On August 3, three ranking republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to six colleges around the country to demand further disclosure regarding foreign donations in the last 4-5 years. These letters were sent to Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Delaware. In total, the letters reference $227 million in donations from China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia. The letters were sent by Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and James Comer (R-KY), the ranking members of the House Judiciary, House Oversight and Reform, and House Education and Labor committees, respectively.
This action follows a similar request addressed to the Education Department in May, and likewise, the current letters point to a growing national security threat as the reason for the inquiry. For example, one of the lawmakers’ arguments is that governments like Qatar label their donations as “trade secrets” to prevent its disclosure as otherwise required by U.S. law. This viewpoint is compounded by the belief that the gifts are later used as leverage upon the recipients for some type of benefit, all while staying protected in anonymity.
All in all, these universities were now given an unrealistic timeline of one week to produce all unredacted records of gifts, contracts and agreements with foreign governments since January 2015. It is unclear at this time how the affected parties will decide to respond.