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Bird watching

In May Provost Richard Saller, along with his counterparts at eight other schools, cosigned letters to the Ford and Rockefeller foundations protesting antiterrorism language added to their grant guidelines.

The universities—Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, Penn, and MIT—argued that the language, meant to prevent foundation money from aiding terrorist groups, could stifle protected speech. The letters, the Wall Street Journal reported, “implicitly raise the prospect that the universities might cease applying for Ford and Rockefeller grants if the language isn’t altered.” Both Chicago and Columbia “have refrained from signing off on any Ford Foundation grants they were negotiating.”

Ford added the language after a New York–based news service, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, found that Ford had inadvertently funded several Palestinian groups orchestrating anti-Israel activities, the WSJ reported. Ford withdrew its support from one group and developed the new rules, limiting grants to groups that do not “promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry, or the destruction of any state.” Rockefeller used similar language.

The problem, Saller told U.S. News and World Report, is that the wording is too broad. “The net has been cast so wide,” the magazine paraphrased him, “that the foundations might consider ... students’ displaying of pictures of Palestinian refugee camps”—which has occurred—“as pushing terrorism and, hence, in violation to the rules.” Even if they didn’t terminate grants, Saller told the Chicago Sun-Times, “the new language leaves [them] vulnerable to pressure from advocacy groups.”

Both foundations, the WSJ reported, “defended the new requirements and said they expect to resolve their differences with the universities.” In July the two sides were still negotiating.—A.M.B.





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