Despite testimony at a congressional hearing by Chinese scholars against the academic integrity of Confucius Institute program, the head of University of Pittsburgh at Bradford reports no dissatisfaction with the instructors or curriculum provided through the program.
The Associated Press reports that a congressional hearing was told Thursday that China’s authoritarian government is gaining a foothold on American campuses by funding dozens of institutes that project a rose-tinted view of the Asian nation that compromises the academic integrity of U.S. universities.
Scholars of China testified that these state-funded Confucius Institutes teach nonpolitical subjects like Chinese language and culture but suppress discussion on sensitive topics like Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on democracy protesters.
Pitt-Bradford President Livingston Alexander issued a statement to The Era Friday, relating that several years ago, the university worked with an agency in the Chinese government to first establish a Confucius Institute program on the Pittsburgh campus and then facilitate the creation of additional programs on other campuses, including the one in Bradford.
“We were invited to establish an Institute at Pitt-Bradford and enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to familiarize our students and the local community with Chinese language and culture,” Alexander said. “We’ve operated our program for three years and both students and faculty find the Institute beneficial and instructive.
“Each of the Chinese instructors assigned to our campus have been knowledgeable, warm and engaging. Our friends in the community who participate in activities sponsored by the Institute instructors speak very favorably about their experience,” Alexander added. “I’m certainly mindful of the criticisms made about the Confucius Institute programs; however, our experience with the Institute thus far has been very positive.”
In June, the American Association of University Professors called on universities to cancel their current agreements with Confucius Institutes, and this fall the University of Chicago and Penn State ended their relationships with the institute.
Thursday’s hearing was chaired by House Republican Rep. Chris Smith, an arch critic of Beijing, who questioned whether American education was “for sale.”
Students from China now make up 31 percent of all international students in the United States. Last year, Chinese students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $8 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Commerce Department.
U.S. colleges such as New York University are also opening campuses in China, hoping to tap into the country’s enormous, growing pool of students. There are about 90 Confucius Institutes in the U.S., part of an expanding network of more than 400 worldwide.