Troy University has closed its Confucius Institute, a controversial educational institution with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

Confucius Institutes are on college campuses around the world. They provide teachers, textbooks and operating funds and, according to the National Association of Scholars (NAS), “undermine academic integrity and promote censorship.”

Formerly, Confucius Institutes were funded by Hanban, also known as the Confucius Institute Headquarters. Hanban is a part of the Chinese Ministry of Education. Following the backlash from Confucius Institutes in the West, Hanban changed its name in July 2020 to the Centre for Langauge Education and Cooperation (CLEC).

The institutes are currently funded by the Chinese International Education Foundation, which was formed in 2020 by Confucius Institute Partner universities such as Peking, Fudan and Bejing Language and Culture University, and corporations and social organizations in China.

The Trump administration declared Confucius Institutes a foreign mission of the CCP in 2018.

There are 18 Confucius Institutes in the U.S. as of June 2022. Two were in Alabama: one at Alabama A&M in Huntsville and another at Troy University.

Alabama A&M’s Confucius Institute announced its intention to close in 2021 after the U.S. Defense Department refused to provide contracts, grants and other funds to universities with Confucius Institutes as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (DAA) of 2021.

According to a press release from Troy, the DAA gave them until October 2023 to discontinue Confucius Institute programs or lose eligibility for defense funding. 

The Troy Board of Trustees ended its agreement with the institute on February 2. The closure became effective on March 1. 

“Troy University’s strategic goals include continued growth and development as a research institution, which relies in part on access to federal funding, including from the Department of Defense,” said Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Lance Tatum. “We feel it is in the best interest of TROY’s long-term vision to transition away from our partnership with the Confucius Institute.”

The press release insisted that Troy will continue to “recruit students from China” and “maintain relationships with Chinese universities.” University officials will find new roles for the two Confusious Institute employees at Troy and the one student employee. 

In 2020, the College Republican Federation of Alabama partnered with state representatives to create legislation to remove Confucius Institutes from the state campuses. The bills were introduced by Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) and Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville), but both failed to pass.

Alabama Republicans haven’t always been antagonistic against the Confusious Institute, however. Alabama Sen. Jim McClendon, one of the senators to vote against the bill, went on a trip to China in 2015 sponsored by the Confucius Institute. He can be seen along with Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), Former Senator Gerald Dial and Sen. James Taylor "Jabo" Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) on a video uploaded to YouTube by the university.

A report by the NAS last year accused Troy of lobbying against the legislation proposed by Hanes and Shelnutt. It said the university might have an “ulterior motive” to keep its Confucius Institute.

The Confucius Institute at Troy was established in 2007, claiming on its website to be affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. It won “Confucius Institute of the Year” in 2017.

Troy’s $14 million addition to Bibb Graves Hall, funded partly by an $8 million contribution from former Gov. Bob Riley, is a Model Confucius Institute.

Troy has also supported classes in six public K-12 schools called Confucius Classrooms but stopped in 2020. Reports claimed Troy signed a five-year term agreement with Hanban in 2018 that would penalize Troy’s early withdrawal.

Former executive director of the College Republican Federation of Alabama Lauren Baldwin wrote an article last year revealing emails she said were between Troy University chancellor Jack Hawkins and Alabama Commission on Higher Education executive director Jim Purcell.

According to the emails, Hawkins told Purcell that, due to the Confucius Institute, Troy had received “inter-institutional and personal relationships … with universities and individuals throughout China.”

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