University offers to rehire professor acquitted of hiding China ties | Science

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), has offered to reinstate Anming Hu, a tenured engineering professor acquitted of federal charges that he failed to disclose ties to China on a grant application.

The offer, first reported over the weekend by the Knoxville News Sentinel, is seen as an important step in rebuilding Hu’s career, which was shattered after becoming a target of a U.S. government initiative against China that has ensnared dozens of academic scientists. Several outside groups have urged the university to reinstate Hu, whose case was the first to go to trial under the Department of Justice’s 3-year-old China Initiative.

According to a letter to Hu’s lawyer obtained by the newspaper, the university has offered to reinstate Hu, provide $200,000 over 3 years to restart his laboratory, and pay him salary lost when he was suspended after his February 2020 arrest. (Hu was later fired.) Last month a federal judge acquitted Hu, ruling that prosecutors produced no evidence for their claim that he had defrauded the government or acted improperly. In June, the judge declared a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Hu’s lawyer, Phil Lomonaco, declined comment on the offer, as did university officials.

UTK Faculty Senate President Lou Gross, who emphasized that he has not seen the offer, regards it as a positive step. Gross says he and other faculty leaders met with university officials late last week to discuss concerns that the university may have violated faculty privacy and its own policies in helping federal agents collect evidence against Hu.

“I came away from that meeting with a feeling that something could be worked out to bring professor Hu back to campus, which is what all of us want,” Gross says. “It’s clear to me that they have been listening to what stakeholders have been saying.”

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