Columbia hosted the first major delegation of scholars and policy analysts from Libya in 25 years at an academic conference exploring the prospects for democracy, March 22 and 23.
Prompted by the thaw in U.S.-Libyan relations under the administration of George W. Bush, the two-day program was designed to reintroduce Libya’s academic community to the United States.
The conference featured more than 50 university professors, researchers, and analysts, including a number of younger social scientists from Libya who never before had an opportunity to engage with their American counterparts.
There wass no funding by the Libyan government. Travel expenses from Libya and a videoconference call from Libya by Muammar al-Qaddafi was supported by the cosponsors. The conference was co-sponsored by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Tripoli’s Green Book Center, and al-Fatah University.
Sincerely, Mariellen Gallagher
Deputy Director, Public Affairs
New York, N.Y.
Mohamed Eljahmi replies: Mariellen Gallagher’s letter is disingenuous when she claims that Columbia University did not receive Libyan funding for its recent conference. She acknowledges co-sponsors contributed to the conference. Among the co-sponsors were Libya’s Green Book Center and al-Fatah University. Both are government entities. Nongovernmental organizations cannot operate in Libya. Civil society is nonexistent. Columbia can try to obfuscate the issue, but the fact remains that it allowed the Libyan government to launder its image without divergent or critical points of view to interfere.