Fifteen Chinese researchers must leave the country after the University of North Texas cut ties with the organization that funds them.
All researchers were in the country and working with UNT based on funding from the Chinese Scholarship Council.
The council provides scholarships to people wanting to attend Chinese universities, as well as Chinese researchers who want to conduct research internationally. Funding is provided through the Chinese government as well as Chinese embassies around the world, among other sources.
It was not clear Monday afternoon if any other American universities had cut ties with the group.
The researchers were notified of the change on Wednesday in a letter signed by Jennifer Evans-Cowley, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Mark McLellan, vice president for research and innovation.
“As a result of this change, access to UNT email, servers, and other materials has been terminated,” they wrote in part.
The letter also stipulated the researchers must be accompanied during any campus visits before their departures. Researchers’ visas were revoked effective Aug. 26. That means they likely will be required to leave the country as soon as possible, according to the U.S. Department of State website.
“If your sponsor terminates your participation in their exchange program for just cause ... you will be expected to depart the United States immediately,” according to the website.
Jim Berscheidt, a university spokesperson, replied to an interview request regarding the decision with an emailed response Monday afternoon.
“This decision is limited to 15 visiting researchers funded by this particular organization, and does not impact any student enrolled and studying at the university,” he wrote in part. “UNT continues to welcome visiting scholars from around the world, including China.”
By Monday evening, an online petition asking the university to rescind the move had received nearly 4,000 signatures in three days.