‘Disinformation campaign’ behind Texas A&M closure of Doha campus: Qatar Foundation
LONDON: A months-long “disinformation campaign” was behind Texas A&M University’s decision on Thursday to close its Doha campus, Qatar Foundation has said.
The university’s System Board of Regents voted 7-1 in favor of ending the contract with the foundation, effectively winding down its Doha campus over the next four years.
In a statement after the vote, the university body said the board had reevaluated its decades-long presence in Qatar “due to heightened instability in the Middle East.”
The foundation condemned the vote in a statement, describing the university as having been “influenced by a disinformation campaign aimed at harming the interests” of the foundation.
“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 US,” the statement said.
“It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes.
“At no point did the board attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision.”
Board of Regents Chair Bill Mahomes said: “The board has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the US.
“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.”
The decision by the university follows months of lobbying by a pro-Israel think tank in Washington that raised concerns over the rights of the Qatari government to defense and nuclear technologies purportedly being developed at the Doha campus.
The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, which markets itself as “dedicated to the academic study of antisemitism,” sent a letter to US officials in January warning of the “national security threat” posed by the campus.
A few months earlier, the institute released a 17-page report that detailed a “disturbing relationship between Qatar and Texas A&M University.”
The report, published after the outbreak of the Gaza war in October, said the Qatari state enjoys “substantial ownership” of weapons development rights and nuclear research carried out on the Texas A&M Doha campus.
But in a letter last month, the university’s president, Mark Welch, denied the “false and irresponsible” claims.
“Contrary to what these articles have implied, no nuclear technology, weapons/defense or national security research is conducted at this campus,” he said.
“Nor does the Qatar campus have any connection to nuclear reactor research done in Texas or the Los Alamos National Lab.
“The insinuation that we are somehow leaking or compromising national security research data to anyone is both false and irresponsible.”
In October, Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani, CEO of Qatar Foundation and sister of the country’s emir, said she was “horrified at the scale of murder and destruction being carried out in Gaza, and the ensuing suffering and humanitarian crisis.”
She added: “I am heartened by the response from our Qatar Foundation community — with our students leading the way — from raising awareness and debunking fake news on social media platforms, to holding discussions in the classroom.”