Press "Enter" to skip to content

Anonymous $400K Brings Chinese Gov’t Program to NSU to Teach Mandarin

Folks in Aberdeen do enjoy their Chinese connections. First a brand new beef plant, now a brand new Chinese program at Northern State University!

The South Dakota Board of Regents held a special teleconference yesterday to deal with a single agenda item: the creation of a Confucius Institute on the NSU campus. The Chinese government, through Hanban, an affiliate of the Chinese Ministry of Education, supports hundreds of Confucius Institutes at universities and secondary schools around the world to teach Chinese language and culture.

Northern State was looking for $400,000 from the Legislature to fund its Confucius Institute. Our legislators prioritized tax dollars for covering their expenses in traveling to the governor’s inauguration, so NSU found help elsewhere:

After extensive discussions here and in China, NSU is asking for approval of the attached MOA with the University of Jinan (UJN) for the development of a Confucius Institute (CI). The CI will provide basic Mandarin instruction and associated programs at NSU that encourage understanding of Chinese culture that are to be essentially cost-free operationally. Although tuition and fee revenues from these activities would be modest, an anonymous pledge of $400,000 from a private donor is expected to cover any startup costs not provided by the Chinese funding entity, Hanban (CIH or Confucius Institute Headquarters). CIH will provide $150,000 in startup funds, a 3,000 volume library of Chinese books and teaching materials, and airfares for all visiting personnel. Base funding and cost reimbursements of budgetary needs will not require substantial fronting of expenses by NSU due to an annual base funding system that is used by Hanban. All salaries of visiting personnel will also be provided via CIH. NSU will provide residence hall housing for visiting Chinese instructors [South Dakota Board of Regents, Agenda Item 2, teleconference, 2015.03.18].

Confucius Institutes have been criticized as toeholds for threatening academic freedom and usurping university authority to hire and fire faculty. Such concerns contributed to the University of Chicago’s decision last September to end its collaboration with Hanban.

According to the memorandum of understanding approved unanimously by the Regents yesterday, NSU retains the authority to interview and approve all teaching candidates nominated by the University of Jinan. The memorandum also establishes that NSU will make sure the Confucius Institute will adhere “to the Board of Regents (BOR) policies, including, specifically, policies on Academic Freedom and Freedom in Learning, and anti-discrimination provisions….” The Confucius Institute thus appears not to be a threat to academic freedom on campus, though I’ll be watching for democracy and human rights in the Mandarin 201 vocab lists.

NSU’s hosting a Confucius Institute fits the spirit of Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, in which the 2015 Legislature declared its support for closer U.S.–China relations. However, the Chinese government’s toehold in Aberdeen could cross wires with the Legislature’s long-standing resolve to support Taiwan, manifested most recently by this year’s SCR 2. Hanban chief Xu Lin has said her teachers are committed to the idea that “Taiwan belongs to China.” Perhaps Taiwan supporters in the Legislature will feel the need to invite Taiwan’s own soft-power diplomacy to balance Beijing’s influence with a Taiwan Academy.

Northern State University will hold a signing ceremony to welcome our new Chinese overlords partners in global language and culture in April, exact date TBA.

Just don’t come crying Socialism!, my conservative friends, or you’ll end up on The Daily Show:


  1. larry kurtz 2015-03-19

    Mandarin: neither Ojibway nor Lakota? Dakota Wesleyan just cut all its language programs but Spanish.

    Stupid state.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-19

    Money talks. Maybe the Shakopee Mdewakanton need to create a Black Elk Institute to teach the language and culture of our own people.

  3. Brig Gen Jack D. Ripper 2015-03-19

    A Red China Confucius Institute located at one of our state Universities while our Democratic ally Taiwan is ignored? This is another example Corporatist, Crony, Neo Marxist, Neo Fascist Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    Brig Gen Jack D. Ripper USAF Ret.

  4. Les 2015-03-19

    The Chinese languages,Arabic and English along with Spanish for us homies are languages of the future.

    Unfortunately my Irish and German languages are as lost here as the Lakota and unused will continue their decease in this melting pot.

  5. mike from iowa 2015-03-19

    More proof that Obama is a Muslim and is setting up Sharia law all over.

  6. jerry 2015-03-19

    Thankfully the Chinese have come to Aberdeen. This is a great thing and we that are not soiled by the republican mantra of corruption in our state, should be grateful for their arrival. What they are doing is keeping their enemy close, or should I say crooks close. Remember, Rounds, Benda and Bollen ripped these guys off for millions. They just want to keep tabs on them as our Marty is to corrupt to do the necessary job in this.

  7. David Newquist 2015-03-19

    From the academic perspective, this program continues the effort to rebuild programs that have fallen into disuse or have been cut. NSU has had a history of strong programs with the Chinese. In the 1990s, it had a program in Mandarin and English as a Second Language under the direction of the English Department’s linguistic professor, Dr. Ming-Ming Pu. However, after the International Business Institute was established, the programs were co-opted by the business department and the English department became a service department largely offering the minimum curriculum in English language courses to meet accreditation. Dr. Pu was lured away by better job offers and is now at the University of Maine, Farmington.

    I was thesis supervisor and adviser for Chinese students who studied American literature and returned to China to teach. The question I have is whether this Confucius Institute will be coordinated by the academics, the members of the College of Arts and Sciences, or whether it will be another economic development scheme like turned into Joop Bollen’s Department of EB-5.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-19

    Good point, David! I’ve got to cheer President Smith’s effort to put back what our cheap budgets and emphasis on economic development dismantled. Let’s hope the post-Bollen SDIBI (oops! now CEIBE) can find ways to work with and promote Chinese language education rather than co-opting the program into someone else’s money-making scheme.

Comments are closed.