The University of Minnesota has suspended its relationship with a Chinese telecom giant that's facing federal criminal charges accusing it of stealing trade secrets, violating sanctions and lying to banks.
Administrators recently announced that the university will no longer accept money, enter into contracts or exchange information with Huawei, the world's largest telecommunications equipment company. Huawei funds research at the university through gifts to the University of Minnesota Foundation, the Minnesota Daily reported.
The university's Feb. 14 memo comes after the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges in January against Huawei, a top company executive and several subsidiaries. The Chinese tech giant pleaded not guilty Thursday to U.S. trade-theft charges in the case that's escalated trade tensions between the world's two largest economies.
"Given the extraordinary level of concern raised by these indictments, which follow upon the heels of other developments of concern, we consider it prudent to suspend our interactions with Huawei," the memo states.
The indictments accuse the company of engaging in a scheme to steal trade secrets from American businesses, including trying to take a piece of a robot from a T-Mobile lab. The executive charged is Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada in December. Meng is charged with misleading American banks about Huawei's business with Iran.
Lawmakers in June warned universities that partnerships with Huawei could pose a threat to national security and called on the Department of Education to investigate the company's connections to higher education.
The University of Minnesota isn't the first school to distance itself from the tech giant, but the suspension shows an unusual and serious step, said Joseph Konstan, the College of Science and Engineering's associate dean for research.
Konstan said the college had several projects in the works that they believed Huawei was going to fund, but will no longer move forward because of the suspension.
"They expressed an interest in networking and advanced technologies," he said. "But we were just in early talks."
The decision doesn't prohibit faculty, students or staff from interacting with Huawei.