A Troy University communications official responded to questions on Friday about the university’s recent closure of its Confucius Institute, an educational institution connected 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, 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 were 18 Confucius Institutes in the United States 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. Department of Defense (DOD) refused to provide contracts, grants and other funds to universities with Confucius Institutes as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 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’s senior director of Communications Matthew Clower said that though Troy does not currently receive funding from the DOD, the opportunity to pursue federal funding of all kinds is essential to the university’s long-term goals.
He said that the threat of losing that opportunity was the only reason the board gave for ending its relationship with the Confucius Institute. Otherwise, the university was in good standing with the CCP-associated organization.
The same press release insisted that Troy would continue to “recruit students from China” and “maintain relationships with Chinese universities.” However, Clower assured 1819 News that Troy would not create similar programs under different names that are in any way connected to the CCP, as have some other schools, according to the NAS report.
The release also said university officials would find new roles for the two Confucius Institute employees at Troy and the one student employee. When asked by 1819 News, Clower noted that the former employees were not connected to the CCP.
Clower said the Confucius Institute’s director and associate director are full-time university employees.
He did not name the employees in question, and Troy appears to have already taken down its Confucius Institute page online.
Clower said the former director would be moved to a full-time teaching position, and the former associate director would join Troy’s Office of International Programs.
The NAS report accused Troy of lobbying against a piece of legislation proposed by State Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) and State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) that would have removed Confucious Institutes from public campuses in Alabama. The bill failed to pass in 2020.
The NAS report suggested the university might have an “ulterior motive” to keep its Confucius Institute.
Troy’s $14 million addition to Bibb Graves Hall was a Model Confucius Institute funded partly by an $8 million contribution from former Gov. Bob Riley.
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.”
Clower told 1819 News that Troy’s Confucius Institute received funding from its “partner institution” in China and that funding ended when the board terminated its agreement with the institute this year.
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