University implements Confucius Institute for Chinese studies

Lt. Gov Michael Stack looks on as Zhejiang Normal University Chairman Chen Dexi (left) and President Theobald exchange gifts at the signing ceremony on Monday in Sullivan Hall. | Emily Rolen TTN

Temple announced Monday that it is collaborating with Zhejiang Normal University, or ZJNU, in China to implement the Confucius Institute – a center for Chinese language and cultural instruction – on Main Campus. In light of the agreement, there was a signing ceremony in Sullivan Hall attended by President Theobald and Chen Dexi, chairman of ZJNU.

The Confucius Institute will be the only of its kind in the Greater Philadelphia area, with the next closest institute at the University of Delaware. As part of the new programming, the institute will bring two full-time professors to Temple from ZJNU to support a Chinese language major. Until now, Temple only offered a minor in the language.

Provost Hai-Lung Dai, who made opening and closing remarks at the ceremony, said the institute will have the capability to certify K-12 teachers in the language.

“In this century we will see increased interactions between the U.S. and Asia, particularly China,” Dai said. “We have already seen more demands in being proficient in the Chinese language. … It is not that conservative to predict more demands from students will be growing.”

A university spokesman said a meeting in Beijing last November with Xu Lin, the director general of Hanban, or China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, led to the launch of the institute at Temple. It is one of 106 in the U.S.

There has been controversy surrounding the program in the past, since it is partially funded by the Chinese government. The Association of American Universities, the nationwide name for the union which represents Temple’s full-time faculty, claimed that Confucius Institutes are “allowed to ignore academic freedom.”

Dai said that he is “not sure there are any basis” for the controversies surrounding many of the failed Confucius Institutes across the country. He cited specifically the University of Chicago, which discontinued its institute last year.

“Both the President and myself, we are staunch supports of academic freedom,” Dai said. “ZJNU faculty will abide by rules and conduct of Temple faculty.”

Louis Mangione, an associate professor in the Department of Asian and Middle-Eastern Languages and Studies, will serve as the institute’s director with Liren (Benjamin) Zeng from ZJNU. Mangione has taught courses with ZJNU in language education and applied linguistics.

“There will be no issue with academic freedom,” Mangione said. “[Zhejiang Normal University professors] will enjoy freedoms of any other instructor at Temple.”

Since he began his career at Temple in 1985, Mangione said he has seen programming increase at the university to accommodate both students and faculty with interests in studying Chinese language, culture, research and teaching.

“The number of opportunities for students has increased and interest in the study of Asia has expanded,” Mangione said.

According to data compiled by Martyn Miller, the senior director for international student and scholar services, the enrollment numbers for Chinese students at Temple have swelled during the past 10 years. In 2005, there were 269 students from China on campus – in 2010 there were 360 students. In 2015, there are 1107 enrolled Chinese students.

The new institute, located on the third floor of Anderson Hall, will also offer an increased number of cultural events available to students and community members outside of just language study, Mangione said.

“It’s important for people to have contact with Chinese culture,” he added.

Hanban and Temple will collaboratively fund the institute with two additional faculty members, textbooks, materials and cultural programming, a university spokesman said.

“My hope is that more students … will be taking Chinese and contributing to the world, to the economy and to peace,” Dai said. “That’s my humble hope.”

Emily Rolen can be reached at emily.rolen@temple.edu or on Twitter @emily_rolen.

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