Valparaiso University in Indiana said it would close its Confucius Institute on March 1, following in the footsteps of scores of colleges that have closed the Chinese government-funded centers for Chinese language and culture education as they’ve come under growing scrutiny from congressional and state lawmakers. A tracker maintained by the National Academy of Scholars identifies 87 Confucius Institutes in the U.S. that have closed since 2014; as of Aug. 13, the tracker identified 38 Confucius Institutes that remained in the U.S., eight of which were planning to close.
In a letter explaining the decision to students, faculty, staff and alumni, Valparaiso president José D. Padilla wrote that members of Congress had reached out to the university in 2020 and earlier in 2021 “questioning the presence” of the institute.
He also described concerns about risks to federal funding. The National Defense AuthorizationAct prohibits the Department of Defense from funding Chinese language instruction at colleges that host a Confucius Institute. But Padilla also expressed concerns about a bill, S. 590, which was passed by the Senate earlier this year, that would restrict Department of Education funding, other than student financial aid funding, for colleges that host Confucius Institutes unless their agreements met certain conditions related to academic freedom and managerial control of the institutes.
“A potential cut-off of DOE funding would be devastating to our financial position,” Padilla wrote. “This is not a risk we can take.”
Padilla said the decision to close the institute is not related to an investigation into the institute by the state attorney general that was announced earlier this month.
Indiana attorney general Todd Rokita said in an Aug. 10 press release that the investigation “seeks to uncover whether the Chinese government has attempted to exert political influence and manipulate the attitudes and beliefs of Hoosiers through their Confucius Institute.”
Padilla said in the letter that the university disputes the attorney general’s allegations but will cooperate with the investigation. He also wrote that the Confucius Institute building “sustained vandalism after the announcement of the AG’s investigation.”