Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Faculty at Texas A&M University’s Qatar branch are slamming the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents’ abrupt decision last week to wind down the Doha campus after more than two decades.
At a Texas A&M faculty senate meeting Monday, several professors from Qatar called for more answers and a clear transition plan for staff and students there, many of whom they say are devastated by the decision.
“Our students can’t understand how local Texan politics can unilaterally determine a weighty decision about a very successful campus that excels in education without any discussion or negotiation,” Brittany Bounds, a history professor at the Qatar campus, said at the meeting.
She noted the move is especially confusing to the campus community since the school renewed its contract with the state-run Qatar Foundation in 2021, extending the teaching agreement for another 10 years.
Regents voted 7-1 Thursday to cut the contract. The university system pledged to continue teaching current students at the school until the campus officially closes in 2028.
In a press release sent after the vote, the system said the board decided to reevaluate the university’s presence in Qatar this fall “due to the heightened instability in the Middle East.”
“The Board has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States,” Board of Regents Chair Bill Mahomes said. “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 university opened the Qatar campus in 2003 to boost engineering education and research in the Middle East, a major oil and gas region. More than 1,500 students have graduated from the program and it currently enrolls 730 students, according to the university. All campus operations are paid for by the Qatar Foundation, which is controlled by the country’s government. A&M is a public institution and no state funding or tuition revenue can be used to pay for the campus’ operations.
Texas A&M is one of six American universities that has a location in Doha’s Education City, including Virginia Commonwealth University, Georgetown University and Northwestern University. The University of London ended its contract with the Qatar Foundation in 2020 as part of changes it made to its academic priorities.
Administrators told faculty on Monday that they alerted the Qatar Foundation a month prior that regents would discuss the contract at their Feb. 8 meeting. But faculty told The Texas Tribune they did not expect the board to cancel the contract and were caught off guard by the decision.
“We assumed that it was a conversation that needed to be seen publicly, but we had no idea that the regents would actually vote to close this campus,” Bounds said. “Waking up to a flurry of messages and emails on Friday morning was disorienting; I felt kicked in the gut.”
Texas A&M President Mark Welsh III held a town hall meeting Sunday morning to answer pre-submitted questions from faculty and students about the board’s decision. He said A&M officials would be visiting the Doha campus to discuss a transition plan.
A transcript of the meeting provided by Texas A&M shows university leaders had few details to share about the transition plan, saying they were still determining what the decision means for ongoing research projects and faculty appointments.
Professor Mohammed Al-Hashimi described the town hall as a “one-way broadcast” rather than a real dialogue.
“Attendees found themselves unable to voice their concerns or provide feedback, effectively resulting in a sense of this continued disconnection and frustration,” he told A&M faculty during Monday’s meeting.
Faculty members who spoke to the Tribune said communication from Texas and Qatar administrators has been sparse since the board vote, and that some faculty were reprimanded for attempting to hold group listening sessions for Sunday’s town hall.
One faculty member in Qatar who spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity because of fears of retaliation said faculty watching the town hall in Qatar were laughing at the lack of specifics by the end of the meeting.
N.K. Anand, vice provost of faculty affairs, told faculty that administrators met with the president of the Qatar Foundation on Monday. Anand said he will travel to Qatar in early March to meet with faculty, staff and students there to hear their concerns. A full transition team will travel to the campus in May, he said.
Anand confirmed the school will not admit freshmen in the fall, stating the Qatar Foundation will decide where freshman applicants will attend school instead.
Bounds and other faculty said they are also not convinced by the regents’ reasoning to close the campus because of heightened instability in the Middle East amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. The professors argued instability in the region was never an issue before. Similar skepticism was also expressed by the Qatar Foundation, which accused the university in a statement last week of falling victim to a “disinformation campaign aimed at harming the interests” of the foundation.
A Washington, D.C.-based think tank called The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, which describes itself on its website as a center “dedicated to the academic study of antisemitism,” sent a letter to U.S. officials in January alleging that Qatar had “substantial ownership” of weapons development rights and nuclear engineering research being developed at the Texas A&M campus, which they claim is a threat to national security. The letter came a few months after ISGAP released a 17-page report in which it alleged it had discovered a “disturbing relationship between Qatar and Texas A&M University.”
Texas A&M denied the accusations about its research but also insisted the report from ISGAP was not a factor in the regents’ decision-making process. During the town hall Sunday, Welsh said the “disinformation campaign” had “no influence whatsoever on their decision.”
Yet many faculty say they want more answers from the regents about why they made this decision now, and so quickly.
“One has the feeling that [Welsh] is being given a job to enforce a decision he never would have made,” the faculty member in Qatar who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. “That’s the general feeling. That the regents were on a very different agenda from everyone else in the university system.”
The Texas Tribune partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage.
Disclosure: Northwestern University – Medill School of Journalism, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University System have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
We can’t wait to welcome you to downtown Austin Sept. 5-7 for the 2024 Texas Tribune Festival! Join us at Texas’ breakout politics and policy event as we dig into the 2024 elections, state and national politics, the state of democracy, and so much more. When tickets go on sale this spring, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.
Texas Monthly: A year inside Dallas’ Homicide Unit
Adolis Garcia’s energy ignites Rangers spring training
SURPRISE, AZ — We’re three days into spring training and you still can’t wipe the smile off the face of Rangers Right Fielder Adolis Garcia. And, he has good reason to be in a good mood.
“I’m happy to be back in baseball. Everything is the same,” Garcia told the media in his first clubhouse interview speaking exclusively in English. “Everything is the same. Same goal. Win and do the best for the team.’”
Eight years after defecting from Cuba and three years after he was unceremoniously designated for assignment by the Rangers, the soon to be 31-year-old Garcia has his first big contract. He avoided arbitration at the last moment, agreeing to a 2-year, $14 million contract that, with playing time and MVP voting incentives, can increase to over $20 million. He can’t become a free agent for three more years, at age 34.
“I’m grateful,” Adolis says, “I’m so happy.”
Garcia not only hit 39 homers with 107 RBIs and was the American League Championship Series MVP last year, he’s also the emotional heartbeat of this team.
“We do have a slow heart rate team,” veteran outfielder Travis Jankowski said. “Guys like Corey Seager and Marcus Semien and Evan Carter play with a slow heart rate, staying on an even keel from game to game. Sometimes you need that guy who injects energy and emotion into what we do. Adolis is that for us.”
“Yeah, I enjoy that,” Garcia said. ‘”That’s something that I like. My teammates believe in me. They trust me, and I just try to give that energy back.”
Adolis energized this team the most when they needed it the most. In Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS in Houston, he slugged 3 home runs with 9 RBIs.
Garcia says his favorite moment from last postseason was when Seager hit the 9th inning, game-tying 2-run homer in Game One of the World Series.
Think about that. Adolis liked Seager’s homer better than his own 11th inning walk-off home run to win that same game!
“When Corey tied the game, that was crazy!”
That selfless answer says a lot about Garcia and this team.
“We are family,” Adolis said, “and I always say we are more friends now than teammates. That’s why this is so special.”
There’s something else special about Adolis. He’s quickly becoming bilingual. This was his first clubhouse interview in front of a group of reporters done exclusively in English.
What Garcia has done the last three years in Arlington translates in any language. And, if he can stay healthy and keep doing this for three more years, it will translate into a contract at age 34 that would have been beyond his wildest dreams when he departed his native Cuba at age 23.
Maine educators ask lawmakers to fund bills that would raise their pay
'Ghost gun' maker agrees to cease sales to Maryland residents as part of lawsuit settlement
Harris, Whitmer, Stabenow discuss abortion rights in Michigan
Coast Guard medevacs man far off Nantucket, fishing crewmember transported to Massachusetts General Hospital
New Minnesota United coach Eric Ramsay signs his contract, making it official
See it: Tesla crashes into Columbus convention center at 70 mph
Colorado Rockies game no. 116 thread: Zac Gallen vs José Ureña
Fox News Politics: Georgia the whole day through
Death of missing Oregon girl found in stream ruled homicide
At least 2 dead as tornadoes hit Alabama, damage homes across Southeast
Special attorney hired by Fani Willis to help prosecute Trump donated big bucks to her campaign
US, European powers back outgoing Dutch PM Mark Rutte as next NATO head
Ex-FBI source accused of lying about Bidens and having Russian contacts is returned to US custody
A 30-year-old North Carolina education funding argument is back in the state Supreme Court
Zelenskyy asks Brussels to defuse Polish farmer dispute
World1 week ago
Borrell slams US for deploring Gaza deaths while giving arms to Israel
World1 week ago
Photos: One killed in shooting at Kansas City Super Bowl victory parade
World1 week ago
Do not undermine NATO's credibility: Stoltenberg rebukes Donald Trump
News1 week ago
Video: Crowds Flee Scene of Shooting Near Kansas City Super Bowl Parade
Politics1 week ago
Trump endorses new RNC chair, announces daughter-in-law's run for vice chair
Politics1 week ago
Democrats win seat, Republicans win impeachment, two presidents clash over NATO
News1 week ago
1 killed at Chiefs parade shooting; Russia is developing a space-based nuclear device
World1 week ago
Iran simulates strike on Israeli base as it showcases naval force