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The University of Alabama is being questioned by the U.S. Department of Education for potential involvement with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) after the mention of a stated partnership between the school and the lab was discovered earlier this year.

The connection in question appears on the WIV's Partnerships webpage. Alongside the University of Alabama included other American companies and institutions like the University of North Texas, Harvard University, EcoHealth Alliance, The National Institutes of Health and the National Wildlife Federation.

This caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Education, as failing to disclose partnerships goes against the Higher Education Act of 1965. In a seven-page letter sent to UA President Stuart Bell on Dec. 22, the Department of Education is demanding to see certain records that will verify the University's involvement – or lack thereof – with the WIV.

"Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. § 1011f) requires institutions
of higher education (IHEs), including the University of Alabama (UA), to fully report statutorily defined gifts, contracts, and/or restricted and conditional gifts or contracts from or with a foreign source to the U.S. Department of Education (Department)," the letter states. "It appears that UA has failed to report an alleged partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (“WIV”), in Wuhan, China. ... The WIV, owned by the Chinese government’s Academy of Sciences, includes a maximum biocontainment laboratory (“MCL”) that may be closely linked to the origin and/or spread of the Chinese COVID-19 virus."

There is no concrete evidence that suggests the WIV is responsible for the initial spread of COVID-19. While the virus did originate in Wuhan, China, there has never been a true "patient zero" – individual, institution or otherwise – identified.

The following records – which must be compiled from as far back as Jan. 1, 2015 – must be delivered from the University to the U.S. Department of Education's Chief Counsel, Paul Moore, within 30 days:

  1. True copies of each gift or donation agreement, contract, and/or conditional gift or donation agreement to which UA and the Wuhan MCL, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or the Chinese Academy of Sciences are parties.
  2. True copies of each gift or donation agreement, contract, and/or conditional gift or donation agreement or contract with or between UA and any of the following:
    1. BGp Inc.
    2. Educational Advisors Deda Co. Ltd.
    3. Xi’an Jintong University
    4. University of Beijing
    5. University of Shanghai
    6. Dalian Auto Tech. Inc.
    7. Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
    8. Tafel New Energy Tech Co. Ltd.
    9. Zhejiang Normal University
    10. ATEC Shenzhen Expressway Engineering
    11. Huawei Software Technologies Co. Ltd.
    12. Beijing Normal University
    13. Nanjing University
    14. China University of Mining and Technology
    15. Chengdu Technological University
    16. Sichuan University
    17. Southwest Jiaotong University
    18. Jilin University
    19. South China University of Technology
    20. China University of Petroleum
    21. Southwest Petroleum University
    22. Shandong University of Science and Technology
    23. The Communist Party of China, its agents, employees, representatives, and instrumentalities (including but not limited to the agents, employees, representatives, and instrumentalities of entities such as the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, Central Office, and Politburo Standing Committee; the General Office of the Central Military Commission; the Chinese Ministry of Education; the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology; the People’s Liberation Army; the Chinese Ministry of State Security; the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology; the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Chinese Ministry of National Defense; the Central Bank of the People’s Republic of China; and any People’s Republic of China province, autonomous region, or municipality)
  3. A complete list identifying and providing the last known contact information for UA’s faculty and staff (including full and part time employees and contractors) involved in the administration, direction, or scientific and/or other research cooperation, fund raising, or any other efforts involving (a) the Wuhan MCL; and/or (b) persons employed by or agents for any of the entities listed in section 2(a)-(w) above.
  4. A complete list identifying and providing last known contact information for UA’s administrators, contractors, or other personnel with responsibility for and/or oversight of faculty and staff involved in any capacity with the Wuhan MCL.
  5. All records (including but not limited to emails and true copies of contracts and/or gift or donation agreements) of, regarding, or relating to (a) the Wuhan MCL, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan MCL researcher Shi Zhengli; and/or (b) any gift, contract, or conditional gift or contract from or with the Communist Party of China, its agents, employees, representatives, and instrumentalities.

The University of Alabama issued a statement to The Tuscaloosa Thread regarding the mention of its name on the WIV's Partnerships webpage. The University indicated that the administration is working to get the reference – which they assert is false – removed.

"The UA reference on the Wuhan Institute of Virology website was brought to our attention earlier this year. At that time, we reviewed any possible related institutional records to determine the basis for the reference," the statement read. "We found no ties or connection between UA and WIV, and no reason for UA to be listed on the website."

The University is working with the U.S. Department of Education to rectify the assumed error on the WIV webpage and clear up any confusion.

"University officials reached out to [WIV] to question the reference and requested the UA reference on the website be removed, but never received a response," the statement read. "We have relayed this information to the Department of Education."

The Tuscaloosa Thread will update this story as more information becomes available.

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