Friday, February 25, 2011

The irony of privilege

Libya's 'Michael Corleone' holds fort during happier times.
In 2007, Saif al-Islam Muammar al-Gaddafi filed his PhD thesis at the London School of Economics (whose former chancellor, Tony Giddens, was an advisor to his father). It is called "The Role Of Civil Society In The Democratisation Of Global Governance Institutions: From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-Making?" However, evidence has since come to light which suggests that the thesis may have been plagiarized. Here's a somewhat relevant if stultifying passage on page 41:

Locke saw people as being able to live together in the state of nature under natural law, irrespective of the policies of the state. This self-sufficiency of society, outside the control of the state, was given weight by the growing power of the economic sphere which was considered part of civil society, not the state. The state is therefore constructed out of, and given legitimacy by, society, which also retains the authority to dissolve the government if it acted unjustly. Other writers continued with this distinction of civil society and government. The state kept its function of maintaining law and order that Hobbes had stressed, but was considered to be separate from society, and the relationship between the two of them was seen to be subject to laws that gained their legitimacy from society, not from the state. For example, Montesquieu saw the state as the governor and society as the governed, with civil law acting as the regulator of the relationship. The importance of law in regulating the way the state and society interacted was obvious to many writers who considered that a government that did not recognise the limitations of law would extend to become an over-reaching tyranny similar to that described by Hobbes in Leviathan.

Unless, of course, the state in question is "daddy's state". If you're interested, read the rest of it here. For evidence of the plagiarism, see here.

ADDENDUM: Statement from the London School of Economics (apology from their website for selling the PhD to Saif Gaddafi for £1.5m)

Statement on Libya
Update: 24 February 2011

Following a meeting of the Academic Board on the 23 February, the School has now decided to refer the full £300,000 received so far from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation for its North Africa Programme to the LSE Council for review. The School had originally planned to ask Council to consider what to do with the unspent funds, but will now also ask Council to consider whether the School should set aside for purposes agreed with the wider School community funds equivalent in value to the Foundation funds already spent.

The student occupation on this matter has also ended following discussions with the Director. Students are satisfied with LSE's position on the matter, particularly in light of strong support from the student union for the original £1.5 million donation. At the time of the original donation in 2009, the general secretary of LSE Students' Union, wrote to Professor Held: 'It is quite clear that not only is the donation acceptable, it should be encouraged. This is exactly the kind of organisation the School should be associated with - a group struggling for justice under what continues to be, despite reforms, a repressive and brutal regime.'
Update: 23 February 2011
A group of students occupied the Senior Dining Room at LSE on the evening of 22 February 2011. The students have made a number of demands concerning the School's links with Libya (“LSE students occupy against university’s ties to Libyan regime”). In particular, they demand that LSE reject further monies from the £1.5 million donation from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation and use the £300,000 already received to create a scholarship fund for "underprivileged Libyan students".

The LSE Council has stated, in November 2007 and on subsequent occasions, that it is not the practice of the School as an institution to take political positions, unless its own policies and practices are at issue. Of course, individual academics and students are free to take their own positions, individually and collectively, as the School’s Articles of Association make clear.

The LSE Director notes the message from some LSE students. He shares the students’ revulsion at the recent violence and gross violations of human rights in Libya, and much regrets the association of the School’s name with Saif Gaddafi and the actions of the Libyan regime.

The School’s statement of 21 February made clear that School engagement with the present Libyan authorities, covering a number of programmes, has already finished or has been stopped following the events of the weekend of 19-20 February.

In 2009, the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation granted LSE £1.5m for the North Africa Programme. The grant was received in good faith; there was due diligence and discussion in Council. The funding for the Programme was raised by the GICDF from private sector companies. The Foundation raises money on a project-by-project basis in a manner similar to other foundations. The bulk of the Foundation’s activities focus on peace-building, human rights promotion, developing civil society and its organisations, and a series of charitable concerns.

£300,000 of the grant has been received to date. The North Africa Programme was stopped on 21 February and no more instalments of the grant will be accepted. About half has been spent, mainly on research projects on human rights, women and development, democracy and civil society, and economic diversification. No remaining salaries or other costs will be paid from what remains: the School will meet continuing salary and other commitments from central funds. The LSE Council will now consider what to do with the remaining funds, taking into account proposals from the LSE community, including LSE students.
Following a decision by the Academic Board, an LSE degree may only be revoked if there are substantiated concerns about the manner in which it was attained in the first place – for example if there is a later discovery of plagiarism – and not on the basis of any subsequent shortcomings of personal conduct.
A robust process already exists to ensure that donations to LSE are consistent with LSE’s values and standards. Donations that may raise reputational questions are referred to the LSE Council, which includes student representation. The GICDF donation was referred to the Council, which discussed it fully on two occasions and decided, with the consent of the LSE Students’ Union, to accept it.
21 February 2011
The School has had a number of links with Libya in recent years. In view of the highly distressing news from Libya over the weekend of 19-20 February, the School has reconsidered those links as a matter of urgency.
LSE Enterprise has delivered executive education programmes to Libyan officials, principally from the Economic Development Board, and managers. That programme has been completed, and no further courses are in preparation. We have also received scholarship funding in respect of advice given to the Libyan Investment Authority in London. No further receipts are anticipated.

LSE Global Governance - a research centre at the School - accepted, with the approval of the School's Council, a grant from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, chaired by Saif-al-Islam, one of Colonel Gaddafi's sons and an LSE graduate. This note| from LSE Global Governance explains how that money has been used to date, on a North African programme of study, principally involving civil society issues. In current difficult circumstances across the region, the School has decided to stop new activities under that programme. The Council of the School will keep the position under review.
The School intends to continue its work on democratisation in North Africa funded from other sources unrelated to the Libyan authorities.

See a personal statement |from Professor David Held, Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance and Saif's unofficial advisor at the LSE.

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