Foreign governments frequently try to influence American policy and practice by endowing various programs at American universities. Saudi Arabia is well-known for handing out millions to sponsor studies of Islam.
But now a dispute has erupted over the establishment of a campus in Qatar of taxpayer-funded Texas A&M University without the state legislature’s knowledge or approval.
Washington watchdog Judicial Watch is taking up a battle that already has involved the Zachor Legal Institute, which fights anti-Semitism, and the Texas Public Information Act.
Zachor has sought details about the “potential influence by the Qatar government’s funding of certain … programs and a Texas A&M campus in Education City, Al Rayyan, Qatar,” Judicial Watch said.
Judicial Watch has filed a petition to intervene on behalf of the institute under the the Texas Public Information Act, the TPIA.
There is a reason for concern, the watchdog said.
“Qatar controversially has aligned itself with Islamic terrorists and extremists which has placed it at odds with the United States, Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East,” Judicial Watch explained.
The request for information focuses on how Qatar has been funding research at Texas A&M and how it was able to set up a campus in Qatar without the Texas Legislature’s involvement.
The Qatar branch has granted hundreds of degrees in chemical, electrical, mechanical and petroleum engineering.
“In October 2018, Qatar filed suit to prevent disclosure of its funding information. Judicial Watch contends that neither the Qatari government nor any of its agencies are protected by Texas Public Information Act exceptions and that federal law ‘expressly makes the requested information public,'” Judicial Watch said.
University officials have argued that complying with the request would reveal confidential donor information. But the state law protects only private donors, not those who are foreign governments or foundations.
“Judicial Watch and the Zachor Legal Institute are battling in court for the truth about how the foreign government of Qatar lassoed Texas A&M into setting up a campus in a country run by a government known for its promotion of terrorism and extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic policies,” said Tom Fitton, the watchdog’s president.