Sen. Rick Scott demands answers from Florida universities on Chinese influence

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) sent a letter to Florida public university presidents to warn of the threat China poses to higher education.

Scott also asked universities about their processes in dealing with conflicts of interest related to foreign countries.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) recently sent a letter to the presidents of Florida public universities to warn about the threat that China poses to the United States and its higher education institutions.

He also asked universities to share details on how technology and research are safeguarded on college campuses. 

“I write today to request information on the specific steps you have taken at your university to safeguard our technology and our intellectual property from foreign influence,” Scott wrote in the Dec. 3 letter. 

Scott added that his concern arose after recent hearings in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where information on communist China’s “talent recruitment” program was apparently shared with senators. 

“The growing influence of Communist China presents a clear and present danger to the stability of world markets, to the security of the United States and our allies, and to the quest for freedom and democracy around the globe,” Scott wrote. “We know Communist China is stealing our technology and trying to compete with us on the global stage. We should all be greatly concerned about what is happening in Communist China as they continue to take steps to try to ‘win’ the great power conflict of the 21st Century.”

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Also in the letter, Scott specifically asks university presidents if any researchers or faculty members at their respective universities have failed to disclose their work in Chinese-funded programs, or whether they have shared “unauthorized information” with a foreign entity. 

Scott also asked university presidents to explain existing disclosure requirements for faculty that may have research or financial conflicts of interest with regards to foreign organizations. He specifically asked whether universities disclose this information to the federal government and related departments and agencies. 

“We understand the importance of conducting collaborative research, but U.S. businesses and universities must protect their information from Communist China,” Scott wrote. “We cannot take this threat lightly.”

Campus Reform has previously reported on Chinese influence on college campuses, specifically through Chinese funded Confucius Institutes.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has also been critical of Confucius Institutes and Chinese influence on campuses, along with several of his other colleagues such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). 

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The letter was also sent to Marshall Criser III who is the State University System Chancellor in Florida. The public universities that comprise the state system in Florida include the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, and theUniversity of South Florida, among others. 

Campus Reform reached out to Scott’s office for comment but received no response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @eduneret