From the Muslim World, Big Donations to American Colleges

  • Georgetown University received a gift of $6,000,000 from Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia “to support a chair in the Center for Muslim and Christian Understanding.” He is one of the richest men in the world and previously made $20 million gifts to Harvard and Georgetown for Islamic studies.

  • Georgetown also received a $20,124.955 contract from the Qatar Foundation “for the operation of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.” Inquiry reveals that this covers the operations of the university’s campus in Qatar’s Education City, including the costs Georgetown incurs in this connection, and a “helpful but not enormous” extra amount to the university. The university also received a contract from the Qatar Foundation on 7/15/10 for $42,800,000. The purpose of this contract does not appear in the report, though it certainly appears related to the Education City campus operations.

  • Columbia University received on 6/28/2010 $1,666,666 from Arif Naqvi of the United Arab Emirates. The CEO of a Dubai-based bank, he is a highly influential private equity leader in the Middle East. The report filed with the Department of Education reveals only that this is a “monetary gift.” If there are any restrictions they are not specified. Mr. Naqvi is a member of the Advisory Board of the Columbia University Middle East Research Center.

  • Harvard received two gifts from Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz University, both for $300,000. One was on 1/20/11 and one was on 7/27/10. Abdulaziz has a website explaining its operations and detailing a variety of other contracts and agreements that it has with a wide variety of American colleges and universities, including the Universities of Michigan and Virginia and even the Tufts dental school.

  • In the second half of 2010 Purdue University received two gifts from Arab donors. From Qatar University it received $349,825 on 6/21/10. A few months later, on 9/27/10, it received a much larger gift of $6,033,300 from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

  • Two other, much smaller gifts are reported in this period. Yale University received $500,000 from Bahrain this January and Stanford University received a $149,970 gift from Saudi Arabia.

Universities seek out wealthy people here and abroad, some of whom may even be alumni of their institutions, and offer them speaking opportunities as part of their development -- money harvesting -- operations. This is perfectly normal, but it also can give such donors and potential donors political and economic advantages. Without suggesting that there is anything wrong with the roles or gifts of big donors like Mr. Naqvi, it seems to me that colleges and universities seeking outside funding might well offer slots like his to foreign donors and potential donors for their mutual benefit -- impacting, in turn, the courses taught and the viewpoints emphasized on America's college campuses.