Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Congressman Burgess Owens, December 19, 2021.

Utah Congressman Clarence Burgess Owens, 73, is one of four Black Republicans in the House, and my hero. He’s been on the Hill since 2021, but in the 1970s and ‘80s, he played safety for 10 seasons for the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders – my two favorite teams. Last Thursday, he took the president of Northwestern University Michael Schill (as well as the presidents of Rutgers and UCLA) to the tool shed for a sound whipping over funding that comes from Qatar.

In 2008, Northwestern University established a branch campus in Doha, Qatar, where approximately 500 of its students have graduated. Qatar, with a population of less than 350,000, has spent billions of dollars to host American university campuses in its Education City, with a considerable amount going unreported and unregulated, according to the US Department of Education.

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The DOE states that Northwestern University alone has received nearly $582 million in gifts and contracts from Qatar since opening its Doha campus.

Qatar is ruled by an authoritarian government that, according to a report from the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, has sworn allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood. The report also notes that Qatar has provided a safe haven for the leadership of Hamas.

Owens suggested Northwestern’s tolerance for months of antisemitic demonstrations on its campus was related to the money it is receiving from Qatar (the source is Rep. Ownes’s website):

Rep. Owens: “President Schill, would you have the same patience, the same strategy, if these were KKK white supremacists that you were trying to negotiate [with], that were actually attacking and intimidating Black people? Would you have the same patience with that?”
President Schill: “Representative Owens, thank you for the question. I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals like that.”
Rep. Owens: “This is how you deal with hatred. I’m trying to give you a kind of understanding that we’re talking about Jewish students. If it was Black students against the KKK, instead of pro-Hamas, would you deal with it in the same exact way as you dealt with these students?”
President Schill: “I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals.”
Rep. Owens: “Alright, so the answer is no. Okay, let’s move on. I’ll just say this: It’s striking that you decided to negotiate a sweetheart deal with pro-Hamas students and professors who denied October 7th—they either denied or celebrated it or they simply don’t care. I looked at that as pure evil.”
Rep. Owens also questioned the university’s connection to the Qatari government, from which Northwestern has received more than $600 million.
Rep. Owens: “Mr. Schill, how much money has Northwestern University received from Qatari sources? Including Qatar-connected entities at the Qatar Foundation?
President Schill: “The amount that we have received from the Qatar Foundation to fund our campus in Qatar. All of the resources that we have got – and there’s been a lot—”
Rep. Owens: “I’m looking for short answers. I only have about three minutes left. So, How much?”
President Schill: “I don’t have the dollar number, you have a check.”
Rep. Owens: “Let’s say between $500 and $700 million.”
President Schill: “Every dollar has gone to the operation of the campus or the management of the campus.”
Rep. Owens: “We’d like to have a complete, transparent accounting to just how much exactly is coming from this. Are you aware this is the same Qatar government that has partnered with—that currently harbors the leaders of Hamas and is estimated to have given the terrorist organization of Hamas about $1.8 billion? Are you aware of that?”
President Schill: “They are harboring those leaders with the knowledge—”
Rep. Owens: “Yes or no, are you aware that 1.8 billion has been given to Hamas from Qatar?”
President Schill: “This is not my area of expertise.”
Rep. Owens: “Are you aware that the Iranian officials travel in and out of Doha to meet with Hamas?”
President Schill: “This is not in my area of expertise.”
Rep. Owens: “If this were true, do you think it would be a good idea for the University of Northwestern to partner with a government that harbors terrorists, Hamas, and Iranian operatives who fund terrorism? Yes or no?”
President Schill: “I’m not going to engage in yes or no answers.”
Rep. Owens: “Okay. So obviously you don’t have a problem with that.”
Rep. Owens concluded his testimony by asking President Schill about the connection between Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and the media outlet Al Jazeera, a partnership that has been denounced by Northwestern alumni-affiliated organizations for its role in spreading Hamas propaganda following the October 7th attack on Israel.
Rep. Owens: “Northwestern’s school of journalism has a formal partnership with a Qatar media outlet Al Jazeera. Did you know that?”
President Schill: “I, in fact, just found out about that last week.”
Rep. Owens: “Let me make you aware of it then because Al Jazeera – because of their pro-Hamas reporting – the Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, asked the Qatar Prime Minister to tone down Al Jazeera’s anti-Israel incitement. Also, it was Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt that have blocked Al-Jazeera because they are a pro-Hamas mouthpiece. My understanding is that you have a contract with the Qatar Foundation that expires at the end of the 2027-2028 academic year. Now that you know about Qatar, are you going to still renew that contract?
President Schill: “The review of that contract is being done by the Provost Office—”
Rep. Owens: “Al Jazeera is a mouthpiece for Hamas. Are you willing to end that partnership?”
President Schill: “The decision with respect to the Qatar campus is ultimately the Board of Trustees, and I actually am concerned by the agreement that you’re talking about with Al Jazeera, and we are going to look into it.”
Rep. Owens: “This is an issue that I’m thankful we’re pulling the curtains back because this is not just beginning now. Obviously, this has been going on for a long, long time. We’re going to make sure we keep following this. Thank you, and I yield back.”

Francisco Marmolejo, president of higher education at the Qatar Foundation, a state-sponsored nonprofit, tried to push back the Congressman’s criticism last Friday, stating, “Qatar Foundation is not in the business of buying, or attempting to buy, influence in US higher education institutions.”

Regarding the dollar amounts, Marmolejo stated they should be viewed in the context of Qatar’s partnership with Northwestern University. The foundation says it pays Northwestern $70 million annually – 90% of which is spent in Qatar on faculty/staff salaries, student operations, and building costs. The remaining 10% goes back to Northwestern’s main Evanston campus to cover administrative expenses.

“The Qatar Foundation has invested heavily in education because it is how we have chosen to support building a diverse, knowledge-based economy in Qatar,” Marmolejo said. “We have invested in making Qatar a home for lifelong learners, creating a legacy that will benefit knowledge seekers for generations. Only a small fraction has gone to the US, and the allegation that this money has somehow unduly influenced decision-making at reputable institutions like Northwestern has no basis in fact or logic.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.