Biden Administration Must Enforce Laws To Prevention Corruption Of Academia By Foreign Powers

The corrupting influence of dark money is widespread among American colleges and universities.

Confucius Institute North-South University, Yinduyang own work

Confucius Institute, North-South University. Credit: Yinduyang.

On April 6, twenty-two members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, among them Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to ask him to enforce existing federal laws regulating the reporting of foreign gifts to institutions of higher education.

Our colleges and universities regularly fail to report billions of dollars of gifts from foreign sources—and by so doing, prove the thesis that foreign money corrupts these institutions. If our academic bureaucrats are so desperate for money that they will flout these reporting laws, what laws won’t they break? What American interest won’t they sacrifice for their thirty silver dinars?

This letter, penned by members of Congress, is a strong encouragement that the National Association of Scholars (NAS) is on the right track. We sounded the alarm nearly seven years ago about the corrupting influence of foreign gifts on our higher education system, and have kept the siren up since.

We (and especially our extraordinarily capable emerita Senior Research Fellow Rachelle Peterson) wrote a series of in-depth reports on foreign influence on American education: Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education (2017); Corrupting the College Board: Confucius Institutes and K-12 Education (2020), After Confucius Institutes: China's Enduring Influence on American Higher Education (2022), A Case Study of Northwestern University-Qatar (2022), and Hijacked: The Capture of America's Middle East Studies Centers (2022).

NAS also has been publicizing foreign influence and its corrupting effects in shorter pieces, and endorsing state and federal initiatives to provide more rigorous transparency and greater limits on foreign gifts to American education institutions. We have done a great deal to inform the public and policymakers about foreign influence on American education, and we believe we can take pride in our role to inspire the actions by Congresswoman Foxx and her colleagues.

The Representatives’ letter seeks to establish precisely how American institutions of higher education have broken American laws—and precisely how the Education Department has failed to enforce these laws. The education establishment’s defense of their behavior has not been terribly strong—we may be corrupt, but we are not breaking any laws—and the information the Representatives request will put paid even to that defense.

If the Education Department or the universities fail to provide it, their defiance of the law will be crystal clear. The Congressmen’s letter will reveal precisely how extensive foreign influence has been—either by revealing the financial information directly, or by revealing the education establishment’s corrupt obduracy against revealing this information.

A Scottish song by Robert Burns speaks eloquently of how lucre corrupts:

What force or guile could not subdue
Through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane -
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

We suffer from a parcel of rogues in education. The National Association of Scholars strongly endorses the Representatives’ work to bring into the open higher education's concealed dealings with the foreign despots who seek to subordinate America—or to supplant it.

Peter W. Wood is the president of the National Association of Scholars.

Topic tags:
Biden administration corruption academia politics Geopolitics