Harvard and Yale are Under Investigation for receiving $375 million in Funding from China and Saudi Arabia
On February 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it is launching an investigation into Harvard and Yale for their failure in disclosing about $375 million in gifts and contracts coming from China and Saudi Arabia during the last four years.
Lately, the Education Department has been cracking down on foreign influence, especially foreign influence from China. The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. universities have failed to disclose $6.5 billion in contributions from foreign nations since 1990.
A large portion of the suspected foreign influence on universities comes through gifts and grants, which are generally accompanied with strings attached and might sully their academic independence.
“This is about transparency,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declared in a statement on February 12. “If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom. Moreover, it’s what the law requires. Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all. We will continue to hold colleges and universities accountable and work with them to ensure their reporting is full, accurate, and transparent, as required by the law.”
In addition to failing to divulge possible financial threats to academic freedom, Harvard even sponsored a 30-year old Chinese national who has made attempts to steal research.
The individual in question, Zaosong Zheng, was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport for allegedly possessing 21 vials of cancer research material that he was trying to smuggle into China. Prosecutors contend that he tried to steal this material in order to bring it to China so that he could carry out his own research in his laboratory.
Further, Charles Lieber, the chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard, was arrested last month for charges of lying about his connections to the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan.
Lieber also allegedly revealed that Harvard does not have the capacity to track very large donations, which the Education Department’s statement called attention to.
“The Department is also concerned Harvard University may lack appropriate institutional controls over foreign money and has failed to report fully all foreign gifts and contracts as required by law,” the Education Department statement noted.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling claimed last month that the Boston region is a major hub for Chinese government espionage and research theft.
“This is a small sample of China’s ongoing campaign to siphon off American technology and know-how for Chinese gain,” he stated. “Chinese economic espionage and theft is a real and daily occurrence that we must begin to confront.”
“As demonstrated by these cases, on the academic side, the Chinese government uses partnerships and exchanges with U.S. schools and research institutions to access cutting-edge research and equipment,” Lelling continued. “Obviously, most visiting Chinese academics and researchers are here to work in good faith in U.S. institutions. But some of them are not.”
In light of these incidents, the Trump administration will need to double down on immigration reforms and restrict student visas from adversarial countries such as China.
Warfare has changed in the 21st century and countries are now exploiting the U.S. immigration system’s flaws to undermine America from within.