AAUP criticizes Yale-NUS

The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Tuesday to express “a growing concern” regarding the establishment of Yale-NUS College.

In the statement, the Association, which is dedicated to upholding academic freedom and promoting shared university governance at schools nationwide, urges the Yale Corporation to release all documents related to the founding of the Singaporean liberal arts college, and calls for the University to establish “appropriate and genuinely open forums” in which the academic and political dimensions of the new school can be debated.

“We are concerned about the implications of the undertaking for academic freedom and the maintenance of educational standards at Yale and elsewhere,” said the statement, which was written by AAUP members Joan Bertin, Marjorie Heins, Cary Nelson and Henry Reichman.

The statement poses 16 questions of the Yale-NUS initiative — a partnership between between Yale and the National University of Singapore — including whether members of the college community will be subjected to Singapore’s Internet firewalls and monitoring systems and whether speakers invited to campus will be affected by restrictions on visitors to Singapore.

The statement refers to a previous document issued jointly by the AAUP and the Canadian Association of University Teachers in 2009, which addresses problems U.S. institutions face in establishing campuses overseas, and urges them to guarantee “provisions to ensure academic freedom and tenure and collegial governance,” including anti-harassment and anti-discrimination provisions and rights to procedural fairness. Because the 2009 statement “did not cover everything that is now at stake in Singapore,” Nelson said the AAUP decided to release a statement to address Yale-NUS specifically.

Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis said the school, which will welcome its inaugural class of roughly 150 in the fall of 2013, has shown a strong commitment to academic freedom.

“The AAUP doesn’t seem to have looked at the documents Yale-NUS has circulated already, such as the principles on academic freedom and nondiscrimination,” Lewis said. “It has made assumptions without really investigating the matter.”

In October, Yale-NUS administrators announced that branches of existing political parties in Singapore as well as organizations “promoting racial or religious strife” would be prohibited on the college’s campus in accordance with the nation’s laws.

Nelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois who co-wrote the statement, told the News that AAUP members involved in drafting the statement have read “every single piece of paper that exists in the public domain on Yale-NUS,” adding that they have had access to a substantial archive of documents about the endeavor. Nelson said several AAUP members have been in touch with Yale faculty in Yale’s AAUP chapter — which held an initial organizational meeting on Sept. 26 — in recent months to discuss issues concerning the Singaporean college.

University President Richard Levin said the Yale-NUS charter, which is published on the college’s website, addresses all major aspects of the Yale-NUS agreement except its finances. He added that Yale will not derive any monetary benefits from the project, which is to be fully funded by the Singaporean government.

Still, Nelson questioned Yale’s commitment to academic freedom in establishing a college in Singapore.

“The Yale Corporation can say all it wants to say about academic freedom in Singapore, but it’s not true that in such an authoritarian state one can maintain an acceptable level of academic freedom,” he said.

The AAUP was founded in 1915.

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