UK university faulted for its Gadhafi ties

By Cassandra Vinograd

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 30 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

LONDON — An independent inquiry condemned the London School of Economics on Wednesday for its dealings with Libya under Moammar Gadhafi, concluding that the university should have exercised more caution before becoming involved with the regime.

The independent inquiry was tasked with establishing "the full facts" of the school's links to Libya and one of Gadhafi's sons, Seif al-Islam, and whether errors had been made in LSE's ties to the North African nation's increasingly violent regime.

"Before a global company embarks upon a relationship with a foreign partner, a due diligence assessment should be conducted. No similar exercise took place in this case," said Harry Woolf, a prominent judge and the inquiry's chair.

At issue in the inquiry was the university's decision to foster a relationship with Libya — a "cornerstone" of which was Seif al-Islam's admittance to the school — and whether LSE was right to accept a large donation from a Gadhafi-backed charity.

Long seen as the most respectable of Gadhafi's children, Seif al-Islam cultivated an image of a budding reformer, winning praise for talk of democracy and development — and the university seemed all too eager to have ties blossom.

But as protests began sweeping the Arab world, questions emerged about whether the younger Gadhafi's thesis had been ghostwritten — and whether he had done the work at all. He gave a rambling televised speech promising "rivers of blood" if demonstrators refused to accept government offers of reform.

The barrage of negative media attention over the university's former student prompted LSE's director, Howard Davies, to resign.

While Woolf praised Davies' "great experience and ability," he said ultimately "responsibility for what went wrong must rest with the director."

The Woolf report identified "a disconcerting number of failures" at the school, from management to the lack of an ethics code. It took fault with LSE's relations with the Gadhafis, and concluded that Seif al-Islam duped his advisers into thinking he had done his academic work on his own.

Though Seif al-Islam earned his doctorate from LSE in 2008, his academic career was "dogged by disquiet over the amount of outside assistance he was given," Woolf noted.

Woolf said he was told Seif needed extra help because "he wasn't a particularly good philosopher" and hated the required, pure Philosophy courses, but "it should have been appreciated that there was a risk that Seif would, to protect himself from the loss of face in not obtaining his Ph.D., be tempted to use his resources to obtain help with his work."

Despite numerous red flags, Woolf said a detailed investigation was only launched into Seif al-Islam's academic career after media latched on to the story in 2011.

The report said numerous examples of "questionable" help then came to light, including Seif's use of a dictation aide who communicated with professors on his behalf and emailed him thesis drafts.

Woolf said that an examination of Seif's LSE emails show he concealed the amount of assistance he was receiving. In one example, the dictation aide wrote that he "would like to work on" Seif al-Islam's thesis for "another couple of weeks."

"It is clear now that Seif duped the supervisors who worked so hard to assist him with his Ph.D.," Woolf said. "The level of assistance Seif was receiving would have benefited from an earlier examination in greater depth and a more vigorous response."

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