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MU Cutting Ties With Confucius Institute

Sara Shahriari / KBIA

The University of Missouri is ending its nine-year relationship with the Confucius Institute – a Chinese Ministry of Education backed program that promotes Chinese culture and places visiting Chinese teachers in Columbia Public Schools to teach Mandarin.

University officials announced Wednesday that a new U.S. State Department standard requiring a state-certified Mandarin teacher present in class with each visiting Chinese teacher makes the program too costly.

Officials say there are currently 13 student interns with the institute teaching Chinese language classes in Columbia Public Schools. In a statement, Mary Stegmaier, interim vice provost for international programs, said the university is committed to working with CPS to make sure students can continue to learn Mandarin Chinese.

CPS Superintendent Peter Stiepleman said in a statement that students who began studying Chinese in middle school will be able to continue doing so and new students interested in the language can begin in high school.

Since 2011, the institute has featured events, speakers and hosted trips focusing on Chinese culture at the university and Columbia Public Schools.

Critics of the institute, including Missouri U.S. Rep Vicky Hartzler and Sen. Josh Hawley, have said it promotes Chinese Communist Party propaganda and threatens national defense.

UM System President Mun Choi has said MU audited the institute in 2019 and found no evidence of academic espionage.

The university was notified about the State Department changes in July 2019 and given the 2019-2020 school year to reevaluate its partnership with CPS under the new standard.

Copyright 2020 KBIA

Kristofor Husted is a senior reporter at KBIA in Columbia, Mo. Previously Husted reported for NPR’s Science Desk in Washington and Harvest Public Media. Husted was a 2013 fellow with the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and a 2015 fellow for the Institute for Journalism and Justice. He’s won regional and national Edward R. Murrow, PRNDI and Sigma Delta Chi awards. Husted also is an instructor at the Missouri School of Journalism. He received a B.S. in cell biology from UC Davis and an M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University.