Fed Investigates Ivy League Schools Over Billions Received From Hostile Foreign Governments

February 13, 2020 Updated: February 13, 2020
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The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into Harvard and Yale Universities for allegedly failing to disclose hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts and contracts from foreign governments.

In a Feb. 12 statement, the Education Department said that Yale may have failed to disclose in its records $375 million in foreign funding over the past four years. According to student newspaper Yale Daily News, the Department has sent a letter to Yale’s resident Peter Salovey on Feb. 11, demanding that the school submit records on contributions from foreign governments between 2014 and 2017.

The Department also sent a letter to Harvard president Lawrence S. Bacow, requesting information about contributions from the governments of China, Iran, Russia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, reported student newspaper The Harvard Crimson. Both letters specifically asked for any records related to China’s telecommunication giants Huawei and ZTE, Russia’s Kaspersky Lab and Skolkovo Foundation, and Iran’s Alavi Foundation. Those companies and organizations have raised national security concerns because of their activities to advance their interests in the United States at the behest of foreign governments.

“This is about transparency,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom. Moreover, it’s what the law requires. Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all. We will continue to hold colleges and universities accountable and work with them to ensure their reporting is full, accurate, and transparent, as required by the law.”

Under the Higher Education Act of 1965, universities must report gifts and contracts from foreign sources valued at more than $250,000 per year.

According to the Department’s statement, the letters to Harvard and Yale are part of an ongoing investigation, which has so far revealed that at least ten American institutions have failed to report $3.6 billion in foreign funding properly. Since July 2019, the Department has uncovered approximately $6.6 billion in unreported foreign gifts from countries including Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates to colleges and universities across the United States.

The Department’s announcement comes in the wake of federal charges against Charles Lieber, a prominent nanoscientist at Harvard University, for making false statements about funding he received from the Chinese government. Lieber also allegedly lied to Pentagon investigators about his participation in the “Thousand Talents Plan,” a Chinese government global program to lure high-level scientists into bringing their knowledge and experience to China and reward them for stealing proprietary information.