Our colleague Howard Bloch (“Why I like Yale-NUS,” March 19) invites us to ask what the government of Singapore “was thinking when it invited Yale to establish within its borders a liberal arts college.” We have to ask ourselves in turn: How did we get here, to a place where we are required to guess what this authoritarian government was thinking?
In Bloch’s version of things, we at Yale in New Haven are now required not simply to put ourselves inside the mind of that government, but to take sides in Singaporean politics, to combat “the most conservative elements of the Singaporean regime.” If we don’t, we “betray” the faculty of NUS. How did we suddenly assume this responsibility? The answer to that question is simple: through an act of the Yale Corporation and the advocacy of a small group of Yale-New Haven administrators and professors. They have thrust us into the politics of an authoritarian regime, in partnership with a university with seriously, dangerously compromised standards of academic freedom, including surveillance of faculty.
The superficial relativism used in the various defenses of Yale-NUS masks a deeper apathy about human rights concerns. Bloch dismisses these concerns under the banner of American exceptionalism: How could we expect other countries to be as perfect as we are? But in today’s world, it is not “exceptional” for homosexuality to be legal. Why, then, did Yale go directly to a state — one of the few in Asia — where it is, in fact, illegal?
Would we be putting ourselves through these rhetorical contortions to support involvement with a regime that was anti-Christian, anti-Semitic or racist — by law? Of course not. But it seems that Yale is willing to accept legalized homophobia under a smoke-screen of relativism and meliorism. Why?
The idea of reforming the “globalized” university through Yale-NUS (an undergraduate college) is also specious, based on a caricature of our academic departments as disciplinary “silos,” which they have not been for decades. Bloch merely repeats to us what we will find on almost every page of the online advertisements for Yale-NUS College. Yale-NUS will pioneer a “global curriculum” that “will draw on the best elements of the American liberal arts tradition, but re-shape and re-imagine the curriculum and collegiate experience for Asia.” Presumably the “best elements of American liberal arts tradition” do not include freedom of speech and human rights.
So what kind of “global thinkers” will these new graduates be? In order to succeed, they will have to be conformist, dissent-averse managers and executives who serve the global profit motive — the only “big idea” that really guides this project.
We invite readers to visit the new site, “Yale and Singapore,” established by some of us on the classes server, devoted to information and opinions about Yale-NUS. After logging in to the server, click on “Membership” in the sidebar menu; you will then see (in rather small print at the top of the page) the words “joinable sites.” Search with the full name “Yale and Singapore” to get to the site, where various folders can be found through the button “RESOURCES.”
Christopher Miller, Victor Bers, Jill Campbell, John Rogers and Mimi Yiengpruksawan
The writers are, respectively, Professor of African American Studies and French, Professor of Classics, Professor of English, Professor of English and Professor of History of Art
A stance on Occupy New Haven
Nathaniel Zelinsky (“Occupy’s time is up,” March 19) misstated my opinion about Occupy New Haven. Because this is a very important issue for our community, I’d like to be clear about where I stand. Here is my position, exactly as I wrote it to Zelinsky:
“I really support the goals of Occupy and I think that it’s one of the most important movements of our time in drawing so much attention to income inequality locally, nationally, and worldwide. I think that both my colleagues and I want to hear more from the administration and from Occupy about where they’re coming from. As a member of the Board of Aldermen, I have not heard very much from my constituents about Occupy and the Mayor has not consulted with us on this issue. I hope that going forward myself and other members of the Board can help figure out how Occupy can continue to exist peacefully with other residents’ enjoyment of the Green. There is an important legal question in federal court right now, and I look forward to seeing where they come down. I do not think that Occupy poses a public safety risk.”
I was very glad to receive a number of emails from constituents with different perspectives who read Monday’s column. I ask that more of you share your opinions so I can best represent them to my colleagues and other stakeholders in the coming weeks.
The writer is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College and the Ward 1 alderwoman