Last edited: November 08, 2003

Cornell under Fire over School in Qatar Newscenter in New York, December 5, 2002

By Beth Shapiro

Ithaca, New York—Student groups are questioning a decision by Cornell University to open a medical college in Qatar in view of the Arab state’s record on lesbian and gay rights.

"I think it’s outrageous that Cornell would consider opening a school in a place where its students could be arrested for what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms," said Jake Lazarus one of the students opposed to the establishment of Cornell Weill Medical College-Qatar.

According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s (ILGA) world legal survey, "Article 201 of the Qatari Penal Code punishes sodomy between consenting adults with up to five years of imprisonment."

While most Arab countries which operate under Sharia law usually deport foreigners before sentence is meted out, Qatar treats foreigners in the same way it treats its own citizens.

In 1995 an American citizen in Qatar was sentenced to receive 90 lashes during a 6-month prison term for "homosexual activity."

Qatar currently has no medical school of its own, and Cornell Provost Carolyn Martin said she believes that the University will be able to protect those students, faculty members and staff of the medical school who may be affected by Qatar’s sodomy laws.

"The Qatari government has agreed to abide by Cornell University’s standards for admissions and the status of students. The criteria for Cornell University medical students are all academic," she said.

But for Lazarus and other students, Qatar’s agreement is not good enough.

"If they want access to our education, they can get a student visa and come to Ithaca. Cornell shouldn’t disregard its commitment to inclusiveness and diversity just because they want to make a few quick tuition bucks off rich Arab oilmen sending their sons to med school," Lazarus said.

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