Bad actors have poured money into the prestigious Texas A&M University System. These actors include Communist China, Qatar (whose government is accused of ties to terrorism), and an organization run by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
There is a lack of transparency on the government university’s part concerning funds donated to them, particularly those from other nations.
In this investigative article, Texas Scorecard examines donations and grants poured into the Texas A&M System, including its locations in Corpus Christi, Kingsville, San Antonio, and Qatar, as well as its International University in Laredo. The findings support widespread criticism that far-left radicals are continually transforming universities across the state into indoctrination centers.
While certainly not all giving or donors are bad, Larson wrote that donors are able to push and pull institutions of higher learning towards their political values.
An example of this he gave is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Many people have criticized the Foundation as being a cover for the Gates to continue to build influence in various sectors throughout the globe,” he wrote. A prior Texas Scorecard investigation found the Gates Foundation had financially supported Chinese Communist Party universities rated as “high” to “very high” security risks. The Gates Foundation has also supported the subversive DEI ideology and has previous ties to the Clinton family.
Another example Larson gave was far-left financier George Soros. Larson writes that Soros gave $1 billion “to an international network of universities (Open Society University Network or OSUN) … the OSUN will support colleges if they align with Soros’ principles and beliefs.”
The usage of government education to indoctrinate students and push left-wing programs has nearly reached, if not already hit, a critical mass of exposure. Since 2020, parents nationwide have expressed outrage at the sexually explicit material and radical gender ideologies being pushed on youth and children. Too many colleges and universities have also long been exposed as hotbeds of radical leftist dogma. It is no surprise that far-left donors and institutions are actively using donations and grants to push such shifts. Larson’s caution emphasizes why citizens deserve to know who else is funding their government universities and what projects are being funded by these monies.
“For all the huge benefits modern philanthropy can bring, the sheer scale of contemporary giving can skew spending in areas such as education and healthcare, to the extent that it can overwhelm the priorities of democratically elected governments and local authorities,” he wrote. “A study on conflicts of interest in the scientific literature on e-cigarettes found that articles funded by the e-cigarette industry, tobacco industry, or pharmaceutical industry were much more likely to promote the health of e-cigarettes or other ‘purportedly safer tobacco products’ than other articles were. This shouldn’t surprise us, but it should concern us.”
Tim Hardin of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility agreed. “Any kind of money, whether it’s coming down from the federal government, if it’s money from the state, or if it is money from private actors, there’s always going to be strings attached,” he told Texas Scorecard. “If we have bad actors who are pushing woke ideologies or bad political ideology, the reason that they’re pouring money into these institutions of higher education is because they want influence over professors. They want influence over curriculum. I don’t think it’s any secret that the vast majority of universities in Texas are pushing things they should not be pushing.” Examples that Hardin named included Critical Race Theory and Radical Gender Ideology.
Texas A&M has previously been criticized for its lack of transparency regarding donations from foreign countries.
According to the Federal Register, in 2019, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) initiated a probe into Texas A&M for possibly underreporting foreign gifts. Texas Scorecard investigated in an attempt to determine what came of this.
In response to an open records request, Texas A&M provided Texas Scorecard with records of communication between the university and the Education Department pertaining to this probe.
In May of 2020, as part of the ongoing probe, the DOE asked the Texas A&M System to provide records pertaining to faculty members who were involved in Chinese talent recruitment programs, documents which were not provided in the university’s response to the initial request. The DOE pointed to a Wall Street Journal February 2020 report as a source of their concern: “[a] review by officials with the Texas A&M University System found that more than 100 faculty at its schools were involved with Chinese talent-recruitment programs, though only five had disclosed their participation.”
“The Department’s investigation into the potential influence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at TAMU (and other taxpayer-funded universities) may have important national security implications,” stated a letter from the DOE’s Office of the General Counsel. “The PRC has been clear about its intent to acquire high-level scientific foreign talent and knowledge in furtherance of China’s high-priority scientific development, national security, and economic prosperity through its ‘Chinese Talent Programs’ (CT) and other initiatives, both lawful and illicit. One such program, the ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ (TTP), involves the PRC and its agencies and agents offering salaries, research funding, laboratory space, honorary titles, and other incentives in exchange for the commitment of researchers in transmitting and sharing highly- specialized research and knowledge with the PRC.”
The Texas A&M lawyers objected to the request, arguing that the talent recruitment relationships were not taking place on behalf of the university and did not involve any foreign gifts. Furthermore, they argued that they already reported activities to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Energy, along with other federal agencies, due to their status as a defense contractor, making further disclosure to the Department of Education unnecessary.
In response, the Education Department found Texas A&M’s reluctance to disclose this information “remarkable” and “concern[ing],” and “respectfully invit[ed]” the university system to reverse their position. The university did not reply for nearly two months. The DOE then served Texas A&M with a final notice to provide the information within the following month. They were displeased with the lack of transparency from the university, writing that “it is distressing to the Department that one of our nation’s finest state university systems has failed to timely provide the requested information, despite the Department’s patience in the matter, which would be easily remedied by TAMUS’s prompt transparency…”
On the due date, the university system responded, doubling down on its refusal to provide the records, this time citing “national security” as the reason for their silence. They contended that the requested information “is subject to active investigations by federal law enforcement or counterintelligence agencies.”
Several months later, the DOE provided Texas A&M with a letter confirming that they became aware of the university system’s interactions with the Department of Justice, and were satisfied with the information they received, although the university could have provided the information sooner in a “timely and helpful matter.” Regardless, the Department closed the investigation into the Texas A&M System on January 15, 2021.
Texas Scorecard showed these communications to the Republicans who chair the committees that supervise state higher education: State Rep. John Kuempel and State Sen. Brandon Creighton. Neither replied before publication.
Texas A&M’s resistance to transparency is concerning, especially considering how the subject is so close to the hostile Chinese Communist Party.
This is not the only instance where Texas A&M has been accused of being opaque regarding foreign gifts.
According to the DOE’s data, Texas A&M has reported millions of funds flowing into them from May 2015 to January 2022.
The CCP shows up here as well. According to the DOE database Texas A&M received $10 million in funds from Communist China for an agreement between Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology Development Center (QNLM) and Texas A&M University. The agreement, which ran from July 2018 to July 2023, was for the two institutions “to collaborate to advance research and development of high-resolution Earth System modeling and prediction. ” The presence of the Chinese Communist Party, which exerts control over all domestic Chinese organizations, in Texas A&M is highly concerning. Texas Scorecard has previously covered the CCP’s infiltration of Texas’ education apparatus, with the most recent update published in August 2023.
But there is another hostile nation in the mix.
Qatar, at $285 million, is the largest source of foreign donations to A&M in the DOE’s data during the given time frame. But it’s alleged that the government university has received far more than that amount. In May 2023, in line with the DOE’s probe, Judicial Watch reported that records they had obtained “indicated” that Texas A&M had received more than $485 million from the Qatar Foundation. Judicial Watch also reported “there appear to be discrepancies” between the record they received from Texas A&M, and what the university reported to the federal government.
Such discrepancies and the DOE probe raise more questions regarding Texas A&M’s transparency. Texas Scorecard asked the university’s financial reporting department if private gifts and grants are regularly reported to the public on the university’s website, if so where, and what that money funds. A similar question was sent to Darren Benson, the university’s director of media relations. No response was received before publication.
Judicial Watch’s concerns over the Qatar funds revolve around that nation’s support of terrorism. They also note that Texas A&M has opened a university branch in Qatar. A spreadsheet from the DOE as of October 2022 reports multiple donations from the Qatar Foundation, an organization linked to the Qatar royal family, funding both the Texas A&M Qatar university and a variety of scientific research projects.
“The truth of the matter is the money that we’re seeing flow to our universities, whether it’s through China, with the Confucius Institutes, or whether it’s from countries in the Middle East, those are countries that are interested in their national interests, not the national interests of the United States of America,” said Cary Cheshire, the executive director of Texans for Strong Borders. “We need policies in place to make sure that citizens and taxpayers know where dollars are coming from. And to make sure that every governmental entity, whether it is the US State Department, whether it is a city, or whether it is a state college or university, is serving the national interests of the United States of America, and not of a foreign country.”
Other donations in the DOE report during the May 2015 to January 2022 time period include monies from Turkey ($1.7 million), Poland ($2.5 million), Saudi Arabia ($6.3 million), Nauru ($1 million), India ($4.9 million), and Luxembourg ($340,000). A full itemization of all reported donations to all American universities with greater details can be found in the DOE’s spreadsheet. So far as A&M is concerned, that spreadsheet includes a caution that there may be over-reporting in the donation amounts. But as the Judicial Watch and DOE probe show, the serious concern is alleged underreporting.
As the investigation progressed, concerns about domestic donors were also found.
Texas A&M is not an institution that is wanting for money.
According to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, their main campus’ total revenue in 2022 exceeded $2.4 billion. When including Texas A&M’s Corpus Christi, Kingsville, San Antonio, and international branches with the primary campus, their revenues swell to more than $3.1 billion. And there are still more Texas A&M campuses not included in this number. For the campuses listed above, more than $933 million of their revenue came from net tuition and fees, $945 million came from state taxpayers, and more than $788 million came from federal taxpayers in the form of grants and contracts.
But that’s not all. All the above campuses received more than $290 million in private gifts and grants. Both these and the federal grants and contracts are listed as “Restricted” funds. Mike Eddleman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board told Texas Scorecard the label meant these are “assets that have constraints placed on their use. Those constraints are imposed by creditors, grantors, contributors or laws/regulations of other governments or through constitutional provisions or enabling legislation.”
The private gifts and grants amount to little more than nine percent of the $3.1 billion in revenues at the listed universities. However, all it takes is one bad apple to spoil an entire bunch.
Though the findings in this article are not exhaustive, they do echo Walker Larson’s caution about donors steering institutions toward their ideologies. It also highlights how private funds can use these institutions to conduct questionable work or promote subversive ideologies.
As our investigation found, Texas A&M already has a history of such collaborations. In July 2011, it was widely reported that Texas A&M and the Council of State Governments Justice Center worked on a project funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, as well as Atlantic Philanthropies. The project was a report on discipline in education. This work called “for approaches to school discipline that are more equitable and effective at improving educational outcomes.” The terms “equity” and “equitable” have been used often of late to advance Marxist redistribution policies. This report argued that removing students from classrooms for disciplinary reasons increased the risk of academic failure or involvement with the Juvenile Justice System.
Already this appears to be a case of a left-wing actor working with a well-known university to promote leftist ideologies and policies.
More recently, there is the aforementioned Gates Foundation. According to records found in the Gates Foundation’s database, funds totaling more than $20 million have flowed from it to the TAMU system since 2007. Their most recent grant commitment came from their Gender Equality Division to Texas A&M AgriLife Research in February 2023. The commitment was for more than $1.2 million. The grant’s purpose was to fund a “Systematic approach to evaluate nutrition biomarkers for MNCH [maternal, newborn, and child health] outcomes.”
In 2022, the Foundation’s Global Health Division committed to Texas A&M Research Foundation a grant of close to $3 million. The purpose was to “Target and Lead Identification for TB [Tuberculosis] Drug Discovery.”
Texas Scorecard’s investigation found more actors with subversive ideologies sending money into Texas A&M.
The William and Flora Juliet Foundation helps fund the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M. The foundation’s guiding principles (October 2020) appear to be similar to those of the Gates Foundation and George Soros. “While our efforts encompass a wide range of identities, we believe the unique history of racial injustice in the United States imposes a special responsibility to make intentional efforts to address systemic racism, both internally and in our grantmaking.”
Within their guiding principles are a list of “illustrative practices.” These include a decade-long, “Racial Justice Initiative” at a cost of $150 million, gathering data about the “diversity” of their “grantee pool,” and “measures to combat implicit and structural biases” in selecting grantees. Another practice listed is individual staff training in “cultural competency and in having difficult conversations available to all staff, and coaching on race in the workplace.” The final practice in their long list is “recognizing and celebrating the cultural diversity within the foundation.”
Cultural competency was the phrase used by the far-left in their attempts to institutionalize LGBTQ and Marxist values at Carroll ISD in Southlake, TX in 2020. Parental outrage fueled a citizen-driven change in power on the school board.
Another influential, woke grantmaker is the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg. The initiative has also provided grants to Texas A&M.
Zuckerberg and Meta have been widely criticized for their suppression of free speech and collusion with the federal deep state. The platform regularly targeted speech questioning government policies in response to the Chinese coronavirus, also known as Sars-CoV-2.
What are the organization’s values? It asserts, “Our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion begins at home. At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we are committed to doing our part to dismantle systemic racism and inequality and champion equitable opportunities—both in our external work and internally at CZI.”
CZI says it funds programs and research in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. It is here that the injection of ideology becomes clear. In January 2022, CZI announced a partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. It started “a new funding opportunity” targeting “recogniz[ing] and further[ing] the leadership and scientific accomplishments of excellent biomedical researchers.” But not just any researchers. Those who have a “record of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their scientific fields [emphasis added].”
Their influence reaches into Texas A&M. In 2019 and 2022, CZI awarded two grants to the university, totaling more than $800,000. It was to fund a project aimed at “increasing interactions between biologists and technology experts to improve imaging tools for the scientific community.” Leading the project was Holly Gibbs, PhD, Research Assistant Professor and Associate Research Scientist at Texas A&M Dept. of Biomedical Engineering.
Another organization that celebrates DEI donated to Texas A&M. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in 2022 gave $55,000 to “support Dr. Michael Nippe in undertaking a collaborative research project to design a solar-powered device that removes carbon dioxide from seawater, resulting from the 2021 Scialog conference on negative emissions science.” In 2020, they gave close to $50,000 to “develop and evaluate a scalable mentoring program for diverse scholars early in their careers as economists.”
Then there’s the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. They donated $500,000 to A&M from their “social impact bond” for the June 2021 to December 2023 period. The advertised purpose of the grant is to “address the equity and inclusion needs of diverse students by developing online delivery of inclusion assessments, activities, training, and guidance for leaders, teachers, students, and parents associated with schools that are experiencing high demographic changes.”
Major donors placing such high importance on DEI efforts in their grant-giving may lead to a situation where Texas A&M and scholars, including those in STEM fields, intentionally frame their work through the lens of critical race theory to increase their chances of receiving donations, potentially at the expense of rigorous academics.
Texas A&M did not respond to a request for comment on these domestic or foreign funds before publication. Neither did the Republicans who chair the committees that supervise state higher education, State Rep. John Kuempel and State Sen. Brandon Creighton.
But there’s also the problem of illegal immigration. The Hector and Gloria Lopez Foundation “makes grants directly to colleges and universities (or their supporting organizations) that are intentional and strategic in how they support Latino first-generation students on their academic path and guidance toward economic opportunity.” Their website further states that “López Scholars are selected randomly from a pool of first-year and/or transfer students, including those identified as ‘Dreamers’ or undocumented, whose home address or graduating high school is within the five HGLF geographies and who identify as Latino, first-generation and low-income.”
HGLF has given grants to Texas A&M. It was widely reported in April 2023 and July 2022 that they gave a combined $3.5 million in grants, to Texas A&M-Kingsville and Texas A&M University-San Antonio respectively, to support scholarships for “first-generation” Latino students. Articles from Philanthropy News Digest used the woke term “Latinx,” which has been widely rejected by the Hispanic community, while other publications used the term Latino. A representative of HGLF told Texas Scorecard the organization uses “the term Latino, but we have no position on the term Latinx.”
Texas Scorecard asked HGLF for clarification on their position regarding legal and illegal immigration, and if these grants were meant to support illegal immigrants in attending Texas A&M. No response was received before publication.
Neither Texas A&M-Kingsville or San Antonio responded to an inquiry on these grants before publication.
“It is incredibly clear to me that anyone who were to attend a college or university in the state of Texas should be required to be a legal resident of the United States of America,” said Cheshire of Texans for Strong Borders. “No taxpayer dollars, and no money that is held by a taxpayer-funded institution like Texas A&M, the University of Texas at Austin, [the] University of Houston, or any other public college or university should be doling out money to foreign nationals, especially those who come in contempt of our laws.”
He further added that illegal immigrants in Texas government education have been a problem for decades. “The prevalence of illegal aliens in our university and college system is overwhelming. Unfortunately, Texas led the nation in allowing in-state tuition—subsidized, taxpayer-funded tuition—for illegal aliens in 2002. Establishment Republicans, and their Democrat allies, in the Texas Legislature have thwarted efforts to repeal that onerous law.”
Hardin said “taxpayers should be very concerned that the institutions” which utilize large sums of their tax dollars “are also being influenced by bad actors on the outside.”
All of the reported grants and donations were found not on the main Texas A&M website, but through third-party sources. As with most issues, forced disclosure would bring transparency and accountability. Texas Scorecard has sent open records requests to dive deeper into federal and private grants to the university. Results from these requests will be reported.
Given that Texas A&M has received numerous donations from grantmakers that prioritize critical race theory and DEI, it is not surprising that the university system, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has attempted to navigate around the statewide ban on DEI. In their new DEI outline, A&M states that they will still aim to provide cultural competency training, which aligns with the preferences of many of these foundations for viable grantees.
The influence these donations may exert holds significant implications for the future of Texas A&M and its commitment to maintaining high standards and academic integrity.
If A&M aims to continue upholding honor and integrity, they should prioritize transparency regarding both their domestic and foreign donors. This transparency would enable taxpayers to understand the values and projects that are being explicitly or implicitly promoted.
For this article, Texas Scorecard reviewed records obtained from governments and non-profit organizations.
June 2019 publication of the Federal Register.
Communications between the U.S. Dept. of Education and Texas A&M.
U.S. Dept. of Education spreadsheet of foreign funding to American Universities (As of October 2022).
Fiscal Year 2022 data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reporting finances of state universities.
Report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of committed grants to Texas A&M.
This article contains highlights from these documents. Citizens wishing to conduct a deep dive should click the links above.