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London School of Economics Director Resigns Over Qaddafi Links

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London School of Economics Director Resigns Over Qaddafi Links
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London School of Economics Director Resigns Over Qaddafi Links

In the latest episode of the growing controversy linking the academic world to the Libyan government, Sir Howard Davies, director of the prestigious London School of Economics, resigned from his position last night. Links had continued to surface between the institution and Qaddafi regime--Muammar's son Saif had studied at the LSE, and was awarded a doctorate for a dissertation that has recently come under fire due to allegations of plagiarism. But now the school is also getting press for having accepted a whole lot of money through donations and contracts from the Qaddafi regime over the years. The Guardian and The New York Times offer slightly different accounts of the money, but here's the situation, as best we can sort it out:

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The Guardian says Davies admitted that the university's reputation had been damaged by accepting £300,000 for research funding from a foundation controlled by Saif. The New York Times reports $488,000 from the foundation now being diverted by the LSE to establish a scholarship fund for North African students, which crunching the numbers, is the same as £300,000, so we're guessing that's the same donation as The Guardian reported. Then, too, The Guardian also reports the LSE having received £1.5m from a Saif-controlled foundation  "to set up a north Africa research programme, which was suspended last week." Then there was also a staggering £2.2m contract for the LSE "to train Libyan civil servants and professionals." 

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To deal with this, the LSE has appointed Lord Woolf, a former chief justice, to lead an independent inquiry into these and a number of other sums received by the university. He will, more generally, "examine the university’s relationship with Libya and the Libyan leader’s son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi," writes the Times. The Guardian also reports that Professor David Held--an academic adviser to Saif at the LSE who was thanked in his thesis--visited Libya in December 2009 on behalf of the north Africa research program.

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Much attention has also been given to the connections between prominent academics and the Boston-based Monitor Group, a consulting firm with ties to the Harvard Business School that was hired by the Qaddafi regime to bolster Libya's image abroad. Harvard scholarJoseph Nye--another professor included in the acknowledgments section of Saif's thesis--traveled to Libya as a paid consultant with the firm twice in 2007 and 2008.

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Commentary's Ted Bromund believes that what transpired at the LSE is in no way unique to Britain: "The amount of money in Britain is nothing compared with the funds sloshing around in the American academy from dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Georgetown’s reliance on Saudi money is notorious, but it’s simply one of the crowd. I would love to be a fly on the wall at any elite U.S. university with a Middle Eastern Studies program now: administrators across the country know that what happened at LSE could happen here. And it should."

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Fascinatingly, lurking behind the recent scandal is a Wikileaks cable. According to Bromund, "the straw that broke the LSE’s recalcitrant back was a WikiLeaks cable that revealed that U.S. diplomats were told by Libya’s 'National Economic Development Board'  that it was cooperating with 'the UK government and the London School of Economics, among other UK institutions, on an exchange program to send 400 ‘future leaders’ of Libya for leadership and management training.'"

Bromund also believes that this is only the tip of a 'massive' iceberg. "This is disgusting, but the close links between Libya and the LSE were no secret. They should have been shocking--heck, they should never have been made--long before Qaddafi started killing civilians and importing mercenaries to keep his hold on power."

In support of Bromund's point: a BBC intervew also reveals that LSE director Davies had, among the many positions in his impressive background, been an economic envoy to Libya on the part of the British government.

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