Stanford University cancels $1.7M Russian contract after Fox News inquiry

Rep. Virginia Foxx talks foreign money to American universities

Stanford University is terminating what appears to be the last remaining active Russian contract among colleges in the United States after Fox News reached out for details and comment on the arrangement. 

Stanford entered into a $1.65 million agreement with an unidentified Russian entity in December 2020, a search of the College Foreign Gift and Contract Report database shows. The three-year agreement contains sparse details, though it notes the funding did not come from the Kremlin.

The contract is for “online access to business-related professional development courses” and is in “full compliance” with U.S. sanctions, Dee Mostofi, Stanford’s assistant vice president for external communications, told Fox News on Thursday.

On Friday, however, Mostofi emailed Fox News saying Stanford now “is in the process of ending the contract.”

Mostofi did not address other questions on the contract, including who in Russia was involved and whether the university plans to take up Russian contracts in the future.

A view of Hoover Tower and the Stanford University campus seen from Stanford Stadium. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
(David Madison/Getty Images)

Then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “found that there was almost $7 billion given to universities that were not being reported by the university to the federal government as required by law,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, told Fox News.

“Most people give money for a reason,” the North Carolina Republican said. “It’s generally accepted that they are looking for ways to influence what is happening in the colleges and universities.”

Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina. Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Education in 2020 discovered $6.5 billion in previously unreported foreign money to universities from adversarial countries, including China and Russia.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign also reports an active Russian contract in the foreign money database. The records show the agreement began in October 2014 and runs through June 2022. 

However, a University of Illinois spokesperson told Fox News it was a fee-for-service agreement to “provide DNA sequencing services” to the Russia-based Evrogen Lab that concluded last month.

“The last samples analyzed under that agreement were received and analyzed in February,” the spokesperson said. “We are not accepting any new samples for analysis under this contract.”

Other universities have also cut student, research and financial ties from Russia, distancing them from the authoritarian superpower.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology severed a research partnership with the Kremlin, and the University of Colorado is liquidating investments in Russian companies, Forbes reported. The Arizona Board of Regents told the institutions it oversees – Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University – to sell off their Russian assets, NBC News reported.

Other schools, like Middlebury College, are suspending study abroad programs in Russia.  

Like many universities, Stanford also runs a program that sends students to Russia. 

The program, called the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum, describes itself as the “world’s only independent research organization that bring students and young professionals from the United States and Russia together to foster understanding between the cultures, share the knowledge, and gain experience in doing collaborative research.”

The program has garnered praise from Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister and the public messenger for its Ukraine invasion.

Soldiers watching the train arrive in Lviv as they prepare to travel to the frontline. (Photo by Vincenzo Circosta/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“The Stanford forum has proven itself to be a positive mechanism for strengthening trust and understanding between young people of our two countries,” Lavrov is quoted on the forum’s website. “I am eagerly anticipating your suggestions to further develop U.S.-Russia cooperation.”

Stanford, likewise, has a Ukrainian-centered leadership program for its students. 

Stanford students have recently called on university leadership to condemn Russia’s actions to no avail, The Stanford Daily reported Tuesday.

“I have become very used to receiving messages signaling Stanford’s support for causes that the leadership considers to be important,” one student told the paper. “That is why it is hard to interpret silence as anything but a signal that they do not consider the current invasion to be an issue of substantial moral importance.”

Student advocates have “repeatedly reached out” to the administration for a public statement on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Standford Daily reported.

A university spokesperson told the student-run paper that they typically don’t make campus-wide statements regarding international matters. 

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