After concerns expressed, Texas A&M votes to close campus in Qatar

Texas A&M University in Education City, Al Rayyan, Qatar. Credit: Arwcheek via Wikimedia Commons.

From JNS and SJL reports

The board of regents of Texas A&M University, a nearly 150-year-old public school with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 60,000, voted on Feb. 8 to undergo a “multi-year process” to close its campus in Qatar.

“The board has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States,” stated Bill Mahomes, chair of the board. “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”

He noted that Texas A&M and affiliated System agencies collaborate on research with about 30 other nations without operating separate campuses on foreign soil.

The university in College Station, Texas, noted that it will take four years to terminate its agreement with the Qatar Foundation. The university’s campus opened in Qatar in 2003.

“In the coming days, the university administration will assemble a team to ensure several imperatives: Students complete their education, faculty and staff are supported and research obligations are appropriately fulfilled,” it stated.

In late 2023, the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy released a report that suggested that Qatar could influence nuclear research at Texas A&M, and how the Qatar Foundation gains complete ownership of technology and intellectual property developed at Texas A&M University of Qatar.

Texas A&M’s departure from Doha’s Education City “marks a significant and meaningful shift in U.S. academia’s ties to the Qatari regime,” stated Charles Asher Small, the ISGAP director.

“We urge the remaining U.S. universities there—Virginia Commonwealth, Weill Cornell Medicine, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown and Northwestern—to follow suit and relocate their educational endeavors elsewhere, refraining from accepting funding tainted by an anti-western, anti-democratic, pro-Jihad regime,” Small added.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also expressed hope that other campuses would follow Texas A&M’s example.

Texas A&M’s decision to close its Qatar Campus “has demonstrated a commitment to academic integrity, ethical principles and national security concerns,” he added. “This is an important statement affirming that there is no place in U.S. academia for billions of dollars coming from a state that supports and funds terror, and promotes and spreads the extremist Islamist ideology from the Muslim Brotherhood.”

On Jan. 5, the Jerusalem Post reported that ISGAP research showed “Qatar has acquired full ownership of more than 500 research projects at Texas A&M, some of which are in highly sensitive fields such as nuclear science, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, biotech robotics, and weapons development,” and that Qatar and Qatari state agencies had given over $1 billion to Texas A&M for ownership of those projects.

General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III, president of Texas A&M, stated that the Qatar campus “has advanced ideals, graduated exceptional Aggie engineers and is cemented as an important legacy of Texas A&M.

“As we look to the future of our land-, sea- and space-grant university, the global exchange of research and education will continue to be integral to our world-class campuses here in the U.S.,” he added.

Welsh told KBTX that allegations that Qatar secured sensitive national security information from A&M were “insanity” and “irresponsible.” The next day, he said concerns about ties with Qatar’s regime “are fair concerns.”

The Texas A&M board of regents “decided to reassess the university’s physical presence in Qatar in fall 2023 due to the heightened instability in the Middle East,” the university stated. The motion to close the Qatar campus passed 7-1.

“The work in Qatar is great work,” the board chair Mahomes stated. “But it is a fraction of what Texas A&M accomplishes year after year.”

The Middle East Forum pointed out that the “heightened instability” came from Qatari-backed Hamas attacking Israel on Oct. 7.

Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, praised the decision by the university, which a CUFI release described as his alma mater.

“I am deeply grateful to Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp and the entire Board of Regents for making the right decision in ending the university’s association with Qatar,” Hagee stated. “Doha has decided to side with terrorists; as such, Aggies have no business associating with that regime.”

“Across the country, we’ve seen examples of leaders at (allegedly) elite institutions fail to even articulate the right decision, let alone act on it,” Hagee added. “Chancellor Sharp and the Board of Regents’s actions should be an inspiration to others in academia across the country. We should have no business with supporters of terror and no tolerance for antisemitism, no matter the context.”

Qatar hosts leaders of Hamas. Washington and others have also praised its role in helping free hostages from Gaza.

U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Timmy Davis said he was disappointed by the decision, as the Qatar outpost “proudly represents American values and inspires innovation for students who might otherwise not have access to an American education.”

The Qatar Foundation said in a statement that the Texas A&M decision “has been influenced by a disinformation campaign aimed at harming the interests of QF.

“It is disturbing that this disinformation has become the determining factor in the decision and that it has been allowed to override the core principles of education and knowledge, with no consideration to the significant positive impact that this partnership has brought for both Qatar and the U.S.”

The Foundation said the university did not “attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision” and allowed politics to influence its decisions. “We have always firmly believed that education should be above vested interests and harmful influences, and we always will.”