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Gov. DeSantis proposes legislation to combat foreign influence on universities

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 12:55 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCJB) - Florida universities will face stricter requirements for foreign affairs.

During Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press conference today, he proposed a legislation to combat foreign influences on Florida public institutions.

UF researcher and associate professor, Dr. Lin Yang, was accused of defrauding federal government of 1.1 million dollars to further the interest of the People’s Republic of China.

Related stories: Former University of Florida researcher accused of defrauding $1.1 million, lying about relationship with China

Gov. DeSantis said he will require stricter vetting and review processes for researchers.

“We will put in place strict vetting and review processes for foreign applicants to important research positions,” Gov. DeSantis said. “Florida has the best public higher education program in the nation according to US News and World Report and that’s proven by the cutting edge research innovation and talent that resides right here in Florida. We must ensure that our research, innovation and talent benefit Florida and benefit our country, not foreign interest like the Chinese communists party.”

He will also require institutions to report gifts of high amounts.

“We will require every public institution of higher education report any gift of 50,000 dollars or more received directly or indirectly by any foreign government or foreign person,” Gov. DeSantis said. “Universities will be required to establish international travel approval and monitoring program with stronger vetting and needed transparency for the review of faculty, researcher, and staff academic travel.”

Click Here for the full press conference.

The United Faculty of Florida (UFF) has put out statements against the proposal. They argue that Governor Ron Desantis should focus on issues in the education system caused by the pandemic. They also suggest the actions are xenophobic.

“We caution the Governor to be careful not to condemn innocent Floridians of Chinese—or Cuban, North Korean, Iranian, Russian, or Venezuelan—descent. United Faculty of Florida stands for due process and innocent until proven guilty,” said Karen Morian, UFF President.

The president of UF’s union is calling on the governor to visit the university and meet with Chinese and Chinese-American faculty members.

“I invite Governor DeSantis to come to the University of Florida to talk in person with UF’s Chinese and Chinese American faculty members in order to undo the damage he did today by engaging in racial scapegoating during his news conference,” said Paul Ortiz, UFF-UF, President. “Governor DeSantis’s remarks are especially disturbing given the long history of anti-Chinese racism in the United States. If Governor DeSantis engages in real conversations with Chinese faculty at UF, and when he learns about the amazing research that our colleagues are doing in tandem with academics in China, UFF-UF hopes that he will share this message of collaboration and educational excellence with the world as work we should all embrace. Florida’s colleges and universities work with students and communities across the globe. Attacking the citizenry in one nation detracts from our goal to be world leaders in innovation, research, and learning generally.”

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