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Ford and Rockefeller Foundations Institute Responsible, New Funding Policy


In a May 4, 2004 Wall Street Journal article, “Colleges Object to New Wording in Ford Grants,” journalist Daniel Golden reports on important new funding policies of the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation:

The Ford Foundation's new provision states that the foundation would withdraw its funding if any of a university's expenditures promoted 'violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state,' no matter what the source of the funds. Rockefeller's language states that a grantee shall not 'directly or indirectly engage in, promote or support other organizations or individuals who engage in or promote terrorist activity.' [emphasis added]

This is quite a sea change for the Ford Foundation — assuming there are mechanisms in place to monitor the use of funding rigorously to assure the new policy is actually applied. These changes at Ford are a result of theJewish Telegraphic Agency’s investigative reports that exposed the Ford Foundation’s funding of extremist, anti-Semitic groups. Additionally, subsequent to the JTA articles, numerous activists, including members of American Jewish Committee and CAMERA, contacted the Ford Foundation, as well as their elected government representatives.

The Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation are now being urged by some universities to change their new responsible policies against funding institutions that promote bigotry and incitement to terror. These new funding policies should be commended and the foundations should be encouraged to stand firm.

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Below are the Wall Street Journal article and a link to the Ford Foundation letter to Congressman Jerrold Nadler:

Colleges Object To New Wording In Ford Grants
By Daniel Golden
The Wall Street Journal
May 4, 2004

Nine elite universities are accusing an unlikely target of trampling on their academic freedom: Two private foundations that long have been staunch supporters of higher education.

In a surprising turnabout, the universities -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago -- are challenging antiterrorism language that the Ford and Rockefeller foundations recently added to their standard grant agreements. The Ford Foundation's new provision states that the foundation would withdraw its funding if any of a university's expenditures promoted "violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state," no matter what the source of the funds. Rockefeller's language states that a grantee shall not "directly or indirectly engage in, promote or support other organizations or individuals who engage in or promote terrorist activity."
 
The universities complain the new language, which is intended to prevent grant money from filtering to terrorist groups or sympathizers, is too broad and would jeopardize campus film festivals, lectures and photo displays about highly-charged disputes such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, Ford's new language was indirectly prompted by revelations that it was funding radical Palestinian groups.
 
This past week, provosts at the nine schools co-signed letters to the foundations warning that the new conditions would "run up against the basic principle of protected speech on our campuses" and "create an unfortunate barrier to future cooperation ... that will be detrimental to both sides." The letters implicitly raise the prospect that the universities might cease applying for Ford and Rockefeller grants if the language isn't altered.
 
At least two of the universities, Columbia University and the University of Chicago, have refrained from signing off on any Ford Foundation grants they were negotiating. Columbia Provost Alan Brinkley described Ford's new policy as "an invitation to a kind of censorious meddling in the academic life of the university."
 
Both foundations defended the new requirements and said they expect to resolve their differences with the universities. Susan Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation, said its new grant agreement isn't intended to intrude on academic freedom, and that most universities are signing it. "In our view, our grant letter is a statement of our institutional values. We think that's a very important aspect of the relationship with Ford," she said.
 
Ford, the nation's third largest foundation with $10.4 billion in assets, allocated $34.7 million to U.S. higher education in fiscal 2003. Of the nine universities, Harvard is the largest recipient of Ford funds, with nearly $7 million in 2002 and 2003, in addition to a $50 million grant in 2001 to internationalize innovations in government, according to the foundation.
 
A spokesman for Rockefeller, which has $2.8 billion in assets and furnished $15 million in grants to U.S. institutions of higher education in 2003, said the language represents a "further step" toward the foundation's commitment to ensure that funds aren't diverted to inappropriate ends. The spokesman added, "We are confident that we can reach common ground that respects academic freedom."
 
Ford adopted its language following an investigative series last fall by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, an international news service in New York. The series revealed that Ford funded a number of Palestinian groups that had orchestrated anti-Israel resolutions and activities at a United Nations conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The U.S. delegation walked out of that conference in protest. In response to the series, Ford acknowledged that grantees "may have taken part in unacceptable behavior in Durban" and terminated its support for one organization, the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights, to which it had given $1.3 million between 1997 and 2001.
 
Ford also hired Stuart Eizenstat, who formerly oversaw Holocaust-related issues for the Clinton administration, as counsel and as liaison to the Jewish community, and developed the new grant agreement.
 
In addition, as a result of the publicity over the Ford case, the Senate Finance Committee is looking into how the funds of American foundations and charities are spent overseas.
 
For the universities, the issue isn't that they support terrorism or bigotry, but rather that with such imprecise wording, any school-supported political or cultural activity could come under fire from one group or another. That, in effect, could put the institutions and foundations themselves in the crossfire of dueling terminologies. Richard Saller, provost at Chicago, said even if Ford itself doesn't want to terminate grants to a university, the new language leaves the foundation vulnerable to pressure from advocacy groups.
 
Student groups at Chicago have held numerous events, such as a Palestinian film festival, that could trigger such lobbying, he said. Moreover, he said, Ford's language is so broad that the allocation of Ford funds to any U.S. taxpayer could be construed as violating the policy, because the U.S. itself has been involved in the destruction of regimes overseas. Mr. Saller said universities are particularly sensitive about the Ford language because they have been besieged by what they perceive as recent government incursions on academic freedom -- ranging from the Patriot Act, which expanded law-enforcement authority to investigate student and library records, to federal regulations limiting editing and publishing of papers by researchers in embargoed countries such as Cuba and Iran.
 
Jewish leaders who advised Ford on its new policy criticized the provosts' stance. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said the language is "eminently reasonable. I would like to think that with or without Ford's language, America's universities would not in any way want to associate themselves with the promotion of violence, terrorism or bigotry."
 
Jerrold Nadler, a Democratic Congressman from New York City, said academic freedom isn't the issue because the universities aren't obliged to apply for Ford grants. "There is no constitutional mandate for the Ford Foundation to give you or me money," Rep. Nadler said. "The foundation can set conditions that reflect its values."
 
Outside the academic realm, Ford grantees said they have no problem with the new language. Most notably, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, which has four Ford grants totaling $2.3 million, said free speech isn't at risk because Ford is a private donor rather than a government agency.
 
Besides the nine universities, the University of Michigan separately expressed reservations about the Ford policy. Michigan is seeking to write into its Ford agreements a clause stating that the new language is not meant to curtail academic freedom. Michigan and Ford said they are discussing these concerns.
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Letter from Ford Foundation to Congressman Nadler:

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