By Mike Cason

Alabama A&M University’s executive committee has voted to close the Confucius Institute at the university after notification from the federal government that it could lose eligibility for some federal funds.

The executive committee made the decision Saturday. Congressman Mo Brooks of Huntsville, a critic of Confucius Institutes because of their connections to the Chinese government, applauded the decision and urged Troy University, which also has a Confucius Institute, to do the same. Troy University said no decision has been made.

An April 6 letter from the Under Secretary of Defense to Alabama A&M President Andrew Hugine Jr., said the Defense Department would not provide grants, contracts, or other funds to universities hosting Confucius Institutes, which are based in China. Congress put the funding prohibition in the defense authorization act for 2021.

Confucius Institutes have come under fire for several years because of their connection to China’s Communist government.

Last year, Andrew Hugine Jr., and Troy Chancellor Jack Hawkins both praised the work of the Confucius Institutes on their campuses in response to questions from Brooks. Hugine and Hawkins said the Confucius Institutes taught the Chinese language, promoted cultural awareness, and did not pose undue influence.

But Brooks, in a statement responding to Alabama A&M’s decision, said there is no place on American campuses for the institutes.

“Confucius Institutes are nothing more than Communist Chinese Party propaganda and spying units,” Brooks said. “For nearly a year, I, and other patriotic Alabamians have called on Alabama A&M University and Troy University to close their Communist Chinese Party-controlled Confucius Institutes. Over the weekend, Alabama A&M’s board, displaying love of country and sound judgment, voted to close their Confucius Institute and end their relationship with the Communist Chinese Party.

“I applaud A&M’s decision and commend their university leaders for putting America First. I urge Troy University to follow the lead of Alabama A&M and dozens of other patriotic universities that have closed their Confucius Institutes. The Communist Chinese Party bars America from sponsoring pro-freedom, pro-Democracy institutes on Chinese soil. America must reciprocate by barring the Communist Chinese Party from operating espionage and propaganda units on American soil.” More than 60 universities in the United States have Confucius Institutes, the Associated Press has reported.

Last year, the Trump administration designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center in Washington as a foreign mission of the Chinese Communist Party. The designation meant the center has to report to the U.S. government information about funding, personnel, curriculum and other activities, AP reported. The Confucius Institute at Alabama A&M started in 2016.

In a letter to Brooks last year, Hugine wrote that the instructors at the Confucius Institute at A&M teach the Chinese language and related subjects and organized, hosted, and participated in many cultural activities “which are always inclusive and involve diverse (religion, ideologies, ethnicity, nationality) communities of students, faculty, staff and members of the public.”

According to the Alabama A&M website, the Confucius Institute is a non-degree granting entity that offers three courses for credit. The institute supports community outreach cultural activities in Chinese language, culture, history, economics, and philosophy.

The Institute also addresses university’s service mission by providing programs and courses such as Introductory Chinese, Chinese Writing, and History and Culture of China to students and greater Huntsville.

Rep. Tommy Hanes, a Republican from Scottsboro, who is sponsoring a bill to prohibit Alabama’s public colleges from hosting Confucius Institutes, praised Alabama A&M’s decision in a statement.

“This a step in protecting our freedoms and liberties from the Communist agenda of world domination,” Hanes said.

Clint Reid, chairman of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, also praised the A&M decision and said he hoped that other universities would do the same.

“We commend Alabama A&M University for standing for academic freedom and national security with the closure of their Confucius Institute,” Reid said.