Two years after Yale rolled out plans to build a liberal arts college with the National University of Singapore, the first formal poll assessing student opinion on the venture reveals a divided student body.
Of the students who responded to the question asking “How should the next Yale University President approach Yale’s international presence?” on the Yale College Council’s presidential search questionnaire, 467 respondents agreed with the statement that the next president should “Continue official partnerships with foreign universities (Yale-NUS)” and 281 answered he or she should “Discontinue official partnerships with foreign universities.” Though the survey reveals that almost two-fifths of respondents do not support partnerships with foreign universities, four professors interviewed are skeptical of the survey’s value given the vagueness of the question and the answer choices: The question itself and the negative answer choice do not make reference to Yale-NUS, while the affirmative answer choice does.
YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 said the question was supposed to address all of Yale’s international initiatives, both formal and informal.
“We didn’t want to overload the survey with too much wording,” Gonzalez said.
Though Gonzalez said the question was intended to gauge student approval of all international initiatives, including the former partnership between Yale and Peking University, Presidential Search Student Counselor Brandon Levin ’14 said he thought the question, “as it was defined in the parenthetical which refers to Yale-NUS, is essentially the question of whether Yale should continue Yale-NUS.” He added that he will help resolve any ambiguity but he said he found the questions to be framed “very clearly.”
In an email later Thursday night, he said he understands the question to also take other official international partnerships into account.
Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis said he is pleased that most students support continued partnerships with foreign universities, adding that he feels the wording of the question was clear. He said he is not surprised that opinion on campus is divided, as that is often the case at major universities.
Classics professor Victor Bers, who has been an outspoken critic of Yale-NUS since it was announced in September 2010, said he is pleased that a significant percentage of respondents said that the University’s next president should discontinue Yale-NUS.
Twelve of 49 students interviewed said they were surprised by the poll results, six of whom said they expected the percentage of students who do not support Yale-NUS to be lower.
“I doubt the numbers reflect the approval rating of Yale-NUS,” Jake Romanow ’14 said. “I think there are more students who don’t like it — probably a majority — but people realize it’s a done deal at this point.”
Of those interviewed, 24 students said they think the successor to University President Richard Levin, who announced in August that he plans to step down at the end of this academic year, should continue cooperation with NUS, 13 said he or she should not, and 18 felt they are not informed enough to answer.
The Yale-NUS campus is scheduled to open in September 2013.