Published: Fri, February 14, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Education Department probes foreign gifts to Harvard, Yale

Education Department probes foreign gifts to Harvard, Yale

"This is about transparency", said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The US Education Department asked Harvard and Yale universities this week for records on their financial dealings with foreign governments, businesses and other entities as it notified the two Ivy League schools of investigations into their compliance with a law requiring disclosure of foreign gifts and contracts.

Yale also believes that a signal strength of American higher education has always been the quality of its global relationships and collaborations, which have helped our universities produce exceptional scholarship and research and exceptionally prepared graduates, to the direct benefit of the American people.

The federal agency claimed Yale failed to report at least $375 million in foreign transactions and hasn't reported any gifts or contracts for the last four years.

Harvard told the Bloomberg news agency that it was also reviewing the department's request and preparing a response. Those companies and organizations have raised national security concerns because of their activities to advance their interests in the United States at the behest of foreign governments.

Universities are required to disclose to the Education Department all contracts and gifts from a foreign source that, alone or combined, are worth $250,000 or more in a calendar year.

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In a letter to Harvard posted on the DoE website, the department asked the school to disclose any records of gifts or contracts involving the governments of China, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Education Department noted the arrest in its announcement Wednesday and said it is concerned Harvard "may lack appropriate institutional controls over foreign money" and may have failed to report fully all foreign gifts and contracts. It also requested documents related to China's Thousand Talents Programme, a Chinese government programme to recruit overseas researchers.

They have also said worldwide collaboration-particularly with China-is essential to advancing scientific discoveries that will benefit humankind.

Government officials accuse higher-education institutions in the USA of soliciting money from foreign nationals, governments and companies that could be looking to spread propaganda, according to document reviewed by the newspaper. Yale filed no reports on foreign gifts or contracts between 2014 and 2017.

A February 2019 investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations called foreign government funding of USA universities "a black hole" and said it found that almost 70% failed to properly report funding from Chinese government-backed cultural and language programs known as Confucius Institutes.

"We are pleased that the Department of Education is increasing enforcement efforts and taking a step toward ensuring academic freedom in America". The Education Department's February 11 notice asks Yale to provide further information about such funding. Similar investigations have been conducted into other high-profile institutions such as Georgetown, Cornell, and MIT. Yale is among the schools that have been singled out in a Department of Education investigation.

The department said it was concerned that such countries "may be seeking to project "soft power" within the United States, steal USA research and "spread propaganda".

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