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Tufts to Keep Confucius Institute

October 9, 2019
 
 

Tufts University decided to keep its Confucius Institute agreement after a yearlong review.

More than 20 U.S. universities have closed their Confucius Institutes over the last two years as the Chinese government-funded centers for language education and cultural programming have come under scrutiny from American lawmakers, from both parties.

U.S. representative Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, wrote to Tufts in spring 2018 urging the university to close its Confucius Institute. “The Chinese government has been clear in its goal and purpose for creating and expanding Confucius Institutes throughout the country, namely to distort academic discourse on China, threaten and silence defenders of human rights, and create a climate intolerant of dissent or open discussion,” Moulton wrote in the letter, quoted by The Boston Globe.

A committee of Tufts professors and administrators charged with reviewing the institute found that Tufts Confucius Institute “has provided benefits to students and faculty at Tufts, especially in the Chinese Program, and that the [Confucius Institute at Tufts University] has not exercised undue influence, suppression of academic freedom and improper bias.” Tufts decided to renew its Confucius Institute agreement after making a few changes to the contractual terms, including limiting the term of the memorandum of understanding to two years and adding language to it "to ensure that Tufts maintains exclusive management control over CITU" and to "make clear that U.S. laws and Tufts’ policies apply without limitation to the CITU’s programs and to all staff associated with the CITU, including citizens of China."

The Confucius Institute at Tufts is involved in offering noncredit Chinese language classes, cultural programming and teacher training, in addition to hosting conferences on Chinese language teaching and facilitating student and scholar exchanges between Tufts and its Chinese partner university, Beijing Normal University.

"I’m confident that we have arrived at a very thoughtful and well-researched decision," James Glaser, Tufts' dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said of the decision to renew the Confucius Institute agreement. "We’re pleased that our students will continue to have access to a resource that helps them enhance their language skills and their understanding of Chinese culture. In addition to the enhanced oversight our new agreement establishes, we also will be establishing a committee of Tufts faculty to weigh in on the qualifications of proposed Chinese staff and the CITU’s activities in general to ensure that they align with our policies and priorities."

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