MTSU is in the process of ending its affiliation with the Confucius Institute.
“From the outset, MTSU’s partnership with the Confucius Institute has focused on cultural and social exchange opportunities rather than scientific research involving federal funds or sensitive areas of governmental interest,” said Andrew Oppmann, a spokesman for Middle Tennessee State University. “MTSU through the years has more narrowly defined its relationship with the institute and established protocols that strictly maintain the university’s academic freedom and provides transparency. No outside entity has control over what we teach.”
The Confucius Institute is a partnership between China’s Ministry of Education and foreign universities.
MTSU’s move comes at a time when some lawmakers, many of them Republicans, have criticized universities’ ties to Chinese academic programs, which they say are closely connected to that nation’s communist government. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) recently heralded MTSU’s move as well as a similar action taken by the University of Memphis.
Oppmann answered the following questions posed by the Murfreesboro Post.
Q: What is the expected date to totally end the relationship?
A: “Our goal is to move as quickly as possible. We began a review of our outreach efforts late last year and, based upon our obligations and priorities, we are making case-by-case decisions on timing and continuation.”
Q: When did the winding down begin, and was this in response to Republican concerns about universities' ties to Chinese academics?
A: “We felt it was in the university’s strategic interest to broaden our relationships with more countries in that region and, in doing so, bring our own entity and brand, the Center for South and East Studies, to the forefront. Our Confucius Institute was already under the center, so it will retain control and responsibility for what projects we pursue with partners in that region, including China.
Q: Will this affect any other MTSU initiatives with China? The one that comes to mind is the Ginseng Institute.
A: “Our Ginseng Institute is not organized under the Confucius Institute; it works in conjunction with the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants. We remain committed to helping Tennessee farmers pursue ginseng as a revenue crop for Asian markets and will work, with appropriate protocols, with the Garden in pursue of that goal.”