Wednesday, May 1, 2019
May 1, 2019, Inside Higher Ed
Three more universities are closing their Confucius Institutes, bringing the total number of universities that have announced closures of the Chinese government-funded centers for language education over the past 15 months to at least 15.
San Francisco State University, the University of Oregon and Western Kentucky University all announced within the last two weeks that they would close their Confucius Institutes after the Department of Defense declined their requests for waivers that would allow them to continue to operate both a Confucius Institute and a Defense Department-funded Chinese Language Flagship program. The National Defense Authorization Act signed into law last August prohibits universities that host Confucius Institutes from receiving Defense Department funding for Chinese language study. The Pentagon declined all requests it received for waivers to that prohibition, according to Newsweek.
Oregon said in a statement that closing the Confucius Institute was necessary in order to protect the Chinese Language Flagship program, which has received nearly $3.8 million in grants from the Defense Department since the 2016-17 academic year. According to Oregon, the Defense Department has withheld $343,000 in funding for Oregon students to study or intern in China pending the Confucius Institute’s closure.
Three other universities that also operated both Confucius Institutes and DOD-funded Chinese Language Flagship programs -- Indiana University and the Universities of Minnesota and Rhode Island -- have already announced closures of their institutes. Two other universities in this situation, Arizona State University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, both confirmed their requests for waivers were denied. Hawaii declined to comment further, while Arizona State said that the university is "in the process of exploring options that would allow the Confucius Institute to continue to serve Arizona’s K-12 community."
At their peak, close to 100 American universities hosted Confucius Institutes, which typically offer Chinese language classes, cultural programs, and outreach to K-12 schools. An increasing number of colleges have closed the institutes as they have come under scrutiny from lawmakers who view them as platforms for Chinese government propaganda.