Harvard, Yale face probe for not reporting foreign gifts

Wall Street Journal: Education Department investigating Yale and Harvard over foreign funding

"If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom".

The education department has asked Harvard for all its records relating to the Thousand Talents Plan dating back to January 2012.

Education officials also sought records the universities might have in connection with funding from the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among others.

But the investigation appears to go far beyond that - with the federal agency also seeking information about the university's relationship with the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Russian Federation, and any solicitation of gifts from foreign sources.

The university is reviewing the notice and "beginning to prepare its response to the Department of Education", he said. Lieber was charged with making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the U.S. Department of Defense about his ties to a Chinese government program to recruit foreign scientists and researchers.

Officials accused schools of actively soliciting money from foreign governments, companies and nationals known to be hostile to the US and potentially in search of opportunities to steal research and "spread propaganda benefitting foreign governments", according to the document.

The agency sent a similar letter to Yale, saying the university appeared to fail to report a single gift or contract from 2014 through 2017 and asked for records related to all its foreign sites and gifts from countries including Saudi Arabia, China and others. It also mentions alleged foreign funding of its law school's China Center and Yale's new Jackson School of Global Affairs.


The push for funding disclosure is being driven by concerns about foreign efforts to exploit American academia.

National funding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, are also investigating whether USA academic researchers they give grants to are receiving money from foreign sources.

Some university officials have dismissed the US government's broader national security concerns regarding foreign involvement in universities as hyperbolic, or even discriminatory, and said there should be no restrictions on unclassified research meant to be published anyway.

Yale did not comment on the allegation that it had failed to report $375m in foreign gifts and contracts, but told the BBC it was preparing a response to the government's letter. The DOE did not say how much Harvard might have failed to report. As a result, its reporting may not include the entirety of gifts or contracts with foreign sources.

The agency has written to the universities requesting records related to gifts or contracts from a foreign source. The Harvard and Yale investigations are the department's seventh and eighth probes following others at schools including Georgetown University, Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In a July letter to the Education Department, ACE's senior vice president for government relations, Terry W. Hartle, pointed out that, in the more than three decades since Section 117 was added to the Higher Education Act, the provision has been a source of "confusion" for schools, and the department has never made an effort to write clarifying rules. For example, in a September 2019 letter addressed to one group that represents more than 200 universities, an official called the universities' reporting duties "plainly evident".

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