University changes tone, shutters Chinese Communist Party-funded Confucius Institute
Just last year, the school's provost defended the institute, insisting that the school had "autonomy" over it.
Miami University in Ohio has announced it will close its controversial Confucius Institute.
Miami University in Ohio has announced that it will close its Chinese government-funded Confucius Institute in June.
Amid increased concerns over Chinese money in American universities, Miami University's decision was particularly sudden, citing funding concerns. With the exception of senior staff, most of the Institute’s staffers are paid by the Chinese government, according to the Miami Student.
“I am very happy to see that Miami has made this move,” Miami University College Republicans Vice Chairman Collin Finn told Campus Reform.
[Related: US colleges urged to confront China 'threat' amid coronavirus pandemic]
“Our university's administration has worked diligently to align our institution with state and national priorities, and this move exemplifies that commitment to being an asset to the public. The Miami University College Republicans have had a great relationship with [Miami University] President [Gregory] Crawford and other university officials. We aren't surprised that Miami did the right thing here, because our administration is always taking action for the betterment of the student body and the community.”
Miami Assistant Provost of Global Initiatives Cheryl Young defended the Confucius Institute in an interview with Cincinnati Public Radio last year, saying “I can't speak to the experience of other Confucius Institutes but our experience here is we have autonomy. It is a partnership with our partner university and it is a two-sided arrangement."
The university announced that it will replace the Institute with its own Global Initiatives programs, which will “refocus efforts on a more comprehensive strategy for international student support that is more inclusive and provides a more diverse range of programming to share languages and cultures with the campus and community and to enhance the student experience.”
[Related: Confucius Institute at Mizzou closes after pressure from Washington]
“The new international student center will continue to support the clubs that were in the Confucius Institute,” Young told the Miami Student.
“We don’t know exactly what the new center will look like. We’re focused on helping our Chinese staff transition right now and recognizing them for the work they have done here," she added.
The announcement follows a massive pull-back in support from Beijing, which decreased funding to the university by 80 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Miami University did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.
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U.S. intelligence agencies have warned universities for years about the national security risks that Confucius Institutes pose. FBI Director Christopher Wray, for example, said in 2018, “The level of naïveté on the part of the academic sector about this creates its own issues. They’re exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have, which we all revere. But they’re taking advantage of it.”
Additionally, CIA reports obtained by the Washington Free Beacon revealed that "the [Chinese Communist Party] provides ‘strings-attached' funding to academic institutions and think tanks to deter research that casts it in a negative light." China's own former propaganda minister once admitted as much, saying that China uses Confucius Institutes to “actively carry out international propaganda battles against issues such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, human rights and Falun gong," as Campus Reform previously reported.
Despite these warnings, however, dozens of U.S. colleges and universities still operate Confucius Institutes. And while a growing number are now closing, they are closing not because of national security concerns, but because of funding reasons.
Legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2018 barred colleges from receiving Department of Defense funding if they operate Confucius Institutes.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @arik_schneider