Published May 14, 2021
UB has decided to close the UB Confucius Institute after a successful, decade-long run promoting Chinese language and culture at the university and throughout the Buffalo region.
The institute, located in the UB Commons, will be discontinued at the end of 2021.
The decision to close the institute was made by President Satish K. Tripathi and Provost A. Scott Weber, who informed the institute’s board of advisors on May 10. UB’s collaborator in Beijing, Capital Normal University (CNU), and the local schools that took part in the institute’s language program also have been informed.
“After careful consideration of all of the variables, we decided that in order to preserve and strengthen our long-standing relationship with CNU we would need to do so outside of the parameters of the Confucius Institute and in alignment with our research and education mission,” Weber said.
“Our support for our Chinese students, partners, remains very strong and we are deeply committed to further engaging our faculty and students in research, scholarship and service related to Chinese culture and studies,” he said.
An interdecanal committee will be formed to explore how UB can further advance Chinese and Asian studies through its mission of research, education and service, and to discover new ways to support Chinese and Asian students studying at UB.
Zhiqiang Liu, professor of economics and director of the Confucius Institute at UB, has agreed to chair the new committee.
At UB, the purpose of the Confucius Institute was to provide teachers and resources to develop Chinese language and cultural programs in area schools, while also supporting teaching and scholarship about China at the university.
“Thanks to our partners in China, particularly CNU, as well as our College of Arts and Sciences and many local stakeholders, the UB Confucius Institute has greatly increased knowledge of China, its language and culture, both at the university and throughout the local community, positively impacting students from primary school through graduate school,” said John J. Wood, interim vice provost for international education, who served as chair of the institute’s board of advisors.
“I look forward to working with Professor Liu and his new committee to develop ways for UB to continue to advance knowledge and research about China in the future.”
I am surprised, shocked and saddened to learn that UB has decided to terminate its branch of the Confucius Institute, which has been widely admired as one of the most successful and productive in the United States, if not in the entire world. As the second UB faculty member to spend a year conducting research at Capital Normal University, long before the creation of Confucius Institutes, and as a participant in Confucius Institution-sponsored scholarly activities even after my retirement in 2015, I don't understand why preservation and strengthening of "our long-standing relationship with CNU" would have to occur "outside of the parameters of the Confucius Institute...."
In fact, given UB's limited financial support for "our research and education mission" in Asian studies, the Confucius Institute under the leadership of Kristin Stapleton, the late Jiyuan Yu and Liu Zhiqiang has been one of the bright lights in the pursuit of that mission.
Given the rising tide of xenophobia, racism and calls for another "Cold War" against "Communist China," this is no time to cut back on institutions carefully designed to transcend nationalism and imperialism, and work toward a more equitable and peaceful world community.
Roger V. Des Forges