President Padilla shared the following update with the Valparaiso University campus on Aug. 30, 2021.
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Alumni:
I have decided to close the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University (CIVU), effective March 1st, 2022. Until then, CIVU will continue its scheduled musical performances.
Since its inauguration in 2008, CIVU has aimed to help Northwest Indiana citizens learn about Chinese music. CIVU is supported by the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, and co-run by Valparaiso University and its partner university, Zhejiang University of Technology. Currently, CIVU has two faculty members — both of whom have been valued members of our community.
As part of our contractual agreement with Zhejiang University of Technology to operate CIVU, we must provide notice six months ahead of our planned closure date. Hence, the March 1st date. On Friday, August 27, 2021, Provost Eric Johnson and I spoke with and informed the leadership of Zhejiang University of Technology of my decision, to which they expressed their understanding and acceptance.
For some time now, I have given considerable thought on whether we should continue to operate CIVU. A number of factors helped me reach the conclusion to close. First, some members of Congress reached out to the University in 2020 and earlier in 2021, questioning the presence of CIVU. A federal law, the National Defense Authorization Act, already prohibits the Defense Department (DOD) from funding research at any university with a Confucius Institute. DOD funding is not the only federal funding at risk, Department of Education (DOE) funding may also be. Just this past March, DOE funding and Confucius Institutes were intertwined in a bill, S.590, which the U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent. (Unanimous consent means that no U.S. Senator objected to this bill.) This bill would impose tight restrictions on funding from DOE (other than student financial aid) to colleges hosting Confucius Institutes. A potential cut-off of DOE funding would be devastating to our financial position. This is not a risk we can take.
Avoiding that same risk presumably led more than 80 other universities across the country to close or plan to close their Confucius Institutes. Only 38 universities continue to have these institutes in the United States. Eight of those are reportedly scheduled to close in the near future. Ours is the only one remaining in the State of Indiana.
This wave of closures and the other factors above are the reasons for my closing CIVU, not the Indiana Attorney General’s (AG) investigation into CIVU. The purpose of that investigation is to determine if Valpo did not “disclose its financial ties” with the foreign source of CIVU funding, pursuant to Section 117 of the federal Higher Education Act. DOE implements that law. Valpo has followed that law by regularly reporting to DOE China’s funding of the CIVU. Those reports are open records and can be found at https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/ForeignGifts.xls.
While we strongly dispute the allegations the Indiana Attorney General has made, we will respond appropriately to his request for documents and information. And we will also voluntarily share those same documents with the DOE which is not investigating our compliance with the Higher Education Act.
Anytime negative scrutiny surrounds China or its affiliates, there is a very real risk of a backlash against members of our Asian-Pacific Islander (API) communities. The CIVU building already sustained vandalism after the announcement of the AG’s investigation. We will be ever vigilant to protect our API community from verbal, physical and online attacks. We cannot allow to occur again what happened to Asian-Americans as a result of accusations made during the COVID-19 crisis. If you witness or experience any attacks, harassment or discrimination, I encourage you to contact VUPD and submit a bias incident report at valpo.edu/bias/.
We are proud of what the CIVU program has accomplished over the last 14 years. We hosted CIVU as part of a cultural, international and apolitical exchange that many universities and governments, including the state of Indiana, pursue to expose their students and others to an ever-global world and economy. We will continue to bring the world to our campus. We will continue to expose the world to the power of God’s love and American democracy that is found on our campus. We can’t think of a better mission as a Christian, comprehensive university located in the United States.
We also pride ourselves with having 188 international students from 28 different countries. They make us a richer and more enlightened community.
While we will close CIVU, we plan to establish a new program to continue the cultural exchange of music and language with China and other countries. We will ask our music, language and international studies faculty to help us create this program which will operate without funding or staff from China. We will share the details of the new program as they become finalized.
In the meantime, CIVU will keep to its remaining schedule of performances for the last six months of its existence. I hope you will join me in attending as many of these as you can. I leave you with a link to an excerpt from the CIVU May 15, 2021 Friendship Lasts Forever Cloud concert, in which American and Chinese musicians played through the pandemic. I can’t think of a better way to witness the power and peace from international musicians in communion with each other. That was all that Valpo sought to do through CIVU and all that it will continue to do through its new music exchange program.
José D. Padilla, JD