Maintaining Georgetown’s academic freedom and expanding partnerships between the university’s main campus and Qatar campus will be priorities for Ahmad S. Dallal, the newly appointed dean of the School of Foreign Service in Qatar.
Dallal, a history professor at the American University of Beirut, will succeed current SFS-Q Dean James Reardon-Anderson on Sept. 1.
Dallal previously served as provost of the American University in Beirut from 2009 to 2015, after serving as chair of Georgetown’s Arabic and Islamic Studies department from 2003 to 2009. He also served as a member of Georgetown University in Qatar’s advisory board and as a member of the Advisory Board for the Center for International and Regional Studies, which monitors the center’s growth and mission.
Dallal said his experience in American and Qatari academia has equipped him to lead SFS-Q through a challenging time for the Qatari state.
“I hope my knowledge of Qatar’s educational vision and aspirations will help me better position Georgetown and amplify the role that it can play in the higher education landscape of Qatar,” Dallal wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Eleven Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, introduced a series of sanctions against Qatar on June 5, including the ending of diplomatic relations and closure of all borders and airspace, after accusing the country of supporting terrorism and using news network Al-Jazeera as a propaganda tool.
Dallal said a team of experts in Qatar’s capital, Doha, and Washington, D.C., are monitoring the diplomatic crisis between the four member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council that cut diplomatic ties, closed borders and imposed business and travel bans on Qatar.
“GU-Q has communicated with faculty, staff and students to make sure they are aware of all the ongoing developments. At this time, only citizens of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are affected by the ban on travel to Qatar,” Dallal wrote. “Residents and citizens of all other countries can continue to travel to Doha in accordance with the visa rules of the country.”
Dallal said he does not anticipate the ongoing diplomatic stress to affect SFS-Q’s independence or educational operations.
“GU-Q has been reassured by Qatar Foundation, and to date our experience suggests that there will be no significant impact on the operations or activities in GU-Q,” Dallal wrote.
Concerns over academic freedoms in Qatar have also surfaced in the past year, after student Kristina Bogos (GRD ’17) claimed her visa to study at SFS-Q was rejected due to her research of migrant issues that the Qatari government strictly controls.
In a January interview with The Hoya, Bogos said Qatari security officials detained her repeatedly while entering Qatar during the summer 2016 semester in Doha and that she faced similar difficulties entering the United Arab Emirates in 2013 while an undergraduate at New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi.
During her first detention while entering Qatar, Bogos said officials told her she was blacklisted for “security-related reasons.”
“I was told by a GU-Q administrator that my visa rejection was because I am on a blacklist and that the Qatari state could not override the blacklist,” Bogos said in an interview with The Hoya.
Bogos said the blacklist the immigration official referred to belongs to the intelligence communities of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which both Qatar and the UAE are members.
Bogos’ case shared similarities with that of NYU academic Andrew Ross, who like Bogos studies migrant labor rights. Ross was denied permission to board an airplane bound for Abu Dhabi in 2015.
The university argued that Middle Eastern countries’ immigration policies are sovereign rights.
“Generally when visas are denied, there is no reason provided. The United States isn’t obligated to provide reasons as to why a visa was denied. Qatar isn’t obligated to provide reasons as to why a visa was denied,” SFS Dean Joel Hellman said in an interview with The Hoya. “This is something that they don’t give up by having a relationship with the university.”
Dallal said he appreciates Georgetown’s academic values, including a right to address complex social and economic issues. He said the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which provides substantial financial support for American universities operating in Doha’s Education City, continues to support academic independence and academic freedom.
“To my knowledge, there have been no restrictions on research topics, and faculty and students regularly decide on their areas of study and research focus without interference from outside parties,” Dallal wrote.
Dallal’s work focuses on both past and present Islamic culture. Dallal has published three books and over 40 articles on the history of Islamic thought and law, and has served as an adviser to the planning committee of the primary exhibition at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.
Dallal said he will look to both strengthen SFS-Q’s existing presence in Qatar and seek paths to expansion.
“We are always open to academic, research, and student collaborations with main campus and also with the wider network of Georgetown University’s global partners and affiliates,” Dallal wrote. “There are already initiatives under discussion, and I look forward to sharing the results with you once we have developed the ideas further.”
Dallal has received several awards for his work, including being named a Carnegie Scholar and receiving a Fellowship on Traditions of Reform in Eighteenth-Century Islamic Thought from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“Dr. Dallal has a deep understanding of our community in Qatar and is sought after for his expert scholarship and leadership abilities — we look forward to the many ways he will strengthen our entire university in the time ahead,” University President John J. DeGioia said in a university press release June 27.
The announcement, made by DeGioia in a campuswide email June 27, follows Reardon-Anderson’s announcement that he would step down from the position of dean in July, one year earlier than scheduled. Reardon-Anderson will serve as a faculty member at SFS-Q as Sun Yat-sen Professor of Chinese Studies following the conclusion of his term as dean.