Harvard and Yale under federal investigation for seeking funding from oppressive governments

Clay Curtis
February 14, 2020

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 US Department of Education said the elite schools did not fully report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts.

"This is about transparency", Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in the statement.

The two Ivy League schools have been singled out in a federal crackdown on institutions of higher learning for allegedly not reporting foreign donations of more than $250,000, as required by law under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

"Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all", she said.

A congressional subcommittee has referred to foreign spending on USA schools as a "black hole" because of the lack of reporting about funding and found that such money can "come with strings attached that might compromise academic freedom", the department notes.

In the case of Yale, the letter from the DOE specifically requested all records from the school related to gifts or contracts from Saudi Arabia, Saudi nationals, China, Huawei Technologies and ZTE.

The US Dept. of Education is investigating Harvard and Yale universities on suspicion of failing to report an estimated $6.5 billion that came from China and Saudi Arabia, among other foreign entities, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday (Education Department Investigating Harvard, Yale Over Foreign Funding).

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The statement also notes that Harvard's Charles Lieber, chair of the university's chemistry and chemical biology department, was recently arrested and charged with a criminal offense after he was accused of lying about his connections with, and funding from, the Chinese government.

Harvard and Yale told the BBC they were preparing responses for the government.

A spokesperson for Harvard confirmed that the university received a notice of investigation.

A spokeswoman for MIT said the university's reporting of foreign gifts and contracts has been based on "improved processes" since January 2019 and that it is committed to working constructively with federal officials.

The department also noted that although foreign cash appears to flow to the nation's richest universities, "such money apparently does not reduce or otherwise offset American students" tuition costs'.

The ongoing investigation of unreported foreign funding to American schools has found $6.5 billion thus far, according to the Journal.

The department described higher-education institutions in the US, in a document viewed by the Journal, as "multi-billion dollar, multi-national enterprises using opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue".

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. Harvard said it was also preparing a response. Yale filed no reports on foreign gifts or contracts between 2014 and 2017.

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