March 17th, 2013 | University

Open letter presses NUS to hire Cherian George

A group of over 30 students, alumni and staff at the National University of Singapore wrote an open letter to NUS administrators urging them to hire Cherian George, a Singaporean journalism professor and outspoken critic of restrictions on the country’s media freedom who was recently denied tenure at Nanyang Technological University for a second time.

The authors of the letter, all of whom used to or currently contribute to Kent Ridge Common — an independent online newspaper that offers commentary on life in Singapore — condemned NTU’s decision to deny George tenure, emphasizing his contributions to Singaporean society as a professor and scholar. They urged NUS, the university with which Yale is partnering to establish Yale-NUS College, to offer George a position in its Communications and New Media Department.

“NTU’s loss can be NUS’ gain,” the letter said. “In University Town, advertisement banners exhort students to ‘be the change.’ If the NUS leadership is sincere about this message, and about the kind of education they claim to offer — one that promotes critical thinking, that imbues students with the courage to change mindsets, systems and take risks — then they should … match their actions with their words.”

George, an associate professor in journalism studies at Nanyang’s School of Communication and Information, was first denied tenure in 2009 and then again in February. He has frequently criticized Singapore’s lack of media freedom, and he published a book last year titled “Freedom From The Press,” in which he argues that the Singaporean media system enables the People’s Action Party, Singapore’s leading party, to manipulate the media.

Last month, one of George’s former students started an online petition urging NTU to publicly disclose its reasons for denying George tenure as well as details about the school’s tenure process, which has received 986 signatures as of press time.

Correction: March 18

A previous version of this article misspelled Cherian George’s name.