An initiative designed to promote Chinese culture that opened with great fanfare at Binghamton University more than a decade ago was shut down with little notice.

The Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera was greeted enthusiastically when it was launched on the Vestal campus in the fall of 2009. But it was quietly closed last summer amid concerns that federal research funding could be in jeopardy.

The Albany Times Union reported that several similar programs at SUNY campuses were shut down in recent months.

A SUNY Albany spokesman told the newspaper that "it became increasingly clear that continuing" the relationship with the organization backed by the Chinese government could jeopardize the university's "access to critical federal research funding."

Last May, the Washington Examiner reported the Confucius Institute at Binghamton University was scheduled to close on July 9.

Professor Zu-yan Chen, who was the director of the Institute at Binghamton since its inception, could not be reached for comment on the move to shut it down.

After this story was published, a university spokesman sent a statement about the move. He said the institute "transitioned to a new Beijing Opera Center for Theater Arts Collaboration which is completely supported by Binghamton University."

The spokesman said while the new entity "is not affiliated with the Confucius Institute, we are still committed to introducing students to the Asian and Chinese performing arts, opera and music and part of our commitment to provide students a truly globaly education."

 

The university posted a video featuring highlights of the Confucius Institute's opening ceremony to YouTube 12 years ago.

A screenshot from a Binghamton University YouTube video of the 2009 Confucius Institute opening ceremony.
A screenshot from a Binghamton University YouTube video of the November 2009 Confucius Institute opening ceremony.
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In the video, Chen said the institute "is a non-profit organization aiming to promote Chinese language and culture."

Lois DeFleur, who was the university president at the time, said "we are tremendously excited about the opening of the Confucius Institute at Binghamton University." She said "we are looking forward to the intellectual discoveries, artistic performances and cultural bridges that will develop out of this relationship."

DeFleur said the institute "is a noteworthy addition to the University and will enrich the academic and cultural life of both the University and the entire Greater Binghamton region."

This story was updated to include the comments of a Binghamton University spokesman.

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Contact WNBF News reporter Bob Joseph: bob@wnbf.com. For breaking news and updates on developing stories, follow @BinghamtonNow on Twitter.

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