Synonymous though Sundays are with tranquillity and kindness (doesn’t the world seem a kinder place with church bells clanging and Labradors gambolling with small children feeding the ducks?), I cannot help but take a does of cynicism.
Joseph Nye of Harvard’s Kennedy School wrote in The New Republic in 2007 that Muammar Qaddafi was interested in discussing “direct democracy.”
Anthony Giddens of the London School of Economics wrote in the Guardian the same year that Libya under Qaddafi could become “the Norway of North Africa.”
Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University wrote in the Washington Post, also in 2007, that Libya under Qaddafi could become “the first Arab state to transition peacefully and without overt Western intervention to a stable, non-autocratic government.”
Great minds think alike? Actually, no: all were being paid by Libyan money, under a $3 million per year contract with a consulting group which promised to “enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Quadhafi” in Britain and the US. [Source]
The irony that I shirked a career in journalism due to an aversion to corruption and chose academia, rarely fails to surface on occasions such as these.
As academics our primary role should be to further the boundaries of knowledge to the benefit of humankind.
The defence that “everyone gets paid” is a tired litany performed by individuals driven by a lust for money and an aversion to humanity.
Closely followed by “I didn’t know,” the implications are the same: a disregard for the agenda of the The Monitor Group and The Gaddafi Foundation, and a disinclination to explore further.
In essence, a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ scenario.
An alternative take attributes their actions to the structure of University funding; in response to The Nation‘s article a friend quipped “that is what the fees system is doing to academia” – pushing academics to seek financial assistance from alternative sources.
As the British government announces plans to cap the number of international students entering British universities (another crushing blow), the question remains: when is it okay to accept money from dubious regimes?
Personally, the answer is simple: never.
One does not have to wait for the revolution to slacken the jaw and emit a sigh of surprise: Libya and Iran – both countries recently linked to British universities in receipt of questionable funding have always been contentious.
By white-washing a dictatorial regime in return for financial incentives is lamentably inhumane – and to abuse one’s authority as an academic is even more so.
As academics we should be impartial, guided by fact and not tailored fiction.
If not for the virtue of academic endeavour, then at least for those we educate through articles and publications.