WKU’s Confucius Institute and Chinese Flagship program will not be affected by a bill signed by President Donald Trump earlier in August involving Confucius Institutes. The $716 billion bill, called the John McCain 2019 Defense Authorization Act, bars any United States university from using Pentagon resources toward Confucius Institutes.
According to an article by the Washington Post, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) said to a reporter that the “Confucius Institutes are a threat to academic freedom and national security.”
WKU’s Confucius Institute is the Institute’s second building in Kentucky, with the other at the University of Kentucky. There are around 100 in the United States and over 500 worldwide.
Managing Director for WKU’s Confucius Institute Terrill Martin said it will not be affected by the bill as it receives no funding from the Pentagon.
He said WKU’s institute funding comes from Hanban, the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, and from various schools around Kentucky where Chinese teachers are placed to teach the language.
“The Confucius Institute is connected to WKU through a partnership with [Hanban] by an agreement signed in 2010,” Martin said. “A partnership was created between the entities that places Chinese teachers in K-12 public and private schools across the state to teach and help disseminate Chinese culture.”
There are 51 teachers placed in 41 schools across Kentucky.
The campus Confucius Institute building opened in 2017 and provides additional classroom space and a Chinese learning center. The space was originally intended to help support WKU’s Chinese Flagship program, but no Chinese major or minor classes are taught in the building.
WKU owns the building and funded construction.
“The building is owned by campus and therefore, it’s open to everyone,” Martin said. “Other entities use the building presently. We’ve also had fraternities and sororities and clubs hold functions inside.”
While Hanban provides more than $500,000 each year to fund the Institute, Martin said they have no further say in hiring/firing of staff, curriculum and daily operations.
WKU’s Chinese Flagship program has no connections to the Confucius Institute. It was established in 2009 and is “the only initiative regarding Chinese Language instruction at WKU that is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense,” said Laura McGee, head of the WKU Department of Modern Languages.
Since its beginnings at WKU in 2009, the Flagship program has been given more than $2 million.
McGee said that because the Chinese Flagship program has no Confucius Institute-affiliated employees or teachers with authority over the curriculum or program activities, they will meet the provisions stated for awaiver from the John McCain 2019 Defense Authorization Act.
“We are confident that WKU will meet the stated provisions for a waiver,” McGee said.