Yale’s Planned College in Singapore Shows Money Trumps Values
Yale University has announced that the budget and all other plans have been finalized for its joint undergraduate liberal arts college with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Despite strong concerns about the lack of academic freedom and civil liberties in Singapore, the Ivy League institution has made it clear that they are going ahead with the project and that money is more important than values.
Yale proposal advisor and former dean of the law school Mr. Anthony Kronnman told the Yale Daily News, “We have been given the strongest possible guarantees by the government of Singapore and by [NUS] that on the campus of the liberal arts college, the principle of freedom of expression will be honored just as on the campus of Yale in New Haven.”
Despite such tepid reassurances, one question that remains to be answered is how liberal academia can make the distinction between on- and off-campus. Can students and faculty conduct research, field work, ethnography in the city-state or only on-campus where there freedoms will supposedly be protected? If it is to be the same as New Haven, then the campus might as well be run by the U.S. Embassy so it can be considered a part of American soil and end the question of academic freedom completely.
• Will Yale University Bring a Liberal Arts Education to Singapore?
• UN to Review Singapore’s Human Rights Record
The editorial board at the YDN has again come out again in complete rejection of the idea, condemning the level of apathy among students who are often so quick to protest other decisions calling it a matter of self-respect. The YDN points out a long list of deplorable abuses by the People’s Action Party (PAP) and adds that “if we become the partners of the PAP, we lose our moral authority.” “If we climb into bed with one of Southeast Asia’s most notoriously despotic governments,” the paper warns, “we will legitimate its abuses. We become complicit.” No statements or responses have been given by the Yale administration that satisfactorily answer such concerns from students, faculty, and alumni.
One brave faculty member did, however, heed the call to speak up. Dr. Christopher Miller, a professor of African American Studies & French, wrote a guest column calling on his colleagues to protest a deeply exclusive society and hold off on accepting an offer to teach in a place where he would be subject to arrest based on identity.
Other Singaporean scholars and scholars in Singapore have written comments, guest columns, and letters to the editor to echo the sentiments of the YDN and Prof. Miller, as well as provide more examples of the inequality and oppression at NUS and in the city-state at large. One Singaporean wrote about the denial of peaceful, public student protests and the de facto and de jure hurdles and impossibilities of starting student societies dealing with race and religion among other affinity groups. Another letter cited an NUS English professor commenting on gendered discourse in cosmetics advertisements, saying, “It’s weird for me to hear a rights discourse in Singapore, because we have no rights.”
Since President Levin and other administrators such as the dean-in-waiting of Yale-NUS, Prof. Bailyn, have made it clear that their main goal is in improving the brand of Yale, the eventual loss of face is not likely to impress such tiger mothers as Amy Chua (a Yale Law professor). But then again, she went to Harvard.
Perhaps Yale’s new brand will be like something like Columbia’s. “Yale University in the city-state of Singapore,” and not in the big three of the Ivy League. All about making money with the bankers and financiers while dictators give speeches on campus denying the existence of homosexuality.
Discuss: Do you think Yale should have gone ahead with its NUS partnership?
(Image courtesy of NUS)
FOLLOW 21CB ON:
TAGS: Academics • Education • human rights • Liberal arts in Singapore • Singapore • Singapore education system • Yale University
You'll also like: