Multiple universities under the microscope for allegedly failing to disclose foreign ties

The Department of Education is investigating six American universities over possible Section 117 violations.

The Department of Education letters allege while the universities have extensive foreign collaboration, they have filed very few Section 117 disclosures.

The Department of Education has opened investigations into multiple American colleges and universities, looking into whether they reported gifts or contracts coming from foreign sources.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Department of Education sent letters to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Auburn University, Florida State University, Georgia State University, the University of Nevada, and the University of New Mexico over possible violations of Section 117, which requires colleges and universities to disclose gifts or contracts from foreign sources exceeding $250,000.

The Department of Education’s letter to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee stated that the university has self-described “collaboration with foreign sources,” which includes “partnership agreements with over 200 institutions worldwide.”

[RELATED: UF prof indicted over undisclosed China ties]

Despite these partnership agreements, however, the DOE stated that “UWM has apparently never filed a Section 117 report.”

The letter informed the university that it had 21 days to provide documentation showing all “gift or donation agreements and/or contracts” from foreign sources dating back to January 1, 2016.

The DOE is also asking the University of Milwaukee to provide “all records” that the university has which relate to Section 117 compliance.

The letters sent to Auburn University, Florida State University, Georgia State University, the University of Nevada, and the University of New Mexico all contain similar requests for documentation.

[RELATED: Chinese state media accuses US of racism after MIT prof is arrested for China ties. Here’s what MIT had to say.]

Michelle Johnson, senior director of integrated marketing & communications for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, told Campus Reform that the university is cooperating with the Department of Education.

“UWM is cooperating with the Department of Education in its inquiry, which is just one of dozens of DOE section 117 inquiries and investigations over the past 18 months,” Johnson said, “UWM takes its compliance obligations seriously, but given the pending inquiry, UWM will not comment further.”

Marco Cordero, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, voiced concern over the nature of this investigation.

“I’d feel more comfortable going to a university that follows rules,” Cordero said in reference to section 117. “These rules were set in place for a reason. If they’re struggling financially, there are right and wrong ways to get money.”

In 2020 alone, the Department of Education opened similar investigations into Harvard, Yale, University of Texas, Case Western Reserve, Fordham, Stanford, and the University of Alabama. 

Follow the author of this article: Aidan Shank