal this week “Regardless of stated intentions of altruism or dedication to education, Qatar is officially a Sharia state and therefore, in my opinion, the universities will be less likely to criticize elements of Sharia that the West finds antithetical.”

Palumbo said the funding could influence U.S. university policy as well.

“With respect to Georgetown, which has a satellite branch for the School of Foreign Service in Doha, I believe there is a very serious and deleterious influence on American policy.” Palumbo said, also citing loyalty that some Qataris have pledged to ISIS, and Qatari support for Hamas and Fatah.

Discussing human-rights issues in the region, Palumbo talked about the trials faced by migrant workers in the country, including passport seizures and abusive labor practices. Palumbo also mentioned the Sharia legal system.

“Sharia law is antithetical to the West's humanism and policies against cruel and unusual punishment.” Palumbo said. “In many ways, educational institutions that take money from Qatar and other Sharia states have fully surrendered the moral high ground on all issues related to human rights.”

Palumbo also acknowledged that the university funding is really a drop in the bucket when compared with all the other money that is set to be invested in the U.S. through Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.

“Qatar's ruling family, the al-Thanis, have more money at its disposal than it can possibly spend in one sector.” Palumbo said. “Their influence on elite American universities established via the investment noted above -- it only makes sense to influence the private sector through acquisitions and investment.”

The daylight between Western norms and Qatar’s human-rights record, Palumbo said, should give schools pause.

“Accepting money from Qatar is accepting blood money.” Palumbo said. “This is the bottom line.”

Organizations in this story

Carnegie Mellon University Qatar Al Luqta Street Ar-Rayyan, Al Rayyan

Qatar Foundation 1400 I St NW Doha, Doha - 20005

Qatar Investment Authority Diplomatic St Doha, Doha

Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Ar-Rayyan, Al Rayyan, Qatar Ar-Rayyan, Al Rayyan

Weill Cornell Medicine- Qatar Al Luqta Street Ar-Rayyan, Al Rayyan

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