Government Accountability Office visits UO on tour of Confucius Institutes

The GAO is basically Congress’s audit division. Congress asked them to look into the Chinese government supported Confucius Institutes. About 100 US colleges, including UO, have these. The GAO asked to meet with CI administrators and a selection of faculty. They also scheduled a 30 minute meeting with me, as Senate Pres, to ask about the potential for interference in academic freedom, what procedures the Senate had in place to safeguard this, and any examples of violations I might know of at UO.

I explained what I knew – namely that UO’s CI was mostly under the control of UO faculty, that it did not teach regular classes or have any influence over faculty hiring, and that while it seemed clear that our faculty were not going to ask the CI to pay for research on things that the Chinese government might get angry about, such as the suppression of Falun Gong, ethnic cleansing in Tibet, or the general lack of civil rights in China, and that while Chinese students have told me they believe their government spies on them while they are in the US, I had no reason to believe that UO’s CI had attempted to suppress such research at UO, or had engaged in such spying at UO.

The only odd part of the meeting, in retrospect, was that the three GAO reps were accompanied throughout by UO VP for International Affairs Dennis Galvan and AVP for Federal Affairs Betsy Boyd. I’d have thought that the GAO would have insisted on meeting privately with faculty on something like this. While I didn’t have any punches to pull, I can imagine that some of the other faculty might have been reluctant to say some things under these circumstances.

Chinese students, and Chinese money, at American universities

The in-depth Washington Monthly article is here:

Colleges mostly see this as a win-win situation, solving budget woes and adding to the value of the school’s education at the same time. But with the impact of the boom still reverberating, pockets of dissent are emerging. In states like Washington and California, there are growing complaints that the influx of foreign students is crowding local students out of their own state schools. Meanwhile, at least some Chinese students are complaining that American universities exploit them by charging extra fees. It’s difficult to argue against the valuable opportunities for cultural exchange and public diplomacy that international education provides. But at the current scale, Chinese students have become so concentrated on some campuses that in many ways it’s as if they were attending separate schools within schools.

International students bring a lot of money into the United States, contributing roughly $22 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, according to one estimate. Francisco Sánchez, the undersecretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, has said the U.S. has “no better export” than higher education, and Larry Summers, former secretary of the treasury and former Harvard president, lists “exporting higher education”—bringing more international students to American institutions—as a key part of his recommendations for economic growth.

I wonder where UO’s exports of undergraduate degrees would put us, on a ranking of Oregon’s most successful foreign trade industries?

And former UO professor Arif Dirlik sends this warning about the influence of Chinese money on academic studies of China, with regard to the Tianamen square demonstrations and the Chinese government sposored Confucius Institutes:

Tiananmen commemorations, June 4,1989—June 4, 2013

The Tiananmen Tragedy of June 1989 is significant not just for humanitarian but also for historical and political reasons. It is a humane obligation to recall those who lost their lives and those who continue to suffer under its shadow. Analysis of the forces that brought it about, and the forces that issued from it, requires confrontation of questions of crucial importance to understanding the PRC’s development over the last three decades–as well as of outsiders’ reaction to and entanglement with that development. A broad group of China scholars and other specialists involved in the study of the PRC is urging centers for China Studies (including the so-called Confucius Institutes) to use this occasion to discuss issues of democracy, human rights and social justice with reference to the PRC. These issues are pertinent to the contemporary world in general. They include especially issues of complicity in the perpetuation of human rights abuses of outsiders involved with oppressive regimes in some capacity or other that have been dramatized by the recent American Studies Association decision to boycott universities in Israel. Attached here are the statement, “We Will Not Forget June 4th,” with a list of signatories, and a draft copy of the letter being circulated to Confucius Institutes by Dr. Stephen Levine on their behalf. Further information may be found on the website, http://www.june4commemoration.org

Arif Dirlik, Independent scholar, Eugene, OR (Knight Professor of Social Science, UO, 2001-2006)

Continue reading

Confucius Institutes slammed by UC anthropologist

11/2/2013: When the Dalai Lama came to speak at UO this spring, I was told by several Chinese undergraduates that they were afraid to go, because they believed that the Chinese government had informers among the students, who would report them. One said he would go anyway, but only because he was one of the few with a green card. ODE reporter Sami Edge had a story on the issue. Here’s a report from The Nation on another way the Chinese government attempts to influence control over US universities – through its Confucius Institutes. The webpage for UO’s CI is here.

Shame on U of Oregon, Citoyens!

I try to keep this blog focused on sleazy administrators, football scams, and transparency. But every now and then something a bit more consequential comes up. From the comments on a UO Gabon post:

Citoyen Libre Gabon Sunday, 02 December, 2012 

University of Oregon just accepted a gift of $20M from Gabon! As a gabonese citizen, this is a shameful decision by a university in the US profiting from poor people of Gabon. In my country, infants die for anecdotal deseases and women still give birth on the floor because the kelptocratic, corrupt and dictatorial president in power is robbing the country! How can a state university in the US accept to deal with crooks? How can money be so more important than people? The US is supporting a dictator that people of Gabon never elected; a man who imposed himself as president with support of France and US (in some extend). 

This an insult to the people of Gabon struggling for justice and democracy and also to survive, even if their country is rich with all sort of natural resources. U of Oregon students should ask their leaders to give them answers about why they are dealing with a dictator from Gabon! 

Again, shame on U of Oregon!

And read the comments here. I’ve asked President Gottfredson and UO’s Interim VP for Academic Affairs Dennis Galvan, who helped negotiate the Gabon deal under Lariviere, if they care to respond. I’ll post it here if they do.

Our university now has a foreign policy. And I don’t think it’s one that would have made Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Woody Guthrie, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton proud. Nixon and Kissinger would have loved it though. 12/2/2012.

China, Tibet, Corvallis

I’ve posted a few things about the Chinese government’s use of on-campus Confucius Institutes to promote their political ends. It appears they’ve jumped the shark on this one though. From the RG:

The Chinese government is pressuring the mayor of an Oregon college town [Corvallis] to order that a Taiwanese-American businessman remove a mural advocating independence for Tibet and Taiwan. … 9/11/2012.

Sydney Confucius Institute sponsors talk criticizing Tibetan Buddhism

As reported in The Australian News. CI’s are cultural and language institutes located at universities worldwide, including UO. They are sponsored by the Chinese government, which also controls the content they provide. Tibet and the Dalai Lama are apparently not subjects for free discussion – Bloomberg report here. Thanks to an anonymous correspondent for the link. 8/12/2012.

After blacklisting them over the Dalai Lama

4/5/2011: The original decision generated a lot of bad press about China’s intentions regarding academic freedom at its Confucius Institutes. From Insidehighered.com:

China Again Recognizes U. of Calgary

China has restored the University of Calgary to the country’s list of accredited universities, a list that many Chinese students rely upon when deciding where to enroll, The Calgary Herald reported. The university disappeared from the list last year, following a visit to the campus by the Dalai Lama.

Confucius Institute at UO

3/8/2011 update: Richard Read of the Oregonian gets some amazing quotes on this, from the PSU CI head.

3/6/2011: The London School of Economics has thoroughly embarrassed itself with its ties to the Gaddafi regime. The world now knows you can buy an LSE PhD and whatever that brings in international respectability – or once brought – for a few million quid.

Is UO on a similar track with our Chinese government funded Confucius Institute? China is no Libya, but this article by UO history Professor Glenn May in the Asia Sentinel raises the sorts of questions that the LSE apparently found too uncomfortable to ask – until it was too late.

Abstract from the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization:

Since 2001, China has funded nonprofit Chinese language institutes in nearly100 countries. The institutes have since branched out into business and other areas while also funding scholarships and study in China. In an article for the Asia Sentinel, Glenn Anthony May of the University of Oregon points out that the centers of study come with conditions, including support for a one-China policy that denies recognition of Taiwan as a state. Donors influence campus management and presentations, and schools with Confucius Institutes may avoid open discussions on Tibet or the 1989 Tiananmen protest against Chinese government policies. He argues: “Once the perks from Hanban begin to arrive, professors at universities with CIs become extremely reluctant to do anything to upset their generous benefactors.” Colleges have become complicit in Chinese propaganda and censorship, and May blames the Chinese scholars who comply with restrictions, yet understand the issues of history and need for free debate better than most. – YaleGlobal

Here is just one of the troubling examples in the article:

But it’s not just Taiwan that receives special treatment. Two other “T” words are anathema to Beijing, and hence to Hanban: Tibet and Tiananmen. Don’t expect any universities with CIs to arrange a visit of the Dalai Lama anytime soon or to schedule a symposium on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. In Canada last year, during riots in Tibet, the head of a Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo succeeded in reversing the direction of coverage and getting a major Canadian television station to apologize for its previous pro-rebel coverage. …

Under the circumstances, the academy cannot expect the China scholars, the supposed experts on things Chinese, to police the activities of the institutes. They are, sad to say, a hopelessly compromised lot. Nor can we expect university administrators to do so either – many of them have played key roles in establishing Confucius Institutes on their campuses. That leaves the rest of us. If you care about free speech and believe that the university should provide an open forum for discussion and debate, you should be concerned. 

Peter Schmidt of the Chronicle has an article here on the pros and cons. (Accessible from campus IP addresses.) Some excerpts:

Like the 60 other Confucius Institutes that have cropped up at colleges around the United States since 2004, the Maryland facility was established with the blessing, and the money, of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government continues to give it about $100,000 in financial support annually, and to pay the instructors from China who teach there. Such arrangements allow colleges to provide a lot more instruction and programming related to China. …

Other colleges have heard protests from Chinese officials over plans to let the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual and cultural leader, speak on their campuses. Although the University of Washington played host to the Dalai Lama over Chinese objections in 2008, it came under fire for taking steps to ensure that he would not be asked questions dealing with the autonomy of Tibet or China’s crackdown on unrest there. In Canada, the University of Calgary’s decision to award an honorary degree to the Dalai Lama last year was followed by its removal from the Chinese government’s list of universities it classifies as accredited.

Since the first Confucius Institute in the United States was established here at Maryland, in late 2004, however, there have been no complaints of the institutes’ getting in the way of academic freedom on American campuses or of Chinese officials’ using their government’s financial support for the institutes as leverage to get American colleges to squelch speech they oppose. …

The Confucius Institutes are distinct, however, both in their tendency to be housed within universities and in the degree to which they are financed and managed by a foreign government. Hanban is overseen by officials of a long list of national ministries, including those of education, culture, commerce, and foreign affairs.