Open Letter: Call for immediate reinstatement of Prof. Anming Hu’s tenure

July 8, 2021

Chancellor Donde Plowman
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Office of the Chancellor
527 Andy Holt Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996-0184

Re: Call for immediate reinstatement of Prof. Anming Hu’s tenure 

Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF)

Dear Chancellor Plowman, 

We, the members of the Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF), respectfully urge you to reinstate Prof. Anming Hu’s tenured faculty position at the University Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and back-pay his full salary and benefits. We write on the basis of the recent trial that revealed the grave injustice against an individual by three powerful institutions: the ill-conceived investigation by the FBI, the unsubstantiated lawsuit by the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the hasty termination of his tenure by the University. 

AASF is a non-profit, non-political organization representing a community of Asian American scholars who are united in our commitments to promote academic belonging, openness, freedom, and equality for all. Since AASF’s establishment in February 2021, we have been organizing educational webinars that facilitate dialogue between expert speakers to raise awareness on issues that matter to the academic community. The webinars are co-sponsored by 11 Chinese-American scholar associations and 2 Asian-American organizations, representing over 5,000 Asian American academics. 

Prof. Hu has been falsely prosecuted for spying for China with fabricated information and lies, and questionably charged by the allegations of wire frauds in a NASA grant application. During the court investigation, the FBI agent, Kujtim Sadiku, publicly admitted that he falsely accused Prof. Hu as a Chinese spy and used false information to trap Prof. Hu to become a spy for the U.S. government. Moreover, your Administration also testified that Prof. Hu disclosed his collaborative relationship with a Chinese university to your university when he applied for the NASA grant. The judge declared a mistrial for this case on June 16, 2021. As Juror Wendy Chandler summarized after the mistrial, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) did not come with honesty and integrity in charging Prof. Hu and Prof. Hu had been upfront about his ties to a university in Beijing. 

It has become clear that the decision of suspending Prof. Hu’s tenure was made on the basis of the false accusation of him as a Chinese spy from the FBI. A recently released email from Prof. Louis J. Gross, President of UTK Faculty Senate ( shows that a careful deliberation process of your Faculty Senate for this decision was not conducted. Given the announcement of the mistrial by the judge and considering all above-mentioned facts, we respectfully urge you to correct the injustice against Professor Anming Hu. We all hold dear that an individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Facts have spoken, regardless if the DOJ will retry this case or not.

All universities, yours and ours, believe that a university is a truth-seeking place to uphold the principles of non-discriminition, justice, and academic freedom. Any delay in reinstating Prof. Hu’s tenure position would undermine the principles that we all hold so dear. The AASF, together with American academic institutions and the international science and engineering communities, are paying close attention to the development of this case at UTK. We respectfully urge you to act now.


Yasheng Huang, President
Epoch Foundation Professor of Global Economics and Management,  MIT Sloan School of Management

Kai Li, Vice President
Paul M. Wythes and Marcia R. Wythes Professor in Computer Science, Princeton University

On behalf of Members of the Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF)