Professors say they intend to raise objections to the liberal arts college Yale has planned with the National University of Singapore at today’s Yale College faculty meeting.
Though Yale-NUS was officially announced in March 2011 and is set to open in fall 2013, professors said they still wish to debate the merits of the project. Yale-NUS is the only major item on the agenda, which temporarily caused Yale College Dean Mary Miller to cancel the meeting on Feb. 17 because she did not feel there were enough issues to be discussed. But Miller said the meeting was reinstated after faculty stated their desire to address Yale-NUS “sooner rather than later” — a conversation that will begin after University President Richard Levin reports on the developing college.
“It is time for the Yale College faculty to be heard on issues affecting our own future relations with this new institution that bears our name,” French and African American studies professor Christopher Miller said in an email Wednesday.
Beginning in September 2010, faculty were invited to discuss Yale-NUS at “town hall” meetings, and over the next two years some expressed concern about whether academic freedoms and civil rights would be suppressed at Yale-NUS because of Singapore’s allegedly authoritarian government. But professors said they do not recall addressing the liberal arts college at their monthly faculty meetings, which they said allow for more formal discussion than town hall gatherings.
Classics professor Victor Bers said deliberation on Yale-NUS should take place in faculty meetings because they follow parliamentary procedure, allow faculty to bring issues to a vote and are recorded in permanent minutes.
Sociology professor Deborah Davis, who is chairing the social sciences search committee for the new college, said town hall meetings and faculty meetings facilitate similar types of discussion because both invite professors to attend and air potential grievances. The University has also provided other opportunities for discussion of Yale-NUS, Davis said, such as holding meetings with groups concerned about the rights of LGBTQ faculty in Singapore.
But Davis also said Thursday’s faculty meeting is necessary in providing a forum for the professors who “feel that they haven’t been heard” on Yale-NUS issues.
Art history professor David Joselit said in a Wednesday email that universities depend on the free exchange of ideas, and that Yale must consider whether its educational aims are compatible with the political climate in Singapore.
“Yale is undertaking an alliance with a state that does not share these values,” Joselit said. “It is imperative for us as a faculty to practice what we preach — to probe, explore, question and debate the great dangers, as well as the possible virtues, of such an alliance on the part of our University.”
Faculty have also continued to raise objections to the “feedback loop” administrators have said they envision forming between the two schools, which could bring policies tested in Singapore back to New Haven. Four professors interviewed said faculty should have a voice in the process because the college will be impacted by Yale-NUS, though Levin said Feb. 19 that the decision to create Yale-NUS ultimately rested with the Yale Corporation since the project is a new school and not a program within Yale College.
“The Yale College faculty is supposed to govern itself and to control matters related to the college,” Christopher Miller said. “That should and must include its relations with Yale-NUS.”
Two professors also expressed concern over the possibility of faculty leaving to teach abroad, and over Yale-NUS bringing students to study in New Haven as part of programs like a master’s degree in environmental studies that was announced in early January. If faculty members choose to teach at Yale-NUS for a term, the Singaporean government — which is underwriting the new college — will pay their salaries while abroad.
Yale College faculty meetings are held on the first Thursday of every month, and are designed to address issues specific to Yale College.