Watchdog accuses Biden Education Dept. of ‘weakened oversight’ on Chinese money entering universities
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FIRST ON FOX: Watchdog group Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Education demanding transparency in what the group alleges may be a Biden administration move to weaken rules surrounding foreign gifts and contracts to colleges.
The group says it was moved to investigate after noticing a spike in reported foreign gifts to the University of Pennsylvania after the establishment of the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in 2017. DFI claims that the university received 21 million in reported foreign gifts between February. 2017 and September 2020.
The Education Department in 2019 and 2020 began cracking down on schools’ acceptance of foreign gifts under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act in an effort to track the scope of foreign money from countries like China and Qatar in the US education system.
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Now, DFI is inquiring about whether the Biden administration is enforcing these same crackdowns.
“With China’s intensifying political, diplomatic, economic and military competition with the United States, any failure to police Section 117’s requirements poses national security concerns,” said DFI President Robert Eitel.
“The public has a right to know the identities of foreign governments and their proxies that make gifts or enter into contracts with American universities and to know the amounts of those gifts and contracts. It’s hard to understand why ED would relax enforcement of these transparency requirements. . “
According to the Higher Education Act, schools are required to disclose financial gifts that total over $ 250,000 in a calendar year.
DFI wrote in the FOIA request that after the Biden Center officially opened in 2018, the next year “UPenn received an astonishing 389% higher reportable foreign contributions 2019 compared to 2018.”
In addition, a 2020 investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer found that Penn received a staggering $ 258 million in foreign gifts since 2013, mostly from Chinese sources.
DFI writes that another analysis showed that, between 2013 and 2019, “Penn was the third-highest university recipient of foreign funding from groups in the [People’s Republic of China (PRC)] and that approximately 40% of those gifts (approximately $ 27.1 million) came from anonymous PRC donors. “
In a Jan. 31 speech on threats posed by Chinese influence in the US, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that the Chinese Communist Party was exerting influence on US students and Chinese students studying in America from abroad.
“In a recent incident at one Midwestern university, for example, a Chinese-American student posted online praise for those students who were killed in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989,” Wray remarked. And almost immediately, his parents called from China, saying that Chinese intelligence officers had shown up to threaten them because of his post.
“Much of the battleground we’re contesting lies outside the government’s control: companies whose technology we’re helping protect, universities whose students and research we’re helping protect, local governments we’re warning about foreign threats.”
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Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin previously questioned a nearly $ 1.5 billion decline in reported foreign gifts to the US colleges and universities since President Biden took office.
Gallagher noted in a November 2021 letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that, between July 1, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021, US schools reported 1.6 billion in foreign gifts. Between January and November 2021, schools reported just $ 4.3 million in gifts over a longer time period.
Gadget Clock’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.
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