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Miami Dade College To Nix Chinese Institute After It Becomes Issue In Presidential Search

Miami Herald file
From left, Yongli Wang, Eduardo Padron, professor Fangming Xu and Mme Yanping Gao, Chinese consul general, unveil the new Confucius Institute Plaque at the inauguration ceremony in 2010.

A controversial institute focusing on Chinese language and culture at Miami Dade College is shutting down after it became an issue in the institution's tumultuous presidential search.

Like other similar programs around the country, Miami Dade College's Confucius Institute has been criticized as a tool for spreading communist propaganda for the Chinese government. Although the institute opened in 2010, it has been thrust into the spotlight recently as the college's presidential search started, stopped and then started again.

Miami Dade College provost Lenore Rodicio is in the running to be the college's next president. She also chairs an advisory board for the Chinese program. Board members recently appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis have questioned her involvement.

Now, the school's getting rid of it.

As first reported by Miami Dade College's student newspaper, The Reporter, the institute will "sunset" at the end of the fall semester.

College spokesman Juan Mendieta cited "low and declining enrollment that does not justify the operational cost."

Fewer than 100 students have enrolled in the institute each fall semester since 2016, with only 36 students currently registered for classes there. The college did not immediately provide information about the program's costs.

Mandarin courses will continue through the college's other departments.

Rodicio is the only remaining candidate held over from the first iteration of the presidential search. A new majority on the board decided in July to scrap the original search process and recently signaled a plan to start again, appointing retired administrator Rolando Montoya as interim president in the meantime.

Montoya and immediate past president Eduardo Padrón both endorsed Rodicio for the post.

Jessica Bakeman is senior editor for news at WLRN, South Florida's NPR member station. Previously, Bakeman served as WLRN's education reporter for four years. Bakeman was awarded the 2020 Journalist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.