2 Top Republicans Demand Answers From Education Department On Universities’ Ties To China

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House Republicans requested information Wednesday regarding the Department of Education’s plans to investigate potential undisclosed contracts between American universities and the Chinese government.

Republican Reps. Jim Banks and Virginia Foxx sent a letter Wednesday to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking how the department plans to enforce Section 117 of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which requires universities to disclose gifts, grants, and contracts from foreign countries to the federal government. The Republicans argued that universities are not complying with this requirement, allowing possible connections to China to go undiscovered.

”The American public deserves to know that their money is not being compromised by Communist China and other adversarial nations,” the letter said. “The FBI warned colleges a decade ago about how hostile actors use campuses for spying, propaganda hubs, and faculty recruitment.”

The letter points to the numerous examples of Chinese influence in higher education, specifically citing the case of Charles Lieber. Lieber, a Harvard University professor, was paid millions by the Chinese government in his role as a “strategic scientist” for the Wuhan University of Technology, a role which he allegedly concealed from Harvard.

The Republicans went on to criticize the Department of Education’s enforcement of Section 117. (RELATED: Professor Accused Of Hiding Chinese Ties Goes On Trial, First After Slew Of Similar Arrests)

“For decades, colleges and universities failed to comply with statutory transparency requirements. The previous administration modernized the reporting process and found over $6.5 billion in unreported gifts and contracts and opened 19 university investigations,” they wrote.

“The Department has closed only four of those investigations to date. Moreover, you have not started or provided status updates on any other investigations into foreign gifts or contracts.”

The Republicans requested the Department of Education provide them with updates on the status of ongoing investigations, the number of staff dedicated to investigating Section 117 disclosures, and how the Department planned to proceed in its ongoing investigations. They also asked if the Department planned to use “corrective measures” to force “noncompliant institutions” to abide by the disclosure requirements.

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