Most American Parents Unaware China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar are Major Donors to US Universities

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October 30, 2021

A majority of American parents are unaware that China, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are among the top financiers of U.S. universities and are worried that foreign cash is influencing what their children are taught in the classroom, according to a recent poll.

Nearly 60 percent of those interviewed in the September poll said they were not aware that the countries are major donors to U.S. universities. The poll was commissioned by the Lawfare Project, a nonprofit advocacy group that tracks campus issues.

Qatar’s presence in the U.S. academic system was concerning to parents when they learned about the small Gulf nation’s deep ties to Iran and terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Taliban. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said American schools should publicly disclose their ties to Qatar and explain how the money could be coloring the in-class agenda, according to the poll, which surveyed 2,009 adults last month and was provided exclusively to the Washington Free Beacon.

While extensive foreign funding of American universities has raised alarms in Congress and among advocacy groups such as the Lawfare Project, ordinary American parents are not aware of the issue. This is partly because American schools do not publicly disclose their funding and in many cases try to hide their ties to adversarial nations like China. Foreign countries see the U.S. academic system as central to their propaganda efforts, including anti-Israel initiatives. In the case of countries such as China, they seek to steal cutting-edge research. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said Congress should enact legislation requiring schools to publicly account for every foreign donation.

Around 70 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned that foreign donations influence teaching and research priorities. In Qatar’s case, the country has spent billions running propaganda efforts in at least 28 American universities, generating concerns these donations run afoul of U.S. law. With anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attitudes increasing on many American campuses, foreign money has helped foment these movements, including at the University of North Carolina and Duke University—both of which have been embroiled in a long-running controversy over Qatar’s funding of programs critics see as anti-Semitic.

"The public wants full transparency on what Qatar is funding in American schools, and Congress must demand it," Brooke Goldstein, the Lawfare Project’s executive director, told the Free Beacon. "Parents have a right to know what foreign governments are teaching our children."

China’s funding for American universities remains the top concern for parents, with 70 percent expressing worry about Beijing’s presence at U.S. schools. Around 65 percent expressed similar concerns about Saudi Arabia, followed closely by Qatar with 57 percent of those surveyed.

More broadly, there was a 50-50 split between those who support foreign funding of schools and those who oppose it altogether.

Published under: China , Qatar , Saudi Arabia