May 25, 2024
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A Pop Quiz for Northwestern President Michael Schill

The president of Northwestern University, Michael Schill, is scheduled to testify before Congress on May 23rd. President Schill is a distinguished scholar in addition to being head of the university. He is also a full professor in both the Pritzker School of Law and the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, an expert in both law and business. I would like to suggest a few questions for Schill based on the handling of the encampment at Northwestern and the deal he made with the protesters.

The first line of questioning would be to ask him to explain whether academia is on the same page as the common citizen. For example, Schill should be asked: “With some of your students, faculty members and some whole departments calling for all Jews to be murdered “from the river to the sea,” what do you say to the families of the 32 Americans murdered on October 7, 2023 and to the families of the 6 Americans still held hostage by Hamas?”, “Does the university agree that their murder and abduction is justifiable in accordance with the view of many faculty in your humanities and ethnic studies departments?”, and, “if not what action has been taken by the university to make that clear?”

The second line of questioning would give President Schill a chance to explain whether academics know the difference between journalism and terrorist propaganda. In addition to reveling in the atrocities of October 7, Al Jazeera also produced a “documentary” by the name of “October 7” which claimed that many of the stories of rape and atrocities were false. It was real time Holocaust denial. The atrocities have been documented and the accurate journalistic reports, many showing dashcam and body camera footage from Hamas terrorists themselves, are available widely. But Al Jazeera knows that a well fashioned lie can travel much faster than the truth. On March 24th, to give one example, Al Jazeera reported the assertion of Jamila Al-Hessi that IDF members were raping Palestinian women and murdering others in a medical complex. Given Al Jazeera’s reach, these falsities spread fast and caused furious reactions. But later Hamas retracted them, also via Al Jazeera, because it led to Palestinians fleeing the area rather than acting as human shields to Hamas fighters. After the assertions were said to be false by Hamas, Al-Hessi said her purpose was “to arouse the nation’s fervor and brotherhood.” In other words, Al Jazeera acts entirely as a Hamas mouthpiece. That is clear as well given that Hamas often releases its own videos first to Al Jazeera before putting them on its own official channels. Given Northwestern’s partnership with Al Jazeera, Schill should be asked if the university endorses this propaganda. He should also be asked if there is any instance of a Northwestern-Qatar or Medill School of Journalism faculty member ever questioning any reporting by Al Jazeera.

A third line of questioning would be to ask President Schill to tell us if the university is politically independent. Schill is thought of as an expert in business and law and would therefore be in a position to evaluate Northwestern’s partnership with Al Jazeera. Schill certainly knows that partnerships entail at least two parties working together in a joint activity and sharing responsibility and accountability. The NU-Al Jazeera partnership which has been in effect for 10 years certainly meets that definition. What should further be explored is if Northwestern is also in fact a partner with Hamas. It has been widely reported that at least three employee/journalists of Al Jazeera are also Hamas militants. Khali Dweeb, Muhammad Wishah and Ismail Abu Omar are just three examples. Wishah is a senior commander in Hamas but gained widespread sympathy as an “injured journalist.” Omar was in Israel on October 7th and said proudly of the Israelis that were massacred, burned alive and beheaded, that Palestinian children would “play with their heads.” In light of this information, Schill should be asked: “Given that the US has designated Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and NU has extensive joint teaching activities with Al Jazeera, does the Immigration and Naturalization Act which forbids assisting Foreign Terrorist Organizations by among other means, “instruction or teaching? Is there a risk that the 38 American families whose members have been murdered or abducted could successfully sue Northwestern? Does this put federal funding and Northwestern’s endowment at risk and what steps has the board taken to mitigate this risk?” Schill should also be asked if “he would agree to a partnership with Tass or RTV, which are Russian government controlled, or China’s press outlet, Xinhua, since NU is willing to partner with Qatar owned Al Jazeera?”

A fifth line of questioning would be to ask President Schill to explain why academics make so many exceptions for Islamists and antisemites. Schill could be asked whether he encourages corporations which have had their property stolen or misappopriated to negotiate with the perpetrators and give them what they want? Would he also negotiate with students who called for the death of any other ethnic group on the face of the earth, other than Jews? He might be asked “what is the reason that only Jews on campus should not be defended against hate speech.” He should definitely be asked “what the consequences are for Northwestern faculty members who physically have pushed off Northwestern security officers from performing their duties. Are all members of the Northwestern community now allowed to ignore Northwestern security rules?”

A sixth line of questioning should relate to the fundamental premise of Northwestern’s relationship with Qatar. The rationale for the partnership was that Northwestern would bring American values to the Gulf. It is now time to evaluate that premise. Given that the Qatar monarchy considers homosexuality a crime, forbids same sex marriage and provides few rights to women, Schill should be asked whether NU would accept a major donation from an American donor who merely espouses those policies. He should also be asked if Northwestern would partner with the propaganda arm of such an American donor. The question would then be why is an exception made for Qatar. What precisely would Qatar have to do for Northwestern to terminate its partnership.

Finally, Schill should be asked if prospective applicants who support Israel should apply to Northwestern given that many humanities departments are hostile to anyone not strongly supportive of the eradication of Israel and that a senior member of the Admissions Department has signed a letter that is starkly anti-Israel without even a mention of the atrocities of October 7.

Northwestern was a gem of American academia. Now it seems to be an indoctrination training center motivated by foreign funding but still subsidized by US taxpayers and by a tax sheltered endowment. The administration and trustees don’t seem interested in figuring out why universities like Northwestern are failing in their roles as source of intellectual pursuit. We need new adults in the room. Let’s hope Congress is willing to take on this task.

Scott A. Shay has two degrees from Northwestern University. He is the author of In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism (Post Hill Press, 2017) and Conspiracy U: A Case Study (Wicked Son, 2021) which explains how American campuses came to be hotbeds of antisemitism with a special focus on Northwestern,

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