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Harvard Received Over $1.1 Billion in Foreign Funding Since 2012, per Department of Education Report

University President Lawrence S. Bacow's offices are located in Massachusetts Hall.
University President Lawrence S. Bacow's offices are located in Massachusetts Hall. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Ellen M. Burstein, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard has received over $1.1 billion in foreign funding since 2012, per an initial Department of Education report.

The DOE report — released Tuesday — examined Harvard and other universities’ compliance with foreign funding criteria. Its release comes as department officials are investigating Harvard’s funding from contracts or gifts connected to the governments of China, Iran, Russia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, American universities are required to disclose all donations of over $250,000 from a foreign source.

In February, the Department asked Harvard to release information on funding from two Chinese telecommunications companies, Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp.; two Russian entities, the Kaspersky Lab and Skolkovo Foundation; Iran’s Alavi Foundation; the Wuhan University of Technology in China; and other organizations.

Harvard has complied with the ongoing investigation, University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an email.

“Harvard has filed Section 117 reports for decades and will continue to do so. In line with the Feb. 11 request from DOE, the University has submitted updated Section 117 reports for the period 2014 to 2018, as well as its regular filings for 2019 and 2020, to date,” he wrote.

Swain added that the University had recently updated its disclosure forums to reflect Department of Education criteria. In doing so, Harvard widened the range of contracts included in its reports, with most of the additions stemming from “contract amounts from the sale and licensing of academic publications and from offering executive education programs.”

Harvard is one of 12 institutions currently under investigation. The Department is also examining funding practices at MIT, Yale University, Stanford University, Georgetown University, University of Texas, Cornell University, Texas A&M University, Rutgers University, University of Maryland, Case Western Reserve University, and Fordham University.

The unredacted portions of the DOE report includes detailed findings about several of those schools. In Harvard’s case, however, federal investigators wrote that a review of donations records the University turned over was “ongoing” at the time of publication.

The Department cited charges against embattled chemistry professor Charles M. Lieber as an example of the “scope of the problem” of foreign funding. Federal officials indicted Lieber in June, alleging that he lied to federal investigators about his affiliation with the Chinese Government’s Thousand Talents Program.

The DOE also criticized Harvard’s previously-reported financial links to the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, which the report dubbed “a high-profile example illustrating the presence of unexamined “dark money” in the U.S. education system.” It is “unclear” whether these funds should have been reported under section 117, the report notes.

“Harvard’s self-described improper vetting of domestic contributions raises questions about its foreign gifts and contract reporting procedures,” the report reads.

— Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at ellen.burstein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.

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