Huron College, which is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario, is in the process of accepting $2m from questionable sources to fund a chair in Islamic Studies. I wrote about my concerns, including a copy of my letter about them, last month (here), saying
I'm concerned about the source of the funding. I would hate for Huron College to fall into the abyss populated by the LSE or Hartford Seminary.
Barbara Kay has written recently about this situation in a lengthy piece in Campus Watch. The Acting Principal of Huron College is Trish Fulton, whom I have known for nearly 40 years and for whom I have great respect. But I am disappointed, to say the least, that she and her colleagues have voted to accept the funds. Here are some excerpts from Barbara Kay's column [be sure to read the last paragraph of this excerpt]:
Fulton replied to Palmer's letter two days letter. She wrote that the "funding was approved by our Executive Board after a thorough due diligence process...[which] included reviewing the outcomes of the various decisions that were before the U.S. District Courts dealing with IIIT and its members...."
Curious to know what in this case constituted a "thorough due diligence process," I arranged for a telephone interview with Fulton, which took place on April 27. At the outset of our conversation, to make it clear that I was not calling with any motives of entrapment, I informed Fulton that I was not speaking to her in my capacity as a weekly columnist with Canada's National Post newspaper, but as a freelance writer engaged to write an article for Campus Watch, a media organ whose mandate was known to her.
I asked Fulton if Palmer's letter had given her pause or in any way persuaded her to review the decision to accept IIIT's and MAC's funding. She said that the letter did not come as a complete surprise, but that "we were not naïve" about the issues, and had no regrets.
I asked her what constituted "due diligence." Fulton said they had "reviewed the court decisions on allegations" against IIIT and its principals. They had also reviewed the experience of Temple University (alluded to in Palmer's letter). To my question of whether she felt the beliefs and principles of MAC and IIIT were "compatible with your values," she replied a prompt and firm "yes." I asked the question again, stipulating that by "your," I meant "Huron College." Again, she replied, "Yes, they are."
Elaborating, Fulton explained that for Huron, due diligence extends only to the "activities of the donors," adding, "We don't probe deeply into values held by donors." Huron, she said, is "concerned about the legitimacy and the civic presence" of donors, but "not the views they may hold on a wide variety of cultural issues." In Fulton's view, it is only a group's "actions" that would "compromise the academic pursuit."
As reported elsewhere, Canadian lawyer and Huron University College Executive Board member Faisal Joseph appears to have played an important role in the due diligence assessment. This role may have included the making of determinations about the pertinence of related US legal proceedings and the significance to be attached to an absence of such proceedings. Joseph, a noted member of Canada's Muslim community, is a controversial figure who participated in a January 2008 conference in Tripoli, Libya, a gathering sponsored by the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a creation of Libya's Gaddafi regime. (In early May, its Canadian branch, WICS-Canada, saw its Canadian charity tax-status revoked over concerns of radicalism and possible financial links to the foiled 2007 JFK International Airport bomb plot.)