Florida State University (FSU) failed to disclose foreign relationships, gifts, or contracts among university entities and now faces a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) inquiry.
In a letter, obtained by The Florida Capital Star, to FSU President John Thrasher on January 15, the DOE notified the university of an inquiry into potential violations of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
According to the U.S. DOE:
“Congress enacted Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) in light of concerns about the growing financial relationship between U.S. universities and foreign sources. Congress balanced academic freedom and national security by mandating financial transparency through required reporting of contracts with and gifts from a foreign source that, alone or combined, are valued at $250,000 or more in a calendar year.”
In the letter, DOE notes they did not receive a Section 117 report from FSU, which is required by law for colleges and universities that are classified as a research institution. The letter also noted that FSU’s Office of Research Compliance has a program to manage concerns relating to foreign influence and provides information on Section 117 reporting although FSU has never actually filed a Section 117 report.
The letter continued:
“Given this and FSU’s self-described extensive engagement with foreign sources, we are opening a preliminary inquiry, directed by the Department’s Office of the General Counsel with support from the Office of Federal Student Aid, regarding FSU’s Section 117 violations, if any.”
Governor Ron DeSantis has called for curbing foreign influence in Florida’s colleges and universities, and the Florida Legislature responded. Lawmakers have passed HB 7017 and are considering its companion bill SB 2010.
The legislation comes after a Florida House investigation found most of Florida’s higher education institutions were under some sort of foreign interference, including the University of Florida who failed to disclose the relationship of a particular researcher with China.
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