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Burgess Owens Displays a Fake Check from Qatar to Northwestern

Utah Representative Burgess Owens, a Republican, used a fake check as a prop during his questioning of Northwestern President Michael Schill at the May 23 House antisemitism hearing.

House Education and Workforce Committee/Youtube

After Northwestern University’s ties to Qatar came under fire Thursday at a House hearing on antisemitism, the Qatar Foundation pushed back Friday.

“Qatar Foundation is not in the business of buying, or attempting to buy, influence in U.S. higher education institutions,” said Francisco Marmolejo, president of higher education at the foundation, a state-sponsored nonprofit, in a statement.

Since 2008, Northwestern has operated a branch campus in what’s called Education City in Doha. It’s one of several U.S. universities that does so. Relationships between those universities and the Qatari government have been in the spotlight since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in early October. Texas A&M University said earlier this year that it will close its branch campus in 2028. House Republicans have accused Qatari sources of supporting Hamas and have tried to tie Qatar’s relationship to higher education to the rise of antisemitism on college campuses.

“Do you think it’d be a good idea for Northwestern to partner with a government that harbors terrorists?” Representative Burgess Owens, a Utah Republican, asked Northwestern president Michael Schill. Schill said he wouldn’t answer yes-or-no questions.

Owens displayed a large, fake $600 million check from Qatar to Northwestern behind him during questioning. That figure, according to the poster, represented how much money Northwestern received from Qatar from 2007 to 2022.

Schill didn’t dispute the $600 million figure but told Owens that every dollar Northwestern receives has gone to the operation or management of the Doha campus.

Marmolejo said in his statement that the dollar figures should be viewed in the context of its partnership with the university. The foundation says it pays Northwestern $70 million a year—90 percent of which is spent in Qatar, funding faculty and staff salaries, student operations, and building costs. The other 10 percent goes back to Northwestern’s main campus in Evanston to cover administrative costs.

“QF has invested heavily in education because it is the way we have chosen to support the building of a diverse, knowledge-based economy in Qatar,” Marmolejo said. “We have invested in making Qatar a home for life-long learners, and a legacy that will benefit knowledge seekers for generations to come. Only a fraction of this investment has been directed toward the U.S., and the allegation that this money has somehow swayed the decision making of reputable institutions of the likes of NU has no basis in fact or logic.”