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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Columbia Dean Admits Taking Saudi Junket

Israel Matzav

For those who don't know already, I graduated from Columbia College in 1978, and once responded to an appeal from them by saying that I would consider donating money when they fired Edward Said. Neither of those things ever happened, and I continue to trash appeals from Columbia.

Columbia Dean Admits Taking Saudi Junket

Months before a Columbia University dean was named to a special committee convened to investigate student complaints about professors' hostility to Israel, the dean took a trip to Saudi Arabia that she acknowledges was "largely" paid for by Saudi Aramco, the kingdom-owned oil company.

The dean, Lisa Anderson of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, was one of five members of the committee named in December 2004. The committee for the most part cleared the accused scholars of blame, prompting critics to describe their report as a whitewash.

The March 2004 junket to Saudi Arabia is described in glowing terms on a Web site for former Saudi Aramco employees that details the "delightful lunch" enjoyed by the Columbia delegation, as well as a "wonderful dinner" during which "guests watched the sunset over the sand dunes from the tent."

The tour, which the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations helped organize, took a total of 10 Columbia faculty members and scholars to Riyadh, Dharan, and other parts of Saudi Arabia to tour facilities and meet with officials of the oil company.


Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, who recently gave $20 million gifts to Georgetown and Harvard Universities, told the New York Times Magazine earlier this month that several other Ivy League universities had applied for similar gifts, but that he had turned them down. In the interview, the prince declined to name the schools, saying: "I'd rather not embarrass them."

Mr. Kramer said he wonders whether Columbia might have been one of those schools, adding that it "has a record of soliciting Arab donors." He cited Columbia's admission that among the donors of the $2.1 million Edward Said chair were the United Arab Emirates, which gave $200,000, and the Olayan Charitable Trust, a charity associated with a Saudi-based multinational corporation, the Olayan Group.

The New York Sun in March reported that Saudi Aramco since 2002 had given annual grants of $15,000 for unspecified outreach activities to Columbia University's Middle East Institute.


Columbia failed for years to comply with federal law requiring the disclosure of gifts from overseas. Among the gifts it failed to disclose to the federal government in 2003, until The New York Sun reported the university's failure to comply, was a $250,000 gift from an unnamed Saudi individual for "social science research."

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