Tuesday, February 6, 2018
In his letter, Rubio cited “mounting concern about the Chinese government’s increasingly aggressive attempts to use ‘Confucius Institutes’ and other means to influence foreign academic institutions and critical analysis of China’s past history and present policies.”
“Given China’s aggressive campaign to ‘infiltrate’ American classrooms, stifle free inquiry, and subvert free expression both at home and abroad, I respectfully urge you to consider terminating your Confucius Institute agreement,” Rubio, a Republican from Florida, wrote in letters to Miami Dade College and the Universities of North Florida, South Florida and West Florida, as well as to Cypress Bay High School.
In a statement, the University of West Florida said it decided last fall to terminate its Confucius Institute agreement and that its leadership spoke last week with representatives from their Chinese partner university to inform them that UWF would not renew the contract when it expires in May.
“The decision was a result of a review of the program because the contract was expiring,” a UWF spokeswoman, Megan Gonzalez, said. “We concluded that we were not getting adequate return in terms of student interest, among other things, and decided to discontinue.”
The three other Florida colleges that Rubio said he sent the letter to either did not respond to messages or declined to comment on the substance of the senator’s letter Monday afternoon. Adam Freeman, a spokesman for the University of South Florida, confirmed receipt of the letter and said, “We will respond to Senator Rubio in the near future.”
About 100 U.S. colleges have opened Confucius Institutes despite the concerns about academic freedom that have accompanied their establishment. A couple of institutes have closed, including those at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Chicago. More than 100 Chicago faculty members signed a petition calling for the closure of Chicago’s Confucius Institute over concerns about the university ceding control of faculty hiring and curricular matters to a Chinese government entity.
In 2014, the American Association of University Professors called on American universities to end their involvement with Confucius Institutes unless they can renegotiate their agreements to ensure that “the university has unilateral control … over all academic matters, including recruitment of teachers, determination of curriculum, and choice of texts” and that “the university affords Confucius Institute teachers the same academic freedom rights … that it affords all other faculty in the university.” The AAUP also called on colleges to make their Confucius Institute agreements public...