Republican Senators Put Forward Legislation to Curtail Clandestine, Foreign Funding of American Universities

For once, Republicans might be doing something useful. 

Republican Senators such as Tim Scott of Scott of South Carolina and Tom Cotton of Arkansas recently introduced legislation to give the public a more in-depth look at the money that foreign countries donate to American universities. 

According to Ashley Carnahan of The College Fix, the Foreign Funding Accountability Act “would require the disclosure of full names of foreign entities, disclosure of the specific purposes of foreign gift transactions and clarification that gifts to university foundations are not exempt from disclosure.”

In addition, it would reduce the minimum reporting level for disclosure. At the moment, the minimum reporting threshold for disclosure is $250,000. The new bill in question would lower the threshold to $25,000.

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Carnahan noted that “Multiple investigations have uncovered gaps between money received by universities from foreign entities and the amount reported to authorities.” In a Wall Street Journal report from 2020, Cornell University was found to have not reported over $1.2 billion in foriegn funds, which included $760 million connected to its campus in Qatar and roughly $1 million in contracts from the Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

According to a 2020 Department of Education report, many colleges and universities nationwide failed to disclose their sources of foreign funding. 

Confucius Institutes, the notorious educational partnerships between Chinese colleges and universities and other countries, have a vast foreign funding footprint. Per a report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, China supplied over $158 million in funding to set up and run Confucius Institutes on American campuses. 

Nearly 70% of “schools required to file reports with the Department of Education failed to report gifts, contracts, or contributions in excess of $250,000, according to the report’s findings.

The Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence on American university campuses was one of the principal reasons lawmakers like Cotton pushed forward the Foreign Funding Act.

The CCP “has made consistent attempts to infiltrate American colleges and universities,” Senator Cotton declared  in a statement concerning the legislation. “Our bill will close donation loopholes, barring the CCP and other foreign agents from donating millions, or even billions, to levy influence and steal American intellectual property.”

Foreign funding of universities could leave these institutions vulnerable to the machinations of external actors who wish to do harm to America. It’s not just conventional armies that pose threats to the US, but also subversive agents ranging from spies to oligarchs seeking to build a 5th Column within the US. 

The introduction of the Foreign Funding Accountability Act is a back to basics moment where the US recognizes that the most proactive way of keeping its rivals at bay is by restricting their access to American universities.

Hopefully, this same logic can be extended to immigration and result in the implementation of an immigration moratorium that denies foreign countries the ability to embed spies and other subversive agents inside the US.