Students at TAMUQ share opposing views regarding new campus in Israel


By Paulo Fugen


Photo by Paulo Fugen


Students at Texas A&M University at Qatar raised concerns about locating the university’s newest campus in Israel in an open meeting in TAMUQ on Thursday.


The meeting, which was led by Dr. Cynthia Howman, assistant dean at TAMU-Q, was dominated by questions about Texas A&M’s choice of Israel, with students pointing out Israel’s human rights record and charged that the decision went against the six core values of being a Texas A&M student.


TAMU lists excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service as its six core values.


The creation of the new branch campus, which is referred to as Texas A&M Peace University, was announced in late October. According to the New York Times, it will be located in Nazareth, known as the Arab capital of Israel due to its high Arab population. TAMU officials stated that 5,000 Arab, Israeli and international students will study there. The campus plans to open in 2015.


Howman stated that TAMU-Q had no role in the decision-making process and had as much information on the matter as students had.


According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Israeli leaders wanted the new university to improve access to higher education for Arabs in Israel, and to foster peace between Jews and Arabs. “There’s no significant academic presence in Arab towns and cities in Israel,” Manuel Trajtenberg, a member of the Council for Higher Education in Israel said. “It will have a symbolic impact beyond the academic impact.”


The discussion that took place in TAMUQ was politically charged, with outrage expressed over TAMU educating Israelis. “If I was the one in charge of the decision, I would say no,” said Abdul Rahman Alghanem, a senior at TAMU-Q, “I don’t support the [Israeli] people [TAMU] would be educating.”


“I am completely against it,” said Ayah Hamad, a Palestinian freshman at TAMU-Q, “My question to TAMU is ‘why Israel?’ Why couldn’t they open a branch in Europe, or in Africa?”


“This is an insult to my people,” Hamad added.


Furthermore, concerns were raised about whether or not its creation would lead to an association of TAMU-Q with Israel, which students said would harm the job prospects of TAMU-Q graduates who wished to find work in Qatar. They mentioned that employers in Qatar would frown upon this association.


However, several students felt that education should not be mixed with politics.


“I personally don’t have a problem with the campus in Israel,” said Dina Mahmoud, a junior at TAMU-Q, “People in Israel are also like us (and want to learn).”


“I’m completely for it,” said Mohammed Jaffrin, a freshman at TAMU-Q, “I’m not too fond of Israel but education is a different subject. Everyone should have the right to education.”


Howman said the new campus could not have engineering programs as TAMU’s agreement with Qatar Foundation states that TAMU-Q can be the only TAMU campus that offered engineering programs in the Middle East. However, TAMU have stated that the campus will offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in fields other than engineering.


Moreover, it would not divert funding away from TAMU-Q as neither institution is eligible for funding from the state of Texas as it is against state law for the Texas government to provide funding for any projects outside the state.


More practical questions posed by the students, such as whether there would be exchange programs with the new campus, could not be answered. “We are so early in the development, there’s no way we can say,” said Howman.


Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced the creation of the new branch campus in the Nazareth area in Israel back in late October, and since then it became a topic of heavy discussion at TAMU-Q. According to Rachel White, program coordinator at TAMU-Q, students had shared various articles that reported the information extensively on Facebook.


According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Texas A&M University at Nazareth Campus will open in the fall of 2015. It will be the second foreign campus for the university.


Texas A&M currently has campuses in Galveston, Texas and Doha, Qatar. It also operates overseas centers, which provide support for university initiatives and research, in Mexico City, Mexico; San Isidro, Costa Rica and Santa Chiara, Italy. The Santa Chiara facility offers courses for TAMU students and is part of TAMU’s study abroad program.



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