Higher Ed act imposes new requirements

A 29-word addition to the Higher Education Opportunity Act enacted in August will require federally funded international programs to âÄúreflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.âÄù Title VI, as the program is called, helps fund the UniversityâÄôs Institute for Global Studies as well as other international programs across the country. The requirementâÄôs impact will not be known until the Department of Education releases its new criteria at the conclusion of six public hearings in mid-October, according to the department. Title VI programs, originally created to build knowledge of foreign languages and cultures during the Cold War , have been a lightning rod for partisan squabbling since legislation to change oversight was first introduced in 2003. While academics have argued the requirement would interfere with academic freedom, some conservatives have said the federally funded programs need oversight to fulfill Title VIâÄôs original mission of strengthening national security. At the University, the IGS focuses on international studies, Western Europe and Asia. The IGS also helps facilitate Title VI funding for less-common language programs in the College of Liberal Arts like Swahili, Turkish and Persian, Evelyn Davidheiser, director of the IGS, said. âÄú[Title VI was] designed to promote knowledge of world regions as well as to promote language learning during the Cold War,âÄù Davidheiser said. âÄúYou can well imagine that in the aftermath of 9/11 the importance of language competence and area competence is kind of recognized once again.âÄù Much of the early controversy surrounding the new legislation revolved around a proposal that the diversity requirement be overseen by an outside committee, which academics feared might consist of political appointees rather than experts in international education, Davidheiser said. âÄúThat committee, as far as I understand it, is not in the final legislation,âÄù she said, âÄúwhich is a great relief to universities that have Title VI centers.âÄù Peter Wood, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, an academic organization often associated with conservative politics, said the organization supported changes in oversight to Title VI, but didnâÄôt participate directly by lobbying. âÄúI think the academic left scared itself in worrying about the oversight committee, which truly was not a body that had much power,âÄù he said. âÄúMy view was that that was a great waste of time on the part of those who were opposed to it.âÄù Attempts at oversight of international programs were fueled by concerns that they werenâÄôt fulfilling Title VIâÄôs original mission of providing training for the benefit of national security, Wood said. âÄúThe African studies programs were pretty hostile to students seeking careers in U.S. government service,âÄù Wood said. âÄúEssentially, there was a kind of party line that tended to dominate a great majority of these programs.âÄù Congressmen and others in the political sphere who pushed for the new requirements havenâÄôt always understood the oversight measures already in place through the DOE or academic channels, Davidheiser said. âÄúThe proposals, when theyâÄôre submitted next year, will be subject to peer review,âÄù Davidheiser said. âÄúThereâÄôs extensive reporting [to the DOE] that has to be done every year.âÄù The reaction of faculty to Title VI speaks to greater problems in academia, Wood said. âÄúWhen faculty members show alarm at being exposed to public view, that says an awful lot about the bad faith of those faculty members who are willing to take public funds, but dislike the idea of being held even to the minimum standard of accountability,âÄù Wood said. IGSâÄôs current Title VI funding will last until 2010. Davidheiser said the institute will likely need to begin preparing Title VI proposals sometime this fall. The new requirements donâÄôt worry her, Davidheiser said, because the IGSâÄôs international programs already reflect diverse viewpoints. âÄúWe have pretty interesting debates all the time in global studies and on this campus,âÄù she said. âÄúThey might not include every single last opinion on every single last issue on the face of the earth, but thereâÄôs certainly a diversity of view and opinions.âÄù