In The Conversation.com Column, University Professors Claim “Rich Philanthropists” Have “Undue Influence” Over Universities

June 11, 2024

The tagline for The Conversation, an online news publication, boasts of “academic rigour, journalistic flair.”

If that was meant to be an un-ironic statement, then it is a mystery how a June 3 column could have been published.

The commentary entitled: “How rich philanthropists exert undue influence over pro-Palestinian activism at universities,” written by Fahad Ahmad, an assistant professor of criminology at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), and Adam Saifer, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Management at the University of British Columbia, exhibited little “academic rigour,” instead relying on a hodgepodge of wishful thinking, blatant misrepresentation of the facts, and a shameless lack of self-awareness.

The pair begin by discussing the supposed “anti-war movement” on some university campuses, referring to the “student movement” and “camped-out students,” who have created a backlash from “rich philanthropists” because of the movement’s support for the Palestinians.

Calling the illegal campus occupiers an “anti-war movement” is akin to calling a cannibal a vegetarian because he doesn’t eat beef. No, the campus occupiers are not an “anti-war movement;” they are stridently pro-war, explicitly praising Islamic terrorism, glorifying violence against Israelis, and engaging in their own violence by physically preventing Jewish university faculty and students, and members of the public at large, from accessing parts of the university grounds.

There is also no evidence that the protesters – despite being on campus – are largely students. In fact, evidence suggests exactly the opposite, with the president of the University of Alberta saying only a small minority of the now-dismantled occupiers were students.

Instead of zeroing in on the shadowy, pro-terrorist organizations behind the campus occupations, or the organizations’ connections to Hamas, Ahamad and Saifer took a far easier route, blaming “rich philanthropists” who they claim are aiming to “suppress” the “movement.” One wonders, which “rich philanthropists” and from which community and faith, do these professors allege are wielding “undue influence” over universities?

Ahmad and Saifer cite one instance of supposed undue donor pressure, mentioning “at Toronto Metropolitan University, several donors threatened to withhold scholarships and donations to the law school in response to a student letter in solidarity with Palestinians.”

Calling the letter “in solidarity with Palestinians” is a grossly dishonest misrepresentation. The letter denied Israel’s right to exist, and explicitly praised Palestinian terrorism, saying they “support all forms of Palestinian resistance and efforts towards liberation.”

Despite “several donors” threatening to withhold donations, what was the result of that donor pressure? Nothing. An external review found that despite the open praise for Palestinian terrorism, the 74 signatories were deemed to not breach any codes of conduct.

The authors complained that (some Jewish) philanthropists, who have donated huge sums to improve the quality of learning for all at Canada’s public institutions – “clearly understand this power when they demand that post-secondary institutions discipline student protests supporting Palestine.”

Despite the authors attempting to frame philanthropists as attempting to strong-arm Canadian universities to do their bidding, there is little evidence to suggest this is the case. Other than a small handful of exceptions, most Canadian universities who have faced anti-Israel occupiers have failed to eject them, and instead legitimized them with negotiations.

If anyone has “undue influence over public policy,” it is not the philanthropists, but the tiny number of hateful miscreants occupying space on campus.

Ahmad and Saifer’s June 3 column in The Conversation is only the latest attempt in the Canadian news media to whitewash hateful anti-Israel mobs on university campuses, and demonize not the campus occupiers, but the generous philanthropists who made it possible for them to be there in the first place.

For its part, TheConversation.com, a news outlet that receives Canadian government funding from the Canada Periodical Fund, the government of Quebec, and scores of Canadian universities, gave these authors a platform to spread the trope that “rich philanthropists” have wielded “undue influence” over universities against the Palestinian cause.

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