University | 4:00 pm | October 30, 2011 | By Gavan Gideon and Tapley Stephenson

Yale-NUS faces criticism in Atlantic

The Yale-NUS campus design aims to integrate elements of Yale’s collegiate style and traditional Singaporean features.
The Yale-NUS campus design aims to integrate elements of Yale’s collegiate style and traditional Singaporean features. Photo by Yale-NUS.

In a column for the Atlantic published late last week, Eric Weinberger ’89 takes Yale and University President Richard Levin to task for partnering with the National University of Singapore to create Yale-NUS.

Sharing concerns similar to those expressed by other academics, Weinberger claims the authoritarian Singaporean government will threaten academic freedom at the new liberal arts college, which will open in 2013. He also argues from a historical angle that the endeavor does not fall in line with Yale’s mission, challenging Levin’s stated motivations for the partnership.

“What is always distinctive about Yale’s rhetoric is its exceptionalism: the notion… that Americans are bringing something ennobling and civilized to places that can’t get it without us,” Weinberger writes, adding later, “The responsibility for creating great Asian universities lies with Asian countries themselves.”

Weinberger begins his criticism by examining Levin’s comparison of the goal of Yale-NUS — “to influence the shape of undergraduate education throughout Asia” — to the success Singaporean Airlines has had in establishing itself as an international leader in air travel. The remark, part of the formal announcement of Yale-NUS last April, reflects administrators’ belief that in order to stay competitive internationally, global expansion is necessary, Weinberger writes, explaining that this is something “we have come to expect from universities run by economists and others in thrall to the internationalization of U.S. higher education.”

If Singapore wants to have a true liberal arts college, Weinberger says, it must do so independently of Yale. Though Yale-NUS will be jointly run by the two Universities, the Singaporean government will pay for the liberal arts college.

Comments