Beijing Language and Culture University contested the claim that its lack of friendliness led Harvard Beijing Academy to uproot and permanently move its program to Taipei, Taiwan, providing emails that seem to contradict the HBA director’s claims.
HBA Director Jennifer L. Liu told The Crimson earlier this month that one factor in her decision to relocate the program was the perceived lack of friendliness on BLCU’s part.
BLCU Director of the International Admissions Office Zhou Xin, who was in charge of the Chinese language program for HBA, wrote in a statement following publication of The Crimson’s story that he was shocked to hear of Liu’s allegations.
“If she really made those remarks, they are nothing but a completely groundless lie with a hidden agenda,” Zhou wrote, arguing that Liu’s comments are inconsistent with what she has expressed to him.
Liu told The Crimson of several instances of friction between the two institutions in recent years, particularly with accessing facilities for the program. According to Liu, BLCU at one point told the Harvard program administrators they would have to split students between two dorms of differing quality or house their students in a hotel. This was compounded in 2019 when, Liu stated, BLCU cancelled HBA’s annual Fourth of July celebration, in which students typically eat pizza and sing the national anthem. Liu said she felt that a possible reason for the shift in attitudes was a change in attitudes towards U.S. institutions associated with Xi Jinping’s leadership.
Translated emails provided by Zhou, however, seem to contradict some of Liu’s comments. In one, Liu expresses appreciation to BLCU for their collaboration, telling the school that the program was ending because “the U.S. government and schools have successively stopped funding projects to China.”
“This sharp and sudden change of Prof. Jennifer Liu’s attitude from being grateful to BLCU to being resentful of BLCU is not what we can understand,” Zhou wrote.
Zhou added that a “friendly and culturally diversified learning environment is what our students are most proud of.”
“The so-called ‘unwelcoming environment’ and ‘lack of friendliness’ is not only groundless but also insulting to us,” he wrote.
Zhou also disputed Liu’s account of BLCU turning the cold shoulder, calling it “seriously inconsistent with the facts.” The two sides mediated any disagreements over facilities through “friendly negotiation and full communication,” he argued, stating that BLCU “fully and strictly fulfilled its duties and obligations stipulated” in its annual agreement with Harvard, which was finalized at least four months before the program began each year.
He added that the Fourth of July celebration was not cancelled; instead, staff told students in the teaching building not to sing aloud and celebrate loudly while other students were in class.
Liu declined to comment on Zhou’s account, instead referring to a statement fromDivision of Continuing Education spokesperson Harry J. Pierre.
“The planned move of this program from Beijing to Taiwan has been considered for some time and reflects a wide array of operational factors,” Pierre wrote. “The program's new location presents a different opportunity for our instructors and learners to broaden their educational experiences. We look forward to continuing to build what has become an excellent program for students.”