MU responds to Senator Hawley's concern over Confucius Institute
COLUMBIA - Senator Josh Hawley expressed concern Wednesday about the University of Missouri's Confucius Institute but MU officials told KOMU 8 there is no need for concern.
Hawley sent the letters after FBI Director Chris Wray testified in Congress Tuesday. Wray expressed concern that Confucius Institutes could lead to censorship or restrictions on academic freedom.
University of Missouri Spokesperson, Christian Basi, said MU appreciates Senator Hawley's concerns regarding their Confucius Institute, but said MU keeps in in close contact with the FBI to make sure there are no problems.
"We are very appreciative to Senator Hawley for the letter," said Basi. "We are very appreciative of his concerns that he has outlined in the letter, we value very much academic freedom and free speech."
MU has a Confucius Institute agreement on campus that provides the University with teaching interns. These interns go through a rigorous selection process that, according to Basi, the University and Columbia Public Schools is involved in.
At MU, these interns teach two non-credit classes that are free and open to the public about Chinese language and often talk about Chinese culture. They also teach elective classes at some Columbia public schools.
These interns are not employees of MU.
The Chinese government facilitates the intern placement with the University. Basi said it helps give exposure to Chinese language for the students on campus if they are interested.
"For us the benefit is that we have an opportunity to allow the public to have free classes to learn the Chinese language form native speakers," said Basi.
Basi said that while they appreciate Senator Hawley's concerns but the University is always in contact with the FBI.
"We take very seriously any concerns about academic espionage, that is something that has been on our radar for some time and our leadership has been in conversations with the FBI so that we are doing the proper things to monitor and to discourage anyone who might even be thinking about taking part in such activities."
Basi said they have been monitoring this very closely and said MU has never had any problems.