More than 200 colleges across the country, including two in Maine, collectively received billions in funding from foreign powers, including authoritarian, Middle Eastern states, and failed to properly disclose the donations, according to a study conducted by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI).
The University of Maine in Orono and Bates College in Lewiston were both listed among institutions that received the funding and failed to report it to the U.S. Department of Education, as is required by federal law.
“In 2019, the Department of Education developed an online portal and issued a call to institutions of higher learning to report on donations from foreign regimes shown to be wide spread and illegally unreported,” the NCRI report states.
Based on that data, NCRI reported that foreign sources have provided $250,000 to Bates and $1.2 million to the University of Maine.
The NCRI study examined the relationship between large donations from foreign sources, especially authoritarian countries, and increased levels of censorship and anti-Senmitism on campuses.
“Campuses receiving undocumented funds exhibited approximately twice as many campaigns to silence academics as those that did not,” the NCRI report stated.
The study found a consistent correlation between Universities which received and illegally failed to document these foreign donations, and campus suppression of free-speech.
In verifying the correlation between the suppression of speech, and the receipt of undocumented foreign funds, the NCRI conducted a survey of campus incidents targeting academic speakers.
“The average campus that did not receive undocumented money had 1.3 campaigns targeting scholars, while campuses that received undocumented money had almost double (2.3),” the report states.
The NCRI also found a significant correlation between those schools receiving illegal funding and increased anti-semitism on campus. By determining the number of anti-semitic incidents on a given campus, as well as surveying students to determine how frequently they heard anti-semitic sentiments expressed, they found that, though there was a significant increase in schools receiving undocumented funding from any source, this correlation was particularly pronounced in those institutions which received funding from Middle Eastern sources.
Qatar was responsible for more of this undocumented funding than any other nation from 2014-2019, contributing nearly $3-billion to institutions across the country. The report suggests that Qatar uses these donations to increase its influence, both in the West and the Middle East.
The NCRI’s report suggests that the negative effects of this undocumented funding are not restricted to college campuses. The study found that the increased levels of anti-semitism associated with the donations extends into surrounding counties and makes anti-semitic sentiments more common on social Media.
In October, Bates announced that it would be launching an investigation after a swastika was scrawled on a bathroom stall.
“Our findings support the hypothesis that campus institutional antisemitism does not remain isolated to the university, but impacts broader regional activity, spilling out from campus to county. Furthermore, our findings indicate that undisclosed funding tends to create more amenable conditions for antisemitic incidents to conjoin with high valence online signaling,” the report states.
Although NCRI were able to ascertain the negative impact of the billions of undocumented funds, the scope of their study did not allow them to investigate how or why these funds were able to remain illegally undocumented for years.
Read the full report here: