Professors from Cornell University in New York have overwhelmingly voted to reject a proposed joint degree program bankrolled directly by the Chinese communist government. The proposed partnership between Cornell and Peking University was rejected with a 39-16 vote against it because Beijing suppresses academic freedom and commits human rights abuses. The Chinese Ministry of Education was supposed to fund the partnership.
Professor Richard Bensel, who led the opposition against the partnership, said that Cornell had abdicated its moral responsibility by refusing to recognize the atrocities committed by the communist Chinese regime. The university had previously failed to comment on whether Beijing’s persecution of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang amounted to genocide.
“The central administration is much more revenue conscious, much more materialistic than it was five years ago… It basically in many ways has just abandoned some of the moral and ethical concerns that a great university should have,” Bensel told The Washington Free Beacon.
Some Cornell professors don’t acknowledge the Uyghur genocide
However, some Cornell professors do not recognize communist China’s persecution of Uyghurs as genocide. Communications professor Connie Yuan said that such accusations are an “exaggerated reality or misinformation.”
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Cornell computer science professor Ken Birman doesn’t want to cut ties with communist China. His father had deep ties within Soviet Russia, from which he was able to secure visas for several refuseniks and help them escape the country.
Refuseniks are Soviet Jews who were banned from emigrating out of the country. Birman said if Cornell abandons its programs with communist China, it could lose the leverage to help people oppressed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The successful rejection of the partnership with Peking University has emboldened Cornell professors. They advocate for new resolutions that will give the faculty senate more power over university partnerships with communist China and other authoritarian nations. Electronic voting on these resolutions will be completed by April 7. Furthermore, the faculty senate will meet a week later in mid-April to discuss legislation that will control Cornell’s foreign ties.
The opposition to Cornell’s Chinese involvement follows an open letter signed by 100 academics and college professors calling for more transparency in university dealings with communist China. The letter demanded that college administrations fully reveal their business dealings with entities from the communist regime.
The letter was written in response to sanctions by the CCP on three academics and a German think-tank. One of the academics targeted by Beijing is Adrian Zenz, who has written extensively about the communist regime’s human rights violations.
In March, the U.S. Senate also approved a bill that will increase the oversight of Confucius Institutes in America. The bill was passed with unanimous consent. Republican Senator John Kennedy, who introduced the bill, said that the Confucius Institutes are under the control of the CCP.
The bill will allow colleges to restore freedom of thought on the campuses by giving them full control over the institutes. If any colleges or universities do not comply with the new oversight and regulations, they will be cut off from federal funding.
William Burns, Biden’s CIA director, has warned about the Confucius Institutes, advising lawmakers to bar them from universities.
“My advice for any institutions in the United States, including academic institutions, is to be extraordinarily careful of what the motives are for a variety of institutions like that and to be very careful in engaging them,” Burns said in a statement.