Letter to the Editor: Is it time for Northwestern to quit Qatar?

As a Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communication alumnus, I’m surprised and angry at how The Daily and other Chicago area news media ignored an important local aspect of the air, sea and land blockade of Qatar by six Arab nations. This crisis sparked fears of food shortages, noted AP and Reuters reports. Medill has operated an undergraduate journalism program at Doha’s Education City since 2008. Funded by the Qatar Foundation, it has some 200 students and 30 faculty members who may be affected by the Gulf region’s turmoil. Does NU have contingency plans to evacuate the remaining students and faculty, or does it plan to ride out the storm? I have not seen any reports on this in The Daily or other local news outlets or comments from NU administrators. Is this a conspiracy of silence or just poor reporting? Your readers deserve answers.

Now is also a good time to rekindle the debate over whether NU belongs in Qatar. NU-Q has drawn fire from academic circles and human rights groups. Former Faculty Senate President Stephen Eisenman raised questions about students’ journalistic freedom under an absolute monarchy that imposes strict media censorship. Interviewed by the Washington Post, he stated, “Teaching journalism as an enterprise in which you must first learn what not to ask is no kind of journalism instruction all.” Some students told him they faced intimidation trying to capture images that would be considered routine or non-offensive in the U.S. Their personal freedom is also at risk. A Medill student spent a night in a Qatari jail cell after suffering emotional distress and was then suspended from school. Human rights activists accused Qatar of brutally treating immigrant workers. Many workers have died while building soccer stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. Thousands of others lived in squalid conditions as “forced labor,” forbidden to leave the country.

Is it proper for NU to partner with a regime that allows such atrocities, or do Doha’s dollars outweigh Evanston’s ethics? NU students, faculty and alumni should raise this question.

Dick Reif, Medill ’64