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UW Statement in Response to Claim by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

From UW News:

The following is a statement from the University of Washington in response to allegations U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made during a speech at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020:

This is the latest false statement and shameful deflection from an administration whose State Department and Department of Education took no effective action on behalf of Vera Zhou in response to the University’s requests, and now wishes to shift attention from that failure. That the Secretary of State would think a university has more power in this situation than the United States government is bizarre. That he would single out a staff member by name is unbecoming of the office and his statement is flatly wrong. While several UW offices have been in contact with Vera throughout her experience, no staff in the UW Office of Federal Relations has had direct contact with Vera or her family.

The University of Washington has been deeply concerned for Vera’s safety and well-being throughout her ordeal, and was relieved to hear of her safe return. We cannot even begin to imagine the turmoil this has caused in the lives of Vera, her mother and other loved ones.

However, the notion that the UW did not act on Vera’s behalf is completely untrue and the insinuation that the University allowed financial interests of any kind to interfere with its handling of this situation is outrageous. We have no record of contact from any State Department official to the UW President’s Office (or elsewhere in our Administration) that indicates anything regarding a negotiation with a Chinese institution, nor would we balance a student’s well-being against any financial concern. We have no idea what “multimillion-dollar deal” is being referenced.

The issues at hand rest directly with the federal government, not the UW, though we endeavored to provide Vera support regardless of the circumstances. The UW consulted directly with the U.S. State Department on opportunities for federal intervention, which they reported were extremely limited due to her status as a Chinese citizen. We understand the Department of Education’s billing servicer was unwilling to make changes to Vera’s loan, despite being provided information about her extraordinary circumstances. The UW was in regular communication with Vera in the Fall of 2019 to advise her on additional options to try for resolution.

UW staff in the offices of Global Affairs, Student Life and Student Fiscal Services have connected with Vera and her mother on several occasions to proactively express how happy we were to hear she was home, answer questions and provide her with guidance regarding her concerns, and to help provide as smooth a transition whenever and wherever she decided to continue her education. Since Vera’s return to the U.S. and the state of Washington, our staff have been in regular contact during her enrollment at a community college, advising her on financial aid options still available to her.

And, we can confirm that as of this quarter, Vera is again enrolled at the UW.


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