Potential Hot Jobs At Al Jazeera?

Lindsay Meck

Soon students will not only be able to ride the intercampus shuttle into Chicago for Michigan Avenue shopping but they’ll also be able to ride the international campus jet to Qatar for journalism and theatre courses.

OK, maybe not yet. But such dreams may soon become a reality as Northwestern officials cement plans to create a campus branch in the Qatari capital of Doha, joining a consortium of American universities including Cornell, Texas A&M, Carnegie-Mellon, Virginia Commonwealth and Georgetown. Classes could start as early as September.

We students have many questions about this global initiative, the first being: Where is Qatar?

Qatar (often pronounced “cutter”) is a Middle Eastern country extending from Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf. Roughly the size of Connecticut with one-ninth the population of the Chicago metro area, Qatar has transformed itself from a poor British colony known for its pearling industry to an oil-rich independent state with one of the world’s fastest growing and highest per capita incomes. Maybe Qataris can actually foot NU’s ever-rising tuition bills.

Why Qatar you wonder? Just imagine the possibilities of life on East-East Campus. Unzip that North Face fleece; temperatures in Qatar hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush up on your Arabic and lose that fake ID. In a Muslim country, your opportunities to binge drink will be limited.

Though NU administrators have released few details about the Qatari venture, the Chicago Tribune reported that the partnership would provide funding to hire about 50 faculty and staff, some of whom will rotate between the Evanston and Qatar campuses. The expansion will offer foreign students a top liberal arts education close to home, whether their country of origin is Qatar or one of 22 different nations currently sending citizens to Doha’s Education City.

Evanston students would also reap the benefits of Qatari study abroad and internship opportunities. While immersed in another culture, students could enjoy the familiarity of the NU curriculum and professors while earning credits toward degree requirements. For adventurous Medill juniors, the Qatar campus is a short drive (and hey, gas in the Middle East is cheap) from the Al Jazeera satellite television station, a potential Teaching Media internship site.

But as sensible as a move to Qatar may seem, I’m still curious to learn the administration’s agenda. Before I book my 23-hour flight to party with my fellow students, I would like some answers: What are the long-term goals of this enterprise? Who benefits from the expansion? Why were communication and journalism, not other NU programs, selected for export? When will Norris University Center start serving Qatari cuisine? What is Qatari cuisine?

Before we start outsourcing our faculty and changing our mascot to Willie the Wild Camel, students deserve to know more.