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House Passes DETERRENT Act to Track Foreign Money on US College Campuses

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With the rise of antisemitic incidents at universities around the country, some question whether foreign money pouring in to universities is influencing what students are being taught on campus. 

Members of Congress would like to know, at the very least, where the money is coming from. To learn more about the effort, CBN News sat down with the sponsor of the DETTERENT Act - a bill that would put greater scrutiny on universities to show where they're getting their funding from.

California Republican Congresswoman Michelle Steel says universities are already required to disclose major gifts from foreign entities, but they're not doing it.

"There's already law that when you receive over $250,000 from foreign entities, you're supposed to report it. But 70% of universities never complied with that," Rep. Steel told CBN's Matt Galka. 

A major concern of Steel's and others is why the money is coming in, especially if it's coming from a country at odds with the United States.

China has been known to be one of the largest sources of foreign money flooding into American universities for the past decade.

"UC Berkeley received over 240 million dollars from China. And guess what they did, they brought Chinese officials and Chinese researchers and showed their sensitive research center. It's not acceptable," said Rep. Steel. 

Steel's DETERRENT Act is set up to require stricter reporting requirements for universities when it comes to foreign money. It lowers the threshold from $250,000 to $50,000. Schools would have to report any dollar amount from Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea.

The rise of antisemitism on campuses also concerns Steel and her colleagues. Money has come from Qatar, with one 2020 study from the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy showing a link between universities accepting money from Qatar and the presence of pro-Palestinian groups on those campuses.

PHOTO: Pro-Palestinian protesters in Colorado display genocidal poster against Israel, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
PHOTO: Pro-Palestinian protesters in Colorado display genocidal poster against Israel, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Steel questioned prominent university presidents about foreign influence this week.

"We have alumni all over the world and those alumni through their philanthropy support student aid, scholarship, cutting edge research. One thing their philanthropy does not do is influence how we run the university, how we enforce our policies, or how we keep our students safe," Harvard President Dr. Claudine Gay told Rep. Steel about foreign influence at her school. 

Steel says the foreign money coming into college campuses can be summed up with an old adage: There's no such thing as a free lunch.

"I'm not buying it. They said they are not influenced, our students never get the propaganda, our students are not influenced by the money, but you know what? It's a joke," Rep. Steel said. 

The DETERRENT Act passed the House with bipartisan support this week. It now heads to the Senate with Steel hopeful there's momentum to get something done before year's end.

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About The Author


Matt Galka serves as a Capitol Hill Correspondent and Senior Washington Correspondent for CBN News. He joined CBN in March of 2022 after most recently reporting in Phoenix, AZ. In Phoenix, Matt covered multiple stories that had national implications, including reports on the southern border and in-depth coverage of Arizona's election audit. Before Phoenix, Matt was in Tallahassee, FL, reporting on state government at the Florida Capitol and serving as a general assignment reporter. Matt's stories in Arizona earned him multiple Emmy awards and nominations. The Florida Associated Press