I am writing in regard to the ongoing discussion and coverage of the proposed Yale-NUS liberal arts college. Many students, faculty and alumni have rightly questioned the motives behind Yale’s decision to subject itself to conditions that are antithetical to a liberal arts education. While Yale’s presence may subversively undermine the repression of Singaporean society by its aristocratic government, I fear that is the last thing on the mind of President Levin and other administrators who have been blinded by the bright lights and flashy funding the island city-state has offered. Yes, Singapore is home to the highest concentration of millionaires in the world (almost 1 in 10 households) and the highest-paid public officials, but you will find neither lux nor veritas in the rhetoric of the ruling party. As a shining example of their fundamental opposition to free expression, the government recently changed the classification of local news blog The Online Citizen to a political organization — which will allow the state to restrict the blog’s ability to provide an open forum and support itself financially. At NUS, I have personally seen the restriction of academic freedom through censorship, intimidation and other means. To proceed with this partnership without truly addressing these issues would be to engage in a fantasy — one that both Slavoj Žižek and Elihu Yale would abhor.
The writer is a Fulbright Fellow at the Institute of International Education in Singapore.