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USF professor Peng returns from suspension amid controversy

After a cloud of controversy, including espionage for the Chinese government and involvement with the FBI, a professor has returned to campus after his unpaid five-year suspension ended in August.

Originally suspended in 2011, embattled USF professor Dajin Peng caused tension between USF and its academic ties with China. Peng’s reinstatement comes at a time when USF is increasingly trying to form relationships with international universities.

He is currently teaching Japan Today and China Today within the Department of Government and International Affairs.

In 2008, Peng became the director of the Confucius Institute at USF, a cooperative effort between the U.S. and Chinese governments to foster cultural understanding. Peng was originally suspended for alleged illegal actions such as falsifying documents and inappropriate use of university funds.

In 2009, some of his colleagues at the Confucius Institute accused him of sexual harassment. Over the course of years, he also spent $16,000 on entertainment and travel, unrelated to university business.

Peng was also accused of having images of bondage pornography on his USF laptop. As reported by Bloomberg, he said these pictures were critical to understanding Japanese culture. 

According to the Bloomberg article, Peng said he was used by the FBI to spy on Chinese students on behalf of the U.S. The article suggests Peng was punished by the university under FBI influence. The university, according to Bloomberg, denies this charge.

“I never expected this. How could I know the FBI would be so against the Confucius Institute?” Peng said in an interview with The Oracle.

In a letter to USF President Judy Genshaft, Peng wrote, “The FBI suspected, without any ground, that I am a Chinese spy. It is a pity that USF, the university I have been working extremely hard for, was working with the FBI against me.”

According to USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman, Peng now has no responsibilities at the Confucius Institute, but is resuming his position as a tenured professor.

“He is a professor suspended for a two year period, consistent with the terms of suspension of 2013, which ended earlier this month,” Freeman said.

Peng is looking forward to getting back to teaching after years of controversy.

“I’m beginning to teach this week. I feel excited that I’m able to be with my students again,” he said.